Draft Week 2014: Rating The Position Needs (with Poll)

So, this is it. After 20 long years of waiting, we're finally at the draft (doesn't it feel like it?).

Before I put in one more mock draft - reflecting any trades or situations that may occur up to Thursday itself - I just want to establish which positions I feel are highest needs, and which ones are most likely to get addressed with the First Round pick.

That said, starting off with Offense and moving onward to Defense:

Quarterback - It can be said the Bucs have a bad history of drafting for QBs to be groomed as franchise-caliber types, and yet it remains one of the biggest needs this team always (with rare years of needs elsewhere) has. This draft year is no exception: even with the Bucs signing a solid veteran in McCown to be the starter, and with a second-year player in Glennon with actual starting experience, there's word the Bucs - either coach, GM, and/or owners - would like to make a play for one of the three (or four) top quarterbacks on the draft roster. This is in spite of the glaring needs at key positions like WR and Guard.

This is because 1) McCown is a short-term answer: he's well over the age hump in his career, and 2) Glennon did not impress much his rookie season. It can be argued - soundly - that Glennon exceeded expectations in an offensive scheme and with coaching that was inept. But the new coaches/front office have no reason to favor Glennon: they may want to bring in their own talent at the star position.

It's fair to say the likes of Bortles, Bridgewater and Manziel (maybe Carr) would be an upgrade to Glennon, with the benefit of the Bucs giving the draftee a year on the sidelines with McCown starting in order to give the rookie a chance to watch and learn and adapt (and maybe spell for McCown if injury occurs).

Draft need: HIGH

Odds of Being the First Rounder: HIGH

Odds of Being Drafted This Weekend: NEAR LOCK

Who Gets Drafted: This is where the argument falters. No one QB is a sure-bet must-have guy this year: they're good, but not a Luck or a Manning or a Newton. The Bucs may get a named guy taking the snaps, but they'll be guessing if it was a right pick right up until the guy actually starts. Mixed into this is the need for a starting wide receiver, and if Watkins or Evans are at the Seventh pick the Bucs could jump that way and wait for the Second Round to get whoever in the Top 5 among QBs slid that far. Odds are it being Bortles if the Bucs go this position.

Running Back / Fullback - Having our star back Doug Martin out for most of last year might have been a problem, but the Bucs benefited from a pair of back-up RBs who stepped up and played well (despite the bad offensive line and worse coaching). With Martin back healthy and with Rainey and Smith as the back-ups (and even Mike James, who got injured just as he replaced Martin), the Bucs are blessed here.

The only reason to draft a RB is only if the GM and coaches are convinced there's a quality back sitting there in the mid-rounds who would be better than Rainey or Smith. Which isn't likely. What would be considered is the Fullback position: despite the declining use of an FB, there is the need for a blocking-type, short-yardage-type that might be filled with a mid-round or late round selection. Again, the problem is a lack of draft picks...


Odds of Being the First Round Pick: NONE

Odds of Being Drafted This Weekend: NONE

Wide Receiver - if there's anything trumping the desire the team might have to draft a QB, it's this. Our WR corps is lacking in serious starter talent. Trading away Mike Williams got rid of a headache but created a situation where our current Number Two guy behind Vincent Jackson is either Louis Murphy, Chris Owusu, or four guys you couldn't pick out of a lineup even if they wore their team jerseys (with hideous ALARM CLOCK FONT AAAAAAAA but I digress).

The need is pretty high, but the question is who the Bucs would love to get at the Seventh spot if they could. Sammy Watkins is about it: the right combo of speed, size, strength, charisma, constitution, wisdom, intelligence, and that other thing they use in D&D character sheet info. If he slides to the Seventh spot, the Bucs are taking him HAVE TO TAKE HIM and they'll solve the WR need. But the odds are not in the Bucs' favor - too many teams like the Rams, Jags, Raiders, even the Browns - are turning out to have a need for WR and Watkins is too tempting to pass on.

As a result, the Bucs are looking at Mike Evans, who has become the default (safe) pick for a lot of professional mockers. He's nothing to sneeze at: physical, sure-handed, fast and powerful. He's simply a younger version of V-Jax. That would still fill the need... we'd just be thinking about Watkins, thas all... sigh...

