What is the Bucs’ backup plan in the draft?

by Gary Shelton on April 23, 2020

in general

Licht has different ways to go.

Thursday, 4 a.m.

If you are like most of us, you have no idea of whether Jedrick Willis is better than Andrew Thomas, or if either of them is better than Tristan Wirfs, or if any of them will be a better professional offensive tackle than Mekhi Becton.

Who is the strongest? The most agile? Who is the better pass protector? The better run blocker? The best domino player. 

We know none of this. Heck the professional scouts don’t seem to agree. We know they are marginally better than the next group of Josh Jones, Ezra Cleveland or Austin Jackson, but we couldn’t tell you why. The same guys who swear they can tell you which player is better will next argue over who the best science officer of Star Trek was.

Content beyond this point is for members only.

Already a member? To view the rest of this column, sign in using the handy "Sign In" button located in the upper right corner of the GarySheltonSports.com blog (it's at the far right of the navigation bar under Gary's photo)!

Not a member? It's easy to subscribe so you can view the rest of this column and all other premium content on GarySheltonSports.com.

What we know is this: We agree that a premier offensive tackle would be a fine, fine choice for the rebuilt Tampa Bay Bucs. They need to keep a pass rush off of Tom Brady. They need to open holes for Ronald Jones. They need to stop all the holding.

But what if none of the top four trickle down to the Bucs’ first selection at No.14? What if the Giants, the Cardinals, the Jets and the Browns all take a tackle before the Bucs come up to bat? After all, things have gone well for the Bucs this off-season; they can’t stay on a roll forever, can they?

Tackles are a big deal in this draft. There are three quarterbacks, maybe four. But no one likes to draft running backs high unless they’re off-the-charts good. Receivers can be found in the middle of the round or later. Safeties rarely go high.

So what do the Bucs do if the four tackles are all gone?

(It should be said that no matter who the Bucs’ draft, even if its a plow horse, they’ll say they’re delighted that he was still available.)

Should they trade up so they can get one of the favored four? Should they trade back and try to get more picks? Should they take a player from another position? Should they try to sign yet another aging Patriot? (Rodney Harrison has nothing to do.)

Let’s talk.

Trade up: Unless the Bucs are absolutely certain they would pick a rising star, it’s going to be too expensive to move. It would take a third-round draft pick to move up four slots to No. 10, and the team still wouldn’t get the first- or second-ranked tackle. For a right tackle, that’s pricey. Again, we don’t know the difference between, say, Becton and Jones.

Trade down: That’s a more enticing scenario. The Bucs could move back and pick up another third (maybe a late second, depending on how far back the team would move). That would replace the fourth-round pick the team shipped to New England.

Take another position: There are a lot of good football players. The Bucs could take a running back or a safety and try to pick up their tackle in the second round. A name you see connected to the Bucs a lot these days is South Carolina’s Javon Kinlaw. Still, he’d just be a rotational tackle his first year (the Bucs have Vita Vea and Ndamukong Suh as starters). They could use a running back, but the value is for later in the round. Perhaps even early in the second.

If the Bucs decide they want a lesser tackle, a Jones or Cleveland or Jackson, they should move back before they pick him. They could then use their second-round pick on a running back and their third on, perhaps, a slot receiver.

Trade period: The Bucs don’t have to depend on the draft to find their tackle. The Redskins, for instance, are supposed to move Trent Williams. Tight end O.J. Howard could fit into a trade somewhere.

Backtrack: The Buc could always call Demar Dotson back. But I’d dial slowly.

Either way, the Bucs look a lot more interesting today, but they also look a lot older. They can’t start the resumes of Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski. They have to deal with a 43-year-old quarterback and a receiver who sat out all of last year.

Still, the Bucs should get better in this draft.

That’s the goal, isn’t it?

Previous post:

Next post: