It’s that time of year again, draft season. NFL analysts and fans across the land frantically complete mock drafts to suggest who teams will or should acquire. On this side of the pond, the Bucs are not headlining the draft news, because they don’t need a Quarterback. I wanted to take a look at the prospects for the 2018 Bucs in the eyes of the UK Media. How do they think Tampa will fair in 2018? Do they even care?
The Bucs, pre-draft
In my previous blogs, I’ve made frequent reference to the similarities between the Buccaneers and my UK soccer team, Norwich City. What happened on the final day of last season when I visited the Ray Jay (blog to follow shortly) felt like a very Bucs/Norwich thing to do. In the face of adversity, after a tiring season, when it might serve Tampa better to lose – and whilst playing the division leaders, they win. That win, after a horrible year, pushed the Bucs to the 7th pick and into an area of uncertainty. 4-12 rather than 5-11 would have seen Jason Licht picking a little higher, and with this would come some guarantees as to who would be available.
UK Media views – Sky Sports “Inside the Huddle”
For those who don’t know, Sky Sports is the ‘ESPN’ of the UK. They are the primary route to market for live sport over here. It was listening to a recent episode of their podcast that got me to thinking about this article. Jeff Reinebold answered a question from UK NFL fan, “Could the Bucs be one draft pick away from the playoffs?” His response,”only if Jesus Christ enters the draft!”
This for me says a lot about how the UK media are viewing the Bucs this year. Last years expectation is long gone. The huge underachievement of a team loaded with talent has apparently led many to believe that there is no hope. Jeff went on to comment “this is a team that has holes all over the place” and that we needed to address a “toughness” issue. All of this came after the foray into free agency, which also didn’t fill the hosts with optimism. (Specifically the Mitch Unrein acquisition).
NFL podcasts help me through the boredom of the close season. Another great UK based podcast is Brits in the End Zone (BITEZ). It’s an excellent example of how popular the NFL has become in the UK. It features a group of friends who sit and chat each week about their thoughts on NFL news and fantasy football. The view from the fans is less censored, not just in the language used, but that there is no agenda to protect. Ultimately the major sports stations have to tow the corporate line, with guys like Brits in the End Zone you can get a more honest view.
During their recent podcast, the Bucs were labeled as boring. I’m not as much of a fan of their honesty anymore! I reached out to the team after hearing this to see if they could provide some insight as to why they felt the Bucs were dull and what the organization might be able to do to change that.
According to JP of Bitez, he said that he felt a lot of it stemmed from Hard Knocks. “In all honesty, I didn’t think there were many ‘characters’ or ‘personalities’ that stood out (apart from McCoy) unlike in previous seasons”. Quite a damning comment, but can we argue? Did many stand up and show themselves after Hard Knocks in a way that was conducive to success? Jameis and his crazy ‘eat the W’ moment didn’t really play out as he might have hoped. He went on to add “they’re also unfortunate to be in a really tough division. The Panthers, Saints, and Falcons all look really strong and in my opinion exciting to watch”. This was a comment echoed by Sky Sports who suggested that any possible upward trajectory by the Bucs, might just be thwarted by the strength of the division.
When I asked JP who he felt might be a game changer when the draft swings around, he mentioned Saquon Barkley. There is a high demand for QB’s this year and so it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that he might fall to 7, but do we need him? Adding a premium back would certainly raise a few eyebrows! He did also mention Quenton Nelson, who probably fits a more urgent need for the Bucs – albeit perhaps the ‘boring’ option if presented with a choice between the two, despite his obvious talent.
Best player available
Going into the draft in 2017, most felt that anything the Bucs added would be a nice bonus to improve a strong team. Now they are faced with needing bodies in the door to fill the “holes” as Jeff Reinebold put it.
There are various schools of thought over here right now as to the best players available outside of QB. I think it’s quite unanimous that Barkley is the number 1. Beyond that there is Chubb and Nelson, all three of those players would “fill a hole” and perhaps get people talking. I’ve also heard good things about Derwin James, again a vacancy that Tampa Bay should be advertising right now.
How the dominoes fall
Finally, I’d like to give my thoughts on how I think it might play out. It’s a little bit of a lottery, but I’ll give it a go.
- Browns – I think they take a QB. There is talk that they might take the ‘BPA’ but with 2 picks in the top 4, I don’t see it, yet. Which QB? Your guess is as good as mine.
- Giants – Eli Manning is over the hill, so they do need a QB of which there are plenty. They could also fancy taking Barkley as their RB group is mediocre.
- Jets – Has to be a QB, doesn’t it?? They currently have a collection of old, injured and useless Quarterbacks.
- Browns – Many predict that Cleveland will trade back from here, I’m not sure they will. After years of accumulating picks, it’s time to spend. If Barkley doesn’t go at 2, he’s a Brown. If not, then ‘BPA’
- Broncos – Having invested short-term into Keenum, I think they pass on a QB so they could be open to a trade. I’m not sure of where their other holes are, but it sounds like they have many!
- Colts – This feels like the first spot that is really open for business as far as trading back. Andrew Luck isn’t ready, they have a sack full of picks and team to rebuild. Trade back, get some more picks.
- Buccaneers – If the above plays out, then Licht could have Chubb or Nelson available to him. If either were there, personally I would take them, especially Nelson. If the Colts don’t trade back, Tampa is ripe for the picking by someone like the Bills (12) or maybe Dolphins (11), both of whom are in need of a QB and at this stage, there would be decent ones left. (Read our blog on a possible trade). Suggestions across the media are that Derwin James or Minkah Fitzpatrick will be in Pewter and Red in 2018.
I’m not sure I can call it for the Bucs right now, I’m excited to see how it plays out. The draft starts around 1230am on Friday morning over here, so I may have to wait until after a good nights sleep.
Be sure to keep an eye out for all of the latest WTB content. (There is a lot lined up during the draft week!)