Stars and letters are aligning in Tampa Bay. Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have tied the knot, in a union of initials, and Bruce Arians has unofficially declared 2020 and 2021 as his team’s contention window. The Buccaneers have officially entered the championship race, with a tremendous amount of star power on the offensive side of the ball, and a diverse allotment of young talent on defense. The time to compete is now, and with this updated Buccaneers 7-round mock draft, Brady can cement a familiar home-field advantage in January.
In my first Buccaneers mock draft, I overcompensated a bit in terms of draft needs to account for the uncertainty before the free agency period. At the time, the Buccaneers had a lot of moving parts, and it was hard to predict how they would go about settling things. Now, the smoke has cleared, and we have a clearer picture of what the Buccaneers’ team needs are, heading into the 2020 NFL Draft.
Offensive tackle is the team’s top need, with defensive end coming in second. Edge rusher and quarterback are no longer primary needs, as they were listed in the previous mock, but Tampa Bay could add future starting potential at both spots. Secondary needs that still exist include wide receiver, running back, safety, cornerback, and offensive line depth. However, the Buccaneers have enough young talent where they can afford to make some choices as to which positions to omit. With just seven selections, they’ll have to be judicious, but they can still come out of the NFL Draft as winners.
Round 1, Pick 14: Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama
Offensive tackle is far and away the top need for the Buccaneers after free agency, as mentioned above. If one of the top four offensive tackle prospects is still available at the #14 pick, the Buccaneers’ draft philosophy becomes quite simple: Simply pick the remaining member of the big four. In this draft scenario, that remaining member was Jedrick Wills. In another mock, it could be Andrew Thomas, and in another, it could be Mekhi Becton.
With that being said, it doesn’t quite matter who the pick is because all of them have the traits to succeed at the next level, and all of them have scheme versatility and traits that suit the Buccaneers’ offense. Wills is particularly enticing. His power, functional athleticism, and tireless consistency at right tackle will allow him to start at a high level from Day 1 as both a pass blocker and a run blocker, while also allowing Donovan Smith to stay at left tackle, where he played in 2019.
Other picks considered: WR Henry Ruggs III, DE AJ Epenesa
Round 2, Pick 45: Ross Blacklock, DE, TCU
The Buccaneers re-signed Ndamukong Suh late in March, solidifying one side of their defensive end unit, but there’s no set-in-stone starter across from the three-time All-Pro. William Gholston provides depth and starting experience, but the Buccaneers could stand to add more rotational upside and youth at that position, and several interior linemen fit Tampa Bay’s versatile 3-4 scheme well.
One such lineman is Ross Blacklock, an incredibly explosive lineman who profiles well as a pass rusher in a 3-4 end alignment. Blacklock can generate incredible burst for his 6-foot-3, 290-pound frame, and he’s also very twitchy and aggressive at the point of attack. Blacklock needs to work on adding control to his game and refining his technique, but he has all the athletic traits to be a spark plug on the line right out of the gates. With veteran mentors all around him, his development as an eventual starter could be catalyzed.
Other picks considered: QB Jacob Eason, WR Brandon Aiyuk
Round 3, Pick 76: Donovan Peoples-Jones, WR, Michigan
It’s almost incomprehensible that a team with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin is picking a receiver within the first three rounds. Still, the Buccaneers’ lack of proven depth, as well as the everlasting value in adding weaponry to an offense, demands it to be a possibility. The Buccaneers have made it clear that they’re investing a great deal in the next two years, so they have to load up on talent wherever they can. If talent is the endgame, then Michigan’s Donovan Peoples-Jones is a great fit for the Buccaneers.
Peoples-Jones has the athleticism, and the vertical receiving ability to both get open and capitalize on in-air opportunities downfield, making him a versatile match for Arians’ offense. Many will question Peoples-Jones’ lack of consistent production at the collegiate level, but Peoples-Jones was hampered by bad play-calling and bad quarterback play with the Wolverines. He’ll have none of that in Tampa. Peoples-Jones is raw, but with Evans, Godwin, and Justin Watson with him in the receiving room, he won’t have to be exposed to action right away. With 4.48 speed and a 44.5-inch vertical, he has the freakish athleticism needed to become a premier threat next to Evans and Godwin with a little development.
