On Tuesday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers began the extra three-day voluntary mini-camp they are afforded as a team with a new head coach. That first real-ish practice under Bruce Arians also happened to fall just two days before the 2019 NFL Draft will begin, with the first round kicking off on Thursday evening. Between now and then Arians will be largely consumed with meetings, practices and film study of the Bucs' current players in action, but that's okay because he and General Manager Jason Licht are ready for Thursday night.
"Totally," said Arians, regarding the Bucs' level of readiness for the draft. "About three weeks ago we were totally prepared. We've gone over and over and over it; Jason and I have massaged that thing so many times it's got fingerprints all over it. No, we're more than ready."
To truly prepare for a draft, an NFL team needs to contemplate as many scenarios as possible, since only one team can fully predict what it will be doing, and even then for only one pick. Right now, that's the Arizona Cardinals – coincidentally Arians' former team – who are in possession of the first-overall pick and are expected to either select Oklahoma's one-of-a-kind quarterback, Kyler Murray, or dip into a historically-deep pool of pass-rushers. The Buccaneers will be on the clock five picks later and, no matter which way Arizona goes at the top, they believe they will be able to land a true difference-maker.
As such, Arians thinks it will take a truly impressive offer to move the Bucs off that fifth-overall pick.
"It would have to be some hellacious picks, because there are five guys on the board I love," he said. "You'd have to throw the bank and open a vault for me and Jason to probably move back. That's not saying that we wouldn't…just looking at the guys that are there. Really, [it's] six guys that are once-in-a-generation type players. I feel great about this draft."
That suggests that there will be at least two players the Buccaneers covet deeply when the fifth pick rolls around, and perhaps more if any other team is motivated to trade up into the top four spots to get a quarterback. While anything is possible, the Bucs are not expected to draft a passer as they have very openly stated their commitment to Jameis Winston in Arians' first year.
As for who those players are, the Buccaneers are obviously not going to tip their hand. That said, as mentioned, this draft appears to be deep in defensive lineman and edge rushers, and that's an asset that essentially every team in the league would like to have. Tampa Bay, in particular, is coming off a season in which the offense performed significantly better than the defense, and the team is now trying to restock on that latter side as they transition to a new scheme under Todd Bowles.
In addition to such DL/edge players as Nick Bosa, Quinnen Williams, Josh Allen, Ed Oliver, Rashan Gary, Montez Sweat, Brian Burns, Clelin Ferrell and Christian Wilkins, the draft has a pair of highly-regard linebackers in Devin White and Devin Bush. In addition, the Buccaneers could choose to use their highest pick to address the offensive line and could probably have the top pick on their board if they went in that direction.
That likely puts the Buccaneers in position to do what every team wants to do, in a best-case scenario: Simply take the best player on their board, regardless of position.
"You can't draft for need," said Arians. "You draft for need, you get fired. Draft the best player, and if you've got two of them now you've got three of them. Just take the best players available for you. Now, if you've got four players right there together and one of them is a need, that's the home run. That's the home run."