Tampa Bay Buccaneers Mock Draft: 7-Round Predictions After Combine
New uniforms won't be the only facelift that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will undergo before they hit the field for the 2014 season.
With new sheriffs in town, the Bucs are expected to make plenty of personnel changes, especially on an offense that ranked dead last in the NFL in yards per game in 2013. And now that the NFL Scouting Combine is in the books, the draft picture has probably become just a little bit clearer for some of the 32 teams.
As the Bucs' look forward to the draft, it's hard not to notice that their lack of picks gives them limited flexibility. This makes the possibility of trading back in the first round an extremely attractive option for general manager Jason Licht and head coach Lovie Smith.
For the sake of this mock, let's assume that the Bucs have indeed taken advantage of the opportunity to move down, trading with the New York Giants for the 12th overall pick. In return, the Bucs have hypothetically received the Giants' picks in the second and fourth rounds, giving Tampa Bay two selections in each of those rounds.
This scenario is likely in the event that either of the top two offensive tackles—Texas A&M's Jake Matthews or Auburn's Greg Robinson—are still on the board at the seventh overall pick, since left tackle is a huge need area for the G-Men.
Now that the Bucs have restocked their cupboard of picks in our mock-draft universe, let's take a look at how those picks could be best used.
1st Round (12th Overall, from NYG)
Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
Mike Glennon was serviceable in 2013, especially for a rookie third-round pick who was thrown into the fire four games into the season. However, the new decision-makers at One Buc Place have been clear that they are not committed to Glennon as the starter in 2014.
Playing in Fresno State's spread offense, Carr enjoyed a statistically prolific season in 2013 (5,202 yards, 50 touchdowns and just eight interceptions). He then followed it up with a solid showing at the Senior Bowl and proved at the combine that he has the speed and athleticism to make plays with his legs, if needed. Throw in Carr's close, longtime friendship with new offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford, and you just might have a recipe for a new gunslinger in Tampa Bay.
Carr is widely regarded as the last of the top-tier quarterbacks projected to be taken in the first round. If the Bucs are able to move back a few spots, pick up a couple of extra picks, and still land their new franchise quarterback, their 2014 draft could be off to a solid start.
2nd Round (38th Overall)
Xavier Su'a-Filo, G, UCLA
The Bucs were supposed to have the best tandem of guards in the NFL in 2012. Davin Joseph was coming off a Pro Bowl appearance and Carl Nicks was given a lucrative contract in free agency. After two seasons riddled with injuries and poor performance, Joseph and Nicks may be done as starters in Tampa, and the Pewter Pirates find themselves again needing to upgrade the position.
Su'a-Filo possesses an outstanding blend of power and athleticism. If new offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford wants to be physical in the run game, putting the 6-4, 305-pound Utah native in front of Doug Martin and Co. would be a long stride in the right direction.
As a pass-blocker, the first-team All-Pac-12 mauler has the strength to handle bull-rushers and the agility and balance to hang with quicker defensive linemen. With rumblings that Nicks might actually never play again, it helps that Su'a-Filo plays the same spot at left guard (per National Football Post).
A receiver with speed will also be a likely target at this pick, but with names like Brandin Cooks (Oregon State) and Odell Beckham Jr. (LSU) likely off the board, I would expect the Bucs to wait and get better value at the position later in the draft.
2nd Round (43rd Overall, from NYG)
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
No matter who is under center for the Bucs in 2014, he's going to need more dynamic weapons in the passing game.
Converted receiver Tim Wright was a bright spot last season, but his ceiling may be limited to that of being a reliable possession target rather than a playmaker who can stretch opposing defenses. Having spent more than their share of division games watching their own defense get dominated by the likes of Jimmy Graham and Tony Gonzalez, it's time for the Bucs to add their own elite pass-catcher at the position.
With his massive size (6'6", 265 pounds) and long arms (33 3/4"), Seferian-Jenkins brings outstanding physical ability to the table and could be a serious matchup problem for opposing defenses.
Though the medical professionals at the combine found a stress fracture that will keep "ASJ" out for the next six to eight weeks (including the Huskies' pro day on April 2), he's well worth this pick if he's fully recovered. Detractors might also point to a DUI arrest in March of 2013 (and subsequent one-game suspension) as another concern, but Seferian-Jenkins has made it clear that he has learned from the incident.
4th Round (100th Overall)
Kareem Martin, DE, North Carolina
The Bucs are expected to address their desperate need for a pass-rusher in free agency, but that won't necessarily keep them from trying to add another one through the draft. Adrian Clayborn has been a consistent presence on one end, but he's yet to establish himself as a pass-rushing threat (13.5 sacks in 35 career games). The Da'Quan Bowers experiment hasn't exactly worked out, and though rookie William Gholston showed some promise last year, the need is still there for a legitimate threat off the edge.
Martin has the size and skill set of a prototypical 4-3 end, and wields great punch and power at the point of attack when bull-rushing opposing tackles. Combined with an adequate first step and good overall speed, Martin has the physical tools to get after the quarterback at the next level, provided he can fire on all cylinders with more consistency.
4th Round (109th Overall, from NYG)
Robert Herron, WR, Wyoming
In Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams (provided he can avoid further off-field issues), the Bucs have a pair of reliable possession receivers who can move the chains and use their size in the red zone. What they desperately need in the passing game is a receiver with speed and quickness who can take the top off the defense, create separation and make defenders miss after the catch.
What Herron lacks in ideal size (5'9", 190 lbs) he makes up for with explosiveness and big-play ability. Willing to make the tough catch over the middle despite his size, Herron possesses the quickness, soft hands and body control that would make him an ideal fit as a slot receiver.
Herron turned plenty of heads in Mobile with an impressive week of work at the Senior Bowl, proving he could create separation and beat some of the best defenders in the country. It's doubtful he'll ever become a No. 1 target, but he would bring to the table exactly what new offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford is looking for in his scheme.
5th Round (131st Overall)
Walt Aikens, CB, Liberty
Darrelle Revis is entrenched at one corner spot (though the local CBS affiliate in Tampa reports fresh rumors to the contrary), and last year's second-round pick, Johnthan Banks, looks to be capable enough of handling the starting duties across the field as the No. 2 corner.
After that, there's not much depth for the Bucs at the position. Rumors have already begun about the possibility of free agent Charles Tillman—who played for Lovie Smith in Chicago—joining the Bucs this offseason.
But even if that happens, the Bucs need to continue to build depth at the cornerback position.
A transfer from Illinois, Aikens dominated much of his FCS competition en route to being invited to two postseason all-star games. The Charlotte, NC native impressed in the Medal of Honor Bowl but really made a name for himself with a strong showing in Mobile during Senior Bowl week. Aikens drew rave reviews for his combination of size, speed and technique.
If he's still on the board at this, the Bucs would be wise to add him to the fold.
7th Round (198th Overall)
Cornelius Lucas, OT, Kansas State
The seventh round is the place for taking chances on prospects with great potential. Lucas fits that definition with his massive frame, checking in as the tallest player at the NFL Combine at 6-foot-8, and weighing 316 pounds. An inconsistent performer during his career in Manhattan, the New Orleans native sports a huge wingspan that can frustrate pass-rushers.
Though a stress fracture in his foot will keep him out six-to-eight weeks and is definitely a concern, Lucas has the kind of natural athletic ability that's worth taking a flyer on in the last round of the draft.