Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2014 NFL Draft Fact or Fiction
One month left before this year's NFL draft and every NFL team is doing their darndest to keep their intentions hidden from each other, the media and the common NFL fan.
However, some plans simply cannot be hidden, especially when a team goes through as many changes as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have this offseason.
Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith reshaped the team roster just weeks after taking the reins. As free agency winds down, the Bucs remaining needs become evident.
The Mike Williams trade left a big hole at wide receiver, a position already in need of additional depth.
Though the Bucs acquired quarterback Josh McCown and anointed him this season's starter, Smith left the door open for the Bucs to shop for quarterbacks during the draft.
As a defensive-minded coach, Smith will likely add rookies that fit his defensive philosophy. The Bucs may seek additional pass-rushers and linebackers who fit Smith's zone schemes.
Predicting what an NFL team will do on draft day is like shooting in the dark with a shotgun. Here are five facts and fictions that may help guide the aim of Bucs fans trying to make sense of this year's NFL draft.
FICTION: The Bucs Should Pass on a 1st-Round Quarterback
This year's crop of rookie quarterbacks may be the most controversial the NFL draft has seen in decades. There is no clear consensus top passer as indicated by the mock draft roundup by Bleacher Report's Gary Davenport.
Some see UCF's Blake Bortles going first overall, while Bleacher Report's Dan Hope and Andrew Gould have Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater as the first quarterback off the board. Even Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel has been forecast as the first overall pick by Sports Illustrated's Doug Farrar.
It is possibly that none of these quarterbacks will be available when the Bucs make their pick in the first round.
But what if they are?
The Buccaneers have never had a true franchise quarterback. There's no guarantee that any of these three or even Fresno State's Derek Carr would develop into a franchise player.
Nonetheless, the Bucs absolute have to consider these quarterbacks should they be available at the seventh pick.
Bridgewater is safest pick in the group. He already possesses the mental acumen of an NFL quarterback. He simply needs to develop a bit more physically.
Bortles and Carr may have higher ceilings, but they are much greater risks to bust.
Manziel is the wild card. He lacks the refinement necessary to survive on an NFL field, but he has a Brett Favre, playmaking quality that could turn out to be something special.
None of these passers are sure things. The main reason the Bucs can afford to take a risk is the Josh McCown signing.
A seasoned veteran coming off an impressive season with the Chicago Bears, McCown can both carry the load under center, while mentoring the Bucs' aspiring franchise quarterback.
FACT: Starting Wide Receivers Can Be Found Beyond the 1st Round
This year's draft is so deep at wide receiver that a team might end up drafting a giant squid in the seventh round.
Talented receivers such as Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans and Kelvin Benjamin would be difficult to pass up should they fall to the Bucs at the seventh overall selection.
Nonetheless the Bucs should feel no urgency to jump and snatch them off the board.
The Bucs have considerable needs to fill, and the value of their draft position may be better spent on one of the three top quarterbacks or an elite offensive lineman such as Auburn's Greg Robinson.
To be fair, Clemson's Sammy Watkins would be an excellent pick for the Bucs. However, beyond Watkins, the Bucs may be better off waiting for the talented crop of receivers waiting in the third and second rounds.
Bleacher Report's James Christensen projects receivers like Fresno State's Davante Adams or Vanderbilt's Jordan Matthews would be available in the second round.
While Adams and Matthews lack the ideal top-end speed, both evoke the departed Mike Williams with their ability to use their size and sure hands to make spectacular catches.
Christensen also has Penn State's Allen Robinson going in the third round and Ole Miss' Donte Moncrief falling to the fourth round.
Robinson is a tough, over-the-middle sort of receiver, an ideal complement to Vincent Jackson. Moncrief has a tremendous ceiling and is a more complete player than some receivers who will be taken before him.
As good as receivers like Evans and Benjamin are, the Bucs cannot pick on need alone. Though the later rounds can be murky, there are a few gems to be found to help the Bucs' receiving corps.
FACT: The Bucs Must Draft a Starting Guard
The Bucs jettisoned most of last season's starting offensive line over this offseason and brought in a number of replacements. However, the new regime has yet to address the same weakness that plagued them through last season.
It's no secret the Bucs are thin at guard. Carl Nicks played all of seven games since signing with the Bucs two seasons ago.
Behind Nicks, the Bucs have serviceable starters in plug-in player Jamon Meredith and newcomer Oniel Cousins.
While addressing the tackle and center positions, the Bucs did very little to improve their desperate situation at guard, save for cutting the declining Davin Joseph.
The 2014 NFL draft is not very top-heavy at guard, according to Bleacher Report's Matt Miller, who ranks Stanford's David Yankey and UCLA's Xavier Su'a-Filo as this year's top prospects.
Both are starting-quality players and could be available in the second round, according to Miller. However, the lack of guard depth in this draft will make them coveted players, and they could be taken in a reach by another team.
The Bucs may want to consider a less orthodox approach to filling their need at guard. Players such as Auburn's Greg Robinson or Alabama's Cyrus Kouandjio are projected to be top tackles but possess the size and strength to be dominant guards.
By drafting Robinson or Kouandjio, the Bucs could buy themselves some time to better sort their situation at guard while giving their rookie lineman a chance to acclimate to the NFL.
FICTION: Anthony Barr and Khalil Mack Are Surefire 1st-Round Picks
Before anyone loses their cool over this particular fiction, please note that this only applies to the Buccaneers. Mack is a top-five talent, while Barr could be a top-10 talent.
However, neither is a good fit for the Buccaneers. Both project as 3-4 linebackers due to their size and style of play.
The Bucs are returning to the Tampa 2 defense that put them on the map, according to Rick Stroud and Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times. This requires a 4-3 base that consistently generates pass rush with its front four.
While Mack and Barr look like they will be excellent pass-rushers, they lack the size to be full-time 4-3 defensive ends.
They would not be able to simply attack the quarterback. Tampa 2 defensive ends must also play the run.
Given the Bucs' defensive philosophy, Mack and Barr lose a lot of value with the seventh overall pick. The Bucs would be better off trading away the pick if Mack and Barr fall to them.
FICTION: The Bucs Will Be Able to Trade Down
Trading down is the great myth of the NFL draft. For all its popularity, it is an obstreperous undertaking and does not always yield a superior results.
The Bucs have only six draft picks this year, thanks to the Darrelle Revis trade which sends the Bucs' fourth-round pick to the New York Jets. That is a weak position entering the draft, given the Bucs' need for starters and depth alike.
Could the Bucs use more picks? Absolutely, but that doesn't mean teams are lining up to swap their picks for a higher draft position.
Maybe if Watkins, Robinson or Bridgewater fall to the Bucs, they will be able to find a suitor. However, all three players are such great talents and fill needs that the Bucs might be better off staying put.
If quarterbacks such as Manziel or Bortles drop to the seventh pick, the Bucs may find themselves alone on the dance floor.
Bucs fans shouldn't let dreams of a delectable trade package blind them to the reality of the draft. Circumstance could be friend or foe to the Bucs on draft day, but they can't count on it either way.
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