Bucs use draft to load Winston up with dazzling array of weapons

by
Kim Klement / USA TODAY Sports

If the Tampa Bay Buccaneers fail to make the playoffs for the third straight season under Jameis Winston, the former No. 1 overall pick will have nobody but himself to blame.

As the first three rounds of the 2017 NFL Draft showed, the team has made a conscious decision to surround their franchise quarterback with a full arsenal of offensive weapons.

After a solid rookie season, Bucs fans and the team's front office certainly expected another jump in his sophomore campaign. While Winston posted decent numbers, they were almost identical to his first season at the helm.

Stat 2015 2016
Passing yards 4042 4090
Completion percentage 58.3 60.8
Yards per attempt 7.56 7.21
Touchdowns 22 28
Interceptions 15 18
Rating 84.5 86.1

It's clear the team's brass had one goal as they headed into the offseason: Surround Winston with a rich buffet of talent that is arguably the best in the league.

It began with the signing of the league's premier deep threat, DeSean Jackson, to partner with the athletic specimen that is Mike Evans. Jackson's signing instantly gave the Bucs one of the top receiving duos in the league, and one that should dominate the questionable secondaries throughout the NFC South.

With Jackson signed, many figured the Bucs would address a different area of need at the draft, but the team kept stocking the cupboard, adding Alabama tight end O.J. Howard in the first round, and standout Penn State receiver Chris Godwin in the third round.

Howard is one of those freakish tight ends who runs like a receiver, but blocks like a linebacker, after his career in Nick Saban's system at Alabama. Here he is blowing by the Clemson defense in last season's national championship game:

Godwin is arguably the best jump-ball receiver in this year's draft, as shown in last season's game against Ohio State. The defensive back he victimized? That's the Oakland Raiders' first-round pick from Thursday, Gareon Conley.

Evans, Jackson, Howard, and Godwin join running back Doug Martin to form a quintet of trouble for opposing defenses heading into the 2017 season. It all comes down to Winston to take advantage of the talent around him to make the jump from solid quarterback to elite.