The 2013 NFL season is over. Time to plan for 2014.
Like so many other teams, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers spent the past month preparing for the offseason and the 2014 NFL draft.
With new head coach Lovie Smith taking over and the hiring of general manager Jason Licht, a new team philosophy is coming to Tampa.
The Bucs have questions at a number of positions. It is unclear whether quarterback Mike Glennon possesses the skills necessary to compete at the NFL level. The Bucs have yet to find an answer to their floundering pass rush.
While Smith and Licht are sure to explore the free-agent market with approximatley $17 million in cap space, the path to long-term success in the NFL starts with the draft.
Unfortunately, the Bucs' options are very limited. They have only five picks on account of trading their third-round pick for cornerback Darrelle Revis and their sixth-round pick for tackle Gabe Carimi.
This mock draft was assembled based on player scouting, team needs and likely player availability. Each pick will include scouting profiles and profile videos where available.
Is this a position of need for the Buccaneers? Not really. Should the Bucs pull the trigger if Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins is there at the seventh overall pick? Absolutely.
A trade may be the more ideal move here given the other players available in this range and the needs of the Buccaneers. Wide receiver is not as big a need for the Bucs as some other positions.
However, Watkins is the unquestioned top receiver in this year's draft. No other receiver can touch his combination of fluidity, hands and route running.
Watkins is not the fastest straight-line receiver, but he doesn't need to be. He can change gears and use his exceptional body control to get open and come down with the ball consistently.
Buccaneer fans may ask, "Why draft a wide receiver?" True, the Bucs have wide receivers Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams.
However, Jackson is 31 years old and could begin mentoring an heir apparent. There have been questions about Williams' dedication to the game, as reported by Pewter Report's Scott Reynolds.
Watkins would bring a big-play dimension the Bucs currently lack on offense. If the Bucs don't intend on drafting a quarterback, giving QB Mike Glennon another toy wouldn't hurt.
It's no secret the Bucs have issues rushing off the edge. It's been a problem since defensive end Simeon Rice left the team after the 2006 season.
There are some great pass-rushers entering the 2014 draft, and the Bucs could get a great value pick in Stanford DE Trent Murphy.
Murphy displays an impressive blend of strength, technique and length that will make him a coveted prospect in this year's draft.
Murphy's production at Stanford really speaks for itself. For his collegiate career, he nabbed 32.5 sacks and 52.5 tackles for a loss.
At this point, the Bucs have no guaranteed starters at defensive end. DE Adrian Clayborn struggled to bring pressure in Greg Schiano's scheme and was coming off a major knee injury.
The rest of the Bucs edge-rushers, including former second-rounder Da'Quan Bowers, failed to provide any consistency despite the attention given to All-Pro defensive tackle Gerald McCoy.
While the Bucs are sure to address the defensive end position in free agency, Murphy is too good a prospect to pass up.
The Bucs offensive line is a mess. Despite the gobs of money former Bucs GM Mark Dominik invested in it, the line was a glaring weakness in 2013.
Arguably the biggest problem is at the guard position, which is unfortunate given it is the position eating up the most salary-cap space. The only way for the Bucs to address this issue this year is through the draft.
This year's draft is not stacked at the guard position, so the Bucs would have to wait until the mid-rounds to take one. UCLA guard Xavier Su'a Filo may be the Bucs' best bet in the fourth round.
At 6'4" and 304 lbs, Su'a Filo is not the mauler Bucs guards Carl Nicks and Davin Joseph are known for being (when healthy). Su'a Filo is known more for his quick feet and athleticism.
We don't know what sort of blocking scheme new Bucs offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford will run with for the 2014. Fortunately, Su'a Filo is versatile enough to play either in a man- or zone-blocking scheme.
Drafting a guard like Su'a Filo would not be a clear indication that the Bucs are looking to dump either Nicks or Joseph. However, given the lack of production from the guard position over the last two years, the Bucs need to do a better job of hedging their bets.
The Bucs' linebacker unit was probably the most consistent and productive group on the team in 2013. Since the Bucs stand to lose three of their linebackers in free agency, they need to bolster their depth and possibly find a new starter.
As I discussed in my 6 Late-Round Sleepers article last week, Illinois outside linebacker Jonathan Brown is a great fit for the Bucs. He's instinctive and can play in coverage.
If Lovie Smith returns the Bucs to the Tampa 2 scheme, Brown is a perfect cog to put in the strong-side linebacker spot. Like Bucs All-Pro OLB Lavonte David, he's a little undersized, but instincts, speed and technique can more than make up for any size deficiency, as David proved.
The Bucs are likely to lose at least one of their three impending free-agent linebackers: Adam Hayward, Jonathan Casillas and Dekoda Watson. Hayward is a mediocre linebacker but a special teams stud.
Casillas might be the best linebacker of the three, but he has yet to play a full 16-game season. Watson is freakishly athletic and scheme versatile, but given his ability to pass rush, he may want to find a team that will let him play more 3-4 outside linebacker.
At the very least, Brown would give the Bucs some legitimate depth following the likely departure of some of their linebackers. However, he could very well be the answer they're looking for in whatever defensive scheme Lovie Smith establishes.
The tight end position is easily the Bucs' least talented overall. While Bucs offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford may not prioritize the tight end position, the Bucs need to address the deficiencies in the unit.
The biggest issue the Bucs face with their tight ends is the lack of blocking prowess and size. Baylor TE Jordan Najvar could remedy both of those problems.
At 6'6" and 265 lbs, Najvar is just plain big. He can be a very effective blocker and has big, soft hands.
By no stretch of the imagination would Najvar be considered fast. He won't outrun anyone, save for large defensive linemen. He also didn't catch many balls while at Baylor, which does not feature the tight end position in its offense.
However, Najvar brings a size element the Bucs simply don't have at tight end. TE Tim Wright proved to be very productive when he was put in the starting spot. However, at 6'3" and 220 lbs, he's a glorified wide receiver.
Former fourth-round pick Luke Stocker is likely looking at his last chance to prove himself worthy of a roster spot his year, having done next to nothing to this point. TE Tom Crabtree spent most of 2013 off the field with injuries, so he may be able to rebound this year.
Big-bodied tight ends offer scheme versatility and a large target for quarterbacks. Najvar would definitely be a gamble, but he's one worth taking in the seventh round.