Another thing to consider is that, past Watkins and Evans, this is still a deep draft for receivers. Bucs could well wait into the Second Round and still get a guy who could start on Day One and perform well. It's just... Watkins and Evans are as close to home runs as you can get with the WR draft roster: everyone else from 3rd-best to 15th best are stand-up doubles.

Draft need: VERY HIGH

Odds of Being the First Rounder: HIGH

Odds of Being Drafted This Weekend: NEAR LOCK (Second Round at the latest. Anything after that is a waste)

Who Gets Drafted: If Watkins is there, YES. If Evans is there, it'll be a toss-up between him and whichever QB is sitting there. If both Watkins and Evans are gone, Bucs will get best-available QB or trade down to get extra mid-round picks.

Tight End - Before trading Williams, it was more likely the Bucs would have drafted here to help with the short-passing game. With the need for a deep-threat receiver, this need has slid down to where the Bucs might settle with the guys already here - breakout surprise Tim Wright and FA signee Brandon Myers.

The Bucs still have question marks with the TE spot, however, so it may happen that the Bucs could use a mid-round pick - between Third or Fifth - to jump on a guy who may have slid down the draft board but would still be an upgrade to either Wright or to the remaining TEs on back-up like Stocker. Part of me won't be surprised if we pass on drafting a TE at all... which still feels wrong, but unavoidable considering the lack of picks this year. This is one reason why trading down to snag more seems so right: it'd help with TE as well as Guard as well as Safety as well as depth needs for ILB and CB and OT and...

Draft need: HIGH

Odds of Being the First Rounder: MODERATE

Odds of Being Drafted This Weekend: POSSIBLE (between First to Sixth Rounds)

Who Gets Drafted: If the Bucs go with First Rounder, it'd have to be due to trading down to get more picks because the QB and/or WR we'd wanted were gone by the 7th pick. In which case it'd be Eric Ebron. Later round picks could be Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, CJ Fiedorowicz, and/or Arthur Lynch.

Offensive Tackle - one of the common threads of the early month mock drafts had been the Bucs signing one of the top OTs in this draft. Partly because our starter at Left Tacke - Penn - had faltered last season, and nobody liked our Right Tackle Dotson (despite Dotson's stats being impressive Pro-Bowl level stuff). It helped that the draft boasted two names - Matthews and Robinson - who were the best-looking talented OTs most likely to be there at the 7th pick.

The situation has changed in many ways: the Bucs took care of OT need with free agency by signing Anthony Collins and by sticking with Dotson. But the draft boards lit up with more and more guys at the OT position moving up on the scouts' ratings. To where the Bucs could conceivably trade down to get more picks and STILL draft a Tackle well into the late end of the First Round to call it a smart draft pick.

Adding to the equation is how some of the names - Matthews in particular but also guys like Zack Martin - are players who could without question start this rookie year as a GUARD and then easily move to a Tackle position two or three years down the road. It all depends on how the Bucs want to deploy the talent they could draft.

What's stopping the possibility of drafting an OT here as a First Rounder is that Guards can well be had into the Third Round - the draft for linemen is particularly deep this year - and the Bucs could well get a QB or WR first and cope with BPA at Guard that they need more than Tackle. What's keeping this possibility open is that you can't ever argue against getting a great OT if you could. It's just the need at WR (and the desire for a QB) is gonna trump this spot.

Draft need: MODERATE

Odds of Being the First Rounder: MODERATE

Odds of Being Drafted This Weekend: POSSIBLE

Who Gets Drafted: It could be anyone from Jake Matthews to Greg Robinson to Lewan Taylor to Zack Martin to Morgan Moses... and that's just for the First Round. Although getting Taylor, Martin or Moses can be done by trading down and getting additional picks.

Guard - This is actually a higher need than Tackle - our starter situation is questionable with Carl Nicks plagued with a foot injury and our other G spot covered by either Cousins or Meredith... neither of whom strike fear into the hearts of opposing d-lines.

Deal is, Guards usually don't go as high as the 7th overall pick: teams prefer getting Tackles who can anchor the line instead. The other deal - which is actually good news - is that this draft is deep enough with talent at Guard (and T/G) that the Bucs could easily sit until the Third Round and get a starter-caliber G in that round. So the Bucs can indulge with higher draft needs at WR (or QB) and still have a successful draft by the Third...