Other picks considered: S Jeremy Chinn, RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire
Round 4, Pick 117: Brycen Hopkins, TE, Purdue
The Buccaneers don’t need at tight end; OJ Howard and Cameron Brate are both under contract for at least two more years, and on paper, they form one of the more formidable tight end duos in the NFL. Despite their name recognition and playing in one of the most prolific passing offenses of 2019, Howard and Brateonly combined for 770 yards and five touchdowns, despite Howard playing in 14 games and Brate appearing in all 16.
The Buccaneers shouldn’t be going out of their way to add another tight end to the rotation in the 2020 NFL Draft, but if an opportunity presents itself, they have to pounce on value where they can get it. This pick is a prime example, as Purdue’s Brycen Hopkins dropped to Tampa Bay’s first fourth-round pick. Hopkins is a receiver first at tight end, offering impressive fluidity and natural nuance up the middle of the field. In a pass-heavy offense, he has tremendous upside, and he could make one of the former tight ends trade bait in due time.
Round 4, Pick 139: Cole McDonald, QB, Hawaii
No changes here from the previous Buccaneers mock, except that this selection is now made one round earlier. On the mock draft big board, Cole McDonald would’ve likely been available in Round 5, but I think he goes in this range on draft day. Past the top five or six quarterbacks, things get fairly subjective from an evaluation standpoint. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of teams valued McDonald’s combination of athleticism, arm talent, and fearlessness over the general monotony of the 2020 class. Perhaps I’d be even less surprised if Arians, with his aggressive passing scheme, saw a potential gem in McDonald.
McDonald is a competitor whose teammates rally around, and he has all the physical traits. A year or two learning under Brady and Arians is the best situation possible for McDonald, who could then hone his upside and become a starter in the latter portion of his rookie contract. McDonald, as it’s often been stated, is the wild card of the 2020 NFL Draft quarterback class. Arians has a fairly good track record with wild cards, and for this cheap price, it’s a high-upside deal too good to pass up.
Round 5, Pick 161: Lamical Perine, RB, Florida
Ronald Jones II took a step in the right direction in 2019, but the Buccaneers can still add a more diverse array of talents to their running back room. Specifically, they could add a more physical, resilient back to pair with Jones’ explosiveness and open-field burst.
Florida’s Lamical Perine is a player I very much like for this role; he doesn’t have breakaway speed, but that’s not his game anyway. Perine, at 5-foot-11, 216lbs, wins with contact balance and toughness, but he also has the straight-line explosiveness and vision to make the most out of holes he sees. He also provides above-average receiving skills and would fit well in Arians’ offense as a versatile, reliable playmaker with a road grater’s mentality.
Round 6, Pick 194: Justin Herron, OG, Wake Forest
The Buccaneers may have found their long-term starter at guard opposite from Ali Marpet, as Alex Cappa started 13 games last season and provided some consistency on the interior. That said, the Buccaneers need a contingency plan in case Cappa regresses in 2020, and even if he doesn’t, they could still use more depth at the position. Enter Wake Forest’s Justin Herron, an athletic tackle who projects as a guard at the next level. Herron provides a solid foundation of traits with his functional mobility, and if he can spend his developing years adding power to his game, he could be an increased contributor down the road.
We’re now in the second decade to come since the Tampa Bay Buccaneers first and last Super Bowl title. Jason Licht has compiled a record of 34-62 in his six seasons with the team, with just one winning season to boast. Change was promised with the hire of head coach Bruce Arians, and while the Buccaneers showed growth in 2019, they’re far from a finished product. It’s up to Licht to compound that growth with a solid offseason and put the Buccaneers back in NFC South contention. This Buccaneers 7-round mock draft would be a good start.
