IT’S DRAFT WEEK!
It was a little touch n’ go there for a while, whether it would even happen. It may not be quite what we were expecting, but at least it’s on.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers currently hold the 14th pick of the draft. I say currently because they have been one of three teams linked to a possible trade up scenario. That’s one thing I’ll talk about here later. Experts have mocked a number of different positions to the Bucs in the first round from offensive tackle to running back to defensive tackle to safety. I’m here to tell you a few things to look for in this draft. Not just for Day 1, but for this entire week.
I’ll go over a number of scenarios here, some that have been rumors and some that is just speculation on my part. The first one that I’m going to talk about is the one I briefly mentioned earlier: Trading up.
1. TRADING UP?
The Bucs are one of three teams rumored to be making calls about trading up into the top ten in this draft. The other two teams are the Falcons and the Broncos. My guess is that they have their eyes on a certain offensive tackle (Jedrick Wills) that they don’t think will be there at that 14th pick. In order to give themselves a better chance of snagging him, they’ll need to trade up to the 9th pick held by the Jacksonville Jaguars or the 8th pick held by the Arizona Cardinals. In my opinion, trading with the Cards makes more sense. The Jags already have 12 picks in this draft, so they may not be as tempted into a trade with even more 2020 picks. The Cards, on the other hand, only have 6 picks, no second-rounder and a ton of holes to fill in their roster. They could be desperate, which means they might be a little more inclined to give up their pick for an extra pick or two. Plus, Jason Licht and Bruce Arians might be able to use their connections in the Cardinals organization as an advantage to get something done.
2. TRADING DOWN?
If the Bucs stay put at that 14th pick and those top four offensive tackles are off the board, don’t be surprised if Jason Licht makes a deal to move down IF he can find a trade partner. He’s done it in a couple of his drafts, so he’s definitely not opposed to it. If he can trade down a few spots, gain another pick or two and still get one of the players they were targeting in the first round, then he won’t hesitate one bit. The Miami Dolphins could be the team to do it with. They currently have 14 picks in this draft, including five picks in the first two rounds. They hold the 5th, 18th, and 26th picks of the first round. IF they stay at #5 and don’t trade up, then they might be looking to move up a few spots with their 18th pick. The move from 18th to 14th would at least cost them a third-round pick, which would work out great for the Bucs.
3. TRADING OJ HOWARD?
For the second straight off-season, there are trade rumors swirling around regarding Bucs tight end OJ Howard being on the trade block. Whether it’s just pre-draft smoke or it actually has some truth to it, it’s still a possibility. Last year, the Bucs were asking for a second-round pick in exchange for him. Obviously, they had no takers. This year, they may not be quite as stingy. This trade could happen on draft day or any time this week leading up to it, and there are a few teams to keep an eye on. The Colts, Ravens, Patriots, Dolphins, and Raiders all have multiple second and/or third-round picks and could be potential suitors. In my opinion, if this does actually happen this week and the Bucs can get a Day 2 pick for him, it means two things. First, they probably are looking to trade up into the top ten to get an offensive tackle. And second, that rumor about Rob Gronkowski returning to football and joining his former quarterback in Tampa might have some truth to it. I’m not a big fan of the idea of trading OJ myself. I think he’s a tremendous talent that has been underutilized so far and that he could be in for a big year playing with Tom Brady, who loves to use his tight ends.
4. TRADING UP FOR A D-TACKLE?
IF the Bucs do trade up into the top ten, it will likely be for one of those top two offensive tackles. My guess is they’re after either Jedrick Wills from Alabama or Mekhi Becton from Louisville. However, what if they’re NOT after an offensive tackle at all? They did sign free agent Joe Haeg this off-season, and Bruce Arians did say that he would be “comfortable” with him starting at right tackle. What if the Bucs are going after the best defensive tackle in this draft Derrick Brown from Auburn? Even though they did re-sign Ndamukong Suh, it was only on another one-year deal. They would be smart to look for his eventual replacement in this draft. And do you know who Brown has been compared to coming out of college? That’s right: Suh. Trading up to that 8th pick would give them a better shot at him, but he’s likely going to the Carolina Panthers with the 7th pick. Offensive tackle is the biggest need by far on this team, so it’s not likely that they’ll be after a defensive tackle, but anything can happen in the draft.
5. TRADING BACK INTO THE 1ST ROUND?
IF the Bucs do stay at that 14th pick instead of trading up into the top ten, then it would open up the possibility of them trading up later back into the first round. Even if they do luck out and get one of those top tier offensive tackles at 14, they may still have an interest in one of the top tier running backs like Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor or LSU’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire. If the Bucs don’t think either of them will still be on the board when they go on the clock with their 45th pick, then Jason Licht might be tempted to jump back into the end of the first round or trade up in the second round to get one of those guys. The same can be said if they end up going another route with that 14th pick. If they don’t get their offensive tackle there and end up with Javon Kinlaw or D’Andre Swift instead, they might think about jumping back into the first round to grab Houston OT Josh Jones. It all rests on what happens with that 14th pick. Licht has pulled this move before jumping back into the second round on multiple occasions. Don’t count it out here.
