Tampa Bay Buccaneers

S.S. Mailbag: Surrounding TB12

This week, fans had questions about who could be the eventual successor to Tom Brady and who might be his current favorite targets, as well as some potential late-round draft sleepers

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Did you hear that the NFL is likely to conduct a "mock draft" with representatives of all 32 teams just to make sure that the process goes smoothly when the real thing begins on April 23. NFL general managers – they're just like us!

Now, it would be interesting to be a fly on the wall for that draft. The whole point is to make sure that every team is technologically prepared to draft under this year's unusual circumstances, with the COVID-19 pandemic forcing general managers to work alone from home. Obviously, no GM is going to throw out the name of a player he actually wants to draft, but even tabbing a player you don't want is potentially giving out information.

Maybe they won't even use real player names. Maybe the NFL will load the system with historical figures and Jason Licht will draft Abraham Lincoln or Joan of Arc. Or how about famous movie characters? 'With the 14th pick, the Buccaneers select Han Solo.' Scouts describe Solo as a Brett Favre-type of quarterback. Tampa Bay might also consider Hannibal Lecter at that spot; would you want to be an offensive lineman set up across from Dr. Lecter?

View pictures of the Buccaneers' new pewter uniforms.

Or, to be less fanciful, the league could just fill the system with Hall of Famers and other former NFL stars. General managers would probably have a blast selecting players like Jerry Rice and Deacon Jones. I'm curious who the Bucs might be able to land with the 14th pick in such a draft. I'm thinking Rice is off the board, as are Peyton Manning and a handful of other quarterbacks. The Buccaneers, of course, already have the quarterback who would probably go first overall if he was already retired, so they can look at other positions.

Reggie White would be tempting but I doubt he makes it to 14. Same with Bruce Smith, though it might be close. The Buccaneers might be tempted to bring back Derrick Brooks, but that's not really a position of need at the moment with Lavonte David and Devin White on the field. So let me narrow it down to two players who I think would probably make it to number 14, given an expected run on quarterbacks, and who would help the Buccaneers immediately at positions of need. Obviously, in this bit of fantasy drafting, we're assuming we get the players in the primes of their careers.

My two top choices: offensive lineman Bruce Matthews and defensive back Rod Woodson. In terms of career AV, as calculated by Pro Football Reference, those are the most productive players at their respective positions in NFL history. Matthews played all over the line during his 19-year career and could certainly step right in at right tackle. Woodson was an all-pro at both cornerback and safety but the Buccaneers would probably use him at safety given their current roster makeup.

Anyway, if the NFL GMs were conducting that kind of draft during their test, I would pay handsomely to watch it unfold.

Now on to your questions.

A reminder that you can send questions to me anytime you want on Twitter (@ScottSBucs) and they're easier to find if you include the hashtag #SSMailbagBucs. We are also now soliciting questions each week on our Instagram page; look for that story on Wednesdays. As always, if you want to get a longer question into the mailbag and would prefer to email your question, you can do so to tbbsocial@buccaneers.nfl.com.

Scott,

I've been a Bucs fan since the teams inception. I've never really felt the need to ask anything but with our current situation I wanted to ask if there was anything in the works for after Brady? What would be the chances of trying to sign Winston back to be the backup. I'm not sure he would want to but if we could get him on a multi year as a backup, wouldn't that be something worth pursuing seeing as TB 12 isn't going to play much longer.

Thanks for the consideration,

Joe (via email to tbbsocial@buccaneers.nfl.com)

Well, let's start at the end of the question there, because I don't think we want to be making any sweeping statements about Tom Brady not playing much longer. We know he's committed for the next two seasons and when he spoke with Howard Stern on Wednesday he didn't sound like a player who's contemplating the end of his career just yet.

"We all think we're going to live forever but the reality is we don't know when our day is going to come," he said. "I could stop playing football because I'm worried about what's going to happen. Why don't I live my life the way I want, and enjoy it, the way that is most fulfilling to me? For me, that's doing what I love to do. You don't tell a musician to stop singing at age 42. You don't tell a painter to stop painting at 42."

Yes, Brady is 42 and he'll turn 43 before the start of the upcoming season, but he's not your ordinary 40-something NFL player. Actually, there really aren't any ordinary 40-something NFL players because it takes an unbelievable amount of work and commitment to certain lifestyle and diet choices to play that long. Brady has definitely done that. Would it surprise anyone if he's still playing at 45 or 46?

But, yes, I get the overall point. At some point Brady will wrap it up and the Buccaneers will be looking for a new quarterback, whether that be in 2022, 2023 or beyond. Planning at that position is the most important and most difficult things that NFL teams have to do. I doubt there are many days when the average NFL GM does not spend some time thinking about who is going to be his team's quarterback down the line.

That said, I don't think I would say there is anything "in the works" on that right now. On the current roster, the Buccaneers have Blaine Gabbert and Ryan Griffin behind Brady, and it's hard to envision either one of them as the long-term quarterback of the future.

