Commentary | Healthy Demps makes it easier for Bucs to select Bridgewater

adell@bradenton.comApril 23, 2014 

Memphis Louisville Football

Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (7) makes a pass to receiver Senorise Perry (32) during the fourth quarter against Memphis in their NCAA college football game in Louisville, Ky., Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013. Louisville held off a late Memphis rally to win 24-17. (AP Photo/Garry Jones)

GARRY JONES — AP

TAMPA

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers seemed out of the quarterback sweepstakes a few months ago.

The winds of winter howled that none of the top three elite signal-callers would be available for the Bucs, who hold the seventh pick in next month's NFL Draft.

A short time later, now Tampa Bay could have the pick of the litter.

Teddy Bridgewater, who emerged out of January as the best QB, most likely will be available.

It makes you wonder if scouts suddenly thought they were watching ghosts when they turned on the Bridgewater game tape.

The Louisville product has since been lambasted and has been slipping down draft boards for a poor pro day, during which critics noticed wobbly passes. Others lamented his "fragile" size, which lists him at 6-foot-2, 214 pounds.

Bridgewater also is said to have a below average hand-span, which some speculate he tried to cover up by wearing gloves at his pro day.

The availability of Johnny Manziel and Blake Bortles at No. 7 is uncertain, but Bucs head coach Lovie Smith is his own man and is said to covet Bridgewater.

It puts Smith in a quandary -- or perhaps right where he wants to be.

Texas A&M's Mike Evans, rated the second-best receiver in the draft, is likely going to be available and would fill Tampa Bay's biggest need after shipping out Mike Williams to Buffalo's Siberian wasteland.

But the 6-5, 231-pound Evans doesn't have breakaway speed, so why create another Vincent Jackson?

There is a solution.

Smith held his first offseason minicamp Tuesday, and Jeff Demps looked like the Jeff Demps of old.

The former Florida speedster could hold the key to what the Bucs do on May 8th.

Lovie called Demps the fastest man in the NFL, clocked at 4.26 seconds in the 40-yard dash. There are reports he ran a 4.19 40, which would make him inhuman.

The best part about Demps is that he could be to the Bucs what NFL Hall of Famer Bob Hayes was

for the Dallas Cowboys.

Demps missed nearly all of last season after undergoing groin surgery, so he'll be fresh this season.

Lovie says you win at least two games a season with special teams, and Demps could be his new Devin Hester, who was the league's top return man when he played for Smith in Chicago.

Demps can do what Williams, Jackson and Evans can't do -- create space and run away from you.

Demps' presence means the Bucs can take a risk at quarterback without losing too much at receiver if that move fails.

Demps allows Smith to do what he really wants to do, which is pick a quarterback for insurance. He hasn't forgotten what happened when he lost Jay Cutler and was fired in his last season at Chicago.

To play for Tampa Bay's new offensive coordinator, Jeff Tedford, quarterbacks must be mobile and possess a strong arm.

Bridgewater is definitely mobile, but some question his arm. But critics said the same thing about Joe Montana and called Tom Brady on the spindly side coming out of college. They're on the money just as often as they're off the mark.

Quarterbacks are falling from the sky, and if Manziel and Bridgewater are both on the board when Lovie picks, it's hard to imagine he wouldn't select one.

If it's just Bridgewater, can you see the coach passing him up for the other passers?

Demps' presence says you don't.

Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7056. Follow him on Twitter @ADellSports.

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