The Tampa Bay Buccaneers could be looking at their next franchise quarterback.
As predicted by CBS Sports’ Ryan Wilson in his latest 2023 NFL mock draft, the Buccaneers will acquire their next franchise quarterback. However, it won’t be with their original No. 19 draft selection. As Wilson predicts, Tampa Bay will trade their No. 19 overall pick, 2023 second-rounder (51st overall pick), 2024 first-round and fourth-round draft picks to the Arizona Cardinals in exchange for their No. 3 overall draft pick.
After completing this trade, the Buccaneers are predicted to select the University of Kentucky’s Will Levis with the No. 3 overall draft pick. Wilson analyzes why Tampa Bay would make this “bold move” by trading up to pick Levis.
“Tom Brady has re-retired and the Bucs currently have Kyle Trask under contract … and that’s it,” said Wilson. “This would be a bold move but if Tampa stays at No. 19, four QBs could already be off the board. Levis, who definitely looks the part, was plagued by injuries and poor play all fall. That said, NFL teams love how he projects to the next level but he’ll be a controversial talking point in the coming months.”
Buccaneers Will Have to Trade up to Draft Will Levis
Tampa Bay is obviously looking for a new franchise quarterback. If they’re going to go through the draft in order to find one, Wilson has a valid point — they’re probably going to have to move up in order to do it.
There are three quarterbacks that are considered in the Tier 1 level of prospects and Levis is one of them. The other two are Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud and University of Alabama’s Bryce Young. At least one of those quarterbacks will be selected by the Houston Texans. As also predicted by Wilson, the Indianapolis Colts will pull off their own draft day trade to move up to No. 1, taking over the Chicago Bears’ selection.
In this particular scenario, both of the top quarterback prospects — Stroud and Young — are taken with the top two overall picks.
If the Buccaneers stand pat with the No. 19 selection, they have virtually no chance of landing any of the top three quarterback prospects. There are too many quarterback-needy teams outside of the Texans and Colts — the Carolina Panthers and Seattle Seahawks are a couple others — that could scoop up Levis before Tampa Bay is on the board.
In the scenario where Tampa Bay does stay at No. 19, their best bet is likely the University of Florida’s Anthony Richardson. Richardson is a talented, but raw prospect. He started just one season with the Gators before declaring for the draft.
Will Levis is a Polarizing Quarterback Prospect
Levis is talented quarterback with prototypical size (6-foot-3, 232 pounds). However, his play was up-and-down last season. The 23-year-old’s play actually declined in 2022 compared to 2021, as Pro Football Focus notes. Levis posted a 68.6 offensive grade in 2022, a stark decline from the 90.6 grade he posted during the 2021 season.
As Mitch Kaiser of PFF mentions, Levis would probably be drafted No. 1 overall based upon pure potential alone.
“Levis has elite physical tools for the quarterback position — if the draft were based on pure potential alone, he would probably go No. 1 overall,” says Kaiser. “He has exceptional arm talent with a lightning-quick release, and his 6-foot-3, 232-pound frame perfectly fits the NFL QB mold. He can make any throw on the football field, and there are times when he makes it look easy. He’s not just a pocket passer either, as Levis also possesses a dynamic running ability that should bode well for him in the pros.”
Levis may not be ready to dominate the league in Week 1 of the 2023 season, but he may end up emerging as the best quarterback of this draft class down the road. The Buccaneers could either re-sign Blaine Gabbert or bring in a veteran stopgap option at quarterback while Levis develops.
If Tampa Bay goes this route, they can remain a playoff contender in a weak NFC South division while grooming an elite prospect to take over the team in the near future.