It’s the time of year where any guy with a keyboard and NFL network starts churning out mock drafts. We’ll have our draft coverage starting up right around the combine and continuing on through the draft (if you’re wondering what to expect take a look at last year’s Positional Rankings, Big Board and several mock drafts).
Yesterday Josh Hill wrote about Mel Kiper’s prediction that the Bucs will pick Alabama RB Trent Richardson 5th overall. That’s not necessarily a bad pick, but also not really the best one given the Buccaneers many needs. Unfortunately for Tampa, the ideal scenario where they trade back and accumulate more picks, is a little bit tougher than it looked like coming into December.
It all hinges on RG3.
Just a month and a half ago the 5th overall pick would have been far more valuable. With the new rookie wage scale in place teams can now move picks more easily without the risk of being tethered to a dead-weight rookie deal. You saw a number of moves last year that were driven by this new wrinkle in the CBA. Not to mention the draft class looked deep with quarterbacks. The Bucs don’t need a signal-caller, but with potentially four top-ten QB prospects entering the draft they were seated beautifully to send the pick to a QB-hungry team and pick up a few extra selections.
Then Matt Barkley and Landry Jones announced that they would be returning to college for another season at USC and Oklahoma respectively. I’m sure those two announcements didn’t register much with Bucs fans when they were made, but they will resonate in Tampa come April.
Things will go one of two ways should the Bucs decide they want to play QB-broker and try to deal their pick. It could really work out well for the Buccaneers or it could really screw them.
Without Barkley and Jones in the mix, the top two quarterbacks in the 2012 draft will be Stanford’s Andrew Luck, the surefire top pick, and Baylor’s Heisman winning Robert Griffin III. As of right now, pre-Combine and before pro days, both are consensus top-5 picks.
Things will work out beautifully for the Buccaneers if the Browns don’t grab RG3 at the 4th selection and don’t trade the pick. Those are both big if’s. Before the Browns the Colts are likely to take Luck (practically guaranteed), and the Vikings and Rams are likely to pass on QB’s. The Rams just gave 60 mil guaranteed to Sam Bradford two years ago and the Vikes took Ponder in the first round last year.
That leaves the Browns who have to decide if they are OK moving forward with Colt McCoy or if they can deal the pick to someone else who wants it. There will be suitors.
That’s why the decisions by Barkley and Jones will factor so heavily in Tampa, the odds of RG3 slipping past the fourth pick are remarkably low at this stage in the game. Without other QB prospects, it will be harder to move the 5th pick, the Bucs may end up having to make a selection there.
BUT, if the Browns pick someone other than Griffin and he falls to five, the Bucs will be in business.
Right now there are several quarterback hungry teams sitting between six and 12. Starting with the Redskins at six (who may be willing to move to prevent other teams from going up ahead of them) all the way down to the Seahawks at 12, there are potentially five teams who would be interested in making a move (Redskins, Jaguars, Dolphins, Chiefs, Seahawks).
Now will all of those teams deem it worth moving up? Maybe not. But you just need two or three suitors and ten good minutes to turn the fifth overall pick into a top 15 pick with a host of other early-mid round choices tossed in.
The Bucs are not one piece away from anything, they have needs across the board and it’s naive to think that one draft, or particularly one choice would fix everything. But they can turn that pick into more choices and address several needs. When you look at how the best teams in football are built, that is often the model. The Patriots for instance almost never pick in the first round unless its near the back-end, they trade their first pick almost every year. But they always have between four and six picks over the next two or three rounds and they turn those picks into solid players.
The Bucs need to trade that fifth pick, but without a deep QB class coming out it will be a lot harder.