INDIANAPOLIS — The Bucs haven’t spent time studying quarterback prospects since using the No. 1 pick in 2015 on Jameis Winston.
That has changed. This week head coach Bruce Arians is back in his element, grilling eligible passers, putting them on the grease board and on the spot.
“It’s kind of more fun for me, having done it for all these years,’’ Arians said. “Who to compare them to? It’s a nice class of guys. The athleticism of some of these guys is getting to be amazing that you didn’t see in years past.’’
Assuming either Winston or another veteran quarterback is signed before the April 23 draft in Las Vegas, it’s unlikely the Bucs will take one at No. 14. They have too many other needs. However, they to develop a young backup or future starter.
“I don’t think we want one that’s going to be sitting on the bench for three years," Arians said. "If he is, he’s got to come at the right time in the draft and I think there’s some guys like that. Big upsides.’’
Based on consensus mock drafts, at least four quarterbacks will go in the first round: LSU’s Joe Burrow, the presumptive No. 1 overall pick to the Bengals. Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, Oregon’s Justin Herbert and Utah State’s Jordan Love.
Depending on who their starter is, the Bucs could pull the trigger on a quarterback as early as the second round. It’s not a deep class, but here’s a look at four they could take.
For the sake of argument, we’ll include Love as a player who could slip in case the Bucs, well, believe in Love.
Jordan Love, Utah State
It’s unlikely Love would last until the middle of the second round. He has prototypical size (6-4, 225) and good athleticism. Patrick Mahomes’s success will probably help him rise in the draft.
But Love went from 32 touchdowns and six interceptions in 2018 to only 20 TDs and 17 Ints in ’19.
“I was trying to do too much and force the ball downfield,’’ Love said. “Thinking I could make throws into tight windows. There were situations where I could have checked the ball down, but I was trying to make that play."
Considering the Bucs are coming off a 30-interception season by Winston, Love’s failure to protect the football won’t help.
“The most important thing to be is to be more consistent,’’ Love said. “You watch my film, there are some plays where I make an incredible throw, and the next thing you know, I miss a swing route."
Jake Fromm, Georgia
The key for Fromm will be arm strength. He could be a high day two selection like Andy Dalton. If his arm looks weak, he could slip like Aaron Murray, who was a fifth-round pick of the Chiefs and now quarterbacks the Tampa Bay Vipers in the XFL.
Not physically imposing (6-2, 219 pounds), scouts won’t like that his hands measured 8-⅞ inches. Fromm’s response: “These are the same hands that went to three SEC Championships, a Rose Bowl, a national championship.’’
Fromm has been remarkably consistent, passing for more than 2,600 yards, 24 or more touchdowns and completing at least 60 percent with no more than seven interceptions in three seasons. But he did not play as well this season, throwing three INTs in a devasting loss at home against South Carolina.
“I think I have the arm strength and the ability to make every single throw I need to in the professional football,’’ Fromm said.
Jacob Eason, Washington
Eason started 12 of 13 games as a Georgia freshman until he suffered a knee injury in the 2017 opener. It was enough for him to lose his job to Fromm and transfer two seasons later. The two have remained friends but are competing again this week, this time for the best job.
Last season was Eason’s first starting for the Huskies. He passed for 3,132 yards with 23 touchdowns and eight interceptions last season while completing 64.2 percent. But he wasn’t as good against Pac-12 teams, throwing 12 touchdowns to seven interceptions as the Huskies went 4-5 in the conference.
Some scouts don’t think he has enough competitive fire. Eason says he’s just laid back. He may have benefited by staying at Washington.
How would he like to play for Bruce Arians? "Obviously, they like to throw the ball down the field so that’s pretty enticing."
Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma
Hurts chucked it for two storied at Alabama and Oklahoma. He makes as many plays with his feet as he does with his arm. But he’s a winner and a natural leader. He started every game for a national champion only to accept a backup role the next season behind Tagovailoa.
He transferred to Oklahoma and led the Sooners to the national semifinals.
"I think it’s something that’s been unprecedented,’’ Hurts said. “You’re talking about just being able to go there and without any time in their system and this year putting my name in the same air as the last two first overall picks."
While learning his craft in Tampa Bay, Hurts could be part of the Bucs offense the way the Saints use Taysom Hill.
“For me, it’s the mental,’’ Arians said. “I know he’s a competitor and a winner and he’s improved a lot as a passer when he went to Oklahoma especially. So, I think those types of guys, there’s a spot for and you build your office around him.’’
An added plus: Having Hurts’ attitude rub off on players makes a team better.
“I think real recognizes real,’’ Hurts said. “I (have) that effect sometimes, and they follow me.’’