NFL Draft: Bucs Start to Look for Answers at the Combine
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As the NFL’s scouting combine commences in Indianapolis thru the weekend, each team enters the combine thinking of ways to improve their team. These ways of improving one’s team typically starts with the answering of questions about their team and about prospects in this year’s draft whom these teams will invest time, money, and high draft picks in with hopes of drafting the next Hall of Fame player.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are no different, and actually with a new coach and general manager the Bucs front office has as many questions to answer as any team.
Here are just a few questions the Bucs will look for answers to while at the combine this weekend:
Who’s the starting quarterback to open the 2014 season?
This is not an anti or pro Glennon discussion. I’m simply informing you of the critical decision teams face in the NFL when they are unsure of their current quarterback situation. I feel if you’re a team that does not have a clear-cut franchise quarterback, it is your responsibility to exhaust all avenues to see if you can find a player who would improve that position.
While free agency is another story, during this weekend, the Buccaneers can start to figure out if there is a quarterback in this draft that they’d be willing to select in any round, but most importantly with the 7th overall selection. It is very possible that a team like the Bucs could meet with a prospective quarterback and immediately fall in love with that player. Whether it is Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater, Derek Carr, or any other quarterback in this draft, the Bucs must figure out if there is a quarterback this year that they’d feel more comfortable with than the incumbent Glennon.
If the Buccaneers start to figure out who that quarterback is this weekend, the next question they’ll need to answer is whether they are prepared to trade up and get that quarterback if necessary. I do believe it is very possible for one of the top 3 quarterbacks (Bortles, Manziel, Bridgewater) to drop to the 7th overall pick. However, if the Bucs brass were to fall in love with one of these prospects more than the others, will that love be strong enough to invest even more to move up and guarantee yourself that player? This could all begin with one 15 minute meeting in a room at the combine.
Can the pass rushing woes on defense be addressed in this draft or is free agency a better option?
Many mock drafts have projected the Buccaneers to select a pass rusher with the 7th overall pick in this year’s draft. While most have the Bucs taking Buffalo DE/OLB Khalil Mack, Jason Licht and Lovie Smith must figure out if addressing the pass rush is a smarter move in the draft, free agency, or both.
The Bucs do have a lot of young defensive linemen they’ve been trying to groom. With better coaching, it is possible that Lovie Smith believes he can get much more out of Adrian Clayborn, Daquan Bowers, William Gholston, and Steven Means. With so much youth already along the defensive line, would the more sensible move be to add a veteran to that unit in an another attempt to bring in more talent, but also help these young players tap into their potential?
While the Bucs will be searching for pass rushers this weekend at the combine, they might need to be blown away by a player there since free agency will be stocked with plenty of pass rushers. Jared Allen, Justin Tuck, Michael Johnson, and Michael Bennett are just a few of the names that will be available in mid-March to all teams in the NFL. The Bucs might already prefer more of a veteran presence with their defensive line, so to draft another defensive lineman, they’ll need to be blown away by that player’s natural ability and interviews.
With a deep receiver class this year, what receivers fit what the Bucs new offense will look like?
It was already a very deep draft this year, but there might not be a deeper position than at wide receiver. New offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford has already used the phrase “speed in space” numerous times, but do the Buccaneers possess that speed he is looking for?
If the Bucs are looking for the smaller, quicker, and faster receivers, they’ll have plenty of options. Clemson’s Sammy Watkins is expected to put on quite the show this weekend, but he isn’t the only one. USC’s Marquise Lee and LSU’s Odell Beckham Jr. are also projected to be 1st round selections. Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks has already drawn comparisons to Steve Smith and Victor Cruz because of his speed and playmaking ability. Wyoming’s Robert Herron and Oregon’s Josh Huff might also intrigue the speed-needy Bucs.
Are the Bucs only in need of speed at receiver? Vincent Jackson will be 31 years old to start the 2014 season and has already begun to slow down. Mike Williams is starting to have more and more issues with each day that passes. Hell, Tiquan Underwood was released by the Bucs last season and wasn’t good enough to be picked up by any other team before returning to the Bucs and becoming their 3rd receiver. If the Bucs are looking for bigger receivers with enough speed, that search at the combine will start with Texas A&M’s Mike Evans. The big question surrounding Evans is his speed, which he can put to bed at the combine. Some have already compared him to a younger Vincent Jackson. If drafted by the Bucs, he can learn under Jackson for a year or two before taking over as the Bucs primary target.
Other receivers like Jordan Matthews, Allen Robinson, Davante Adams, and Donte Moncrief should also have the Bucs interest this weekend.
Follow Justin Pawlowski on twitter @Commishonline for updates on the NFL Draft and the Buccaneers.