Tue, 07 Apr 2020

Arians, Licht Open to Drafting a Quarterback

Buccaneers
28 Feb 2020, 13:06 GMT+10

Forget for a moment whether Jameis Winston is under center for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2020 or Ye Olde Door Number Two has yielded a different option. Regardless, the Buccaneers may draft a quarterback in April, and it might be the first time they've done so outside of the first round in seven years.

There's nothing particularly controversial about this. Teams with established quarterbacks add to the position all the time through the draft. Tom Brady's Patriots selected Auburn's Jarrett Stidham in the fourth round last year. The Jaguars signed Nick Foles to a huge contract last March for obvious reasons but still selected Gardner Minshew in the sixth round. The Steelers took Mason Rudolph in the third round in 2018 and Joshua Dobbs in the fourth round in 2017. Somebody has to draft these quarterbacks, whether they're looking for a long-time starter to develop or just taking a flier on a passer with potential.

The Buccaneers would like to get in on the development of a new young quarterback, if the opportunity presents itself in April.

"It'd be great," said General Manager Jason Licht of the prospect of drafting a quarterback. "I would love to. We would love to draft a quarterback at some point in the draft. I do every year, but then we haven't, except one at one-overall. It'd be great. I know Bruce feels the same way."

The "one-overall" is Winston, the first player selected in the 2015 draft, and "Bruce" is obviously Head Coach Bruce Arians, who has the well-deserved nickname of the "Quarterback Whisperer." Arians has been in on the development of such fledgling QBs as Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck and Ben Roethlisberger, and while those were all high first-round picks he's also worked magic with the likes of Kelly Holcomb. Arians is onboard with the idea of using one of the team's 2020 picks on a passer, and it should be noted that Tampa Bay is expecting to add a fourth-round selection to its other six picks through the compensatory system.

"If it's the right guy at the right time," said Arians of the idea. "I don't think we want one that's going to be sitting on the bench for three years, but if he is he's got to come at the right time in the draft. And I think there are some guys like that, with big upsides."

That extra fourth-round pick is interesting. Arians and his Arizona Cardinals drafted Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas in the fourth round in 2014 but Thomas is now playing tight end in the league. Other recent fourth-round QB selections include Stidham and Dobbs plus Dak Prescott, Kyle Lauletta, Connor Cook, Tom Savage and Matt Barkley. It's a mixed bag but most of those players were seen as at least worth developing for a while.

This year's quarterback class includes three players who are widely expected to go in the top half of the first round in LSU's Joe Burrow, Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa and Oregon's Justin Herbert. After that, opinions vary on whether Washington's Jacob Eason, Utah State's Jordan Love and Georgia's Jake Fromm can crack the first night of the draft, but they seem likely to be hot Day Two targets. Oklahoma's Jalen Hurts, the Heisman runner-up, qualifies as the most interesting candidate in the middle rounds.

"It's a fun class to watch," said Licht. "There have been stronger classes, there have been worse classes."

Licht said a quarterback of interest could be available to the Buccaneers in the middle rounds but that you never know if another team could have him ranked much higher.

"You think so," he said. "You think so leading up, but you never know. It takes one team to like one or two guys that you have [your sights on]."

The last quarterback the Buccaneers drafted outside of the first round was Mike Glennon, a third-round choice in 2013. Glennon ended up taking the starting job from Josh Freeman four weeks into his rookie season and starting contests, but he has logged just nine NFL starts since. Prior to that, the last passer taken outside of the first round by Tampa Bay was Josh Johnson in 2008 and Johnson, now playing in the XFL, had a long career as a rarely-used NFL reserve.

Safe to say, the Buccaneers haven't dipped their toes into the mid-round quarterback market in the draft in quite some time, and not at all since Licht took over as general manager. Circumstances may cause that to continue in 2020, but it's clear that Licht and Arians would enjoy a young quarterback to develop.

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