Today, I will give a mock draft on the the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who continue to spend wisely in the open market that is going to set them up nicely in the draft making Jason Licht’s job a lot easier than anticipating. The Bucs have holes, but mostly needs to bolster up the depth chart with solid prospects around the secondary, receivers, and defensive line corps. Now, they do not have a fullback on the roster, but expect them to sign a veteran or draft one with one of their last picks.
First, with the Bucs first round pick they could either go after a cornerback, linebacker, or defensive line. Lots of people have Vernon Hargreaves III from the University of Florida coming back to Tampa, as he played his high school days at Wharton. Now with Mike Smith bringing a new defensive scheme that will allow Alterraun Verner, Jonathan Banks, and others to play more physical and in man-to-man coverage than Lovie Smith allowed them too do. So, they do not nee to waste a high pick like this on a corner. They should either trade back, but that is not an option here, so I have them selecting Sheldon Rankins. The Louisville defender is a big defensive tackle that will step in day one and make an impact next to Gerald McCoy. Rankins is good at stopping the run, but has a good skill set to get to the quarterback, which will help McCoy get more one-on-one action against linemen.
Next, in the second round, I could potentially see the Bucs drafting Karl Joseph from West Virginia, who is a fierce competitor. The Orlando native was a first round pick for me, but knowing about his knee surgery it dropped him into the second round, which suits him better. The Bucs are iffy in the strong safety department, but like I said again, new defensive scheme so it should help these players out, but Major Wright has been a big disappointment so far and is projected to be a roster cut. Joseph is the next Kam Chancellor and we all know how he makes that Seahawks’ secondary flow. The West Virginia product will step in and compete with Keith Tandy for the starting job.
In addition to the list, the Buccaneers will continue to fix this defense by drafting Kwon Alexander’s former LSU teammate in Deion Jones in the third round. The LSU product is just like Alexander and would be a key special teamer in his rookie year, but would be the backup at the strongside (SAM) linebacker position behind veteran Daryl Smith, which he could see passing down snaps as Smith is older and is declining in that area of the game. He will start in year two as Smith is on a one-year deal. Jones is smart, quick, good at wrapping up his tackles, and covering backs and tight ends. Interestingly, he has played safety also, but his future is at the linebacker position.
Furthermore, as we get near the middle of the draft (4th round), the Bucs will switch sides and select their first offensive piece in Malcolm Mitchell from the University of Georgia, which is the home of the Bulldogs. Mitchell is a former five-star recruit that has had a up and down career at Georgia because of two gruesome knee injuries. Now, when healthy, he is a monster that can catch a ball like no other in this draft with his long arms (32 7/8-inch) and big hands (10 3/8-inch). He is the perfect player for this offense as he is an explosive speed threat that is hard to bring down, plus he can run anywhere on the field and will make a defense tired. He already runs NFL routes as Georgia was a Pro-style offense. Mitchell would step in as the team’s kick and punt returner. Lastly, Evans, Jackson, Mitchell, and Bell are a solid top four that Koetter and Winston would love to have.
Meanwhile, as the fifth round comes up, the Bucs could add another pass rusher, but this time lets go to a lesser competition level. The Bucs go and select Southern Utah star, James Cowser. Cowser is a smaller size defensive end, but he does not let that phase him as he is strong as a bull. He will add more weight at the next level and he reminds me of a poor man’s Jared Allen. Cowser is a sack machine as he recorded 43, plus he is good at stopping the run as he knows how to stop running backs in the backfield with 80 tackles for a loss. He will join a nice defensive end group with Robert Ayers, William Gholston, Jacquies Smith, Howard Jones, and George Johnson.
Finally, the Bucs have two sixth round picks and no seventh round picks, so I have them first selecting UCLA’s center Jake Brendel and then with the second sixth round pick on Ryan Smith from North Carolina Central University. Brendel will be the backup center as he will look to become the starter once Hawley’s contract is up and would move Evan Smith as the backup guard, plus Brendel would play the guard spot, but is to small to play there, despite his Hulk like strength. Lastly, Ryan Smith can play the safety position, but will be either a nickel corner or outside corner with his current size. He is a solid tackler and can stick with any receiver due to his speed and quick hips, plus he can return the football. Versatility is what you want at the end of the draft as it helps build depth to a team.