The 2014 NFL draft is fast approaching, and there is a definite buzz in the air thanks in part to the growing anticipation and wild speculation that has been building for several months.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers currently hold the seventh overall pick in the first round of Thursday's festivities and could conceivably go in a myriad of directions with their top selection.
Do they address the quarterback position? What about receiver—do they reach on a speedster early or wait for a later round? Do they trade down, accumulate an extra pick or two and address their offensive or defensive line?
And though we're not quite certain which way the team, led by a pair of newcomers in general manager Jason Licht and head coach Lovie Smith, will ultimately go, what is certain is the Bucs have several needs to address and whoever they ultimately select—at No. 7 or elsewhere—will not immediately cure all that ails them.
In other words, this team is not one player away from becoming a contender this season. But that's not to say there aren't a handful of players that could get them awfully close.
With that in mind, here are five scenarios the Bucs could encounter with their 2014 first-round pick.
Draft Texas A&M Receiver Mike Evans
This scenario has gained a lot of steam since the Bucs traded receiver Mike Williams to Buffalo in early April, leaving them without a true No. 2 wideout opposite Vincent Jackson. The thing is, at 6'5" and 231 pounds, Evans is essentially a younger carbon copy of Jackson.
Sure, Lovie had two receivers of similar stature in Chicago with Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall, but the Bears didn't use the seventh overall selection on Jeffery, either. Couple that with the fact this draft class is loaded with talent at receiver, and I don't think it's nearly as much of a slam dunk as some would like us to believe, despite its popularity in mock drafts around the country.
Remember when all the mocks had the Bucs selecting Morris Claiborne with the fifth overall pick a few years ago? How did that turn out again? That's right, they traded down two spots and selected Mark Barron instead.
Draft Central Florida Quarterback Blake Bortles
Although the Bucs appear to have the quarterback position figured out for the 2014 season, the same cannot be said about 2015 and beyond. Veteran Josh McCown will enter the season as the likely starter, but at 34 years of age, he is far from a long-term solution under center.
Throw in the added intrigue of ESPN's Adam Caplan telling WDAE radio (h/t CBSSports.com's Mike Singer) that the Bucs are looking to move second-year QB Mike Glennon, and all signs point to the team adding a franchise quarterback at some point during the draft. So, why not at No. 7?
Bortles (6'5", 232 lbs) possesses all of the prototypical physical traits teams covet in their quarterback, throwing for 3,581 yards and 25 touchdowns in 2013, but questions remain concerning the quality of opponents he faced and weather or not he was truly ever tested at the collegiate level.
There's little question the Bucs need to address the position sooner rather than later, and their first-round pick could very easily accomplish that by choosing Bortles at No. 7.
Draft Louisville Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater
It wasn't that long ago that Bridgewater was seen by some as a potential top-five selection, but now there is a growing belief outlined by CBSSports.com's Ryan Wilson that he could possibly fall out of the first round altogether.
For what it's worth, I am not buying it.
For starters, the Bridgewater-out-of-the-first-round talk is being primarily driven by concerns about durability and size. At 6'2" and 214 pounds, he certainly isn't the biggest guy under center, but that's truly the biggest question mark surrounding him.
Following a superb 2012 season when he threw for 3,718 yards, 27 touchdowns, eight interceptions and completed 68 percent of his passes, Bridgewater actually improved in 2013, throwing for more yards (3,970) and touchdowns (31), while cutting his interceptions in half (four) and completing 71 percent of his passes.
This, while being under an intense microscope and increased expectations for the entire season. Sure, Bridgewater doesn't have prototypical size, but his numbers speak for themselves and the Bucs would be wise to select the former Louisville QB at No. 7.
Draft Receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
While No. 7 overall may seem a bit early to select Beckham Jr., it's not totally out of the realm of possibility that OBJ could crack the top 10 assuming Sammy Watkins and Evans are already off the board.
Ideally, the Bucs would trade down from No. 7 to, say, No. 12 to 15 overall before selecting OBJ, but given his athleticism and raw speed, I would have no qualms with the choice if they stayed pat.
Beckham Jr. (5'11", 198 lbs) is part of a very deep class of receivers and would address a glaring need for the Bucs, who are without a true second option at wideout and could sorely use the services of the former LSU standout.
In 2013, OBJ hauled in 59 passes for 1,152 yards and eight touchdowns, while totaling more than 2,315 all-purpose yards, setting an LSU single-season record in the process.
Beckham Jr. was a very productive three-year starter for the Tigers and comes to the NFL with a ton of experience in the highly competitive SEC.
Trade Down to 12, Select North Carolina Tight End Eric Ebron
In this scenario, the Bucs would trade spots with the New York Giants, picking up the 12th overall pick and a third-round selection (74th overall) in the deal. This scenario assumes a player the Giants coveted highly fell to the Bucs and a deal was made.
While we know receiver is a position of need, the Bucs aren't that much better off at tight end either and Ebron would provide a big, athletic target for McCown and the offense to use.
Ebron (6'4", 250 lbs) is a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses, running a 4.6-second 40-yard dash and boasting a 120" broad jump at the combine, per NFL.com.
Throw in the fact that he is a crisp route-runner and has great dexterity, and Ebron is a definite red-zone threat and would provide great value to the Bucs at No. 12 overall.
J.J. can be reached via email at BRJJRodriguez@gmail.com