Ali Marpet, Guard
Tampa Bay have a very young offense, from a quarterback in Jameis Winston with just one year in the NFL to his #1 receiver Mike Evans who has only two years under his belt. There are breakout candidates all over the place on the Bucs offense and players who are probably going to put up a lot of big numbers in 2016.
But I’ve picked a guard… why?
Well guards matter too! Doug Martin doesn’t get to 1,400 yards last season without good guard play. Jameis Winston wouldn’t have time and space to move into without good guard play. Guards matter!
Marpet came into the NFL last season as a second round pick – 61st overall – and became a Week 1 starter after a brutally impressive training camp, which continued into the season proper. He was a superb run blocker even early on, and while there were occasions of miscommunication that lead to blown assignments Marpet had a good year in the ground game.
Of course, it takes more than one good year to get any recognition at guard. Marshal Yanda toiled away for years before finally being included in lists of the best guards in the NFL and it will be a similar struggle for Marpet if he wants to be known as the best. With Logan Mankins retired, the Tampa Bay offensive line needs a new aggressor and leader, Marpet could grow into that role and really take over the unit.
The current hole in his game is pass protection. He can set too high some times and struggle to move in space with the more agile defensive tackles. That said Marpet can anchor well against blitzes and bull rushes and has a lot of potential for improvement as he grows more comfortable with what he sees in front of him. You have to remember that Marpet was drafted from a small school and faced a steep learning curve last year when he entered the league. The standard he set last year was high, but with a year of experience and a second training camp under his belt Marpet could improve to a level where he is challenging for All-Pro honors.