The Tampa Bay Buccaneers currently hold the 7th overall pick in the upcoming 2018 NFL Draft. Picking this early in any draft typically means that a team had a pretty bad season the previous year. It also means that a team has an opportunity to add a very high-quality player to their roster. This year there’s even some added value to the pick. With a number of quarterback-needy teams and only a handful of top QB prospects, the Bucs 7th pick could end up being a very trade worthy position. The question is, should they make the trade if a good enough one is presented?
Here’s the dilemma that the Bucs are facing. They have fairly significant needs with at least three different positions. Guard, cornerback/safety and running back are all in need of being addressed. This draft happens to be fairly deep at all three of those positions. Teams could possibly find potential starters all the way into the third round. The problem is that the Bucs no longer hold a third-round pick after the trade with the New York Giants for Jason Pierre-Paul. Having only two early round picks to fill three potential starting spots doesn’t quite work mathematically. Sure they should be able to fill two of those spots with very good players, but by the time their fourth-round pick rolls back around it may be slim pickins for that third position of need.
The decision to trade or not to trade will first depend on who is still available when the Bucs go on the clock with that 7th pick. The second factor in that decision process would be to find a willing trade partner. Jason Licht and his team have been going over every possible draft scenario in the last couple of months. They’ve called potential trade partners to gauge their interest in possibly moving up into the 7th spot. They have a pretty good idea who would be interested and who’s not. The unknown element in the equation is which players are still on the board and how much those teams are willing to give up for one of those players.
The purpose of this article is to explore and explain the possibilities that could be available to the Buccaneers should some of these teams decide to move up for one of those quarterbacks. I will also talk about other possible trade scenarios throughout the rest of the draft as well. I’ll be using the 2018 NFL Draft trade chart from DraftTek.com which assigns point values to each draft pick. The Bucs 7th pick, according to this chart, is worth 1,500 points. In comparison, should Jason Licht decide to trade up to Denver’s 5th spot in order to get Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson the Bucs would have to cough up their 7th pick plus another pick worth at least 200 points to equal the 1,700 points for the Broncos pick? With that in mind, let’s take a look at some possible trade scenarios with a few quarterback-needy teams.
First, there’s the Miami Dolphins at the 11th pick. Even though they have Ryan Tannehill, whose entering his 6th season, he has never quite lived up to his “8th pick in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft” worth. They could be a team looking to make a QB change going into this season. According to the chart, their 11th pick is worth 1,250 points which means they would have to offer up another 250 points worth of picks to make the trade with the Buccaneers. If I was Jason Licht, I’d ask for their 73rd pick of the third round (225 pts) and since they have two fourth-round picks, their 131st pick (41 pts) of the fourth round as well. That gets the Bucs a third-round pick back AND gives them another fourth-round pick for simply moving back four spots in the first round. That could be an enticing proposition for Licht who could use those two extra picks.
Second, there are the Buffalo Bills who have plenty of trade ammunition with their seven picks in the first four rounds. They currently hold the 12th pick, just behind the Dolphins, so that could give them added incentive to jump up ahead of them to grab a quarterback that the Dolphins may have their eye on. That pick is worth 1,200 points, meaning the Bills would have to come up with an additional 300 points worth of picks for the Bucs. Here’s where it could get interesting. They do have two picks in that first round, the 12th (1,200 pts) and 22nd (780 pts). If they want one of the available QB’s bad enough, they could give both pick up. I think that’s doubtful at that point. If they were going to give up that much when they could just try to trade up with the Browns for their 4th pick (1,800 pts) which would make more sense. Instead, I would ask for the 12th pick (1,200 pts) and their 56th pick (340 pts) in the second round. If Jason Licht is really feeling adventurous, he could ask for their 22nd pick (780 pts) instead of the 12th, plus their 53rd pick (370 pts) of the second round and 65th pick (265 pts) and 96th pick (116 pts) of the third round. Sure the Bucs would drop all the way from 7th to 22nd in the first round, but they would gain a second rounder and two third rounders giving them five picks in the first three rounds of this draft. It’s unlikely, but another interesting possibility. That would give Licht some ammunition to trade back into the first or second round OR it gives him plenty of early round picks to fill in some glaring holes in this roster.
