1. Bucs

Bucs dilemma: Grab hands or get armed?

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Published Apr. 13, 2014

If you're picking for today's game, you go with the wide receiver. No doubt about it.

If you're picking for this play, for this pass, for this shot at the end zone, you do not hesitate. You pick Clemson's Sammy Watkins, or in the almost certainty he is not there, you pick Texas A&M's Mike Evans.

You pick a guy who can get open. You pick a guy who can run deep. You pick a guy who can pluck the ball out of the sky as if he were picking apples. You pick a guy to line up beside Vincent Jackson, a guy to replace Mike Williams, a guy to make Josh McCown a happier man.

But what if you are picking for the next decade?

You pick the quarterback instead.

For the Bucs, this is the burning question about the upcoming draft. Hey, they know they need a receiver, too (doesn't everyone?) By all scouting reports, Evans would be a fine addition.

Yet the Bucs keep checking out quarterbacks. It's either a smoke screen that no one believes, or the Bucs have a genuine interest.

Granted, this might seem like a luxury to some. After all, the Bucs believe they have a quarterback in McCown. And while his resume isn't as solid as you would like — he has started only 38 games and won only 16 in 11 years — he was the top quarterback in free agency.

After him, there is Mike Glennon, the incumbent.

So why flirt with a quarterback? The Bucs' thinking is this: They plan to be pretty good, which means picking in the bottom half of future drafts. And, that being the case, this might be their best shot at a franchise quarterback in the foreseeable future. Hey, McCown is 34. Eventually, this franchise is going to have to replace him.

So what do they choose with the No. 7 pick in the May 8 draft? Quarterback or receiver? Receiver or quarterback?

If it's me, and I like the answers I get on video, I take the quarterback.

Every time.

Look, it's silly to treat all of the mock drafts out there with any degree of seriousness. There is so much Xeroxing that goes on, and so much guesswork, and at the end, everyone thinks they're a guru.

But out of interest, I took 10 mock drafts from the most prominent publications on the Internet. And in all 10, the Bucs had a choice of Evans or quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. (In two of them, they also had a chance to draft Johnny Manziel). Seven of the mock drafts had them taking Evans.

So do you take the short-term need?

Or, possibly, the long-range answer?

If the Bucs have a chance to draft Manziel, I suggest they grab him with both hands. Yeah, he's small, and the way he plays, he might be hurt a bit. But Manziel has yet to take part in a football game in which he wasn't the best player on the field. There is an energy to him that would be hard to decline, especially for the second-best guy from the same Texas A&M huddle. Sadly, though, I don't think the Bucs have a shot at him.

That leaves Bridgewater (and Blake Bortles in some drafts, and Derek Carr in all of them).

By now, everyone, including the guy at the drive-through window, is aware that Bridgewater struggled during his pro day. What no one knows is how much that will offset the four years of stellar football that came before it. If nothing else, it is a warning to teams to look harder at the video. It is fair to say that fans are less in love with him today than in January.

But we do know this: When teams evaluate players, the most important position on the field is quarterback. And it has been a long time since average quarterbacks were winning Super Bowls. These days, an NFL team only goes as far as its quarterback will take it.

Doubtless, it has to be the right quarterback (which means no Ryan Leaf and no Mark Sanchez and no Matt Leinart and no Blaine Gabbert and no Jake Locker and no Christian Ponder. Especially, no Josh Freeman.)

Think of it like this: If you knew the Bucs were going to address receiver and quarterback with their top two picks, which pair would you like?

Mike Evans and Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo?

Or Bridgewater and Vanderbilt receiver Jordan Matthews?

It's odd that the Bucs could be back to addressing both position. Remember the end of the 2010 season? It seemed as if the Bucs had found their triplets. Josh Freeman had 25 touchdowns and only six interceptions. Mike Williams had 65 catches for 964 yards. LeGarrette Blount had rushed for 1,007 yards in only seven starts.

It just tells you how quickly things change in the NFL. One coach follows another, and a big contract replaces a small one, and yesterday's work ethic changes. A team keeps losing, and just like that, the franchise believes in you less today than it did yesterday.

Now? Now it's time for a fresh start. Again.

This time, the Bucs will pick wisely. This time, they'll find a star.

A quarterback?

A receiver?

Your pick.