With a loss to the St. Louis Rams last Thursday Night, and wins by both Minnesota and Seattle, the 6-8 Tampa Bay Buccaneers are officially eliminated from playoff contention. It’s hard to believe that just eight months ago the Buccaneers drafted a Heisman winning quarterback from Florida State University that would grow to become the new leader of the franchise. With this season marked by moral victories and providing a launching pad for the future, the Buccaneers’ 2016 draft strategy will be key to returning the team to post-season play.
Entering Week 16 Buccaneers are currently positioned to own the 12th pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, sandwiched between the Detroit Lions and the New York Giants. In the 2015 NFL Draft the Buccaneers drafted four players who have made substantial contributions this season. They will be looking to capitalize on that success and score again in next year’s draft.
There’s a saying in football that the best ability is availability. That same mantra can be applied to the draft. The ability to draft good players hinges on having a good pool of players available when your pick arrives. After that it’s simple math, the earlier you pick, the more players on your board are available. Now, I am in no way suggesting that the Buccaneers tank, but what we’re going to look at here are some key Week 16 games that will impact the Buccaneers’ draft position.
Chicago Bears @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
Obviously the Buccaneers’ own game will have significant impact on their draft status. Entering this match-up at home against the 5-9 Bears, the Buccaneers are looking to break free from the rut they’ve entered beginning with their Week 14 loss to the New Orleans Saints. In a match-up ripe for a Buccaneers rebound, the Bears passing attack is all but depleted with injuries to key players like receiver Alshon Jeffrey, who hasn’t practiced this week after suffering a hamstring injury against the Minnesota Vikings, and tight end Martellus Bennett.
“With the undefeated Carolina Panthers looming in Week 17, this week’s tilt against the 5-9 Bears is easily Tampa Bay’s best chance at preventing a four-game losing streak to close out the season.” – Luke Easterling
Where the Bears have offensive weapons remaining, the Buccaneers have had defensive success. The Buccaneers have been good against opponent rushing attacks all year and currently rank 9th in the NFL in run defense. Both Matt Forte and Jeremy Langford equip the Bears with legitimate threats both as runners and as receivers out of the backfield, but this is a game the Buccaneers can win, and would leave the home crowd feeling good entering the off season if they can do so. Luke Easterling of Bleacher Report wrote,
“With the undefeated Carolina Panthers looming in Week 17, this week’s tilt against the 5-9 Bears is easily Tampa Bay’s best chance at preventing a four-game losing streak to close out the season.”
Suffering through a four-game losing streak to end the season, and while it may place them in a more favorable draft position, the damage done to an otherwise promising season would undoubtedly bleed into next season. A win would place the Buccaneers record at 7-8 heading into Week 17, and would more than triple the teams win total from 2014.
San Francisco 49ers @ Detroit Lions:
The 49ers and Lions currently sit in the 6th and 11th spots in the Draft respectively. Both teams have a stronger strength of schedule than the Buccaneers, so tying either of these teams’ records would lead to the Buccaneers having the higher of the picks. The Lions are coming off of a quality win against the Saints on Monday Night that featured their passing attack and took advantage of the Saints weak secondary. While the 49ers rank better statistically against the pass, it’s not much better. The Lions
should again be able to throw the ball consistently while the Lions defense will look to stifle a 49ers offense that stifles itself more often than not. San Francisco is currently dead last in total offense, and will most likely secure their top five pick by losing this one in Detroit.
A win for Detroit and loss for San Fran would cement the 49ers picking ahead of Tampa, and keep the Lions and Buccaneers within a game of each other in draft positioning.
More from Bucs Draft
- The Athletic’s early NFL Mock Draft has the Bucs taking a Top 5 QB in 2024
- Bucs front office reveals one thing the team missed during NFL Draft
- Peter King explains simple reason why Bucs passed on drafting Will Levis
- Mel Kiper Jr. hands out his official Buccaneers draft grade
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers undrafted free agents tracker 2023
New York Giants @ Minnesota Vikings:
Coming off of last week’s simultaneously impressive and disgusting performance by the New York Giants, they will be without star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. who is serving a one-game suspension for his actions on the field. We won’t beat that horse any further.
The Vikings are right in the hunt of the playoff race and still within grasp of an NFC North Division title. Meanwhile, the Giants are also in the hunt to be the best of the worst in the NFC as they are somehow still in range to win the NFC East at 6-8. Outside of the division race, the Giants currently hold the 13th pick in the draft – one spot below the Buccaneers.
The Vikings are a good team with legitimate playoff hopes while the Giants just happen to be in a division playing as poorly as they are. Without the services of ODB, the Giants have no offensive firepower to speak of, and a loss in Minnesota seems more likely than not.
A win by Minnesota would clinch a playoff berth for the Skol Warriors and a loss would eliminate the Giants from playoff contention. With a win by the Buccaneers, the Giants would also trade draft positions with the Buccaneers. Considering that the Buccaneers and Giants have similar needs on defense, this is not an ideal scenario, but a likely one nonetheless.
With the season coming to an end and Buccaneers fans once again settling in to find consolation teams to cheer for, there is still one race that the Buccaneers are in, and a lot of scenarios that are still left to take shape as we head into the final act of the regular season.