Of course, "in the works" could also mean a plan to select a quarterback in the draft later this month. As both Jason Licht and Bruce Arians said during the NFL Scouting Combine, they both would like to draft a quarterback, but it would have to be "the right guy at the right time," as Arians added. That does not sound like a plan to select a quarterback in the early rounds and, notably, that was said even before the Buccaneers landed Brady and answered the question of who would be at the helm for the next couple years. If Licht and Arian do find a quarterback they like in this year's draft, I would suspect it would be with a Day Three pick and that it would be a player who would need a significant amount of time to develop. If that happens, then there would be something in the works but not something you could absolutely count on as a long-term solution.

Yes, the Buccaneers need to plan for life after Brady, but if they're going to take another shot at drafting a player they think will be a "franchise quarterback," I think that is more likely to happen a year or two down the road.

View pictures of the Buccaneers' new red uniforms.

Who do you think will be Brady's most common receiver next season?

- @noah.maass, via Instagram

It's hard to imagine the answer not being either Mike Evans or Chris Godwin, isn't it? Evans has averaged 5.1 receptions per game during his insanely productive first six seasons in the NFL, while Godwin was eighth in the NFL with 6.1 catches per outing in his 2019 breakout campaign. No other player on the roster has had even a 40-catch season in the last two years. The only possible way I could see the answer being someone other than Evans and Godwin is if the Buccaneers drafted a pass-catching back and he quickly became a favorite for Tom Brady. But even that would be a long shot. No matter who the Buccaneers quarterback is he's going to know that his overall best option is the NFL's most productive wide receiver duo.

So is it Evans or Godwin? Evans led the Bucs in receptions every year from 2015-18 (he was second by two catches to Vincent Jackson as a rookie in 2014), and then Godwin paced the team last year with his career-best 86 grabs. In no way does that mean the torch has been passed; if anything, Godwin merely joined Evans as a Pro Bowler and the Bucs now have a 1a and a 1b at receiver. I don't think either Evans or Godwin would argue with that.

Clearly, this could go either way. Evans had his own 86-catch season just two years ago and topped out at 96 in 2016. Godwin has increased his receptions total in each of the last two seasons. If I have to guess which one would end up with the most catches in 2020, I'd probably go with Godwin. It should be clear, but that's no knock whatsoever on Evans. He's already the best receiver in franchise history and he's just entering his age-27 season (amazingly); he is far, far away from any sort of decline. And, really, I'm only focusing on catches as a statistic because you asked who would be the "most common" receiver, Noah. Despite having 19 fewer grabs than Godwin last year, Evans wasn't far behind in either yards (1,333 to 1,157) or touchdowns (nine to eight).

Part of my answer is based on snap counts. In the 13 games that both Godwin and Evans were healthy and in the lineup together last season, Godwin logged 101 more offensive snaps than his teammate. Now, about half of that difference came in the 13th game, when Evans was injured 18 snaps in, so we're really only taking about a handful more plays per game for Godwin in a typical game. More so than the actual numbers, I'm basing this thought on Arians saying last offseason that Godwin "might never come off the field" in his offense. We have since found out that Godwin proved to be an extremely versatile player in Arians' attack, getting nearly half of his action out of the slot and producing big numbers in that role. When you're the team's best slot option and either 1a or 1b on the outside, you're going to get lots of opportunities. I'm not sure, but I think I've seen Tom Brady do some amazing things with his slot receivers in the past.

View pictures of the Buccaneers' new white uniforms.

Anyway, like I said above, yards are a more important statistic than catches anyway, and in that regard Godwin and Evans are probably completely even bets. They passed the team lead back and forth a couple times during the 2019 season and three-quarters of the way into the season they had practically identical totals. Through 12 games, before hamstring injuries, ended both of their seasons a bit early, Godwin was on pace for 1,494 yards and Evans for 1,461.

If you look up some 2020 fantasy football projections, you'll see pretty much the same thing. This one on Pro Football Focus foresees a really big season for Brady, especially in terms of yards, but calls it almost exactly even between Godwin and Evans. That's in terms of yards and touchdowns, but it does have Godwin getting 95 receptions and Evans getting 80. So by the terms of the original question, I think the likely answer is Godwin.

Who do you believe would be a late round steal in the draft?

- @khollman7233, via Instagram

How about Washington offensive tackle Trey Adams?

This could really be a boom-or-bust situation. You have to start with why Adams is likely a Day Three pick, even though just a couple years ago he was thought to be a future first-rounder. He was a scout's darling after a very strong year for the Huskies in 2016 but then an ACL tear wiped out of much of his 2017 campaign, followed by a back injury that kept him out for much of 2018.

Obviously, that type of injury history will be a red flag for some teams. In addition, Adams' draft stock probably took a hit when he ran a 5.60-second 40-yard dash at the Combine, with a vertical leap of just 24.5 inches.

But what if Adams can regain the form that had the scouts drooling in 2016. If some team lands him in the fifth or sixth round because the above concerns made him fall, and he proceeds to develop into an NFL starter, that would most definitely be a steal.

I'd also keep an eye on Nebraska cornerback Lamar Jackson. I've seen him being mocked in the sixth round but he could develop into a starter. He's got great size for the position and he's athletic, if a bit raw. It's the technique issues that push him down the draft board but an NFL coaching staff may be able to correct that and bring out the most of his talents. Some think he could also play safety, though he would have to improve his tackling to stick at that spot in the NFL.

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