Draft need: VERY HIGH

Odds of Being the First Rounder: LOW (If it happens, it will be a Tackle/Guard hybrid like Zack Martin)

Odds of Being Drafted This Weekend: NEAR LOCK. The depth is atrocious and the starter talent questionable.

Who Gets Drafted: Considering the Bucs will likely go with WR or QB with the First, the best possible picks from the Second Round downward are guys like Joe Bitonio, David Yankey, Cyril Richardson, or Trai Turner. My personal preference is for Yankey, whose scouting reports sounds like the type of Guard needed in the upcoming offensive schemes.

Center - Free agency resolved this issue by getting Evan Dietrich-Smith. Teams have been using Guards as back-up to Centers, and while the Bucs lost Zuttah for that role they could easily get one of the current Guards like Meredith to train up for snapping duties.

I doubt the Bucs will look at drafting this spot: Guard is more likely and a higher need.

Draft need: LOW

Odds of Being the First Rounder: NONE

Odds of Being Drafted This Weekend: NONE

Kicker - I put kicker here as PK helps with scoring via field goals. However, I will argue against drafting a kicker for several reasons.

1) Kickers can wait well into the late rounds.


4) With Connor Barth coming back, the need isn't that high.


Draft need: NONE

Odds of Being the First Rounder: INSANE

Odds of Being Drafted This Weekend: NONE

And now, defense:

Defensive End - Before FA, the scouts and the pros and the fans were all screaming that the Bucs needed a sure thing pass-rusher to fix every woe under the sun. This was despite the facts that 1) we had bad coaching and 2) WE HAD REALLY BAD DEFENSIVE COACHING THAT KEPT WASTING OUR D-LINE TALENT ON STUNTS.

I'm one of those guys who screamed last year - and still scream this year - that our DL has been vastly underrated. And this is with DT McCoy being enough of a beast to still earn his way to a Pro Bowl. I may be one of the few left who has faith in Clayborn as one of the starters, and has faith that our young developing DEs in Means and Gholston (and yeah maybe Bowers, but dammit he's GOTTA step up) will improve under better coaching.

It helps that the Bucs signed in FA Michael Johnson, a promising pass-rush talent who COULD blossom in Lovie's defensive scheme.

As a result, the early mock calculations of the Bucs making a play for a DE like Clowney - or outside linebackers like Mack or Barr who could convert to DE spots - are no longer a consideration. The only reason to draft a DE this year is if the coaches are convinced the depth talent on the roster is severely lacking. And that seems a bit unlikely. Outside of Clowney, there's no real DE worth having (which is why a lot of OLBs converting to DE is a big trend this year), and the Bucs could wait well into the Third Round to draft one. But the needs elsewhere trump all this. We're better off developing Bowers (and Means/Gholston/even Te'o if he's still on the roster) rather than hope for Dee Ford.

Draft need: LOW

Odds of Being the First Rounder: NONE

Odds of Being Drafted This Weekend: VERY LOW (Only if the Bucs snag extra picks from a trade-down)

Defensive Tackle - Gerald McCoy has been one of the few bright spots of the Bucs' sad draft history post-Dungy era. A genuine franchise DT on par with Sapp (maybe BETTER). The only question here is who else gets the other starting DT (NT) spot. Akeem Spence was drafted for it and had some bright spots his rookie year... just not enough of them. Bucs signed Clinton McDonald from FA, and while he's good he's not a long-term answer at the spot.

Thing is, as stated before, draft needs at WR and QB (and G and TE) trump any need with the D-line right now. Personally, I think the whole D-line is underrated so I don't see a need here. But I will grant the possibility that a long-term development/depth need is here... but the Bucs will survive if they don't draft any DT.

Draft need: LOW

Odds of Being the First Rounder: NONE

Odds of Being Drafted This Weekend: MAYBE (Seventh Rounder if anything, depends on if Bucs snag extra picks)

Who Gets Drafted: Since we're looking at late rounds, anyone along the likes of Bruce Gaston (Purdue) would suffice.

Outside Linebacker - Lavonte David: Derrick Brooks clone at the weakside position. That he missed getting a Pro Bowl stood as a major injustice last season.

In terms of the other OLB spot on a 4-3 front line, the Bucs re-signed Casillas who proved a serviceable veteran but is still not a long-term solution for the strongside spot. Which is one of the reasons why - the other is the middle spot - a lot of scouts and mockers have the Bucs going with a linebacker high in this year's draft.

