With the 2019 season officially in the rearview, the Buccaneers now look forward to the NFL Draft and the No. 14 overall pick.
Once an anticipated Buccaneers season to look forward to with all of the new changes in the building, Tampa Bay added a 14th consecutive year without a playoff appearance. A tough decade for the Pewter Pirates, indeed.
14 years later and the irony follows the team into year 15 with the 14th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. With a number of depth issues to address (as well as a lingering franchise quarterback situation), the Buccaneers need to makes some well-thought-out personnel moves. And quickly.
The reason for the haste is simply due to the unknown future of Tampa Bay’s fifth-year quarterback, Jameis Winston. If the Buccaneers choose to extend the former Heisman Trophy winner, the selection should be geared toward the offensive line and/or secondary (specifically the safety position).
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Conversely, if Tampa Bay opts to move on from Winston, don’t put it past Bruce Arians to try and trade up and select a premiere quarterback prospect in the first round. With that being said, this article will be addressed in two separate hypotheticals: with Winston on the roster in 2020 as well as without him.
Without Winston in 2020
This scenario seems to be the more likely scenario of the two considering Arians’ comments on his quarterback in recent weeks. Moving forward to the draft, there are only three legitimate options for Top-15 quarterbacks within the Bucs range: Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, and Tua Tagovailoa.
To make this a bit simpler, Tagovailoa gets the first boot because of injury concerns as well as not being a good fit for Arians’ system (Arians prefers taller quarterbacks with strong arms to make all of the throws in his vertical offense.) Unfortunate, Tua excels in neither of those categories. Moving on.
Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert. These two become a bit easier to pry because of Burrow’s essential lock to the Cincinnati Bengals at number one overall. Burrow, the 2019 Heisman winner, just threw for 5,208 passing yards and 55 touchdowns to go along with a mind-boggling 77.6 completion percentage on just 478 attempts. Do the math. Burrow averaged a first down every completion. Sorry, Tampa Bay.
That leads to the most realistic QB for Arians and company, Justin Herbert out of Oregon. Herbert has had an outstanding year for the Ducks, fresh off a Rose Bowl victory, throwing for 3,471 passing yards as well as 32 touchdowns and just six interceptions.
The Eugene, Oregon native fits the mold — 6’6 , 237 pounds — and cannon arm needed to thrive in Tampa Bay’s offense. It wouldn’t be a shocker to see the Buccaneers’ name attached to Herbert in the coming months leading up to the draft if Winston leaves via free agency.
With Winston in 2020
If the Buccaneer brass sees it fit to give Winston another prove-it year, then all eyes should be set towards addressing the offensive line and the secondary. The offensive line for Tampa Bay this year produced mix results, with the left side of the line significantly better than the right.
With all this considered, the folks at PFF still ranked the Buccaneers offensive line seventh in the NFL. While this area on the team is still a position of need, the secondary in this year’s draft offers some top-tier, day-on starter talent. One prospect Tampa Bay could zone in on before April’s draft is a name that has floated around Buccaneer media outlets is LSU free safety, Grant Delpit.
The 2019 Jim Thorpe Award winner would surely shore up a Buccaneer secondary that gave up one too many yards last season. While rookie, Mike Edwards, and Jordan Whitehead produced sufficient numbers at the strong safety position (particularly late in the season), the free safety play left much to be desired.
So much so that Andrew Adams, who was brought on weeks into the season, was the leading tackler for all safeties on the roster. Brutal. What makes this situation tricky is the fact that Tampa already has a budding young free safety in Justin Evans.
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Unfortunately, Evans has been hampered time and time again by a reoccurring heel injury that forced him out for the entire season and hopes that he would play. The situation is beginning to have a Kendall Beckwith-type vibe in the sense that no one outside of the building knows what’s actually going on. If that turns out to be the case, Delpit would be a plug and play starter who would a new dimension to Tampa Bay’s already ascending defense.