Baker Mayfield is better than who the Bucs might draft this year
If Tampa Bay decides to hold off signing a quarterback in free agency, then its next chance to secure Mayfield's replacement will come in the NFL Draft. It's being touted as a deeply talented pool, but don't let the shine of that sales pitch blind you from how slim the chances are the Bucs land a player better for the immediate future than Baker.
At the top of the class are USC's Caleb Williams and UNC's Drake Maye, both of which are phenomenal QB prospects amid stellar seasons.
In his second season as USC's QB1 under Lincoln Riley, Williams has completed 235-346 (67.9%) pass attempts for 3,249 passing yards, 29 passing touchdowns, and just four interceptions, all of which lead the Pac-12 conference. Unlike most QB prospects, Williams already carries two notable seasons of work in addition to this year, as the 6'1", 218-pound Oklahoma transfer was named as an All-American, the Pac-12 player of the year, and the Heisman last season.
Meanwhile, Maye has enjoyed a superb sophomore campaign while leading North Carolina to their best ten-game start since 2015. Entering week 12, Maye has completed 231-351 pass attempts for 3,145 passing yards, 21 passing touchdowns, and six interceptions, leading the Tar Heels to an 8-2 overall record and No. 20 ranking in the College Football Playoff Rankings.
After Williams and Maye, plenty of quality QB prospects emerge as potential first-round picks in the upcoming draft. Ranging from Michigan's J.J. McCarthy, Oregon's Bo Nix, Washington's Michael Penix, LSU's Jayden Daniels, and FSU's Jordan Travis, there is the potential for seven different QB's to go within the first 32 picks of the draft.
While all of the aforementioned prospects would be great additions or even replacements for Mayfield, Tampa Bay just isn't in the position to use first-round draft capital on a QB.
Take, for example, the Buccaneers' linebacker core, that could see star MLB Devin White leave in free agency and veteran MLB Lavonte David retire after finishing his 13th season. With KJ Britt and SirVocea Dennis serving as the only in-house replacements, Tampa Bay could instead use their first-round selection on Alabama's Dallas Turner or Clemson's LB duo of Barrett Carter or Jeremiah Trotter Jr. to replenish their LB core.
The same can be said for a multitude of other positions, such as wide receiver, offensive line, and secondary, all of which are top-heavy this year. While it may be extremely tempting to replace Mayfield with a new and bright rookie QB, the upside with a depleted receiving core and lackluster offensive line wouldn't be an improvement with a different QB under center.