1. Bucs

The quarterback derby in NFL draft will push a very good player to Bucs at No. 7

At least four quarterbacks are expected to be selected ahead of Tampa Bay's pick, meaning Quenton Nelson, Bradley Chubb or Saquon Barkley could be there for the Bucs.
Running back Saquon Barkley catches a pass during Penn State's pro day workouts in State College, Pa. on Tuesday. [Associated Press]
Published Mar. 24, 2018
Updated Mar. 24, 2018

TAMPA — We are about a month away from the NFL draft, and a lot still can happen to alter the complexion of the first round.

But this much seems true: Four quarterbacks are likely to go in the first seven picks, if not sooner: USC's Sam Darnold, Wyoming's Josh Allen, UCLA's Josh Rosen and Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield.

The Jets' trade with the Colts to move up three spots in the first round could wind up benefiting the Bucs the most.

The Jets acquired the No. 3 pick from the Colts for their No. 6 pick, as well as their Nos. 37 and 49 picks this year and a second-round pick in 2019.

Colts general manager Chris Ballard is counting on QB Andrew Luck finally returning from his shoulder injury, so he has one of the few teams not looking to take advantage of this year's fertile quarterback class.

The Jets have 38-year-old Josh McCown and free agent Teddy Bridgewater signed to one-year deals. But clearly they moved up to make sure they got one of the four aforementioned quarterbacks.

So the new draft order:  1. Browns; 2. Giants; 3.  Jets; 4. Browns; 5.  Broncos; 6. Colts; 7.  Bucs.

Because of the Jets' trade, the Browns, who might have been entertaining taking Penn State running back Saquon Barkley No. 1 overall, now have to take a quarterback because they can't be sure the one they really want will still be on the board at No. 4.

The Browns also signed running back Carlos Hyde to a three-year, $15 million contract. Left tackle Joe Thomas retired in the offseason, so they have needs on the offensive line.

At No. 2, the Giants could go any direction. They might want N.C. State defensive end Bradley Chubb to replace Jason Pierre-Paul, who was traded Thursday to the Bucs. But Barkley is arguably the best player in the draft.

But, c'mon, Eli Manning isn't going to play forever. Can the Giants turn down a chance to get an heir at quarterback? Another thing to consider: The 2019 QB class won't be a great one.

The Broncos are almost certain to draft a quarterback, and the Colts need defensive line help but could also entertain more offers to trade back up.

Where does that leave the Bucs? Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson is a real possibility. Or do they take a Loyola-Chicago-like flier at No. 7? How about Barkley falling to the Bucs?

"With that seventh pick, there might be a temptation to move up,'' Bus GM Jason Licht said. "There might be a temptation to move back and pick up some extra picks. It's all going to depend on what players are available and how many are available at that pick, how many you think might still be available two picks back, four picks back. I don't think you can ever have enough premier defensive ends. I don't think you can ever have enough premier offensive linemen.''


If you haven't listened to the Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast, shame on you. In an interview, Licht discussed the inside story of how the trade for Pierre-Paul came about. The general manager also offered  great insight into the Bucs' other dealings. Here are some excerpts:

On informing Ali Marpet he would not play center if Ryan Jensen was signed:

"Dirk (Koetter) and I brought Ali into the office, talked to him and said, 'Ali, we liked what you did at center. We really feel like you're coming along there. We feel like you have a great career path there if you want to do it. We're not trying to replace you at center. But there's a player that we really like. He happens to be a center that we like. We like him better at center than guard, and to make our offensive line better, that's the move that we would do.' And Ali said, 'If you guys hadn't asked me this, I would've told you the same thing: I just want to win.' He said, 'I'm totally fine with it.' In fact, he asked if he could go to dinner with (Jensen).''

On getting help from former Bucs offensive lineman Garrett Gilkey to attract Jensen:

"Garrett Gilkey and Ryan Jensen are best friends. Garrett Gilkey showed him around town and his wife, sold them on the town and the community. I will always be forever indebted to Garrett Gilkey. I told him I'll buy him a beer.''

On defensive line coach Brentson Buckner pushing the team over the top to convince defensive end Vinny Curry to sign:

"(Buckner) can speak the same language with him, that defensive-line lingo. He knew everything about (Curry). He sold him on the place, sold him on his role, and in a matter of minutes, the agent called and said he was ready to do a deal after 'Buck' talked to him. It's great to have a guy, an asset like (Buckner) when you're building. A guy who can recruit. We're not in the recruiting business very often, but when we are, it's good to have it.''

On defensive tackle Beau Allen getting a better offer from another team in the 11th hour but sticking with the Bucs:

"After we had agreed to terms with him, he had another team come in and offer him more money. They let us know that, but they let us know that Beau said he would never renege on a deal. A deal's a deal. So, as soon as he landed, I had one of our guys meet him at the airport and had him sign his contract the minute he walked into the hotel to make sure we had him."