TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected Texas A&M receiver Mike Evans with the seventh overall pick in the NFL draft on Thursday night.
New coach Lovie Smith has made improving an offense that ranked last in passing and total offense in 2013 has been a major priority this offseason. He and first-year general manager Jason Licht decided adding the second-highest rated receiver in the draft was more important than making Evans’ college teammate, Johnny Manziel, the team’s quarterback of the future.
“We wanted to add a player who could give us another dimension than we had,” Smith said of the 6-foot-5, 231-pound Evans, who averaged just over 20 yards per reception last season, finishing with 69 catches for 1,394 yards and 12 touchdowns.
The Bucs will play him on the side opposite of another big receiver — Vincent Jackson, a five-time 1,000-yard receiver, including the past two seasons in Tampa Bay.
“I’ve been accused of wanting just defense, defense,” Smith said. “I know it takes more than that.”
SLIDESHOW: Inside The 2014 NFL Draft
Smith inherited a team that went 4-12 last season and hasn’t made the playoffs since 2007. The Bucs signed seven projected new starters in free agency, including quarterback Josh McCown, and Evans will be expected to move into the lineup right away, too.
In selecting a receiver, Smith and passed on an opportunity to upgrade in couple of other critical areas — offensive guard and defensive tackle.
The new regime has been aggressive in overhauling the roster, releasing Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis and underperforming offensive linemen Davin Joseph and Donald Penn and bringing in McCown, defensive linemen Michael Johnson and Clinton McDonald, cornerback Alterraun Verner, center Evan Dietrich-Smith and tackle Anthony Collins in hoping of spurring a quick turnaround.
Barring a trade, Tampa Bay has one pick in every round, except the fourth, over the next two days.
Pre-draft questions surrounding the Bucs focused on the prospect of the team selecting Manziel, if the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner had been available at No. 7. Like the Texas A&M quarterback, Evans played just two seasons for the Aggies, finishing with 151 receptions for 2,499 yards and 17 TDs.
Smith has said repeatedly since the day he was hired that his goal was to make the Bucs, who haven’t won a playoff game since capturing their only Super Bowl title 12 years ago, relevant again.
Drafting Manziel would have done that instantly, spurring ticket sales in a lagging fan base and giving the franchise a player that would boost the club’s profile nationally.
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