Pewter Plank Mailbag: Looking Ahead to the 2014 NFL Draft for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
By Leo Howell
April 27, 2011; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano introduces first round draft picks Doug Martin and Mark Barron during a press conference at One Buc Place. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
It’s time for another question from the Pewter Plank mailbag, and this one was e-mailed in by Justin, who you can find on Twitter @JustinSutts227. He asks the following…
"Thinking ahead, assuming no one on the roster has any serious injuries this upcoming season. What position do you think Tampa will look for with that 1st round pick in 2014?"
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Another great question from our readers. Let’s get right to it.
There’s really two options for how the Buccaneers can approach the top pick in next year’s draft. They can opt to select a player at a position of need, or they can select a player at a position where they could use a more affordable option. Let’s consider what the Bucs could do in either scenario.
Drafting for Need
Nov 10, 2012; Seattle, WA, USA; Washington Huskies tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins (88) points to the fans after getting a 1st down against the Utah Utes during the 2nd half at CenturyLink Field. Washington defeated Utah 34-15. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports
If the Buccaneers play as expected in 2013, and no one emerges as a superstar at an unexpected position, tight end promises to be the biggest need position heading into 2013. There is a first round prospect at tight end, but he is not the prototype “Buccaneer Man.” You can read more about my thoughts on Austin Seferian-Jenkins by clicking here. Apart from Seferian-Jenkins, Colt Lyerla of Oregon is a borderline first round prospect who was a touchdown machine last season despite not being a huge part of the Ducks’ offense. He has a lot to prove in 2013 to merit a first round grade, but he has the tools.
Apart from tight end, wide receiver may be a position of need heading into 2014, especially if a deal is not reached with Mike Williams. Rutgers’ wideout Brandon Coleman looks to be a first round prospect, and he’s the kind of big, strong receiver the Buccaneers covet under Mike Sullivan’s offensive scheme.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Buccaneers will likely be in the market for another corner with Eric Wright’s contract expiring after the 2013 season. Should the choose to spend a first round pick replacing Wright and ensuring stability at corner, Jason Verrett of TCU will likely be available near the end of the first round. According to a scouting profile on SBNation, Verrett is an active player who gets tons of work done against the run as well as against the pass. That’s the kind of player Greg Schiano is bound to fall in love with.
And if the Buccaneers want to bolster the linebacking corps, A.J. Johnson from Tennessee looks to be a worthy addition to the Buccaneers defense, as the middle linerbacker is a tackle machine who can get into the backfield. He would give the Bucs the option to shift Mason Foster to the strong side and form a trio of young and formidable run defenders.
Drafting for Money
January 1,2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Michigan Wolverines offensive linesman Taylor Lewan (77) reacts against the South Carolina Gamecocks during the second half of the 2013 Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium. South Carolina Gamecocks defeated the Michigan Wolverines 33-28. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
If the Buccaneers elect to replace a player on a big contract with a promising draft prospect on a much more affordable deal, they have a couple different choices. Davin Joseph is slated to make over six million dollars, but has no guaranteed money in 2014. If the Bucs need to cut costs, they could draft an offensive guard to replace Joseph, and allow the team captain to walk and find another job elsewhere. And while this move would crush the spirit of many in Buc Nation, the team could turn around and select Cyril Richardson from Baylor at the tail end of the first round to replace him. Richardson has played tackle and guard, but seems better suited inside, while still providing the Buccaneers the flexibility on the line that they seem to look for in potential additions. David Yankey of Stanford provides a similar option.
Likewise, the Buccaneers may seek to move on from Donald Penn, especially if there is anything to the rumors of failed weight checks (and I don’t believe there is any truth there, at least not this season, but that’s not important if the team are truly unhappy with him.) Penn has a small signing bonus that would need to be paid if he were let go, but otherwise the Buccaneers could replace their left tackle and save over six million dollars. Antonio Richardson of Tennesee is an option for the Buccaneers to replace Penn, as he paved the way for an impressive offense last season. If things go poorly for the Bucs in 2013 and they have a higher draft pick, they may opt for Taylor Lewan of Michigan who will be drafted near the top of the first round, but appears to be a franchise tackle just waiting to be drafted.
And finally, should Josh Freeman fail to deliver on his promise and be found unworthy of a contract extension, the Bucs could use their first selection on a quarterback. They would likely be close to the top of the draft, meaning Tahj Boyd or Teddy Bridgewater could be in play. I would assume Bridgewater would be preferred thanks to his height and ability under pressure. Either one promises to be a franchise quarterback with a big arm, capable of making any throw in the NFL.