TAMPA — The Bucs are not on the clock yet for the NFL draft, but it's fair to say they're counting down to the end of 2014 like Ryan Seacrest in Times Square.
Every thorn has its rose. For Bucs coach Lovie Smith, at 2-13, it's the realization his team could own the first or second pick in each round of the NFL draft next spring.
A loss to New Orleans on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium would clinch the top spot based on the worst won-loss record of opponents' strength of schedule. Even if the Bucs defeat the Saints, Tampa Bay should net no worse than the No. 2 overall pick.
"We are going to add some more players to the mix," Smith said. "We need some more players added to the mix. I am excited about that part. And again, if you have to be down where we are, why not get your choice of a few of the best players in the draft?
"From a 2-13 record right now, I think that we've found out our draft class, we've played them and we like some things we've seen from the draft class. Of course, Mike Evans, it goes without saying, Charles Sims, we're seeing flashes from him, Austin Seferian-Jenkins — you know, our top three picks, amongst others. So that part is good. … We are going to get to add some more, we have a full allotment of draft picks, we have an excellent staff that evaluates guys."
How does that affect the approach to Sunday? It doesn't, Smith said. The Bucs will play to win, as they did in Sunday's 20-3 loss to the Packers. But Smith said they want to keep evaluating young players.
"I think probably most veteran players in general, some of them aren't real excited about some of the players that will come in and potentially take their spot. But for the most part, guys on your team want the team to be improved and that's what we're going to do with draft picks coming in," Smith said.
The Bucs hold a slight edge over the Titans for the No. 1 pick. Tampa Bay's 16 opponents have a combined record of 114-122-3; Tennessee's opponents are 118-120-1 and the Titans finish Sunday against the Colts in Nashville. In a tie, the team whose opponents have the worst combined won-loss record will pick first.
The top two players in the draft may be the opposing quarterbacks in a national semifinal Jan. 1 at the Rose Bowl — Oregon's Marcus Mariota and Florida State's Jameis Winston.
Quarterback is a position of need for the Bucs. With his performance Sunday, starter Josh McCown fell behind the Jets' Geno Hayes and the Jags' Blake Bortles as the lowest-rated starting quarterback in the NFL. Backup Mike Glennon is 5-18 as a starter in two seasons.
"(Sunday), even though we didn't play as well, guys fought right up until the end,'' Smith said. "And they weren't thinking about that pick or anything like that. And this week we're going to do the same thing. We're going to make decisions that give us the best chance to win by being able to look at players that we haven't seen that may come into the equation a little bit. But we're going to do everything we possibly can to win the game and let everything else take care of itself."