Tampa Bay’s newly minted head coach, Lovie Smith, opened the door last week by stating that Tampa Bay would consider picking a franchise quarterback, if one is available with their seventh pick of the first round. Of course, isn’t a “franchise” quarterback in the eye of the beholder?
We don’t have to go back too many years to understand that picking a highly touted quarterback in the first round does not a franchise quarterback make. Remember the 2009 NFL draft of quarterbacks in the first round? With the first pick in the draft, the Detroit Lions selected Matthew Stafford of Georgia. Four picks later the New York Jets selected Mark Sanchez of USC and our own Bucs with the 17th pick in that round made Josh Freeman their quarterback of the future. Overall, Detroit is probably satisfied with picking Stafford. I doubt the Jets and Bucs can now say the same.
In 2007 with the number one pick in the draft, the Oakland Raiders selected JaMarcus Russell. With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight he may now be considered the biggest quarterback bust in NFL history, or does that go to Ryan Leaf? It’s close. The next quarterback picked after Russell in that first round? Brady Quinn.
Therefore, excuse me if I’m not salivating over the current crop of the current “franchise” quarterbacks in Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel, and Blake Bortles. In my humble opinion they are very solid prospects but putting the franchise label on any of them may well be a reach. Each has excellent potential to become franchise quarterbacks but so does Tampa Bay’s current starting quarterback, Mike Glennon.
Granted, one of the three aforementioned quarterbacks may be available when Tampa Bay’s first pick comes up. If so, Lovie Smith will have to decide if he wants to start his career at Tampa Bay joined at the hip with a rookie quarterback who is nowhere near as promising as an Andrew Luck.
There are other quarterback prospects the Bucs can draft outside the first round or a veteran quarterback via free agency that may better serve Tampa Bay in the long run given who else may drop on their laps when they use their first pick for more solid prospects such as Jadaveon Clowney or Khalil Mack. Which brings me to who the Buccaneers should pick.
The Buccaneers are not far from having an exceptionally talented and young defense. They’re only one or two players away from putting on the field one of the better defenses in the NFL. Jadaveon Clowney would bring the edge rusher they desperately need to complement Adrian Clayborn. Khalil Mack also provides a solid every down linebacker with edge rushing capabilities who would pair up beautifully with Lavonte David as the other outside linebacker.
Mike Glennon will look a lot better with a top flight defense keeping the opposing teams off the scoreboard. Lovie Smith’s brain trust may also go offense with their first pick. If offensive tackles, Greg Robinson or Jake Matthews or a pass catching threat like Sammy Watkins are available, then the Bucs will be providing an immediate upgrade to the offense thus helping Glennon with a stronger supporting cast for him to develop into a playoff caliber quarterback.
My pick is defense first in Clowney or Khalil. Robinson or Mathews are my second set of choices then Watkins. What’s your take? Do you have someone in mind entirely different such as the next best available quarterback or the running back, Jeremy Hill out of LSU? Let me know.