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  1. Bucs

NFL draft: How the Bucs can grab hold of the NFC South

Here's how the Bucs can use their first-round pick Thursday to get a handle on contending again.

TAMPA — From the department of the weird, also known as Bucs marketing genius — also known as if it bombs, we can blame Ed Glazer — the Bucs will use a … parrot to announce their fourth-round pick in the NFL Draft, which kicks off tonight.

From Hard Knocks to a parrot.

Sure. Why not?

What's interesting is that the team reportedly tried to use a parrot before, in the 2016 draft, but it was a disaster, as the last parrot refused to take the stage and take Roberto Aguayo.

There have been Bucs drafts that have soared like eagles and Bucs drafts that have been for the birds. This franchise has selected Hall of Famers Lee Roy Selmon, Warren Sapp. This franchise has selected Booker Reese, Eric Curry and Bo Jackson. The same franchise that drafted Mike Evans and Kwon Alexander has thus far flopped with Vernon Hargreaves. The same franchise that drafted Jameis Winston, well, drafted Jameis Winston.

Now, here we go again.

And we go pass rush, again.

It speaks to the denuded state of Bucs football that it is five offseasons and several drafts into Jason Licht's tenure as GM without a sniff of the playoffs. It's so bad that any number of shopping items — edge rusher, running back, offensive lineman, defensive back — are well within reason. The Bucs have that many desperate needs, still. And aren't we talking about exactly what the Bucs needed before the 2016 draft? Secondary and pass rush? It's ridiculous. Absolutely.

Go pass rush, again.

From the start, it should be noted that none of this will matter if Uber customer Winston takes the long way to being the franchise quarterback. The truth is that the wagon is hitched. The Bucs are in Jameis limbo.

Go pass rush.

Go with the best pass rusher not named Bradley Chubb if need be, in which case I vote Marcus Davenport of Texas-San Antonio. If even one Bucs scout sees Davenport as the next DeMarcus Ware, you take him.

Those 22 measly sacks last season demand it.

2016 draft pick Noah Spence's injuries say it.

Gerald McCoy isn't getting any younger says that.

The memory of Simeon Rice says that.

The 2017 Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles say that.

I could make a very good case for Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson, who might be the best player available to the Bucs with the No. 7 pick and the kind of moose who might make holes for whomever runs the ball.

I could make a case for Florida State safety Derwin James and Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, true center fielders — find ball, get ball — and tight end hunters provided Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith schemes it that way, though I doubt Smith would.

I could make a case for trading down. The more picks the merrier.

But I go back to the pass rush. I always do, have ever since Rice stopped roaming the earth for the Bucs all those years.

Maybe Licht, Dirk Koetter and the Bucs are catching on. They traded for former USF and Giants star Jason Pierre-Paul. JPP might be the artist-formerly-known-as, just a guy, but he could still provide disruption. But it was the Bucs picking up former Eagles Vinny Curry and Beau Allen that says maybe this franchise finally gets it.

Stockpile pass-rushers. Now.

Look, you are the fourth best team by a mile in division where three teams made the playoffs last season. You are not going anywhere so long as Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Cam Newton are upright. If you're not hitting these guys in the back, they kill you. Hitting these guys, hurrying these guys, that's your only shot.

Brees is going to play a few  more years, Ryan three or four. The Bucs need to transition now to being able eventually to own this division. They did just that once before, and did it with defense, defense that began with a pass rush.

Maybe the Eagles are the prototype. They rotated rushers in and out. Two deep. Full speed, fewer snaps. It took them a while to get to Tom Brady in the Super Bowl, but when they did it changed the game. You need more than starters. You need depth.

It is a broken record, but the Bucs need to get this right.

Go get more guys to go and get Brees, Ryan and Newton. Start with Marcus Davenport. Forget the Parrot. She wants Saquon Barkley anyway.

Contact Martin Fennelly at mfennelly@tampabay.com or (813) 731-8029

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