How Buccaneers can have perfect 2020 NFL Draft in five steps, including adding heir to Tom Brady

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers could light their entire draft board on fire and would still be in the mix for the biggest winner of the 2020 offseason. Why? Because they landed Tom Brady, the most accomplished player in the sport and widely viewed as the greatest of all-time, in free agency. That’s why. So when we look at the 2020 draft for Tampa, this could turn what is already considered to be a great offseason into a legendary one for the franchise going forward. 

Yes, Tom Brady is in-house, but now is the time to further build around him as the Bucs are immediately thrust into a Super Bowl window with his arrival. Below, you’ll see five steps for the Bucs to hit this 2020 draft out of the park and not only further build for the next couple of years but set the stage to have sustained success possibly beyond TB12. 

Step 1: Trade up for OL help on Day 1

So you landed Tom Brady. Congrats! Now it’s time to protect the soon-to-be 43-year-old quarterback.

Tampa’s O-line isn’t terrible, especially on the interior with center Ryan Jensen and left guard Ali Marpet. That unit ranked seventh in Pro Football Focus’s offensive line rankings for the 2019 season, which should be looked at quite favorably. Their 23rd ranking in pass protection by Football Outsiders, however, is concerning. Where they need to improve most is at tackle, and that could be an area they address immediately in the first round. 

This is a pretty strong tackle class at the top and its conceivable that one of the four major tackle prospects — Mekhi Becton, Tristan Wirfs, Andrew Thomas or Jedrick Wills Jr. — falls to them at No. 14. That said, I think Tampa should be aggressive in the opening round by identifying the tackle prospect they like the most and trading up to make sure he’s on their roster. 

The Giants (No. 4), Cardinals (No. 8), Jets (No. 11) and Browns (No. 12) are all clubs that are ahead of Tampa currently that could be in the market for a tackle. It’d be wise to call up the Panthers (No. 7) or possibly the Jaguars (No. 9) and see what it’d take to trade up to one of those spots, leapfrog the competition and land a talent like Becton or another elite tackle to make sure Brady is protected. Tampa’s first-rounder (No. 14), a second in 2021 and one of their 2020 fourth rounders (No. 117) may be enough to climb to No. 7 with Carolina. 

Step 2: Bring in a QB to develop behind Brady

While it sometimes feels like Tom Brady will play until he’s 50, the six-time Super Bowl champion isn’t going to be around in the NFL forever. He signed just a two-year deal with Tampa Bay and it’s possible that’s all this tenure will last for. With that in mind, the Bucs do need to look for a quarterback they can develop behind Brady over these next few seasons to potentially take over to ensure they’ll be competitive whenever he retires. Luckily for Bucs fans, it appears like the team has that approach in mind. 

“We can afford to do it, I think,” general manager Jason Licht said during his pre-draft conference call when asked about drafting a quarterback. “It is definitely something we would look at, but it just depends on who that player is, where he is available, what other players are in front of him [and] if we’re sold on that player. It’s not as easy as just picking any quarterback and thinking, ‘OK, he’s the developmental guy.’ They’re hard to find. They don’t just appear out of nowhere. A lot goes into it from their tape to their maturity level — all of those types of things. It just kind of depends on who the player is. If there is a player that we like at the right place, I don’t think we would have a problem taking him.”

Now Tampa won’t be using the No. 14 pick to bring in a signal caller like Justin Herbert or Jordan Love. That’d be too high and the club has more pressing needs (like offensive line) that must be addressed first. They do, however, have a second, third and two fourth-rounders at their disposal to bring in a developmental signal caller. One quarterback that could be an interesting addition and someone that should be available when they are on the clock in the fifth round at No. 161 is FIU’s James Morgan, who put himself on teams radar with a strong performance at the East-West Shrine Bowl. 

Step 3: Find a pass-catching RB

Throughout Tom Brady’s years with the Patriots the quarterback has always had a safety valve out of the backfield in a pass-catching running back. Kevin Faulk, Shane Vereen, Danny Woodhead and James White are just some of the names that have enjoyed tremendous success alongside Brady in the backfield and Tampa should take a page out of New England’s book and give him one as he transitions to the Bucs.

Ronald Jones and Dare Ogunbowale were serviceable in that role in 2019, but it’d be wise for Tampa to further give depth to the position. Drafting someone like LSU’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who caught 55 passes from Joe Burrow last season for 453 yards, to start up Day 2 would not be a bad move at all. If CEH is not available, they could look at FSU’s Cam Akers in the second round (No. 45 overall) as well. 

Step 4: Add to the DL

Because of the arrival of Tom Brady, there’s going to be a lot of talk around the Buccaneers offense. That said, we can’t ignore the defense. Tampa was able to retain a couple of key figures along the front seven like Jason Pierre-Paul, Shaq Barrett and Ndamukong Suh, but they need to now infuse some more youth particularly on the line. Suh is only back on a one-year deal and will begin the 2020 season at age 33. One option for Tampa could be to use their remaining fourth-round pick (No. 139) on Utah’s Leki Fotu, who CBS Sports NFL Draft analyst Ryan Wilson had coming off the board at this spot in a previous mock draft. 

Step 5: Add a third WR to help replace Bashaud Perriman

The Mike Evans-Chris Godwin duo is arguably the best in the entire NFL. Tom Brady should put up some impressive numbers throwing to them next season. Health, however, is something to keep an eye on with these players. Both Evans and Godwin landed on IR at the end of 2019 due to hamstring injuries. Breshad Perriman was able to slot in and help keep the passing game afloat, but he has since departed in free agency, opening up a need for the Bucs to add a No. 3 receiver. 

It’s possible that an in-house option like Scotty Miller could take over that role, but his presence shouldn’t stop Tampa from looking at alternative options in the draft, especially as this class is littered with great pass catching talent. Grabbing Florida’s Van Jefferson, who is looked at as a pristine route-runner, with one of their two fourth-rounders would be quite the coup. Using a third-rounder (No. 76 overall), however, may be a bit more realistic. 

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