Before we get into the pick selections, however, let’s take a look at the top team needs for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A lot depends on free agency, where the Buccaneers will be able to use their league-pacing cap allocations to infuse their roster with established talent. But the Buccaneers have a lot of ground to cover in their improvements, and in the 2020 NFL Draft, they’ll be able to get the young, budding talent they might not be able to get in March.
One year into the Bruce Arians era, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are still in the process of rebuilding, but all things considered, they aren’t too far from contention, at least if they make the right moves this offseason. Bruce Arians’ offense has a good talent base, and the defense has a solid core of young players at each of the three levels. That said, there are a lot of holes to fill in-between, which we’ll layout below.
Primary Needs: Offensive Tackle, Defensive Line, Edge Rusher, Quarterback
The Buccaneers, first and foremost, need to supplement the trenches on both sides of the ball. On offense, veteran tackle Demar Dotson will likely leave in free agency, creating a hole at right tackle, and the entire line overall could stand to have more depth. On defense, tenured players like Ndamukong Suh and Jason Pierre-Paul will also see their contracts expire, and with both well over 30 years old, Arians would be wise to reset in 2020.
Additionally, there exists a need at quarterback, but the need for a quarterback itself isn’t as dire for clarity at the quarterback position. There’s still a chance Jameis Winston could return for the Buccaneers in 2020, and there’s always a chance he could iron out his turnover issues. But Pro Football Network insider Benjamin Allbright reported in January that indications pointed toward veteran signal-caller Philip Rivers joining the Buccaneers in the bay, along with a potential early-round quarterback, like Jacob Eason.
Were Winston to return in 2020, he’d have some qualities of a starting quarterback. But the Buccaneers don’t appear to keen on settling, so look for them to treat the quarterback position as a primary need in the 2020 offseason, whether through the NFL Draft or in free agency.
Secondary Needs: Running Back, Cornerback, Safety, Linebacker, Wide Receiver, OL Depth
Past the primary needs, there are several positions at which the Buccaneers can expand their talent base. On offense, despite the team’s promising core, there’s still room to round out the weapon lineup, with room for added versatility and dynamic ability at running back and wide receiver. The offensive line could also use an added layer of depth, with primary interior depth piece Alex Cappa presumably taking on an increased role as a starter.
On defense, the Buccaneers can afford to fill out the second and third levels behind the substantial changes set to be made on the defensive line. At linebacker, Devin White is an exciting centerpiece with blue-chip potential. However, they could feasibly add to that position group, as well as safety, where there’s still much to prove from incumbent starters such as Jordan Whitehead and Justin Evans.
Cornerback is a wild card position for the Buccaneers. It’s still a need, in terms of depth, but in any Buccaneers 7-round mock draft, I wouldn’t address it until later on. Sean Murphy-Bunting and Jamel Dean are two young cornerbacks with exciting athletic potential, and Carlton Davis’ ball production uptick in 2019 was representative of his growth as a starter. The Buccaneers have a lot of upside in that department, but they’d do well to add someone who can rotate into the slot and allow the cornerbacks with length and athleticism to thrive on the boundary.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 7-round mock draft
Round 1, Pick 14: K’Lavon Chaisson, EDGE, LSU
With Jason Pierre-Paul and Ndamukong Suh both entering free agency this year, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers need to supplement their defensive line with young talent. There exists a void on the edge across from Shaquil Barrett, who figures to get a payday from the Buccaneers after his career year, and on the interior line, where Vita Vea is the only player of utility set to reprise his role in 2020.
Given these circumstances, the defensive line was the priority at this pick over other needs. Initially, I thought about picking Iowa’s A.J. Epenesa; at 6-foot-6, 280, Epenesa has the size to potentially fulfill a hybrid role on the front four, not unlike Detroit Lions stalwart Trey Flowers. But watching Epenesa’s tape at edge, he lacked the athletic twitch sought after in an even-front end, and his power didn’t appear consistent enough to compensate.
The sought after twitch was eventually found, however, on the tape of LSU edge rusher K’Lavon Chaisson.