Third, there’s the Arizona Cardinals sitting with the 15th pick. They may not be as “needy” for a QB as the other two teams that I’ve mentioned after signing Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon in free agency, but they should still be in the market for one. Bradford simply cannot be trusted to stay healthy for an entire season and Glennon proved that he may be a career backup last season in Chicago. Should they decide to jump up in the mix, they would have to offer up that 15th pick (1,050 pts) plus their 47th pick (430 pts) of the second round and maybe even their 97th pick (112 pts) in the third round. That could prove to be a little too rich for their blood, but it would give the Bucs a mid-first round pick, two-second rounders, and a third rounder to make up for the one they lost to New York.
There are a couple of other possible trade partners that could be QB hunting in this draft like the Baltimore Ravens sitting at the 16th pick or the L.A. Chargers with the 17th pick, but neither of them have the extra picks to trade so they would literally have to trade away half of their draft to get down to that 7th pick. However, there is one more interesting scenario that could happen. The New England Patriots are in possession of not just two first-round picks, but two second round picks as well. That’s some serious trade collateral. Now Bill Belichick isn’t usually one to give away draft picks. It’s quite the opposite actually. He typically likes to collect them. This year could be different. Tom Brady will be 41 years old when the season starts this year and after trading away Jimmy Garoppolo to the Niners last season, the Pats are suddenly in desperate need of Tommy Boy’s eventual replacement. If the Pats offered up their 23rd and 31st picks of the first round (1,360 pts) and their 63rd pick (276 pts) of the second round, I think that Jason Licht would take it. Yes, they fall back to 23rd but that gives the Bucs two first rounders and two-second rounders to stock up on other quality players.
Another trade opportunity could present itself on Day 2 as well. The Kansas City Chiefs currently do not have a first-round pick in this year’s draft and could be interested in moving up in the second round from their 54th pick. If the Bucs give them their 38th pick (520 pts) and maybe their 144th pick (33.5 pts) of the fifth round, then the Chiefs would have to cough up their 54th pick (360 pts) in the second, their 86th pick (140 pts) of the third and their 124th pick (48 pts) of the fourth round. That would move the Bucs back in the second, but gives them a third rounder and another fourth rounder too.
On Day 3 one last trade could happen, especially if Jason Licht trades away that fifth rounder to Kansas City on Friday. The Denver Broncos currently have two fifth rounds with the 149th and 160th picks. However, they do not have any picks after that round. The Bucs currently hold two picks in the sixth round, the 180th and 202nd picks, and the 255th pick in the seventh. If there’s a player that Jason Licht really wants still available in that fifth round, he could potentially package those last three picks (31 pts) together and offer them to the Broncos for their 160th pick (27 pts) of that fifth round. Some of you are probably saying “No way should the Bucs give up three late round picks for a fifth rounder!”, but think about this for a minute. Licht and his team are very good at finding hidden gems after the draft in the undrafted free agent market. Look at guys like TE Cam Brate, WR Adam Humphries, TE Antony Auclair, RB Peyton Barber, WR Bobo Wilson, LB Riley Bullough and CB Maurice Fleming. They could have just as much luck after the draft as they would in those last two rounds. If it means getting a player they really want in that fifth round, I think he would probably pull the trigger.
The possibilities are endless. Teams could even end up wanting to move up for other players besides quarterbacks. These are just a few scenarios that are out there for the Bucs. And if the “Big 3” are already off of the board by their 7th pick, then I’d be a big advocate of moving back in this draft. Let me explain a few reasons why.
I personally think that the Bucs are targeting Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson with their 7th pick. If he’s gone and running back Saquon Barkley is still there, then they would likely take him as well. If defensive end Bradley Chubb somehow makes it there, then he’s even a possibility despite the free agency signings of Vinny Curry and Jason Pierre-Paul. However if those three players are off the board, I really do think the Bucs will be looking to trade back. That may disappoint those of you who are pushing for defensive backs like Derwin James or Minkah Fitzpatrick or Denzel Ward, but I just don’t see the Bucs staying put at that point if they can find a trade partner.
