Jim Kelley, Eddie George, Jeremy Shockey, Darrelle Revis, and Earl Thomas all have one thing in common; they were each taken with the 14th overall pick in the NFL Draft. While they prove that great talent can be found at the 14th overall pick, they also prove that there isn’t a long history of teams making that hall of fame pick at the 14th spot. Unfortunately for the Buccaneers, that’s where they find themselves drafting in 2020.
With more needs to address than they have draft picks, the Buccaneers will have to either be very careful in their selections or very creative in their trades to replicate the same success in the draft as they were able to find last season. There are at a very minimum 7 positions that will need to be addressed in the off-season, be it through the draft or free agency, and probably another 2 or 3 positions that, while not in need of being addressed immediately, would ultimately benefit from some depth.
The Buccaneers have several options heading into the draft, all of which have both good and bad attached to them. They could find themselves trading up in the draft in an attempt to secure a player they have their eyes on, but that could come at the cost of multiple draft picks or a player currently under a contract which would leave another hole to fill. The opposite of that could find them trading back in the draft if they think they can still pick up a player they’ve been eyeing, which could net them an extra draft pick, but also could result in that player no longer being on the board when it comes time to pick. The third option, is usually the safest option, and that’s simply drafting at the position you have, and look to either pick up the best player on the board or fill a hole on the roster depending on which way the team decides to draft. With that said, between now and the NFL Draft on April 23rd, we’ll be taking a look at the various holes the Buccaneers need to fill, and who they might target in the draft based on those needs. We will be breaking it down by positional need rather than who might be on the board at a given pick, and we’ll be looking at how that player might fit with the team on day one.
The Buccaneers as of now have six picks in this year’s draft; and assuming they make no trades to pick up draft picks, those six will be crucial in finding out just how much the team can improve this season compared to 2019. The team needs that will have to be addressed heading into the new season consist of Offensive Tackle, Edge Rusher, Quarterback, Safety, Running Back, Interior Offensive Line, Cornerback, Linebacker, Defensive Line, and Wide Receiver. Some of those may prove to be addressed through free agency, and others will simply be looked at to add depth to a position, but they are all areas in which the team would benefit from taking a look at this off-season.
The first position we’ll be looking at is the one that has probably brought the most attention to the team, and the one that has found fans completely divided down the middle, and that’s the Quarterback position. We’re going to assume for the time being that Jameis Winston will be back with the Buccaneers in 2020, as we’ve been given no indication to think otherwise, and obviously if he’s being brought back, it will be as the starter. What we don’t have, however, is someone that can step into the starting role, if for some reason Jameis were to go down with an injury. We saw Jameis playing with a broken thumb, and one has to wonder if he would have still been starting if the Buccaneers had a quality backup that was able to step into that role, but given that the only choice was to play Jameis with a broken thumb or bring in Ryan Griffin, the choice was an easy one and Jameis finished out the season.
The Buccaneers aren’t going to be wasting a high draft pick on a backup quarterback, and it’s quite possible that they look to free agency to fill the role, but assuming they decide to use a late round draft pick, there will actually still be a few good options on the board from which to choose.
James Morgan, Florida International
- Morgan isn’t a guy that is going to create a lot of buzz, but that’s a good thing. He doesn’t necessarily excel at any one thing, but he’s a good well-rounded player that would benefit from being able to sit and learn behind an NFL quarterback rather than being expected to jump right in. He has a good arm and has been able to limit turnovers, but he hasn’t faced the same kind of competition that the big named quarterbacks have seen throughout their collegiate career.
Kelly Bryant, Missouri
- If Deshaun Watson is your type of quarterback, then Kelly Bryant is your type of prospect. Bryant is the same player that Watson once commented would wind up being a better quarterback than he is, and that’s not something you hear from an NFL quarterback every day.
- If the Buccaneers decided to trade up in the draft to get a quarterback, however unlikely, there are a few choices available, but they aren’t going to come cheap. In order to move up high enough to secure one of the higher projected quarterbacks, it will likely take at least two draft picks and possibly a player for a single player that may or may not pan out at the pro level.
Joe Burrow, LSU
- Burrow is expected to be the number one overall pick in the draft with Cincinnati holds the first overall pick and is desperate need of a starting quarterback after the Andy Dalton fiasco. Dalton has no guarantee left on his contract, and after being benched, there’s no way he returns to the Bengals. To pry this pick away from Cincinnati, it’s going to take more than any team should be willing to part with.
Justin Herbert, Oregon
- Herbert will likely wind up in Miami as they too find themselves in need of a starting quarterback. The Dolphins brought in Josh Rosen with the hopes that maybe he’d pan out, but he was never able to really get in a groove and with Fitzpatrick in the last year of his contract, they’ll be looking to find their future quarterback while they still have a Veteran to work with him. While it’s unlikely the Dolphins would be willing to down in the draft, they do still have a year left with Fitzpatrick in which they could simply target a quarterback in 2021, but that’s not a risk I’d be willing to take.
Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama
- Tagovailoa has found himself going from the projected number one overall pick just a year ago, to now wondering how far he’ll fall in the draft. There are questions when it comes to his ability to stay healthy, and he’s had issues not only in getting the ball out in time but also in leading his receivers. When you add those to the fact he’s left-handed, and that Alabama hasn’t put a starting quality NFL quarterback on the field in more than 50 years, Tagovailoa may not be worth the risk to a team looking for a quarterback to come in and start immediately. If he’s still there in the later rounds, he would be worth the risk as a backup, but it’s highly unlikely that he goes in the first round unless a team is simply that desperate.
Jacob Eason, Washington
- While Eason will probably still be on the board towards the middle of the draft, he simply doesn’t have the arm strength to play in “No Risk It, No Biscuit” style offense, and he doesn’t have the same experience that some of the other quarterbacks have. Eason isn’t someone that you’re likely to find on the draft board for the Buccaneers, but he’s a name that you’ll likely hear mentioned by some as the draft gets closer.
Ultimately, Ian Book out of Notre Dame would have been an ideal backup given his ability to let the ball fly deep combined with his knack for getting away from pressure, but he has decided to return to college for a 5th year, in which he hopes to bump up his draft stock as next year’s draft doesn’t appear to be as deep when it comes to the quarterback position.
With the draft board not being in the Buc’s favor in regards to quarterbacks, and given the likelihood that Winston starts next season, the safe bet is going to be for the Bucs to simply bring Ryan Griffin back and hope that Winston doesn’t suffer a serious injury.