The Tampa Bay Buccaneers could find their franchise quarterback in the NFL Draft next year after staying put in the 2023 draft.
The Athletic’s Dane Brugler and Yardbarker both project the Bucs to take North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye in the 2024 draft. Brugler compares Maye to Los Angeles Chargers star quarterback Justin Herbert.
For now, the Bucs decided to roll with a quarterback competition between Baker Mayfield and Kyle Trask. The Bucs also signed former Southeastern quarterback Kaylan Wiggins as an undrafted free agent according to KPRC’s Aaron Wilson.
“The Bucs opted not to go to the well in the 2023 quarterback class, though that could pay off if they struggle this season,” Yardbarker’s Seth Trachtman wrote. “Maye had a breakout season as Sam Howell’s replacement at UNC with 4,321 yards passing and 38 touchdowns, plus nearly 700 yards on the ground. He’d be a great consolation prize if the Bucs cannot land Caleb Williams.”
Any team hoping to acquire the Heisman Trophy-winning USC quarterback would likely need the No. 1 pick. Williams arguably would have gone No. 1 in this year’s draft, too.
Brugler wrote that Maye “jumped near the top of the list” with his play last season. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound signal-caller could fill the Bucs’ void left by Tom Brady if the team can land a top-four draft spot either through a poor 2023 record or a trade.
Drake Maye Draws Justin Herbert Comparisons
As Maye becomes a better-known name in NFL circles, he compares to at least one notable Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback.
“With his size, arm and athleticism, he has skills comparable to those of Justin Herbert,” Brugler wrote.
Herbert has been a sensation in three seasons with the Los Angeles Chargers amid 14,089 yards passing and 94 touchdowns versus 35 interceptions. A 6-foot-6, 250-pound quarterback, Herbert has also been a mobile threat at times with 683 yards rushing and eight touchdowns.
Bucs Not Set to Sink for 2024 Draft
This year’s Bucs don’t look poised to tank.
Bucs general manager Jason Licht re-signed key players despite salary cap constraints, and many of the Bucs’ 2022 struggles stemmed from a banged up offensive line. The Bucs also addressed needs in the NFL Draft last week.
Tampa Bay added a key offensive lineman in former North Dakota State standout Cody Mauch via the draft, and the Bucs will have center Ryan Jensen back healthy. The Bucs also boosted the pass rush with the selection of former Pittsburgh standout Calijah Kancey at defensive tackle, which could help Bucs nose tackle Vita Vea up front. Former Louisville defensive end YaYa Diaby, taken in the third round, could also help up front.
Bucs head coach Todd Bowles hired offensive coordinator Dave Canales to revamp the offense, and Canales has a dangerous receiver tandem in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin to work with. The Bucs also added running back Chase Edmonds in free agency to compliment potential No. 1 running back Rachaad White, who had a promising rookie season in 2022.
While Mayfield nor Trask will be mistaken for Brady, the Bucs could find a way to stay competitive in 2023. WDAE’s Nick Wize pointed out that Mayfield, at least, adds one dimension to the offense that Brady didn’t offer in 2022 — quickness.
“I’m not saying Baker Mayfield is better than Tom Brady but I think having his mobility helps this offensive line,” Wize said.
The Bucs also play in an NFC South division that has three other re-tooled squads that finished below .500 in 2022. Two of those teams will likely start a first or second-year quarterback, and New Orleans Saints Derek Carr hasn’t ever led a team to a division title in his career.