Expect a solid player with No. 1 pick

by Gary Shelton on April 23, 2021

in general

Licht has a lot to consider./CARMEN MANDATO

Friday, 4 a.m.

Here's a prediction for you.

No matter who the Bucs draft this year -- and the possibilities are endless -- he's going to be better than Vinny Testaverde.

He's also going to be better than Bo Jackson (for the Bucs), and better than Gaines Adams, and better than Keith McCants. He's going to be better than Charles McRae, and better than Eric Curry, and better than Marquise Walker. That's not saying much, and it's not playing much, but you can start with that.

Whoever the Bucs draft will be better for a couple of reasons. One, those

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were spectacular flame-outs for the Bucs. But two, much of the reason they all failed was that a failed franchise wanted them to be too good too fast. They wanted instant salvation from a rookie. As a kid, they wanted him to be the best player on the field.

This year's No. 1? He'll be surrounded by elite athletes, which will make him better. He'll have higher team expectations. He'll be in meeting rooms with accomplished, driven players. He can take it slow and learn as he goes. That alone should make him a better bet to be a solid, if not a spectacular, professional. It's why good teams generally fare well in the draft; they expect a rookie to be a part, nothing more.

Ah, but where will the Bucs draft? That's harder to guess, because it's hard to predict which insurance policy the team prefers.

But know this: Good teams have a plan for every position, a plan for right now, and a play for the day after tomorrow. And that plan doesn't just involve starters. It involves backups and what the honchos think of those guys, too. There are backups that are just guys, and there are backups who are essential.

So consider it by position. If you want to get inside the mind of Jason Licht -- a much less frightening place than it used to be -- then you have to break it down by positions.

Here goes:

Quarterback: We'll start with the most established position on the field. There is no way a rookie -- particularly one taken 32nd -- is going to see meaningful snaps in 2021 unless Tom Brady is hurt. Even then, it might take another injury for him to see the field.

Granted, the team could make a move toward the future with, say, Kyle Trask of Florida or Kellen Mond of Texas A&M. But if you're going for another title, do you really want to pick someone who won't see the field at all this year? And remember, by the time Tom Brady has finally had enough, that rookie will be halfway through his first contract. Then there is this: After high achievement, do the Bucs really want to start over with a kid after Brady is done, or do they want to bring in another veteran.

Personal guess: In round one, the Bucs pass.

Running back: Yes, there will be value at the pick in either Clemson's Travis Etienne or North Carolina's Javonte Williams. Some even see Alabama's Najee Harris falling into the team's lap.

Well, forget it. The Bucs' running back situation is a closed shop. The Bucs made sure of that when they re-signed Leonard Fournette and brought in Gio Bernard. With Ronald Jones, there simply aren't enough roster spots.

Personal guess: Pass.

Offensive line: Again, you not only have to think of the starters, you have to remember the Bucs are bringing back their top seven linemen. That doesn't leave a lot of space in the meeting room.

One possibility is a backup center to Ryan Jensen, which will cause some deep thoughts about Landon Dickerson, the Alabama center. There's a lot to like with Dickerson.

Personal guess: A lot of discussion, but in the end, the Bucs eventually pass.

Wide receiver: What do the Bucs really think about the notion of bringing Antonio Brown back? We know he had a nice half-season last. year, but we really don't know if he was tough for the Bucs to handle or not behind the scenes.

Even without him, this is a stocked position for the Bucs with Scotty Miller and Tyler Johnson, and arguments can be made that they both should see more time on the field. But a nice addition like Elijah Moore of Ole Miss or Rondale Moore of Purdue might be tempting.

Personal guess Brady, like all quarterbacks, loves weapons. But in the end, I think the Bucs pass.

Tight end: The Bucs' room seems full, but the team could think about the future here. The trouble is that, after Florida's Kyle Pitts, there doesn't seem to be value at the end of the first round.

Personal guess: Check back in round three.

Defensive tackle: Because of the age of Ndamukong Suh, this has been a popular guess (that's all the mock drafters are doing...guessing). But the Bucs also have brought back Steve McClendon and Rakeem Nunez-Roches. The Bucs would have to love someone to take him here.

Personal guess: They won't take one this high.

Defensive end/linebacker: There seems to be a lot of disagreement when it comes to the rankings of edge rushers. Some expect Miami's Jaelen Phillips or Greg Rousseau to be available. Maybe Penn State's Jayson Owes. But wouldn't you prefer a high-production guy like Tulsa;s outside linebacker Zaven Collins? There is room on the roster behind Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaw Barrett.

Personal guess: It's an impact position, and it would be a safe choice.

Inside linebacker: No. The Bucs have Devin White and Lavonte David and they like backup Kevin Minter. Unless an athlete (Jamin Davis?) somehow falls, it's hard to see the Bucs looking at an inside linebacker.

Person guess. Pass until the late rounds.

Defensive back: It's an intriguing position, because a team needs so many of them. If I ran the Bucs, I'd check to see if a highly branded corner (Caleb Fareley of Virginia Tech) was there. I love safety Trevon Moehrig of TCU, and free agency did take some of the depth away from the Bucs.

Here's a reason for a second thought. The Bucs were burned when they went very high for a safety (Mark Barron). On the other hand, they don't have a particularly high pick this year. This pick is only 13 slots higher than where the team picked Antoine Winfield last year. A safety might have the most on-field impact as anyone next season.

Personal guess: It's a fascinating position. This could be a year the Bucs think safety first.

Trade: Drafting 32nd will give Licht a lot of time to consider deals. But with a set roster, does the team really need to pick up an extra fourth-round pick to move back? Probably not. I'd think the odds were greater than the scouts lock on a guy they really like and give up that fourth-round pick to move up into the mid-20s and take him (Azeez Ojulari?).

Personal guess: Trading up makes more sense for the coming season than trading back.

Kicker: Are you kidding me?

Personal guess: No. Just no.

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