The left tackle position in the NFL is a hard one to fill with a quality consistent starter. It is arguably the most valuable position on the offensive line, if not the entire offense (outside of QB that is). When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted their franchise QB, Jameis Winston, in 2015 with the first overall pick, they drafted help in the second round to protect Winston. One of those guys being LT Donovan Smith with the 34th overall pick out of Penn State. He has become a player dogged by media and fans alike for what some would say is unimpressive play. Pro Football Focus grades him as just slightly above average. Which at first glance, doesn’t sound all too bad, but when taking a closer look at PFF’s rankings, his ranking is very much pedestrian. With that said he has not missed a single game in his 4 year career, and there is something to be said for durability.
If the Bucs chose not to re-sign Smith, then they would be forced to take one in this year’s draft. As it is very hard to find a very good LT in free agency, and no team is going to be just giving theirs away if they are worth their salt. Currently the Bucs hold the #5 overall spot in this years draft, and they could take a Left Tackle. Some early mock drafts have them taking Alabama’s OT Jonah Williams, and if they did so it would be a mistake for a couple of reasons. Mainly being that many scouts don’t project Williams as a good LT in the pro’s and see him more as a right tackle or guard, and only a LT in emergency situations. This may come to a surprise to some as he started at LT for Alabama last season, but that was due to more out of necessity because of line personnel than out of choice.
An interesting prospect could be OT Andre Dillard out of Washington State. The 305lb left tackle was only a 2 star recruit coming out of highschool, but has proved himself to be a standout LT in the Pac-12, and could build on the success he’s had in college in the pro’s. He’s seen as a sound and consistent pass-blocker, who has the ability to reset his block if he’s beaten initially by a pass rusher. That is something the current Bucs LT lacks. He can improve as a run-blocker, and may never be elite in that regards, but in an offense with some many pass catching weapons he may be a natural fit for the Bucs. Currently Walter Football has him ranked as a 1-2 round prospect, but could go in the first round with plenty of LT needy teams this year. It would not be wise for Tampa Bay to draft Dillard, or any other OT, at #5, but if they believe they can trade down to the end of the first or early second and nab him then they should not hesitate to make that move.
When it’s all said and done, the situation at left tackle is a difficult one to solve for. Do you re-sign an unimpressive left tackle or take a chance on an unproven rookie. At the moment it’s more of a “darned if you do and darned if you don’t” for the Buccaneers. If I had to go with my gut, the Bucs front office will find a way to keep Smith in Tampa Bay, and they will over pay him to do it. Which would be a move that they could ultimately end up regretting.