This been an unusual offseason for the Bucs.
So far, we’ve seen Tampa Bay color outside the lines when it comes to how they usually do business. Big-money deals that push the bulk of the contracts into later years have become the norm.
The Bucs have also never selected a player with the 32nd pick in the first round. In fact, they didn’t even have a chance to pick at No. 32 after winning Super Bowl XXXVII thanks to the trade that brought in Jon Gruden. Therefore, this year could be the first time in franchise history that a player will be listed on Tampa Bay’s roster as the 32nd pick in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
See what I mean? Unusual.
There’s a lot that comes with picking last in the first round. The players are much harder to evaluate for obvious reasons. Said evaluations are even harder in 2021 thanks to no combine and the Coronavirus. Not only are scouts relegated to attending individual Pro Days in hopes of gleaning valuable information, but there are a lot of players -many of them considered to be first-round selections- who decided to opt out last year. This means limited tape, which means limited evaluation, which then means a scout’s/GM’s job is that much harder in 2021.
The Bucs are in a unique position when it comes to their roster, as well. All 22 starters from last year’s Super Bowl team and several key depth pieces are returning. Tampa Bay literally has zero starting positions up for grabs. Any change will be on the second and third levels of the roster. This means Jason Licht and co. can either go BPA (best player available) or draft a player to sit and develop in hopes of taking over for one of the veterans.
We know Licht can work the phones when it comes to moving around in the draft. We’ve seen it many times before. When you couple this with everything that surrounds the 2021 NFL Draft, I pose this question: Should the Bucs move up in the first round of the draft?
Trading up in the first round doesn’t happen often in Tampa Bay. The Bucs have traded up in the first round just twice in the last 20 years (three times if you count moving back into the first round for Doug Martin), so it would be another peculiar occurence if it did happen. But just imagine if they did and they were able to get a top-end player who not only forces his way onto the field, but provides that transition from one of the veterans on the back end of their contracts/careers?
Sure, the draft is like the lottery. The more
tickets picks in your possession, the more likely you are to hit. And those cheap contracts will certainly help in the years to come.
But the higher up you pick, the more likely you are to hit on a guy that can be an absolute game-changer. A guy you can build an offense or defense around. You can find those guys in later rounds, but the chances of finding them are so much more minute than the other way around.
It makes a ton of sense. Especially when you add in the fact the Bucs have eight picks in the draft and their roster is currently comprised of 60 players. Will you really sign all eight picks? The Bucs only signed five of their seven picks last year. It may be a good idea to shed some of those in order to move up.
Moving up and grabbing a primo player always sounds good, but the cost of the move is what determines its integrity. What would a trade up look like for the Bucs?
There are 10 first-round trades over the last 10 years that can be used as a blueprint if the Bucs do want to move up:
2010: The Los Angeles Chargers (then San Diego) trade No. 28, No. 40, and No. 126 to the Miami Dolphins in order to move up to No. 12. The Chargers also received No. 110, and No. 173 in the 2010 draft.
A first-, third-, and fourth-round pick isn’t too hefty a price to move into the top-12 of the draft. Remember, the Bucs could throw a player in the mix, as well. But that’s going a bit too far down the rabbit hole.
2011: The Atlanta Falcons trade No. 27, No. 59, No. 124, and a first- and fourth-round pick in 2012 to the Cleveland Browns to move up to No. 6.
If you want the Bucs to move into the top-10, then this is what it will likely cost. The further up the Bucs go, the higher the cost. Especially once you crack the top-7.
2012: The New England Patriots trade No. 31 and No. 126 to the Denver Broncos to move up to No. 25.
This is a good scenario for a player who falls. Let’s say a Jaelan Phillips falls to No. 25. A fourth-round pick to ensure his services is totally feasible.
2013: The San Francisco 49ers trade No. 31 and No. 74 to the Dallas Cowboys to move up to No. 18.
Sign me up all day long if the Bucs can pull this off. A third-rounder to move up 13 spots? Deal.
2013: The Falcons trade No. 30, No. 92, and No. 198 to the Los Angeles Rams (then St. Louis) to move up to No. 22. The Falcons also received a 2015 seventh-rounder.
This one is a bit pricey, but it isn’t terrible.
2016: The Broncos trade No. 31 and No. 94 to the Seattle Seahawks in order move up to No. 26.
Another aforementioned Phillips-like situation, here.
2017: The Kansas City Chiefs trade No. 27, No. 91, and a 2018 first-round pick to the Buffalo Bills in order to move up to No. 10.
We finally start getting into future picks. This is where Tampa Bay can really make it happen. The idea is the Bucs will be picking late in the first round next year, too, right? Well, it may not be a bad idea to go ahead and package that pick for an impact guy this year. This year’s first- and third-round pick plus next year’s first would not be a bad price to move up to No. 10-13. The extra five spots from 32 to 27 is a solid-sized gap, however, so the Bucs would probably have to tack on late pick in 2021 to make this happen.
2017: The Houston Texans trade No. 25 and a 2018 first-round pick to the Browns in order to move up to No. 12.
Same as the previous trade. The Bucs would have to tack on at least one more pick to move up to No. 12.
2019: The Green Bay Packers trade No. 30, No. 114, and No. 118 to the Seahawks in order to move up to No. 21.
The Bucs don’t have more than one pick in any round other than the seventh round, so while this is a fair trade, they probably don’t have the assets to pull it off. But, they could always throw in a future pick to help offset the issue.
2020: The 49ers trade No. 31, No. 117, and No. 176 to the Minnesota Vikings in order to move up to No. 25.
This seems reasonable, as well. Shedding one of the post-fourth-round picks isn’t a bad idea considering the fact the Bucs have eight draft picks this year.
There are many different examples to use when establishing an idea of how feasible all of this is. A lot of teams -evidenced by the 49ers-Dolphins trade- don’t use the draft chart when it comes to trades anymore, but if we were to use the updated draft value chart then we can see that the Bucs could make a move if they wanted to.
Per Rich Hill’s chart, the Bucs could move all the way up to No. 8 if they trade this year’s first- and third-round picks and next year’s first-rounder. Assuming the Bucs pick at No. 32 again next year (which is worst-case scenario for the other team), they would have 407 points, which eclipses No. 8’s value of 405 points. If you don’t like the idea of giving up a third-rounder this year, you could swap that with a fourth-rounder and still have enough points to eclipse the 11th pick.
But as we discussed the price increases the further you move up, so it may take an extra pick or maybe even the Bucs’ 2021 second-rounder (instead of the third) to move up to No.8. These scenarios could prove to be a bit too expensive for the Bucs. I’m thinking the aforementioned example could land the Bucs in the 11-15 range.
So then the question becomes one of who is most likely to trade with the Bucs? A lot of this has to do with how the board falls and how desperate teams become. But at surface-level, the teams sitting at 11-15 -the Giants, Eagles, Chargers, Vikings, and Patriots- are all possible trade partners. Hell, the Eagles have already traded back and the draft is still weeks away.
Tampa Bay is about winning now. Moving up in the first round to select a top player would only further bolster its mentality toward repeating as Super Bowl champions.
The only question that remains is: Should they do it?
What do you think? Should the Bucs trade up in the draft? Let us know via the comment section below!