Chaisson isn’t as sturdy as Epenesa, but he offers considerably more athletic upside, and with a number of similar plus physical traits. Chaisson is 6-foot-4, 250, with great length, which he can use to establish separation against offensive linemen. Chaisson has a torrid first step on pass-rushing snaps, and his ability to shrink his surface area and bend around the edge is visibly present. Epenesa is far more technically refined than Chaisson, but Chaisson’s play speed and athletic profile screams limitless potential, something a team like Tampa Bay, a team in the long-term game, can’t pass up.
Other picks considered: WR Henry Ruggs III, EDGE AJ Epenesa, OT Mekhi Becton, CB CJ Henderson
Round 2, Pick 45: Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin
Offensive weaponry isn’t a massive issue for the Buccaneers, who have Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Justin Watson at wide receiver, as well as O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate at tight end. That said, the Buccaneers could use more reliability out of their backfield, where Ronald Jones II, a slightly-framed back, is the only legitimate long-term option available. They could re-sign Peyton Barber, but overpaying for a replaceable back doesn’t seem like a cost-effective choice.
Jones showed tangible growth as the season went on, and he provides value with his burst and explosive potential. But the Buccaneers would do well to preserve his best traits by getting a back who can function as a workhorse to compliment Jones. The thunder to Jones’ lightning, if you will.
It just so happens that Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor doesn’t just bring the thunder. He brings the storm itself.
That sounds dramatic, of course, but it’s an excellent way to contextualize the complete nature of Taylor’s game. Taylor’s collegiate production causes many to assume that he’s a standard power back, but that assumption sections off major portions of his game. Taylor has the strength, durability, and hunger for contact of a power back, but he has the long speed, receiving ability, and elusiveness through contact of a feature player. While there are some concerns about his longevity, given the tread already on his tires, he’d be another exciting versatile weapon for a well-stocked Buccaneers offense.
Other picks considered: QB Jake Fromm, DL Ross Blacklock, WR KJ Hamler, CB AJ Terrell
Round 3, Pick 76: Lucas Niang, OT, TCU
We’ve hit Round 3, and the Buccaneers still need a starting right tackle. Don’t panic. There are plenty of options left on the draft board, and none more compelling than TCU offensive tackle Lucas Niang. There’s a chance Niang doesn’t make it this far, but his hip surgery in October could cause teams to devalue his initial utility. It’s a good turn of events for the Buccaneers, who need a starting right tackle and have found him with this pick.
Niang is huge, to put it simply. He stands at over 6-foot-6 and almost 330 pounds, and yet, he moves like he’s sixty pounds lighter. Niang has excellent functional mobility for his size, with both the lateral explosiveness to mirror edge rushers on the outside, and the acceleration and cruising speed to be a force blocking down the field.
Niang has some cleaning up to do, in terms of both footwork and hand technique, but he has the raw traits as a tackle, with the mobility to match NFL athletes, and the strength to put them in their place. Niang is an excellent value pick for the Buccaneers at 76, and provided that his hip surgery doesn’t keep him off the field, he should be able to see action and start at some point in 2020.
Round 4, Pick 114: Hakeem Adeniji, OL, Kansas
This Buccaneers 7-round mock draft selection provides Tampa Bay with some much-needed depth and flexibility on the offensive line, and there’s also a chance that Kansas’ Hakeem Adeniji could factor into the team’s starting situation at some point down the line.
Adeniji possesses some similarities to Niang, the team’s previous pick. He has similarly imposing length, standing at almost 6-foot-5, with a wingspan over 80 inches. Adeniji also has fairly proficient mobility, and while he can be a bit choppy working the edges, he gets around well enough.
The big selling point with Adeniji, on top of his good combination of size and mobility, is his experience and intelligence. Adeniji was the Jayhawks’ starting left tackle for four full seasons, from 2016 to 2019, although he moved around the line on occasion. On tape, Adeniji shows brilliant, precise hand placement at times, which he uses to compensate for relatively lacking strength and power.
