After an incredible season that almost nobody saw coming, the good times have ceased rolling in Tampa Bay. It was truly a wild ride, as the Bucs proved the doubters wrong while also unexpectedly laying the foundation for a bright future in the post-Tom Brady era.
For as much fun as it was, the season ended on Sunday in Detroit, where the Buccaneers fell 31-23 to the Lions. It wasn't the way anyone wanted the season to end, but if it had then at least it happened against a team with an equally great story this season.
It also means that it's time to start thinking about the future and what moves the front office can make to ensure the success of this season isn't squandered. Now that we're through the Divisional Round, all but four spots in the NFL Draft are still undetermined, which means we can finally start mapping out what Jason Licht might do.
Updated NFL Draft Order after Divisional Round
The Bucs will have the No. 26 pick in the draft this year, which is down from where they were projected to pick earlier this year and waaaaaay down from the top spot everyone thought they'd tank for.
That right there tells you all you need to know about just how well this season went.
It's a tough spot, though, as the Bucs will be out of range for a true top prospect but also seems like a sweet spot for Jason LIcht to mine for gold like he's shown the ability to do in the past.
Here's how thing stack up:
Chicago Bears (via CAR)
New England Patriots
Los Angeles Chargers
New York Giants
New York Jets
Las Vegas Raiders
New Orleans Saints
Los Angeles Rams
Houston Texans (via CLE)
Green Bay Packers
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Arizona Cardinals (via HOU)
If it seems odd that the Bucs are picking behind teams with a better record, that's because it is. The rules are that the draft position of playoff teams are determined by the order in which they are eliminated. So teams that lose in the Wild Card will pick before teams that lose in the Divisional Round, regardless of record.
That's why the Bucs and Packers -- both teams with 9-8 records -- are picking behind the Dolphins and Cowboys.
As far as prospects the Bucs can get this late in the first round, it's a mixed bag but there are plenty of notable names. Rookies like cornerback T.J. Tampa, edge rusher Chop Robinson, and wide reciever Keon Coleman are all projected to be late-first or early-second round picks, and there's plenty of time between now and the draft for things to shake out.
Keep in mind that the Bucs are masters at keeping their cards close to the chest. Everyone expected them to take a quarterback or offensive lineman at No. 19 last year -- or trade up for one -- but Tampa bay stayed put and drafted Calijah Kancey.
That worked out pretty well, and is a sign that the Bucs can find talent in the draft without having to sacrifice the type of season they just had.