While the Buccaneers are currently staring the 1st overall pick in next year's draft right in the face with two games left in the season, there is a debate among some fans and media members as to what position the Bucs should address with that pick. A majority feel a quarterback is the necessity early. The remaining few feel that a quarterback is no good with the NFL's worst offensive line.
I am of the firm opinion that if a team does not have the quarterback, they should be constantly looking for that quarterback. The Bucs are a team without any starting caliber quarterback. Yes, their offensive line is awful, but being in position to draft a highly touted quarterback should not happen often.
An example most offensive line fans would give is how good the Cowboys have become now that they have invested three separate 1st round picks in offensive linemen the past few years. While their line is extremely good, it does help that they have a very good quarterback to protect. A good example of this is to look to how the Cowboys offense played in the games where Brandon Weeden was leaned upon as the quarterback. In games with Tony Romo, the Cowboys average nearly 29 points per game, compared to just 17 points per game with Weeden at the helm. Same offensive line, different quarterbacks.
While some folks might want the Bucs to draft an offensive lineman with the 1st overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, the smart move for the Bucs is to pick the quarterback they want with that pick, and look to improve their offensive line in a multitude of other ways.
The Bucs are already looking to see if Demar Dotson can be their long-term answer at left tackle. Dotson is easily the Bucs best offensive lineman, and if he can become their left tackle, which I think he can, their toughest need to fill along their offensive line is filled.
The Bucs will need to address their right tackle spot if Dotson makes the move to the left side permanent. Rookie Kevin Pamphile is a definite possibility, but if he doesn't work out, right tackles can be found in many places.
There aren't many quality offensive tackles slated to be free agents in 2015, but the 2015 NFL Draft looks like it could be fairly deep at that position. While most Bucs fans are focused on the 1st round pick, the Bucs will also have very early picks in every other round as well. This draft is deep enough for the Bucs to still grab a very good tackle prospect at the top of round 2.
Another option for the Bucs at the top of the 2nd round could be an interior lineman. Florida State's Cameron Erving has been fantastic since making the transition from tackle to center this season for the Seminoles. If Dotson does lock down the left tackle spot, grabbing Erving to play center might not be a bad option for the Bucs if they feel they need an upgrade over Evan Dietrich-Smith.
My main concern with the Bucs offensive line is at both guard spots. Fortunately, there is no need to draft a guard within the top 5 draft picks. The Bucs might have failed in free agency with offensive linemen a year ago, but that shouldn't scare them away from being active again. One high-priced free agent I would pounce on if I were the Bucs would be 49ers guard Mike Iupati. If available, Iupati is young, an All Pro, and would instantly upgrade the Bucs interior offensive line. The Bucs could easily find the money to sign Iupati by simply releasing Logan Mankins and his $6.75 million he's due in 2015 and 2016.
The draft is another way to improve at guard, but not in the 1st round. Quality guards can normally be found in the 3rd round. The Lions drafted All Pro Larry Warford in the 3rd round just 2 years ago. The Raiders drafted starting guard Gabe Jackson in the 3rd round last May. For the Bucs, they could take another shot on drafting a guard in the middle rounds and allow that rookie to battle with Patrick Omameh and Kadeem Edwards for the other starting guard spot...after signing Iupati of course!
As you can see, there is no need to panic and feel an offensive lineman must be selected with the Bucs 1st round pick. The Bucs should draft a player for their offensive line to protect with that 1st round pick and then follow this road map to improving the rest of their offensive line for next season.
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