I've written about the best-case scenario for the Bucs before, which would occur if a lot of QBs were drafted ahead of the Bucs. But there's a really plausible worst-case scenario too, if every good pass-rusher goes off the board before the Bucs get to pick. There are a lot of good pass rushers in the draft, but pass rusher is a need for a lot of teams as well. You can see this in the SB Nation Mock Draft that Brian Galliford posted yesterday. He has the Bucs picking Jabaal Sheard, who really isn't seen as a first-round talent, because 7 DEs went off the board before them. And he could've made it worse - Adrian Clayborn and Justin Houston were still on the board, at least.
I can identify 9 DEs/pass rushers the Bucs could draft without reaching at #20 overall: Von Miller, Da'Quan Bowers, Robert Quinn, Cameron Jordan, Ryan Kerrigan, J.J. Watt, Aldon Smith, Justin Houston and Adrian Clayborn. I can also identify over 9 teams that could use a pass rusher or 3-4 DE picking ahead of the Bucs: the Carolina Panthers, the Denver Broncos, the Buffalo Bills, the Cincinnati Bengals, the Arizona Cardinals, the Cleveland Browns, the San Francisco 49ers, the Houston Texans, the Minnesota Vikings, the Detroit Lions, the St. Louis Rams, the Jacksonville Jaguars, the New England Patriots and the San Diego Chargers. In fact, that's 14 teams. With so many teams looking for pass-rushers and 3-4 defensive ends, the Bucs could find themselves without one in the first round. So who do they draft then? Hit the jump to find out.
They could go for a guard like Mike Pouncey, or an offensive tackle like Gabe Carimi to fortify the offensive line, hoping to get some defensive help somewhere later in the draft. They could also try to draft a linebacker who won't be as big of a pass-rusher as those already off the boards. People like Akeem Ayers and Martez Wilson come to mind as possibilities then. And while I don't think cornerback is a need for the Bucs, they could make the Aqib Talib situation easy on them by drafting a cornerback here. Brandon Harris would be a solid corner who could really thrive in zone coverage, and Jimmy Smith would be a phenomenal cornerback who has a lot of off-field problems. In fact the one player Jimmy Smith is often compared to is Aqib Talib, but if the Bucs want to replace Talib, they don't want Talib Jr.
These options aren't all that appealing, to be honest. What I'd rather see the Bucs do in this scenario is trade back, and gather more picks. Get a late-first rounder/early-second rounder and an extra second- or third-rounder out of the draft. They can take one of the above mentioned players at that point anyway, or come away with Jabaal Sheard as a pass-rusher. Plus, they could add some more talent to the team with the extra pick. But I don't think the Bucs are going to let it come to that if this scenario starts to play out. I think they anticipate and pull the trigger to trade up and make sure they get an impact defensive end. What do you think, Bucs Nation?