Henry Ruggs, Jerry Jeudy or CeeDee Lamb alongside Mike Evans and Chris Godwin in Tampa Bay, shredding secondaries all over the NFL while catching passes from Tom Brady. Whew. Give me a minute.
Does selecting any of the “Big 3” wide receivers fill Tampa Bay’s biggest need? No. But sometimes the best move you can make in a draft, especially in the first round, is simply to take the best player available on the board. If the run on tackles starts early and leaves the cupboard bare for the Bucs at No. 14, don’t be surprised if Licht looks for playmakers instead.
“A lot of things go through your mind, that’s why you have to stack the board correctly in your mind, in our minds, Bruce and I at the end, how we like these players,” Licht said during Thursday’s Zoom conference call with the local media. “You take need into effect when you stack the board but you don’t want to stack a player at a position of need too far above a player that is maybe a little bit better at his position. Sometimes the best picks, and I think I’ve said this in the past, sometimes the best picks have been the ones that weren’t a position of need, but it clearly was the best player and a year down the road you were very happy and you can’t see life without that particular player. Needs change quickly from April-May to July, August, September.
“It wouldn’t be a bad thing to have another great receiver on this team, I think Bruce and Byron and Tom would get that player involved and it would be an asset for us.”
It seems somewhat unlikely that Tristan Wirfs, Mekhi Becton, Jedrick Wills, Andrew Thomas, Derrick Brown and Javon Kinlaw are all off the board in the first 13 picks, but it is absolutely a plausible scenario given the teams and needs ahead of Tampa Bay in the first round. That’s why it is so important for the Bucs to keep an open mind about the possibilities, as one of the top wide receivers could easily be the best player available if the board doesn’t fall their way.
“Every year you want to work that particular part of the process the same,” Licht said. “You don’t want to push players too high at a position of need just to get that position. Across the league it’s 50-50 whether a first round pick is gonna be a player or not three years down the road. It’s 50-50 from the first pick down to the 32nd pick so you want to make sure you manage you board the best you can, you want to manage risk and you just want to make sure you get a good football player.”
Of course, that isn’t to say Tampa Bay won’t be perfectly content to ignore the receiver position until at least Round 2 or 3 either. Although we haven’t seen a ton of Scotty Miller or Justin Watson so far in the NFL, but both have looked promising in the less than 200 career pass play snaps they’ve each been a part of.
“We like our receiver group,” said Licht. “We obviously like Mike and Chris, we believe we have the best tandem in the NFL, arguably the best tandem in the NFL, and there’s not a lot to say that,” Licht said. “We think Scotty still has a bright future, Justin Watson who stepped up late in the year and we have some young guys that we liked from what we saw. Not just in games, they flashed, but in practice late in the year. Bruce has a very good background and reputation, well-deserved, in developing young talent whether they’re undrafted or late round draft picks or street free agents. We feel pretty good with what we’ve got. Optimally you’d like to upgrade depth at every position.”
Jon Ledyard is PewterReport.com's newest Bucs beat writer and has experience covering the Pittsburgh Steelers as a beat writer and analyzing the NFL Draft for several draft websites, including The Draft Network. Follow Ledyard on Twitter at @LedyardNFLDraft