In a broad sense, the arrival of Tom Brady changes everything for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It has certainly changed the national perspective on their readiness to make a Super Bowl run, and it should eventually have a big impact on the team's locker room culture. It has certainly energized the Buccaneers' fanbase, particularly at a time when people are looking for any feel-good news they can find.
In some ways, though, nothing has changed since the G.O.A.T. chose Tampa. One of those ways is the team's preparation for the draft. On Thursday, Jason Licht indicated that Brady's presence is not affecting the way they Bucs arrange their prospect rankings or coordinate their drafting strategies.
"Well, obviously Tom is arguably the best quarterback to play the game, so it's nice to have that guy," said Licht. "In terms of how we go about the draft this year, we're still evaluating every position, every player, every position of need and positions that maybe some perceive as not a need. We still stack the board the same. We still look for great players. We're looking to add the best player available where it meets a need in certain positions. I wouldn't say it really affects the way we've been conducting meetings or [the way we have] been stacking the board, but it is just a really good feeling to know that Tom Brady is on our team."
Of course, Brady's arrival could be seen as moving quarterback from one of those above categories to the other. As March began, the Buccaneers had not yet finalized an answer on who would be their quarterback in 2020, whether that involved re-signing incumbent Jameis Winston or going after someone new in free agency, the draft or both. However, even during that uncertain period, it was clear that Licht and Arians were only considering drafting a quarterback where the value was right.
And that's still true now that the answer under center is Brady. The Buccaneers have no question who will be the starter for at least the next two seasons, and they also recently re-signed veteran reserve quarterback Blaine Gabbert to join Ryan Griffin on the depth chart. Licht still feels comfortable using one of his draft assets on a quarterback if the right pick and the right player intersect.
"We can afford to do it, I think," he said. "It is definitely something we would look at, but it just depends on who that player is, where he is available, what other players are in front of him [and] if we're sold on that player. It's not as easy as just picking any quarterback and thinking, 'OK, he's the developmental guy.' They're hard to find. They don't just appear out of nowhere. A lot goes into it from their tape to their maturity level – all of those types of things. It just kind of depends on who the player is. If there is a player that we like at the right place, I don't think we would have a problem taking him."
LSU's Joe Burrow, Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa and Oregon's Justin Herbert are widely considered potential top-10 pick. Utah State's Jordan Love may crash the first-round party, as well, and it wouldn't be surprising to see teams make a second or third-round investment on Washington's Jacob Eason, Georgia's Jake Fromm and Oklahoma's Jalen Hurts.
The Buccaneers have a new look in 2020 - take a look at pictures of their new uniforms!
If the Buccaneers want to focus on more pressing needs around Brady during the first two days of the draft, some Day Three targets could include Florida International's James Morgan, Colorado's Steven Montez, Michigan State's Brian Lewerke, Oregon State's Jake Luton and Washington State's Anthony Gordon. In a recent mock draft on this site, Staff Writer Carmen Vitali was tasked with projecting a developmental quarterback for the Bucs in the fifth round and settled on Gordon. Vitali noted that Gordon had impressed at the Senior Bowl, threw 48 touchdown passes last season and could reasonably be available at that point in the draft.
As Licht noted, a lot goes into evaluating whether or not a young quarterback prospect has a real shot to develop into a starter in the NFL. That's obviously harder to do in a landscape in which teams can't bring players into their facilities for one-on-one interviews. A staple of such meetings is to present the prospect with some game tape and ask him to break down what the quarterback is seeing and what he should do with the ball. With help from his IT department, Licht has still been able to do some of this.
"We've got a really tech-savvy scouting department and coaching staff, so we've been able to get on video conferences with tape and watch and listen to them explain what they're doing," he said. "Then install some of our plays and have them regurgitate it to us, which has been really interesting way of doing things through this, but it's been very effective."
Whether or not those efforts result in a player the Buccaneers target as a later-round quarterback remains to be seen. But using a 2020 draft asset on the position isn't out of the question for Licht and his crew, even with the all-time greatest now on hand.