TAMPA, Fla. — When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected tight end O.J. Howard out of Alabama in the 2017 NFL Draft, general manager Jason Licht talked about how the team didn’t think there was a chance he’d be available when they made their first pick.
You could call Howard their NFL Draft crush from that year, and while Howard’s career hasn’t gotten off to the start everyone hoped, he’s certainly shown what he’s capable of bringing to the field when healthy.
Coincidentally, the 19th pick in the 2017 selection meeting is the lowest first-round pick the team has had during Licht’s tenure, up until now. Picking 32nd overall on day one this year, Licht may have to wait a while before he gets to turn in a card in 2021. This makes knowing where the team might go with their first pick a little more difficult than most years. Something Licht is OK with, given how they got here.
“It’s a good problem to have,” he said Wednesday. “When we have draft meetings during the fall − November − and we always throw out, ‘Well, if we’re picking at 20, or if we’re picking at 22,’ and this year we’re saying, ‘We want to be picking at 32.’ Every year you want to be picking at 32 and here we are at 32. So, I’m happy we’re picking here, and I want to pick here every year, obviously. But it does make it a little more challenging in terms of predicting what players will be there, for sure.”
This brings up the question, could there be an O.J. Howard-type player in this year’s draft? Someone Licht and the Bucs have their eye on without much thought the player might actually be available?
Picking 32nd makes it even less likely a player like this will make it to Tampa, but maybe Licht would love a guy so much he’d trade up? With this in mind, James Yarcho and I decided to tackle this possibility on the Locked On Bucs Podcast, with each of us coming up with different names.
“It has to be Kadarius Toney, right?” asked Yarcho. “He could stretch the field, he could work out of the middle, he could run those short routes, he’s a playmaker with the ball in his hands…he’s phenomenal.”
Trading up in this year’s NFL Draft to land a playmaker with day-one impact ability and future potential to become a mainstay in the franchise certainly makes a lot of sense. The team is obviously a Super Bowl contender for 2021-22 and without the presence of Antonio Brown, they’re missing someone who can work in the short area of the field the way AB did last season.
Also, while the wide receiver class is fairly deep, the draft class as a whole is rather shallow. Moving up at the expense of some later 2021 draft capital isn’t going to hurt as much as it might in other years, and if the Buccaneers could secure another draft pick or two for 2022 it would help out when looking at a much deeper talent pool next offseason.
Licht is no stranger to making draft trades, it’s just a matter of having the right motivation. Could Toney being available in the mid-twenties be the motivation he needs? We’ll speculate a bit longer on topics like these, with the answer just one week away.
For more on this story and all things Tampa Bay Buccaneers, check out the Locked On Bucs Podcast.