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Debating Bucs: Which Side of the Ball Should Jason Licht Target in Round 1

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The Buccaneers are in a prime position with pick number five - but what side of the ball should they focus on?

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Bruce Arians Press Conference Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Which side of the ball should Jason Licht be targeting for his first pick in the 2019 NFL Draft?

Adding a Top-5 talent to any NFL roster has the potential to drastically change the trajectory of any franchise. Get it right, and your team could be competing for a title one or two years later.

Get it wrong, and a general manager could be looking for a new job. So. No pressure.

Here, we’re going to bring you both sides of the coin and leave the final decision to you, Bucs Nation.

DAVID HARRISON - DEFENSE

NCAA Football: Senior Bowl Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

It’s #FollowTheLicht season, and Jason needs to point his beam squarely onto the defensive side of the ball.

Quinnen Williams, Ed Oliver, Byron Murphy, Nasir Adderley, Deionte Thompson, Devin White. These are all guys on the short list of who the Bucs could potentially land at or after pick five.

Williams is the least likely to be there in my opinion, but any of these other guys carry quite the reputation and play in areas of need for Tamp Bay.

In the 2018 version of the NFL, teams surrendered an average of just over 23 points per game. The Bucs surrendered 29 per game. Not good. Only the Raiders, who just happen to have the pick right before Tampa’s, gave up more points per game in 2018.

Only two teams surrendered more points per game than the league average and made the playoffs (Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Rams) and both did so because they had ridiculously efficient offensive units as both just happen to have the top and second-best scoring teams in the NFL.

The Bucs had a 12th-best 24.8 points per game. And their defense was nowhere near where they needed to be to get them into the post-season.

However, eight of the ten teams who scored the same or more points per game than the Bucs who also made the post-season defenses that held opponents under the league average.

Two more teams scored fewer points per game than the Bucs and made the playoffs. Because their defenses held opponents under the league average. There’s a trend.

But, Jameis Winston is about to step into a new offense and needs a better offensive line and/or running game. True.

Consider this though, Carson Palmer’s worst statistical season with head coach Bruce Arians was his first one in 2013. Ben Roethlisberger threw for less than 3,200-yards in his first season with Arians.

Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning were both rookies in their first seasons with Arians, but both also had their worst years in their first years.

If we think a 2019 turn-around for the Buccaneers is going to come on the shoulder of Jameis Winston alone, history says this isn't the case. The offense should still score enough to keep them competitive, even without a Top-5 draft addition.

But, unless the defense gets one touchdown per game better in the upcoming season it'll all be for nothing when January 2020 rolls around.

James Yarcho - Offense

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I have no issues with the arguments David made above. That said, the Bucs will need to secure the best offensive lineman in the draft if at all possible.

Bruce Arians’ offense is predicated on the deep ball, the run game, and maximizing the ability to score from anywhere on the field. In order to do so, the Bucs have to keep Jameis Winston upright. That won’t happen with the state of the current offensive line.

Now, if Williams is gone - which he may be - then the Bucs will be in prime position to trade back with a quarterback needy team that will have to pay that franchise quarterback premium to move up. Given that the Bucs only have six picks, this would be the ideal situation.

I’m not going to advocate that the Buccaneers take a receiver or a running back at number five. IF they go offense, it has to be in the trenches. And if Williams is gone, they will need to go to the defensive side if they can’t move down.

Something has to be done about this line. There’s a solid chance Donovan Smith returns, so he’s likely going to keep the left tackle spot regardless of the draft. That doesn’t make him any less of a question mark, though. Then you have the entire right side with Caleb Benenoch, Alex Cappa, and Demar Dotson. Dotson has been a solid starter for years, but the knee injuries and age seem to have caught up with him in 2018.

You can’t win in the NFL if you don’t win the battle up front. That should be the number one focus this off-season for the Bucs before they address the needs at cornerback, linebacker, and defensive line. You can’t fix it all in one year, but the Bucs will do their best to do just that - and it starts by protecting the franchise quarterback.

Poll

What Side Of The Ball Should The Bucs Look To Address In The First Round?

This poll is closed

  • 16%
    Offense
    (70 votes)
  • 38%
    Defense
    (161 votes)
  • 25%
    Ask Me After Free Agency
    (108 votes)
  • 19%
    Don’t Care As Long As They Draft A Stud
    (83 votes)
422 votes total Vote Now