The 2014 draft is just days away and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have the 7th overall pick. This draft class has no shortage to future superstars, the tough decision for Lovie Smith and Buccaneers’ management is which players and positions to target in the first round and the five picks they have in later rounds.
We know going into the draft that Lovie Smith has a weakness for defense. He loves a good defense and I’m sure a few of the players likely to go in the first round are very much on his radar. That said, Lovie is also a smart guy and will most likely put this penchant aside to first fill the most pressing needs his team has, and those needs are primarily offensive.
There’s no way to perfectly predict a draft or the thought process of a coach and general manager. What we can do is guess based on needs and probable draft order who is likely to be selected. The most obvious needs for the Buccaneers are a quarterback and a wide receiver, let’s review the situations at each position and why a pick of either position makes sense.
Last season former head coach Greg Schiano released former quarterback Josh Freeman who had been the starter for the team since 2010. This decision, whether you agree with it or not, left the squad in a sticky situation. The backup quarterback, rookie Mike Glennon stepped in and had a rookie season. He held his own OK but he didn’t seem to inspire franchise quarterback talk from anyone other than Schiano who had wanted him for some time.
When Lovie Smith entered the picture he assessed the quarterback situation and brought in backup Mike Kafka and later new starter Josh McCown. McCown just came off an impressive showing in Chicago stepping in for an injured Jay Cutler. So impressive in fact many wondered if he should get the starter job. Chicago decided to stick with Cutler and McCown came to Tampa to start for the Buccaneers under his former head coach.
So after a bit of searching it seems as though Tampa have a solid starter, so why even considering a quarterback in the first round? Simply put, Josh McCown is 34 years old and has been in the NFL since 2002. While most agree he’s a solid starter for the Buccaneers now, there are questions as to how long he can last and if he’s a viable long-term franchise quarterback. I happen to think he is, however, if one of the big name quarterbacks in this draft was still available by pick 7, it would be silly not to consider bringing him in to challenge or back-up McCown and to insure a future at the position.
This draft class has it’s share of high rated quarterbacks, four of which could go in the first round: Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater and Derek Carr. If one of these guys are available by pick 7, they may be a good investment in the Buccaneers future. That’s a pretty big if, maybe Carr will survive that long. If Manziel or Bortles is still available I can’t imagine Smith won’t make that move, he’s made no secret of the fact that he would like a quarterback early in the draft.
The problem at wide receiver is the Buccaneers need another starter, immediately. Last year they struggled with depth, having only Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams who played with much consistency. Now they are out one of their top two after Mike Williams was traded to the Buffalo Bills in the offseason. I understand why that choice was made but it did leave a glaring hole in the Buccaneers offense. Because of that and because I think the quarterback position is in a good place for the time being, I would prefer the Buccaneers to select a wide receiver with their 7th pick. There are two players that are immediate standouts and starters that have been on Tampa’s radar: Mike Evans and Sammy Watkins.
Watkins is almost certainly the most desired receiver in the draft so chances are unless the Buccaneers find a way to trade up, he won’t be an option. I wish he was an option, but in all likelihood he’ll be selected earlier, maybe as earlier as 2nd overall after Jadeveon Clowney. Evans on the other hand might just make it to 7 and a lot of folks think he’s a good fit for the Buccaneers as he’s been labeled a mini Vincent Jackson. They do have similarities, they are both tall, steady handed receivers and former basketball players. If Mike Evans is as good as he seems, the hope is that Evans and Jackson can duplicate the success Josh McCown had throwing to the dynamic duo of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery in Chicago. I think he’s a great choice and probably who the Buccaneers will go with.
As for the other five picks the Buccaneers have, I imagine there are a few positions they have in mind in addition to just taking the best players left on the board. Assuming they take a receiver in the 1st round I wouldn’t be surprised if they go for a quarterback in the 2nd round. As for other positions that need filling? Cornerback, guard and tackle to name a few but it’s hard to asses based on past performance. I’m treating the 2014 Buccaneers as a new team with new players because we know the difference a good coach can make. The players we have now could flourish under a quality leader and the weaknesses the team had last season may not shake out the same.
Be sure to watch the draft live on NFL Network or ESPN. Round 1 starts 8PM ET on Thursday, May 8. Rounds 2 and 3 will be on Friday starting at 7PM ET and rounds 4-7 will air Saturday starting at 12PM ET.