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Scouting Combine: Mum at the top


INDIANAPOLIS – Their words were guarded. As expected.

Such is the nature of the NFL Scouting Combine, and when it came to the subject of quarterbacks, such was really the nature when officials from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Tennessee Titans spoke Wednesday.

Buccaneers Head Coach Lovie Smith.

Buccaneers General Manager Jason Licht.

Titans Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt.

Titans General Manager Ruston Webster.

All spoke early on Day 1 of the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine, with Tampa Bay holding the No. 1 overall selection in the 2015 NFL Draft and the Titans at No. 2. All talked quarterbacks, with Jameis Winston of Florida State and Marcus Mariota of Oregon the most-talked about players in this year's draft.

But if you're reading for a clue about the direction of the two teams – and about what that will mean for the Jaguars -- none gave away much of merit.

And there weren't many hints, either.

"There are several players who would be worthy of that spot, so I don't want to rule anything out right now," Webster said Wednesday morning at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Licht was equally non-specific.

"We've done a lot of work on all the players in the draft this year so far, some more than others, and we're very pleased with things that we've found out about all the players that we have under consideration," he said. "So that's where we are."

That was the gist of the message from Buccaneers and Titans officials, with both saying they have scouted the top two quarterbacks and both leaving all options open – including using the selections on one of the quarterbacks, selecting another position, or trading the selection.

"We like having options," Smith said. "All options are on the table for us."

Licht said the Buccaneers are leaning toward using the No. 1 selection rather than a trade, adding, "We're going to let it play out here" and also admitting that yes, the Buccaneers did have a favorite for the No. 1 selection.

"It would be an insult to sit here after two rounds of draft meetings and watching every play … to say 'Okay, we have two guys tied at the top,''' he said. "We have a favorite, but we want to let the process play out."

The coming months are expected to be full of speculation about what the Titans and Buccaneers will do at No. 1 and 2. This concerns the Jaguars a great deal because they hold the No. 3 overall selection.

"I don't want to set a deadline here, put a false deadline in place right now," Licht said. "We're still two plus months out, so we have a lot of time yet."

If the Buccaneers and Titans each select a quarterback, many mock drafts speculate that the Jaguars might select Southern California defensive end/tackle Leonard Williams, widely considered the best non-quarterback in the draft.

Williams is a player of rare versatility, with the ability to play the run and rush the passer from end and tackle, and many mock drafters speculate the Titans might pass on quarterback to take him.

"When you have a guy like that who can do both, that's rare," Webster said.

Smith, entering his second season as the Buccaneers' head coach, said the team has the option of moving forward with third-year veteran Mike Glennon as the starter and said Glennon can play at a high level in the NFL. The team earlier this offseason released Josh McCown.

Webster and Whisenhunt talked about their quarterback situation, too, each saying that while the team likes Zach Mettenberger – who started seven games as a rookie last season – they have not made any promises to him.

"I'll be straightforward about the process because I know he's going to be reading a lot of things and hearing a lot of things," Webster said. "I was not able to give him a commitment. I don't feel we're in a position to commit to anything. We like Zach, but I'm not ready to commit to anything in terms of who we're going to pick at No. 2 right now."

Whisenhunt said the Titans will compare where Mettenberger was at the end of the season to "these young guys in the draft."

"With the way the year went and where we are in the draft, you have to put the time in on the guys that are coming out," he said, adding, "That's the thing in the NFL now, having one of those guys. Everybody is working to do that. We're in a position this year where we have an opportunity to get that position settled for us."

Some have speculated that McCown's release means the Buccaneers will take a quarterback No. 1, and most mock drafts have the Buccaneers selecting Winston. Smith on Wednesday reiterated what he said recently regarding Winston; he isn't initially overly concerned about the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner's off-field issues.

"We have a lot more research to do, and we'll do that, but with the information we have right now, we haven't taken him off of our list or anything like that," Smith said.

Buccaneers and Titans officials on Wednesday all said they planned to meet with both quarterbacks not only at the combine, but extensively between now and the draft. Teams are not able to meet with prospects before the combine.

Licht also said he liked that Winston and Mariota – the last two Heisman winners – reportedly both will throw during combine drills this week.

"They are both ultra-competitors, so it will be cool just to see them compete against each other," he said.

Also around the combine:

*Off-field issues are a huge topic this week in the wake of a season that featured players such as Ray Rice, Greg Hardy and Adrian Peterson in the news for off-field transgressions. Most general manager and coaches say the only approach is to continue background searches and vetting processes as they have done in the past – extensive conversations, research, etc. "Often times it's something you just didn't know," San Francisco 49ers General Manager Trent Baalke said. "That's not going to change. … This is an inexact science. There are going to be mistakes that are made."

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