TAMPA – Ever wonder what kind of state the Buccaneers might be in right now had they done what many of their fans and followers were hoping in 2014 and drafted either Johnny Manziel or Blake Bortles?
It’s hard to know for sure, of course, but it’s highly unlikely they would be on the brink of what many believe will be the most exciting season the Bucs have had since they won the Super Bowl.
They certainly wouldn’t have one of the most celebrated young quarterbacks in the game in Jameis Winston, who was celebrated yet again this week by the folks at FanRagSports.com.
In its rankings of the 25 best players in the NFL under the age of 25, Winston came in at No.19. You can read the entire story here on our parent site, and it’s well worth the read.
In it you’ll find that long before he ever had the chance to draft him, general manager Jason Licht’s intuition told him Winston was the quarterback for the Bucs and few can argue he was right about that.
Manziel has all but disappeared from the football landscape and Bortles is desperately trying to hang on in Jacksonville, where even adequate quarterback play would probably make the Jaguars playoff contenders.
Meanwhile, here in Tampa, the Bucs have become one of the chic picks to get back to the playoffs in 2017 and the fact that Winston is running the show is the biggest reason for that.
Granted, Winston is far from a finished product, but he’s surrounded by some of the best offensive weapons in the game and the Bucs probably wouldn’t have as many of those if they had drafted Manziel or Bortles.
Think about it; in order to have drafted Bortles, who went third overall in the 2014 draft, the Bucs would have had to trade up, which likely would have prevented them from grabbing wide receiver Mike Evans at No. 7.
And if they had waited, still drafted Evans at No. 7 and then tried to move back into the first round to get Manziel, who was drafted 22nd overall, they would have had to unload a couple other assets.
One might have been their second-round pick, which turned to be tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, whose early-injury history forced the Bucs to take another look at Cameron Brate.
Or one might have been the third-round pick they used to get running back Charles Sims or the fifth-round pick they used to get offensive lineman Kevin Pamphile, who is now the Bucs starting left guard.
No matter how you shake it, the Bucs clearly came out the better for passing on Manziel and Bortles and waiting on Winston, who only figures to climb higher and higher in rankings such as FanRag’s 25 at 25.