The Bucs guard situation is, shall we say, bleak at the moment. With the signing of free agent center Ryan Jensen, head coach Dirk Koetter is looking to move last year’s starting center Ali Marpet back to guard. That’s good news to Bucs fans, except that it’s not back to his natural position at right guard. It’s to left guard to play next to his BFF left tackle Donovan Smith. I do like the idea and agree with the thought process seeing as how those two share a great chemistry which plays a huge part in the success of any offensive line. However, it does leave that right guard spot in a bit of limbo. J.R. Sweezy is still battling a back injury and apparently, nobody knows when or even if he’ll be healthy at some point. Reserve guard/center Evan Smith was re-signed recently and he could be a candidate to take that spot, but other than Marpet he’s the only other player on the entire roster with any experience playing center. The team would be wise to keep him as a reserve guard/backup center in my opinion. The only other viable option for the Bucs is reserve guard/tackle Caleb Benenoch. It’s possible that he could step into that starting right guard role, but the problem now is that right tackle Demar Dotson just had knee surgery. The Bucs say that he should be ready to go for training camp, but what if he’s not? Benenoch is his backup at right tackle. Now where does that leave them with that right guard spot? Despite what the DB fan club says, a guard is a major need for this team. If Nelson is gone by their 7th pick, then I could see them trying to trade back into the mid-to-late first round to take UTEP left guard Will Hernandez who’s the second best guard in this draft in my opinion. Trading back could get them their new starting left guard, allowing them to move Marpet back to his original right guard spot AND an extra pick or two going into the second and third rounds where they can address their other positions of need like cornerback and running back.
I like the idea trading back and taking a guard first because this draft is much deeper at CB and RB than it is on the offensive line. There should be starter quality players at each of those positions available throughout the second and even into the third round this year. Corners like UCF’s Mike Hughes, Colorado’s Isaiah Oliver, Louisville’s Jaire Alexander or Auburn’s Carlton Davis should be there early in that second round. There’s no question that the Bucs need to draft a cornerback early on in this draft to pair up with Brent Grimes on the outside. It would allow them to kick Vernon Hargreaves inside to nickel where he’s had better success.
Trading back also would net the Bucs an additional second round pick or at least a third rounder to use on a running back. If they do have that second pick in the second round, then backs like Georgia’s Sony Michel or Nick Chubb, USC’s Ronald Jones or maybe even LSU’s Derrius Guice could be available still. If they wait until the third round, then they’re looking at backs like San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny, Oregon’s Royce Freeman, Miami’s Mark Walton or Auburn’s Kerryon Johnson possibly being available. Running back is another big area of need. After releasing Doug Martin and not re-signing Charles Sims, the Bucs are essentially down to Peyton Barber and Jacquizz Rodgers in their RB stable. Even though they seem to be high on Barber, it’s not exactly what I’d refer to as an intimidating backfield. I think that they’d be smart to add a running back early on and again in the mid-rounds. Guys like Arizona State’s Kalen Ballage, NC State’s Nyheim Hines, Tennessee’s John Kelly or Bama’s Bo Scarbrough should be there in the fourth and fifth rounds and would be great pickups. Grabbing two of these guys out of these three groups would really give them an exciting group of running backs.
Safety is another position that could and should be addressed in this draft, but I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily a “position of need”. The Bucs still have veterans Chris Conte and Keith Tandy as well as second-year free safety Justin Evans. It would be more of a luxury pick at this point, but if the Bucs pick up an extra mid-round pick or two then they could use one of them on a strong safety. Some players that could be available in the third, fourth and fifth rounds are West Virginia’s Kyzir White, Wake Forest’s Jesse Bates, Virginia Tech’s Terrell Edmunds or Arizona’s Dane Cruikshank. Any of them could be good to pair up with Evans and would give the Bucs a very good, young safety duo to protect that back end of that defense for years to come.
The draft is a gamble. No matter who you pick or where you pick them, there’s always a chance they could end up being a bust. Even the success rate for first round picks is about 50% and it gets even worse with each round. The best strategy is to flip the odds in the team’s favor. By gaining more picks, you’re giving yourself more opportunities to get it right. Jason Licht may not have the best track record in free agency, but he’s been a borderline draft genius (with the exception of the Aguayo trade/pick). Since becoming the Bucs general manager in 2014, Licht has made 26 draft picks. Of those 26 picks, 18 of them were still on the roster in 2017 and 15 of those are still on the roster today. Out of those 15 players, 11 of them are current starters with one more possible starter. Only 5 of his 26 draft picks never made the Bucs final 53-man roster. Even though most of the picks are from the first four rounds, there is still three late round picks still on the roster and contributing. That’s outstanding! And this Bucs fan can’t wait to see what kind of magic Jason Licht has up his sleeve for this year’s draft.
Until then, as always…GO BUCS!!!