6. ISAIAH SIMMONS AT #14?
Another unlikely scenario, but it’s possible. There’s a lot that would have to happen to make this a reality. Those top four offensive tackles would have to be gone. Derrick Brown and Javon Kinlaw would have to be gone. They would probably be striking out with finding a trade partner to move down. And Simmons would have to be on the board, which is probably not happening since most mocks have him going to the New York Giants with the 4th pick. But what if? If that freak-of-nature athlete that can play multiple positions in multiple defenses is still sitting there, you don’t think Todd Bowles would be banging the table for him in a hard way? I’m sure he’d love to have a fun new toy like that on his defense, so while it may not be realistic, it’s still a scenario that could play out.
7. RB OR WR AT #14?
Here’s another “what if” scenario for you. IF the top four offensive tackles are off the board, as well as Brown, Kinlaw, and Simmons, the Bucs could be tempted to draft a shiny new running back OR a new #3 receiver. Another running back that can play on third downs might be the second biggest need on the Bucs roster right now. If all those other options are gone, and a dynamic player like Georgia’s D’Andre Swift is sitting there for the taking, they might just take him. The same goes for a player like Alabama’s Henry Ruggs III. Bruce Arians likes his speed, and they don’t come much faster than Ruggs. If those other options are off the table and he’s still available, don’t be surprised if he’s the pick. Opposing defenses already have their hands full with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. Throwing Ruggs into the mix just wouldn’t even be fair.
8. NO RUNNING BACK IN ROUNDS 1 OR 2?
I’m telling you right now, DO NOT be surprised if the Bucs don’t take a running back until the third or fourth round. I think they have high hopes for Ronald Jones II this season, and they’d be fine hitching their wagon to him as their primary back. Could they stand to add some quality depth? Absolutely. And I’m sure they will at some point in this draft or even after in free agency. But what they really need is a legitimate third-down back. Maybe a player like Antonio Gibson from Memphis in the third or early fourth round or a guy like Anthony McFarland from Maryland in the fifth round. I’d love to see them draft two running backs this weekend, but it wouldn’t shock me if they don’t. There’s a bunch of really good veteran backs still out there in free agency that they could sign after the draft for very little money. So don’t get too excited about them possibly getting JK Dobbins, Jonathan Taylor, or Clyde Edwards-Helaire in the second round. It may not happen.
9. NO DEFENSIVE PICKS UNTIL SATURDAY?
Bruce Arians made it abundantly clear that the Bucs’ biggest priority would be to keep that 2019 defense intact as much as possible. They did that by re-signing Ndamukong Suh, Shaq Barrett, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Kevin Minter this off-season. That makes me believe that they wanted to save the offensive side of the ball for the draft. An offensive tackle. A running back or two. A wide receiver. An interior offensive lineman. A quarterback for Brady to mentor. Maybe even a tight end if they trade Howard away. The Bucs only have seven picks in this draft, unless they make a trade. I don’t expect them to make a defensive pick until at least the fifth round on Saturday, if at all. I could be wrong, but I don’t think so. They want to surround Tom Brady with anything and everything he needs to succeed, so this is shaping up to be an offense heavy draft for the Buccaneers.
10. NO DEFENSIVE BACK PICKS AT ALL?
Some people seem to think that defensive back, whether it’s cornerback or safety, is a “big need” for the Buccaneers. Even some experts. I’ve seen mock drafts with the Bucs taking a safety with their 14th pick. I disagree. I do think it’s a need, but not for the draft. The Bucs secondary is slap full of young talent. All three starting cornerback positions are filled with second or third-year players and five of the six safeties on the current roster are under 25-years old. I do agree that the team could stand to add some depth at both positions going into training camp, but it should really be from the veteran free agent pool. Two guys that come to my mind are cornerback Morris Claiborne and safety Tony Jefferson. Both guys are still available and would be inexpensive options. Both have had experience playing for either Bruce Arians and/or Todd Bowles. And both would add that experienced veteran presence that’s missing from the Bucs defensive back room. So don’t be surprised if the Bucs wait until the late rounds of this draft to pick one OR don’t even pick one at all this year.
Well, there you have it. Those are ten things to look out for over the next week. The 2020 NFL Draft will start at 8 pm on Thursday night with the first round. Day 2 will consist of Rounds 2 and 3 beginning at 7 pm Friday night. And Day 3 will begin at 12 pm showing Rounds 4 through 7 on Saturday. Keep one thing in mind over the next five days.
ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN!
But that’s one of the many things that make the NFL Draft so much fun to watch. I was supposed to be in Las Vegas this week watching it live and in person. Obviously, that’s not happening. (Thanks a lot, China!) But I have been lucky enough to be invited by the Buccaneers to be involved in their “Virtual Inner Circle” during the draft. Unfortunately, I’m on shift Thursday and will be watching the first round from my fire station. But look for me and my beautiful face on Day 2, going crazy and getting loud in the “Den of Deez” when the Bucs go on the clock in the second and third rounds.
Until then, as always; GO BUCS!!!