A year ago, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers started the first round of the NFL Draft in the seventh overall slot but eventually selected Washington defensive tackle Vita Vea at number 12. That was the result of a trade that paired a quarterback-hungry team matching up with a club that felt it could gamble in order to pick up additional draft assets.
Specifically, the Buccaneers found themselves just out of range to get one of the three non-QB blue-chip prospects – Saquon Barkley, Bradley Chubb and Quenton Nelson – but in perfect position to grab one of the top passers. Not needing a new quarterback, the Bucs dealt the pick to Buffalo, which did, and picked up a pair of second-round draft picks. Tampa Bay still got its targeted player in Vea – that was the gamble, which was palatable with other coveted options also on board – and used their extra picks to shore up the secondary with a pair of cornerbacks.
Now Tampa Bay heads into the 2019 draft in possession of the fifth-overall pick. Once again, the Bucs are presumably not in the market for a quarterback. And once again, they happen to be picking right before some teams that likely feel differently. So is another trade down in the works? Would the Bucs listen to the Giants (#6), the Jaguars (#7), the Broncos (#10), the Dolphins (#13) or the Redskins (#15) if one or more of those teams wanted to jump up to number five?
Well, it depends, because it always depends. No general manager worth his cell phone is going to decline to listen to a trade offer. Presumably, there is a certain price that would make a trade down attractive from any point in the round. But while the scenario for the Buccaneers in 2019 looks superficially similar to the one they were in heading into last year's draft, it might be quite a bit tougher to convince Licht to move down this time around.
Most importantly, the 2019 Buccaneers do not appear to be perched right on the edge of a significant drop-off in the perceived value of the available prospects, as they were in 2018. One more team trading up into the top six in last year's draft for quarterback almost certainly would have pushed Chubb or Nelson to the Buccaneers at number seven, and if that had happened the whole draft very well may have unfolded differently. The Bucs don't have to worry about what other teams do this year.
To put it more simply, Licht is guaranteed to get a player he really wants simply by staying put.
"If anybody wants it, we'd certainly listen," he said of the fifth pick. "We did that last year, and it had to be the right amount of capital that we wanted. We're not just going to give it away, because I do feel like there are five players that I would like to pick right now. A lot goes into it. We'll have to evaluate each player and decide together, Bruce and I, which players worth [us saying] we're not moving back, and which ones are worth moving back a little bit and gambling."
This year's draft is considered particularly deep in defensive linemen, and the Buccaneers could clearly benefit from dipping into that well. That's not the only position that intrigues Licht and company as they peruse this year's class, however. And, if the top of the draft isparticularly heavy in DL selections, the Bucs could conceivably get their top rated player at a couple of other positions.
"It lines up great [for D-Line talent], but so do a couple of other positions, too," said Licht. "I know on defense this is a good draft for corners; there's a lot of depth there too, throughout the whole draft, and big corners, too. Interior D-Linemen, edge players, linebackers, there's a lot to choose from. It gives us, if we stay at five, it gives us the flexibility to take the best player. And that wouldn't exclude taking an offensive lineman or an offensive player either."
That great defensive line/edge rusher depth comes in a lot of flavors this year, from disruptive interior linemen to traditional 4-3 ends to pass-rushing linebackers better suited for a 3-4 scheme. The good news for the Buccaneers is that they can reasonably enjoy any of those flavors given the flexibility of Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles.
"When we get together with the new coaches, we have to get a feel for what their looking for in players – alignment, assignment, how we're going to play offense, defense," said Licht. "It's not that challenging because we can adjust how we evaluate new players. It's not like we're just a 4-3 scouting system. We can move it, we can adjust it to a 3-4."
Clearly, the Buccaneers have plenty of options for the fifth-overall pick and Jason Licht is going to have his choice from among more than one attractive option. That could include trading back for a second year in a row, but there's a good chance the Bucs will be highly motivated to stay put.