Between you and I, I started looking at draft predictions once the Bucs entered the bye week at 0-4.
While I refuse to do any mock drafts or breakdowns until the annual scouting combine, I have little problem fantasizing who the Bucs might select with a top 5 selection.
As of right now, the Houston Texans would hold the top pick in the draft with a 2-10 record. The Bucs (3-9) are currently tied with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Atlanta Falcons, and Washington Redskins. The Redskins pick goes to the St. Louis Rams via the RG3 trade in 2012. The Minnesota Vikings are right behind these 3-9 teams at 3-8-1.
Today, the Buccaneers would hold at worst the 5th pick in the draft, but a lot can happen over the next few weeks.
If the Bucs end up with a top 5 selection, here are a few players the Bucs could target:
Teddy Bridgewater – QB – Louisville – Bridgewater will be in high demand now that Marcus Mariota is returning to Oregon and Brett Hundley is likely returning to UCLA. Bridgewater is an accurate pocket passer with the ability to scramble and make plays with his legs. Bridgewater has managed a pro-style offense at Louisville, and has thrown for nearly 7,000 yards, 52 touchdowns, and just 11 interceptions over the past two seasons. In a league where highly drafted QBs need to be able to step in immediately and play right away, Bridgewater’s experience makes him best suited to be able to play from day 1. Quality quarterbacks are very rare in free agency, so when a team has an opportunity to draft a top quarterback and has questions about their own quarterback, it’s almost their responsibility to not pass that guy up. Of course, if he’s on the board, there will probably be throngs of teams willing to trade a lot to get him as well.
Jadeveon Clowney – DE – South Carolina – While there has been much chatter about Clowney just coasting thru this season to get to the NFL draft healthy, once he works out for NFL personnel and puts his 6’6” 270 lbs body and 4.4 speed on display, concerns of his work ethic will be forgotten. He’s as naturally gifted as any player has been in the NFL draft in the past several years. Oh, and don’t bother looking at his stats because they won’t impress you. What is impressive is how much attention he garnished over this past season from opposing offenses which opened up opportunities for teammates.
Anthony Barr – DE/OLB – UCLA – Slightly smaller than Clowney at 6’4” 250 lbs, Barr is still a big time threat off the edge. Barr is probably a better fit in a 3-4 defense, but his pass rush ability and speed off the edge will make him attractive to 4-3 teams as well. Be prepared to hear many Von Miller comparisons as we near draft day with Barr.
Jake Matthews – OT – Texas A&M – Name pedigree will be enough to make this Matthews very attractive to NFL teams. The son of Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews has the potential to be a franchise left tackle for more than a decade. Matthews excels in pass protection and plays with a mean streak. I believe he is better and has better potential than Eric Fisher and Luke Joekel who were selected with the top 2 picks in last April’s draft. Matthews wouldn’t be the sexiest pick, but with Donald Penn getting another year older and the Bucs offensive line not playing up to its potential, Matthews could be a smart and safe pick.
Sammy Watkins – WR – Clemson – Watkins is an electrifying playmaker with decent size and long arms. He has the ability to take short passes and make them long gains. Currently, the Bucs do not have this type of player, perhaps other than Jeff Demps, on their roster. Watkins can play the slot or stretch the field from the outside. Watkins is also good at getting the ball while it is in the air, not as good as AJ Green, but similar.
Mike Evans – WR – Texas A&M – Speed will be the biggest key to Evans’ off-season. If he displays decent speed, he should find himself as a top pick if he decides to leave Texas A&M as a redshirt sophomore. Evans has elite size at 6’5” and 225 lbs. Depending on what the Bucs want to do on offense and what the long-term future of Vincent Jackson is with the team, Evans might be a nice selection to give the Bucs two big receivers and allow Evans to learn from Jackson for a year or two before becoming the Bucs go-to threat.
These are just a few names the Bucs could consider with a high draft pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. As a friendly reminder, many names rise and fall in the public’s eyes from now until the first pick is made. Most of these names will still be high picks, but there might be a couple, especially WRs, that tend to be dramatic risers and fallers due to speed, workouts, etc…