Buccaneers Mock Draft: Fresh 7 Round Predictions Post Week 1 of Free Agency
Free agency is nearly a week old, and the landscape of team needs across the NFL has changed dramatically as teams have brought in expensive new additions.
Perhaps no team in the league has gone through more of an overhaul than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who have added at least six new starters so far. Key needs at defensive end (Michael Johnson), offensive line (OT Anthony Collins, C/G Evan Dietrich-Smith) and cornerback (Alterraun Verner) were addressed, and QB Josh McCown has been brought in to give the Bucs a veteran starter.
Throw in a new tight end (Brandon Myers) and defensive tackle (Clinton McDonald), and the Bucs will have plenty of new faces to go with those new uniforms in 2014.
Looking forward to the draft, there are still a few needs that Tampa Bay will need to address. For the sake of these projections, imagine the first six picks of the first round playing out like this (in any order):
- South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney
- Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater
- Auburn OT Greg Robinson
- Clemson WR Sammy Watkins
- Buffalo OLB Khalil Mack
- UCF QB Blake Bortles
If that's the case, Texas A&M OT Jake Matthews would likely be the consensus top player available, but the Bucs' signing of Collins might allow them to look in another direction. Tampa Bay would likely look to trade down, and they could be looking at multiple suitors in pursuit of names like Matthews, Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel or North Carolina TE Eric Ebron.
One possible dark horse for teams looking to trade into the top 10 is Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald, whose stock has skyrocketed over the past few months. A potential trade partner who could target Donald is the Dallas Cowboys, who pick 16th in the first round. Jerry Jones has proven in recent years that he's willing to move up for a key defender, and with Donald drawing comparisons to Warren Sapp, former Buccaneer defensive coaches Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli might spearhead the effort to go up and grab him (DT being one of Dallas' biggest needs).
For the sake of this mock, let's assume that Tampa Bay has traded down with Dallas to the 16th overall pick, acquiring the Cowboys' picks in the second and fourth rounds (pretty close to a perfectly even deal, according to this draft trade value chart).
16th overall (from Dallas)—Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
This is still a gut-feeling pick. McCown is 34 years old and was brought in on a two-year deal to help the Bucs win now. Combine that with the fact that the new regime has been noncommittal towards Mike Glennon, and you have a recipe for the Bucs targeting a franchise quarterback of the future.
It's no secret that Carr has a close relationship with Tampa Bay's new offensive coordinator, Jeff Tedford, and while sometimes too much can be made of such connections, I really think there's something to this one.
Carr would be drafted into a friendly situation with no pressure to start immediately. He could be brought along slowly by a coordinator with whom he's familiar, while McCown runs the show for a year or two. Aaron Rodgers, a Tedford disciple, benefited greatly from his time holding a clipboard, and Carr could do the same.
As a side note, if this pick happens, it's possible that the Bucs could look to deal Glennon to a quarterback-needy team on Day 2 of the draft. Both the Cleveland Browns and Jacksonville Jaguars have multiple picks in the fourth round and have very little depth at QB.
38th overall—LaMarcus Joyner, DB, Florida State
The signing of Verner locks up one starting corner spot for the Bucs, and last year's second-round pick, Johnthan Banks, looks capable of growing into a solid starter on the opposite side. What Tampa Bay needs (especially after losing out on free agents Charles Tillman and Captain Munnerlyn) is a capable slot corner.
Joyner has experience at both corner and safety, but his greatest asset is his knack for making big plays in various ways. As a blitzer off the edge or in coverage, Joyner constantly made big plays and created key turnovers for the national champion Seminoles, and that's exactly the type of player new Tampa Bay head coach Lovie Smith needs in his defense.
It's too early to compare, but Joyner has the skill set that could allow him to make an impact much like Ronde Barber did for years in Tampa.
47th overall (from Dallas)—Gabe Jackson, G, Mississippi State
The addition of Dietrich-Smith and the re-signing of Jamon Meredith gives the Bucs some flexibility on the interior of the offensive line, but there's still more to be done to improve one of the most disappointing units in the league last year. With Carl Nicks' status still up in the air, it might be wise for the Bucs to snag one of this year's top guards at this pick.
Jackson is athletic for his size and is a punishing run-blocker. He's one of the top three guards in this year's class, and there's a decent drop off at the position after him. Adding him to the fold would continue the new management's overhaul of the trenches.
69th overall—Donte Moncrief, WR, Mississippi
In a draft this deep, getting this high third-round pick instead a fourth-rounder was likely very important to the Bucs' new brass.
This year's receiver class is especially deep, so regardless of what happens in free agency the rest of the way, the Bucs with this pick should be in prime position to grab a player who can make an instant impact in the passing game.
A playmaker with an outstanding combination of size and speed, Moncrief would be the perfect pick for the Bucs here. He's fast enough to fit Tedford's "speed in space" philosophy, and his frame and skill set would allow him to slide outside and become the No. 2 receiver if Mike Williams' off-field issues continue to pile up next season.
As a slot receiver, Moncrief could wreak havoc on opposing defenses.
115th overall (from Dallas)—Jordan Tripp, OLB, Montana
The Bucs' depth at linebacker has taken a huge hit in free agency, as both Dekoda Watson and Adam Hayward have departed. The team did re-sign Jonathan Casillas, who started much of the season on the strong side, but he'll be returning from a season-ending knee injury. Signing former Patriot Dane Fletcher will help, but more needs to be done to shore up this unit.
Athletic linebackers with range, instincts and cover skills are essential in Lovie Smith's defense. Tripp has been one of the most impressive prospects through the all-star and workout circuit this offseason, showcasing his athleticism both on the field and in timed drills at the combine. Not lacking in confidence, Tripp would be the perfect addition to a skinny linebacking corps in Tampa Bay.
5th Round (131st overall)—Jalen Saunders, WR, Oklahoma
Again, the Bucs are looking for speed on offense, and there's plenty to be had in this year's class. There's also a need for an experienced, explosive return specialist, and Saunders fits the bill perfectly.
At just 5'9", 165 pounds, Saunders definitely doesn't have the size to be an every-down receiver, but he won't need to be. His quickness, fluid route-running ability and sure hands make him a perfect slot receiver. The Fresno State transfer could be especially dangerous in the screen game, getting the ball in his hands quickly with space to work.
Throw in his exceptional return abilities, and the Bucs could end up with one of the few fifth-rounders who can make an impact from day one.
198th overall—Matt Patchan, OT, Boston College
The seventh round should be used to grabbing players who have great ability but have yet to fulfill their full potential for whatever reason. Patchan, a Tampa native, could fall into the category.
A transfer from Florida (where he started out as a defensive lineman), Patchan followed Jim Addazio when he took the head coaching job at Boston College. Patchan's natural ability is undeniable, but multiple injuries (including suffering a gunshot wound) have hindered him throughout his college career.
The Bucs need to continue to build depth on the offensive line, and Patchan could project more favorably at the right tackle spot, where Demar Dotson is currently the starter. In his first year, Patchan wouldn't be counted on as anything but a reserve, but he could develop into a solid player who outplays his draft position.
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