Going to take more than magic
It’s about time to reach into the hat again and get your rabbits. The ones you have studied, interviewed, the ones that they worked out at your own facilities or watched work out at the League Combine in late February/early March. There is no other day on the NFL Calendar that is any bigger than draft day, not even the Super Bowl. Because without numerous success stories coming out of draft days, there is no Super Bowl for that team. It is the fountain of youth and the life’s blood of every NFL team. Trades and free agent pick-ups may add crucial pieces to the puzzle, but the draft lays the foundation. If you can’t draft well, it shows directly in your record. It almost doesn’t matter who you hire as a coach if you can’t get the talent level to put on the field. For the most part, Jason Licht has been somewhat successful on draft day. He does tend to lock in on certain players and positions (numerous kickers) on draft day that have shown poor judgment. When it finally seemed that Licht had found a gem of a kicker (Matt Gay) the team gave up on him too soon and cut him. Licht even traded up into the second round to draft the train wreck that was Roberto Aguayo in 2016. We all know how that ended up. It’s bad enough to draft a failure, but to trade up in the draft to take said player is just embarrassing.
It’s simple, more hits than misses
Nobody gets it right every time; it’s just the nature of the beast. The trick, of course, is to get the majority of them right, and as of late, Licht has done fairly well. Many have criticized the Devin White grab. While he has not become the human highlight reel as advertised, he is every bit a top 5 player at his position and leads the team in tackles almost annually. 2023 as advertised has been restrictive on the Bucs’ ability to spend in free agency, as well as being able to retain some of their own whose contracts were up. The only way the Bucs have to obtain and replace some of the talent being lost is through the draft. One of those positions is at the all-important offensive left tackle, where Smith was finally let go. The team cannot afford a miss on this one. They must make that selection stick, as a strong left tackle makes everyone on the offense better. The Bucs are expected to once again be in the market for players in the defensive backfield, as well as a running back, defensive lineman, outside linebacker (for the 3-4 defense), and possibly even a quarterback. The best player available could also play a role in “who and when,” regardless of position. In other words, who the hell knows?
The faster road back
Anything can happen on draft day, and often does. Some things are certain, like a left tackle and a defensive back or two. Beyond that could turn into chaos. The team could find itself in a position where a player they are high on slips to where they could trade up and get their guy. Too many scenarios to cover, but one thing is certain. The next 2–3 drafts for the Bucs are critical. Licht and Bowles have to make their selections count with impact. Some gems in the later rounds must be found to go along with solid, right-on-the-money, early selections. It will be the only thing standing between the team and another 15-30-year cycle, struggling to be Super Bowl-good again. Just three seasons ago, the Eagles were 4-11-1. Last season they were in the Super Bowl. When you get it right, the draft is a powerful tool. Go Bucs!!