But this is disregarding one of the facts about modern defenses: teams may start in 4-3 packages but quickly pull the strongside linebackers for extra safety/corner help in 5-2, nickel, and dime defensive schemes. The need for another starting OLB is very low. What's needed is depth. And in that regards, middle linebacker needs may be higher than outside...

Draft need: MODERATE

Odds of Being the First Rounder: VERY LOW

Odds of Being Drafted This Weekend: MAYBE (between Third to Seventh)

Who Gets Drafted: If the Bucs do go for a Linebacker by the Third Round, look to the likes of Telvin Smith (Free Seafood U, yeah I went there GO GATORS) to be the pick here.

Inside (middle) Linebacker - I don't get the hate Mason Foster gets. He's solid and he's cool. A vast improvement at tackling compared to the guys he replaced over the last five-six years, and a decent pass-coverage mid-field threat (all he does is score Pick-6s). Using a First Rounder to get a MLB isn't feasible, especially since this year there's few if any inside linebackers worth a First (CJ Mosley is about it).

If the Bucs are hurting here, it's with the lack of quality depth, same as the OLB spot. After David, Foster and Casillas, the Bucs don't really have anyone worth fearing. Losing the likes of Dekota Watson is gonna suck. If the Bucs do draft linebacker, it'll be in the mid-rounds or later. This is where the lack of extra picks this year is hurting the team.

Draft need: MODERATE

Odds of Being the First Rounder: VERY LOW

Odds of Being Drafted This Weekend: MAYBE (much like the OLB draft odds)

Who Gets Drafted: Again, Telvin Smith is a possibility (he's listed as Outside but I think he's able to shift to inside if need be). If MLB gets the Third Round pick, there's a chance someone like Shayne Skov would be there. Going into the late rounds, look for guys like DeDe Lattimore (GO BULLS) or Andrew Jackson (!!! no not THAT guy).

Cornerback - We had Darelle Revis and mis-used him in a poor coaching scheme. We let him go to clear cap space and improve our meager draft (losing a Fourth Rounder and not a Third).

The good news came with lots of happy smiley thingees: 1) Bucs signed a decent CB in Alterraun Verner who better fits the new scheme, 2) Rookie CB Banks was decent last year and showed room for improvement, and 3) improved the corner depth with low-risk signings like Mike Jenkins.

All things considered, the Bucs are mostly set at CB. The question marks involve the developing of the raw back-up talents like Gorrer, Gaitor, and yeah Leonard Johnson (stop booing, he's coachable). It all depends on if the scouts see anybody in the later rounds who would be improvement over any of those back-up guys on roster. I don't see it happening right now.

Draft need: NONE

Odds of Being the First Rounder: NONE

Odds of Being Drafted This Weekend: NONE (due to lack of draft picks)

Safety - The starters are pretty good - Mark Barron has shown signs of being worth that top pick two years ago, but still needs to improve: FA Dashon Goldson has talent but squandered it on too many mindless roughing penalties - so the question becomes one of "how's the depth?"

It's surprisingly decent. Keith Tandy, drafted to be CB, converted well to the Safety spot and showed signs of exceeding expectations. Depth is also covered with FA signees like Major Wright, although not as well as one can hope.

The Bucs could well draft a Safety as part of improving the roster depth, but it boils down to what's available talent-wise on the board when it happens. I can't see a Safety getting picked due to all the other needs the Bucs have, but it can happen.

Draft need: LOW

Odds of Being the First Rounder: NONE

Odds of Being Drafted This Weekend: VERY LOW (Late rounder, and only if extra draft picks are traded for)

Who Gets Drafted: Since we're looking at anything Sixth or Seventh Rounder at best, I'm thinking the Bucs could look at maybe Free Safety help with Lonnie Ballentine (Memphis) or Daytowoin Lowe (Oklahoma St).


Draft need: AAAUGH

Odds of Being the First Rounder: I WILL NAPALM YOU IF YOU DARE!

Odds of Being Drafted This Weekend: ...unlikely, BECAUSE WE WILL RIOT IF IT HAPPENS!


So, what do you think sirs? Please add comments and please vote in the poll (JUST NO PUNTER! NOOOOOO)

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