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).