The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a lot of needs after an active free agency period. Let's go over the top needs, and continue with more 'hidden' holes on the roster.
Trading away Mike Williams has left the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with a massive hole at wide receiver -- a hole they now must fill in the draft. Adding players like Louis Murphy and Lavelle Hawkins looks nice, but is hardly a long-term (or really even short-term) answer to the massive need the Bucs have at the position. Vincent Jackson is the only reliable receiver they have, and that's not good enough.
Luckily for them (and this is probably why they traded Mike Williams), this draft is filled with great receiving prospects. From Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans at the top of the board to Kelvin Benjamin, Davante Adams and Donte Moncrief in the second round and Martavius Bryant and Bruce Ellington further down the list, there are quality players to be had throughout the entire draft.
That's pretty good news for the Buccaneers, who could use all kinds of receivers: "speed in space" wildcards, huge targets for Josh McCown, or simply all-around players who can do it all. They can, effectively, pick and choose the type of receiver they need for their offense, and get a quality player no matter what they prefer. The question's mostly how high they want to draft a receiver, and how many -- I would not be shocked if they walked away from this draft with two new targets on offense.
Draft options: Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans (first round); Marqise Lee, Odell Beckham Jr., Kelvin Benjamin, Jordan Matthews, Brandin Cooks (first-second round); Davante Adams, Donte Moncrief, Jarvis Landry, Allen Robinson (second-third round); Brandon Coleman, Cody Hoffman, De'Anthony Thomas, Martavis Bryant, Paul Richardson, Robert Herron, Bruce Ellington (later rounds).
The Bucs' two starters at guard are Carl Nicks and Jamon Meredith, and Nicks' ability to play in the future still remains in doubt. Behind them, the depth consists of Oniel Cousins, charitably described as the worst guard ever to start in the NFL, and a few unknown, undrafted second-year players. The Bucs at the very least need some depth here, and really could use someone they can plug and play immediately.
The problem is that they may not be able to do better than to find an okay backup/fringe starter in the third round, with players like Gabe Jackson, Cyril Richardson and David Yankey generally expected to be available there. If Xavier Su'a-Filo fell to them in the second round he'd be a terrific option, but that's unlikely to happen, overall. He's the best guard prospect in this class, and should come off the board toward the end of the first round.
Another option would be drafting an offensive tackle in the first round, possibly after trading back, and playing him at offensive guard for a couple of years. Greg Robinson would be an excellent choice for that role, but he's unlikely to be available at the seventh overall pick. Zack Martin fits that profile, too, but would be a reach at seven. Having a guard who can also play tackle would obviously be a bonus.
Draft options: Greg Robinson, Zack Martin (first round); Xavier Su'a-Filo, Cyril Richardson, Cyrus Kouandjio (first-second round); Gabe Jackson, David Yankey, Cyril Richadson (later rounds).
This is not truly a need, since the Bucs can survive for a year or two with Josh McCown and Mike Glennon on the roster, but Tampa Bay has made it clear that they want to upgrade the quarterback position in the draft. They see franchise passers, and they want to draft one -- though we don't know who, nor where they would want to draft them.
With Josh McCown little more than a short-term solution and the Buccaneers apparently wanting to move on from Mike Glennon, the quarterback position is for all intents and purposes a real need, though.
What makes this position from the other ones is that we don't have a clue who they could target, or where, or even what kind of quarterback they want. We know they want some mobility and like a quick release, but how do they view arm strength, accuracy, pro-readiness and all the other quarterback traits? No one really knows, which will make the three days of the NFL draft fascinating this year.
Draft options: Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles (round one); Derek Carr (round one/two); Jimmy Garoppolo, Zach Mettenberger, Tom Savage (round two/three); Garrett Gilbert, Logan Thomas (later rounds).
There are some other positions where the Bucs could use added depth and competition, but where'd they would be fine without adding another starter or depth player in the draft.
Tim Wright was arguably the best rookie tight end in the NFL last year, putting up 571 yards and five touchdowns on 54 catches. The converted wide receiver lacks size, which means he can have some trouble with physical defenders, and really can't block anyone effectively. If he adds some size without losing too much explosiveness, though, the Bucs have an outstanding move/H-back/receiving tight end on their hands.
The other starter would be Brandon Myers, the former Oakland Raider and New York Giant who is okay at everything he does but not great at anything. He's a solid enough blocker and a solid enough receiver, but he's mostly just a guy. Luke Stocker has been a massive disappointment, while Tom Crabtree didn't get much of a chance to show his skills last year, mostly due to injury.
With an offense focused on multiple personnel groupings and formations, that's not a very deep nor versatile group. Adding quality depth would be very useful here, especially so with an eye to the future: Crabtree and Myers are both operating on short-term contracts, and unlikely to be long-term solutions.
The Buccaneers have a ton of physical talent at defensive end, but very little reliable production outside of newly-signed Michael Johnson. Adrian Clayborn will get the first shot at starting opposite Johnson, but William Gholston, Da'Quan Bowers and even Steven Means will all be vying for playing time as well. While Bowers and Means are pure edge rushers, Gholston may be best suited as a base defensive end on running downs, who can shift down to defensive tackle on passing downs.
All of that still leaves some room for another defensive end, though. Lovie Smith's defenses in Chicago were built around depth and rotation up front, and defensive line coach noted in an interview with Buccaneers.com that they would have a rotation, too. While the team could certainly win with the current group of edge rushers, adding depth and quality is a concern, especially for the long term. Right now, all of the team's depth is speculative and dependent on player development.
At defensive tackle, the Buccaneers plan on starting Gerald McCoy (one of the best three-techniques in the league) and Clinton McDonald, another disruptive defensive tackle. Those two should provide a solid starting pair, with Akeem Spence as a quality backup run defender at nose tackle. Add in William Gholston and possibly Michael Johnson as passing-down defensive tackles, and you have a decent group -- but not a lot of depth for a rotation.
That's why another defensive tackle would at least make some sense. I can't see Aaron Donald fitting here, as seventh overall is too high of a pick to spend on a backup/rotational player at this point, but certainly a defensive tackle with some disruptive skills as a one-gap penetrator would make sense later in the draft.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have two quality starters in Dashon Goldson and Mark Barron, and the chances of any rookie displacing either one are minute -- in 2014. Goldson's price tag is steep, however, and the Bucs are likely to say goodbye to him come 2015 when his guaranteed salary runs out, unless Goldson's play picks up significantly this offseason.
Adding a safety to eventually replace Goldson would make sense, and the Bucs also lack quality depth at the position. Major Wright was a good strong safety, but will likely struggle in a deeper role, and I would be very hesitant to trust Keith Tandy or Kelcie McCray. More depth would make a lot of sense.
While it may not seem like it at first glance, this position really is one of strength. The Bucs have two quality starters in Alterraun Verner and Johnthan Banks, whose play improved swiftly as the 2013 season progressed. Adding talented journeyman Mike Jenkins gave them a solid third cornerback who could win a starting job, and they have some veteran depth in D.J. Moore, and young, talented players in Danny Gorrer and Leonard Johnson. The Bucs could add a player here, but this position is quite far down the list of needs.