It’s officially NFL Mock Draft SZN for Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans, which is a lot more exciting than it should be given the current state of the team.
Salary cap issues must get worked out, players need to be re-signed or cut, and free agency will be an interesting peak into the mindset of the team, but the NFL Draft is going to help set a tone for the future one way or another.
It’s no secret that the Buccaneers need a quarterback, but it’s not a new conundrum. Tom Brady returning for a third season allowed the team to kick that can down the road, but they’re starting to run out of pavement.
Kyle Trask is the only quarterback under contract next season, and the question of who will be the franchise guy moving forward will need to be answered soon. It might be Trask, it might be a veteran who is acquired via free agency or a trade, but a lot of signs point to the Bucs looking at this year’s NFL Draft class for a potential solution.
One thing working against the team is its draft position. Tampa Bay has the No. 19 pick, which is well beyond the reach of the top quarterbacks in the class. If the Bucs want Bryce Young or C.J. Stroud they’ll need to trade up to get them. Even Kentucky’s Will Levis is projected to be a Top 15 pick, which means Tampa Bay will have to move up if it wants to find a quarterback of the future in this year’s draft.
Or does it?
NFL Mock Draft: Buccaneers land QB of the future without trading up
NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein put out the first version of his mock draft and has the Buccaneers taking a quarterback while standing pat at No. 19 overall. It’s a bold prediction, but perhaps the most intriguing quarterback option to be tossed out yet.
Of the Bucs pick in his NFL Mock Draft, Zierlein writes:
"“The Bucs are headed into rebuild mode whether they like it or not. They shoot for the moon with the big, dual-threat QB from Florida who has boom-or-bust potential.”"
Whether or not the Buccaneers rebuild, reboot, retool, or regress even further in 2023 is yet to be seen. Taking a quarterback at No. 19 doesn’t mean they’re giving up on next season, however, drafting Richardson could end up being a potential steal.
All of the attention is being paid to Young, Stroud, and Levis — which is understandable. But Richardson put together a solid career at Florida and showed flashes of a guy who could give the Bucs the type of mobile gunslinger they’ve needed.
Jameis Winston provided some of this, but the bad outweighed the good with him. Trask, who also went to Florida, seems like he has an uphill battle to becoming the guy Tampa Bay needs him to be and won’t do so fast enough to line up with the coaching staff’s desire to win now.
Richardson is a wild card, as he’s the fourth-best quarterback in this class for a reason. But he could be a name that rises as we get past the Combine and closer to the draft. Every year quarterbacks shoot up the board and the Bucs being attached to Richardson at No. 19 should intrigue everyone involved.
Even if he does become a hot commodity, the Bucs wouldn’t have to trade up nearly as high as they would for any of the three other quarterbacks as they would for Richardson. We’re still early enough in the draft process that nothing really matters other than speculation and random musings, but Anthony Richardson and the Buccaneers are an interesting pairing to chew on as Draft season gets underway.