Adeniji will need to add more power to his game at the NFL level, and his lacking frame thickness has some thinking he’ll transition to guard in the NFL, a position he played at the Senior Bowl. Whatever the case, Adeniji has utility for the Buccaneers, who need depth at both tackle and guard. He has the experience at tackle, and a promising profile at guard, giving him the potential to be a versatile depth piece at a crucial position.
Round 4, Pick 139: Raequan Williams, DL, Michigan State
The Buccaneers got a high-upside edge rusher with versatility in the first round of this 7-round mock draft, but they still need to address the interior defensive line. At this point, the best one can hope for is a lineman with some athletic traits and developmental potential, and that’s what Michigan State’s Raequan Williams brings to the table.
Williams is a considerable work in progress, as he plays too tall too often, and limits his leverage by keeping his pad level too high. He’s also a bit thin-limbed at 6-foot-4, 304, contributing to inconsistencies with power and push. That said, Williams has very good length for the position, and his get-off at the snap is impressively quick. If he can lower his pad level, and attack the midsection more with his initial punches, he can start up the ladder to NFL contribution. For the Buccaneers, he’s depth at the very least, with rotational starting potential.
Round 5, Pick 161: Cole McDonald, QB, Hawaii
It was mentioned earlier that the Buccaneers have expressed interest in Washington Huskies quarterback Jacob Eason this offseason. Eason wasn’t available for the second-round pick in this Buccaneers 7-round mock draft. At that juncture, Jake Fromm was the only potential starter available, and that felt like a reach.
So here we are. It’s Round 5, and the Buccaneers, who have presumably signed Philip Rivers as a bridge quarterback in free agency, need a developmental signal-caller to sit behind him. At this stage, Hawaii’s Cole McDonald fits that profile about as well as anyone else.
McDonald is a volatile player, at a position where volatility isn’t exactly valued (See: Jameis Winston). But in McDonald’s volatility, there is an undeniable upside. He possesses good mobility, enticing arm talent, and a fearless gunslinger’s mentality. He has the strength to put velocity on his passes with ease, and he has the elasticity to fit the ball into some tight windows from different platforms.
When McDonald is in rhythm, he can make some of the prettiest throws from this class. His deep passing is especially impressive in this sense. But in McDonald’s mental game, there exists room for significant refinement, as his trigger is often late, and he has frequent lapses in decision making, due to an over-reliance on his arm (although this got better as the 2019 season went along). Sitting at least a year behind a mentor presence like Rivers could do wonders for McDonald’s development if he can handle the pace of the NFL.
Round 6, Pick 194: Amik Robertson, CB, Louisiana Tech
Do you like production? Well, you’ll like Amik Robertson then. Robertson was the NCAA’s pass deflection leader in 2019 with 16, and throughout his career with Louisiana Tech, he logged 14 interceptions and 34 deflections.
Robertson’s size (5-foot-9, 185 pounds) and his general level of competition might push him back on Day 3. Still, he projects well as a slot cornerback at the next level, with the proportionate length, physicality, and ball skills to be a force in the right role. He compliments the Buccaneers’ young cast of cornerbacks well, and he could see rotational action in his first year.
Buccaneers 7-round mock draft recap
That’s a wrap! Let’s take a look at how we were able to address the Buccaneers’ needs in this mock:
- EDGE: Drafted LSU edge defender K’Lavon Chaisson in Round 1
- DL: Drafted Michigan State defensive lineman Raequan Williams in Round 4
- OL: Drafted TCU tackle Lucas Niang in Round 3 and Kansas’ Hakeem Adeniji in Round 4
- QB: Drafted Hawaii developmental quarterback Cole McDonald in Round 5
- RB: Drafted Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor in Round 2
- CB: Drafted Louisiana Tech cornerback Amik Robertson in Round 6
The Buccaneers only had seven total selections, so some secondary needs, such as safety, linebacker, and wide receiver, inevitably had to be passed on for the time being. One also would like to have more clarity at quarterback after this point, but if the Buccaneers do sign Philip Rivers, as some believe they will, then McDonald is an excellent choice to sit behind him.
What do you think about this Buccaneers 7-round mock draft? Feel free to let us know on Twitter at @PFN365!
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