TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are committed to giving Jameis Winston everything he needs be successful.
The emerging team continued to surround their young quarterback with explosive offensive playmakers Friday night, selecting speedy Penn State receiver Chris Godwin in the third round of the NFL draft.
The pick comes one day after general manager Jason Licht and coach Dirk Koetter used the 19th pick of the first round to add Alabama tight end O.J. Howard to a growing list of players who’ll be counted on to help Winston transform the Bucs into consistent winners.
The team also selected Texas A&M safety Justin Evans in the second round and LSU linebacker Kendall Beckwith late in the third, addressing a need for depth on defense.
Evans was the 20th pick Friday night, No. 50 overall as Licht and Koetter attempt to assemble as much help as possible for Winston, the No. 1 overall pick from the 2015 draft.
Beckwith was the final pick of the third round. The Bucs moved up 18 spots in the draft order, sending their fourth- and sixth-round picks to the New York Jets for a chance to get Beckwith, who’s recovering from a knee injury.
“We didn’t want to lose out on him,” Licht said of the decision to move up and take Beckwith, LSU’s second-leading tackler last season.
Howard and Godwin, who had 59 receptions for 582 yards and 11 touchdowns last season, join an offense that figures to be significantly faster after also adding veteran DeSean Jackson in free agency.
“You can’t have enough speed,” Licht said.
Koetter serves as his own offensive coordinator and is as excited as Winston is to have more firepower on the field.
“I know coach’s past, he had some great tight ends,” Howard said during an introductory news conference at the team’s training facility. “I know what kind of offensive mind he has, so I’m just looking forward to it. … I’m just going to come in and be a great team player.”
The hope is Evans will contribute right away in a defense that Licht began rebuilding two years ago, when the Bucs landed middle linebacker Kwon Alexander in the fourth round.
Cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III and pass rusher Noah Spence were taken in the first two rounds a year ago.
Evans becomes just the sixth defensive player Licht has selected over the four drafts the GM has run since joining the team in 2014.
In two seasons at Texas A&M, the 6-foot-1, 195-pound Evans was one of the Aggies’ leading tacklers and was the team’s primary kick returner as a senior. He led the team with four interceptions last season, finishing his college career with five.
Running back and defensive end are other areas of need for the Bucs, who went 9-7 last year while missing the playoffs for the ninth consecutive season.
In selecting Howard with the 19th overall pick, Licht passed on an opportunity to reunite Winston with college teammate Dalvin Cook, the Florida State running back picked by Minnesota in the second round on Friday night.
Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon, who visited Tampa Bay in the weeks leading up to the draft, was also gone by the time the Bucs selected Evans.
The signed veteran safety J.J. Wilcox in free agency. Evans will also compete with holdovers Chris Conte and Keith Tandy for playing time.
“I’m coming in believing in my mind, thinking I’m definitely a starter,” Evans said. “I’m also coming in with a humble mindset.”
The draft concludes Saturday, when the Bucs are scheduled to have two picks, once each in the fifth and seventh rounds.
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