7-Round 2014 NFL Mock Draft for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
That being said, I don't think the Bucs are done just yet in free agency under the new regime of general manager Jason Licht and head coach Lovie Smith.
The Bucs can also bring in a big haul in the 2014 NFL draft.
Currently, as the the Bucs ponder what to do in the 2014 NFL draft, the team only has five draft picks. They lost the fourth- and sixth-round picks due to trades.
I would expect the Bucs to trade back at some point to try and get back those picks in this draft. I believe I have found the perfect trading partner as well.
That would be the Green Bay Packers. The NFL announced on Monday that the Packers will receive two compensatory picks (third and fifth round) for the losses of wide receiver Greg Jennings and outside linebacker Erik Walden to free agency last year.
That being the case, the Bucs and Packers could make a trade in the third round of the 2014 draft, in which the teams would trade spots in the draft order of that round, plus the Bucs would receive a fourth-round pick and a sixth-round pick in return.
Round 1: Quarterback Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M)
Weight: 207 pounds
Will the Bucs really get a chance to select Johnny Football in the first round? I believe they might. The Bucs have pick No. 7 in the first round, and I think there is a reasonable chance that almost every player who have been linked to the Bucs in some earlier mocks drafts will be gone by that point.
That would include linebacker Khalil Mack from Buffalo and wide receiver Sammy Watkins from Clemson.
Manziel would not have to play right away, especially since the Bucs signed quarterback Josh McCown as a free agent.
He would be able to learn Jeff Tedford's offensive system and, like Aaron Rodgers did at Cal under Tedford, be a multiple threat with both his arm and his legs.
Manziel might not have the arm strength of Rodgers, but he makes big passing plays on the run like No. 12, plus is a much bigger threat when he's running.
The former Heisman Trophy winner also had unbelievable stats while playing in the toughest conference (SEC) in the nation.
In his career, Manziel threw 63 touchdowns versus just 22 picks for 7,820 yards. No. 2 was just as dangerous with his legs, as he ran for 2,169 yards and 30 touchdowns.
The Bucs do have Mike Glennon as a backup to McCown as well, but Manziel is much better suited for Tedford's offensive system, and will be the future face of the franchise.
Round 2: Linebacker Yawin Smallwood (Connecticut)
Weight: 246 pounds
The success of the Tampa 2 defense can be directly linked to the production of the middle linebacker in it. When the Bucs ran the Tampa 2 so well for over a decade, which included their victory at Super Bowl XXXVII, the middle linebacker position was manned primarily by Hardy Nickerson and Shelton Quarles.
Both Nickerson and Quarles were very good against the run, plus they had the ability to cover the deep middle of the field against the pass. So did middle linebacker Brian Urlacher of the Chicago Bears, when he played in that very same defense under Lovie Smith.
In round 2 of the 2014 NFL draft, the Bucs might be able to get their middle linebacker of the future, if they select Yawin Smallwood.
Smallwood can be a tackling machine, as his stats at Connecticut prove. He had 332 tackles, 27 tackles for a loss, 8.5 sacks, one fumble recovery (for a touchdown) and five forced fumbles.
In addition to playing the run well, Smallwood was also really good in coverage, as he had two interceptions (one for a touchdown), plus had 17 passes defended. No. 33 was consistently able to cover tight ends while dropping into zone coverage.
The Tampa 2 needs a number of parts to be successful. It all starts with a good pass rush, but the back seven on defense also have to play important roles. The middle linebacker has to have the attributes of someone like Smallwood to really be successful.
That is, playing the run and pass equally well.
Round 3: Wide Receiver Jared Abbrederis (Wisconsin)
Weight: 195 pounds
"Jared Abbrederis. I like him. I think he's a really good X-receiver. Can be a three or a four in the league. He's smart and he runs good routes. He's got good quickness."
Landry also added this:
"He's sneaky vertical. Listen, he's one of the many guys, maybe as many as 16, 17 or 18 wide receivers that I think can be starters eventually in this league out of this draft class."
Abbrederis had a great career at Wisconsin (202 receptions for 3,140 yards and 23 touchdowns), but if you want to watch just one tape, watch the Wisconsin-Ohio State game from earlier in 2013. Abbrederis went up against one of the top comebacks in this year's draft class, Bradley Roby, and he just dominated the Buckeye throughout the game.
Abbrederis had 10 catches for 207 yards and a touchdown in that contest.
The former Badger can also return punts.
Round 4: Defensive End Ben Gardner (Stanford)
Weight: 277 pounds
The Bucs added defensive end Michael Johnson in free agency to help improve their pass rush, which is a key component of the success of the Tampa 2 defense.
The Bucs can add another part by drafting defensive end Ben Gardner from Stanford. Gardner suffered a torn pectoral injury late in the 2013 season versus Oregon State which ended his season, but he displayed nice pass-rushing ability before his injury throughout his career.
In four years as a member of the Cardinal and three years as a starter, Gardner had 106 tackles, 34 tackles for a loss, 17.5 sacks, eight pass deflected and three forced fumbles.
Gardner was also a team captain at Stanford. No. 49 played with a high-motor effort and was a tenacious, physical defender against the run and the pass.
Round 5: Tight End Jordan Najvar (Baylor)
Weight: 256 pounds
Tight end Jordan Navjar from Baylor played at the East-West Shrine game, and he really opened some eyes as he stretched the seam downfield catching the ball during some practices.
When he played at Baylor, Najvar was not used as often as his athletic ability would suggest, as he only had 35 catches in his career for 311 yards and four touchdowns.
The tight ends at Baylor don't get a lot of opportunities in the Baylor offense.
It's also worth noting that Najvar was originally recruited to Stanford, before transferring to Baylor. That says a lot in itself, as Stanford has become a haven for recruiting quality tight ends who end up moving on to the NFL.
Coby Fleener and Zach Ertz are some recent examples.
Round 6: Offensive Lineman Wesley Johnson (Vanderbilt)
Weight: 297 pounds
The Bucs have made some massive changes across their offensive line recently. The team has signed three free-agent offensive linemen by inking tackle Anthony Collins, guard Oniel Cousins and center Evan Dietrich-Smith to come and join the Bucs.
The team also released both Davin Joseph and Donald Penn, plus traded Jeremy Zuttah to the Ravens.
You can never have enough quality offensive linemen in the NFL, and the Bucs can add another in the 2014 NFL draft by selecting the very versatile Wesley Johnson from Vanderbilt, who also played at the East-West Shrine game.
Johnson played center, guard and tackle over his career as a Commodore, which includes 51 starts—a school record. Johnson was also a team captain.
Johnson was also named to the All-SEC first team at left tackle by the coaches in 2013. Johnson may have a better future in the NFL at guard or center, but he obviously manned the tackle position well enough versus top-notch competition in the SEC.
Round 7: Safety Hakeem Smith (Louisville)
Weight: 185 pounds
The Bucs may look for some more depth in the defensive backfield by drafting a safety from Louisville. No, not Calvin Pryor, who will most likely be selected in the first round, but by taking the other safety for the Cardinals, Hakeem Smith.
Smith was a four-year starter at Louisville and had a nice career. He had 290 tackles, 14 tackles for a loss, two sacks, four interceptions, 23 passes defended and five forced fumbles.
Smith needs to add some bulk at the NFL level, but has played both free and strong safety and has special teams experience.
The presence of Pryor overshadowed the play of Smith, but No. 29 was a solid tackler who also made his fair share of big hits, just like Pryor.