Now that we're past the trade deadline and officially into the second half of the season, it's time to start firing up NFL Mock Drafts.
Heading into Week 9 the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are firmly teetering on the brink of still contending for a playoff spot and needing to look ahead to next year. The season is far from over, and even with as bad as things have been the Bucs are still only a few games out of first place and could very well be back atop the NFC South in a few weeks.
A three game losing streak has put the team behind the eight ball, but there's still time for things to turn around.
Not knowing what the future holds before it arrives is a bit of a theme for the Bucs this year. The team was pegged as a tank candidate this year, with experts predicting Tampa Bay being in the running for Caleb Williams or Drake Maye next April. Not only did the Bucs outperform expectations early in the season, they could still be on track to land a franchise quarterback without needing to tank for a top pick to get him.
Buccaneers Mock Draft has team taking a franchise QB with No. 13 pick
Yahoo! Sports put together its latest mock draft, and has the Bucs landing their potential quarterback of the future at No. 13 overall. While the usual suspects are off the board -- Caleb Williams and Drake Maye went first and second overall -- Charles McDonald went with Michigan's J.J. McCarthy as Tampa Bay's pick.
"The Buccaneers aren’t that far off from getting back to the playoffs, but they need to figure out their quarterback of the future. Perhaps McCarthy can be that guy," McDonald wrote.
Sam Hartman, another rising star among mock drafters, wasn't a first round pick in Yahoo!'s mock. We'll see where his stock ends up but right now it doesn't loo like the Notre Dame hype machine is translating to the NFL Draft.
McCarthy's stock is another one to watch, as there's still plenty of time for it to slide in either direction. He'll need something miraculous to happen in order to catch Maye and Williams, but he's looks like the third-best quarterback in one of the better classes we've seen recently.
All this goes to show is that the Bucs never needed to tank in order to be in a position to potentially draft a quarterback of the future. It's unlikely that Maye or Williams watch their stock drop so significantly that they're available outside of the Top 5, but both McCarthy and Hartman are examples of second-tier quarterbacks the Bucs could still land.
This, of course, is assuming the season doesn't turn around and Baker makes an undeniable case that he's the quarterback of the future. For as up-in-the-air as things are, fans can take solace in knowing the Bucs have plenty of options moving forward.