The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have the frustrating designation of being a 4-12 team who picks seventh in the 2014 NFL draft—thanks to their strength-of-schedule. They're also currently a couple of picks short of the normal full deck, which makes it even more vital that they hit on the selections they do have.
Their lack of extra picks this year makes it unlikely that the Bucs will be able to move up from the seventh overall pick, unless they were to dip into next year's quiver of picks. Along those same lines, it might behoove Jason Licht and the Bucs' new personnel team to try and move back in this year's first round in order to recoup some of those missing selections.
As we head into the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine, here's a look at the top 32 players available based on the Bucs' needs and style of play.
1. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
A dynamic pass-rusher is arguably the Bucs' biggest need, and Clowney is an elite talent that only comes around once in a long while. If they're willing and able to pay a king's ransom to move up into the top three picks, Clowney would be an instant difference-maker.
2. Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
There's only one quarterback in this draft the Bucs should consider if they want to move on from Mike Glennon, and that's Bridgewater. His slight frame is a bit of a concern, but he's an outstanding overall prospect who would be worth moving up for if he starts to slide closer to the seventh overall pick.
3. Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Team needs could drive one of the best overall players in this draft down to the Bucs' pick. Matthews is the most polished, NFL-ready tackle in this class, and has experience at both tackle spots. Donald Penn turns 31 before the 2014 NFL season begins, and he could be a cap casualty if the Bucs decide to grab a tackle at the top of the draft.
4. Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
If Matthews is off the board, Robinson would be a stellar consolation prize. He's a more punishing run-blocker than Matthews, and has the mean streak that offensive line coaches love to work with. At this point, there's a decent chance that Robinson goes before Matthews, but if he's there, Jason Licht and Lovie Smith should pull the trigger.
5. Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Vincent Jackson is 31, while Mike Williams is coming off a season-ending hamstring injury and has had a minor scuffle with the law this offseason. Watkins would give the Bucs an electrifying playmaker in the passing game who has the speed to take it the distance and the size and physicality to be their No. 1 target of the future.
6. Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
If the Bucs stay at the seventh overall pick, Mack would be their best option if they want to grab a pass-rusher. He's a bit undersized for a full-time 4-3 end, but Mack is an elite overall athlete who has the speed, quickness and technique to be dominant off the edge.
7. Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
If the Bucs end up moving down a few spots, Ebron could be the target. The most dynamic tight end prospect in this year's draft, Ebron would give Mike Glennon a valuable target to pair with Jackson and Williams.
8. Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
If they want to target a pass-rusher in a trade-down, Ealy would make a lot of sense. He has the perfect frame for a full-time 4-3 DE, and is a very balanced defender against both the run and pass.
9. Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
Evans isn't on Watkins' level as far as speed and quickness, but his skill set is very similar to Vincent Jackson's. He uses his frame effectively to shield defenders and get open even when covered, making him a dominant force in the red zone. Glennon wouldn't mind having another big body like Evans to throw to in 2014.
10. Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
If the Bucs trade down and end up missing out on their top target areas of great need, they could end up looking to add a top corner. Johnthan Banks made strides as a rookie in 2013, and Darrelle Revis seemed to finally be playing at 100 percent later in the season. However, the Bucs face too many three-wide sets to not upgrade their nickel spot. Gilbert is an elite cover man with good size and great return skills, as well.
11. Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
The Bucs could go with Dennard if they target a corner in a trade down, as well. If Gilbert is off the board, or if they prefer a corner with a more physical style of play, Dennard would be a good fit.
12. Dee Ford, DE, Auburn
Ford is the dark-horse target if the Bucs want to trade down for a pass-rusher. He's undersized, but his stock is soaring after a dominant week at the Senior Bowl. Ford can bend the edge well and could wreak havoc in passing situations.
13. Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
Barr might be the better overall athlete, but his skill set wouldn't translate to the 4-3 as well as Ford's. He's still an intriguing prospect who could play the Sam linebacker spot on first and second down, while moving down to rush off the edge on passing downs.
14. Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
The Bucs could end up targeting a tackle if they move back into the middle of the first round. Lewan's stock has dropped a bit since the beginning of the 2013 season, but he's still a solid all-around player who should go in the top 20.
15. Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
Much like Lewan, Kouandjio saw his share of struggles in 2013. However, he still has elite athletic ability and has starting experience at both tackle spots against the nation's top competition in the SEC. His versatility could be attractive to the Bucs if they trade down into the teens.
16. Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
The Bucs could still target a big-bodied receiver if they trade back in the first round. Benjamin is extremely raw and has trouble with his concentration at times, but his monstrous frame and long-striding speed make him a dangerous threat.
17. Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
If they move down too far to grab Ebron, Amaro would a solid consolation prize at tight end. Lining up all over the field for the Red Raiders, Amaro creates matchup problems for opposing defenses much like Jimmy Graham does for the rest of the NFC South.
18. Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
Roby would be another viable option if the Bucs want to bolster their stable of corners. His suspension for the 2013 season-opener might raise some character concerns, but Roby's speed and natural athletic ability are enough to warrant first-round consideration.
19. Odell Beckham, Jr., WR, LSU
If the Bucs are looking to add a slot receiver in the latter part of the first round, Beckham would be the perfect fit. His amazing ball skills and tightly-packed frame make him a reliable target over the middle and in third-down situations. His return skills help his value, as well.
20. Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
A perfect fit as a slot corner, Verrett could be of interest to the Bucs if they trade down—or back into—the latter part of the first round. He's a bit undersized, but he makes up for it with toughness and great technique.
21. Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
One option at tackle to keep an eye on is Martin, who impressed scouts with a stellar performance at the Senior Bowl. Martin proved he can hang with elite pass-rushers, silencing concerns that he might have to slide inside to guard at the next level.
22. David Yankey, G, Stanford
With Carl Nicks' injury issues and Davin Joseph's disappointing performance last season, targeting a guard early isn't out of the question for Tampa Bay. Yankey flourished in 2013 after being moved from tackle and is the nastiest run-blocker in this year's class.
23. Marqise Lee, WR, USC
The Trojan is another option if Jason Licht & Company want to go the receiver route in the late-first round. Lee's 2012 tape is astounding, and a muddy quarterback situation led to a disappointing 2013 campaign. One of the most explosive receivers after the catch in this class, Lee can be an elite playmaker with a solid quarterback in place.
24. Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
This year's corner class is extremely deep, which will give the Bucs plenty of targets to consider in the late-first and early-second round range. Fuller burst onto the scene with a stellar performance against top-ranked Alabama in his first game of the season, and built on that success throughout the season. He could have boosted his stock even more if he hadn't been forced to pull out of the Senior Bowl due to injury.
25. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
Another play-making target at tight end, Seferian-Jenkins could be of interest to the Bucs if they trade back into the late-first round. Though a suspension last year stemming from a DUI arrest will raise some character questions, he has the physical skills to be a dynamic weapon at the next level.
26. Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
Rookie Akeem Spence was impressive last year, but an arrest this offseason wasn't the best way to endear himself to the new regime. If Lovie Smith is looking for a new DT to pair with Gerald McCoy, Hageman could top his list of options. A classic boom-or-bust prospect, Hageman has an imposing frame and great physical tools, but he needs to improve his technique.
27. Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
If Tampa Bay wants to go with a less-risky pick at defensive tackle, Donald could be an option. Another rising star thanks to a dominant week at the Senior Bowl, Donald is a perfect fit for the 4-3.
28. Tim Jernigan, DT, Florida State
The Bucs could stay in-state and target one of the best defenders from Florida State's championship defense. Jernigan is another defensive tackle who would fit perfectly in Lovie Smith's defensive scheme, and might even be available when Tampa Bay picks in the second round.
29. LaMarcus Joyner, CB/S, Florida State
Joyner is as versatile a playmaker as you'll see in this year's class of defensive backs. With the ability to hang in man coverage in the slot, slide back to safety or get after the quarterback, Joyner has drawn comparisons to Buccaneer legend Ronde Barber.
30. Gabe Jackson, G, Mississippi State
Another solid option if the Bucs want to target an upgrade at guard, Jackson was a dominant force in the nation's best conference. Tampa Bay took Davin Joseph in the late-first round, and could possibly make a similar pick to replace him in 2014.
31. Trent Murphy, DE, Stanford
The Bucs should still have some options at defensive end as their second-round selection comes near. Some wonder if Murphy can be successful as an every-down DE in a 4-3, but he has the frame to make the switch if he can develop the skills to match.
32. Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee
If they go a different direction with their top pick, addressing offensive tackle might become a priority with the Bucs' next pick. Not "Tiny" in the slightest, Richardson enjoyed a successful career facing some of the nation's top pass-rushers in the SEC, and could still be available at the top of the second round.
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