Tampa Bay enters Thursday’s NFL Draft with all possibilities on the table, including Tom Brady‘s successor.
Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht alluded to as much with the media on April 22, a week before the NFL Draft commences. The Super Bowl champions own the 32nd pick in the first round and another seven picks after that according to Greg Auman of The Athletic.
“There’s always pros of drafting a quarterback for us because of our coaching staff,” Licht said in the press conference. “Couldn’t think of a better staff to groom a quarterback.”
Head coach Bruce Arians specializes in quarterbacks, and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich played quarterback in the NFL. Quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen has been coaching the position almost as long as Brady’s been alive, and offensive consultant Tom Moore played a significant role in coaching Peyton Manning throughout their time together in Indianapolis.
Additionally, the Bucs still have Brady, playing like it’s the prime of his career, to mentor a young quarterback. The Bucs didn’t have age on its side at the position last season with Brady at 44 and Blaine Gabbert and Ryan Griffin at 31. Griffin re-signed on Tuesday, but Gabbert hasn’t re-signed at this time.
Many names have floated around the media’s mock drafts such as Florida’s Kyle Trask, via CBS Sports, or Alabama’s Mac Jones, via NFL.com. Another mock draft from NFL.com had the Bucs taking Stanford’s Davis Mills at No. 32. CBS Sports’ Tyler Sullivan also mentioned Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond as a possibility.
“I just want to really make sure you’re not picking a quarterback just to pick a quarterback, Licht told the media. “You want everybody to be on board, and the guy’s gotta have the right mindset and has gotta be, obviously, talent, can throw the ball, but he’s gotta be someone we all feel comfortable with above the neck, so there’s always a positive to drafting a quarterback if all those things align.”
Bucs’ Potential Quarterback Targets
Jones, who led Alamba to the national championship in 2020, threw for 4,500 yards, 41 touchdowns, and four interceptions. NFL Network’s Bucky Brooks likes him as an option for the Bucs because of his “ability to get it out, diagnose defense, separates him from others in this class.” Brooks proposed Jones to the Bucs the former Crimson Tide star fell to pick 32, but more recent mock drafts such as Sports Illustrated senior writer Michael Fabiano’s has Jones going to the San Francisco 49ers at the third pick.
Trask posted 4,283 yards, 43 touchdowns, and eight interceptions in 2020 while leading Florida to an 8-2 season and the SEC title game and Cotton Bowl, both losses. Matt Baker of the Tampa Bay Times wrote the Trask could do well waiting for years behind Brady because the former Gator rose to the occasion in both high school and college when he didn’t start the season as a starter. “It’s pretty amazing, from where he was to where he is right now,” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper said according to Baker.
Mills threw for 1,508 yards, seven touchdowns, and three interceptions in a shortened 6-2 season for Stanford in 2020. NFL Network’s Peter Schrager had Mills going to the Bucs in his first mock draft at 32, but Mills didn’t make the first round in Schrager’s second mock draft. ESPN’s Mel Kiper said Stanford head coach David Shaw told him that “he’s going to be really good” when talking on ESPN’s Get Up on April 17.
Mond let Texas A&M to the cusp of the College Football Playoff put up 2,282 yards, 19 touchdowns, and three interceptions along the way. CBS Sports’ Josh Edwards had Mond going to Tampa in round two of his mock draft. Brady Quinn, an analyst for CBS Sports HQ, said “he might be a sleeper” because of game experience, no major issues, and being “a good decision maker” on WRTR 105.9.
Licht’s Projection for Top 5 QBs
Licht doesn’t think the draft’s top five quarterback prospects will last long amid a handful of quarterback-hungry teams.
“I’ve seen all kinds of crazy things happening in the draft. You could see five (quarterbacks) in the first five,” Licht said in the press conference. “I definitely see a lot of quarterbacks going in the first half of the draft, that’s for sure.”
Will a new quarterback in “the first half of the draft” land in Tampa to learn from Brady remains the question.