Buccaneers Draft Stock Watch: 10 Players Rising and Falling on Bucs' Board
With the combine in the rear-view mirror and a slew of pro day workouts already wrapped up, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' draft picture is becoming clearer every day. As the most active team in free agency so far this offseason, the Bucs have addressed plenty of needs and clarified other areas that still need attention.
Here's a look at some prospects who could be passing each other as they rise or fall down the Bucs' current draft board. Whether it's due to a change in team needs, disappointing offseason workouts, or a combination of both, these players are likely heading in opposite directions (listed in order from highest to lowest projected draft position).
Rising: Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
The close relationship between Derek Carr and Bucs offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford has been well-documented. That's been enough to keep Carr's name showing on Tampa Bay's radar by itself, but Carr's performance in offseason workouts might be having an even greater impact on Tampa Bay's draft plans.
Carr showed his athleticism with impressive times at the combine, and followed it up with an impressive pro day workout. Depending on how the board falls, don't be shocked if the Bucs pull the trigger on him with the seventh overall pick.
Falling: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Finding another corner to team up with Alterraun Verner and Johnthan Banks was a high priority just a couple of weeks ago. But after signing Mike Jenkins, the Bucs aren't likely to look for a corner in the early rounds, making guys like Darqueze Dennard slide down the board.
Adding to that fact is that while he has great timed speed, Dennard isn't an elite natural athlete. Relying too often on being physical down the field in college, the NFL's rules might not let him get away with as much. Roll all of these things into a bunch, and Dennard goes rolling down the Bucs' board.
Rising: Xavier Su'a-Filo, G, UCLA
There's been plenty of overhaul already along the offensive line, but there's still more to be done. Replacing Jeremy Zuttah with Evan Dietrich-Smith is an upgrade at center, and Anthony Collins is a younger, cheaper option than Donald Penn. While re-signing Jamon Meredith and signing Oniel Cousins is a start, the Bucs need more at the guard position.
Xavier Su'a-Filo is arguably the most athletic guard in this year's class. He shows the strength and power to win at the point of attack, as well as the quickness and agility to take on linebackers at the second level. With the glaring need at guard becoming more obvious, Su'a-Filo should find himself shooting up the Bucs' draft board.
Falling: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
Anthony Collins will slide into the starting role at left tackle, and it seems like the Bucs' new regime might be content with Demar Dotson on the right side. Since Collins is younger and cheaper than Donald Penn would have been this season, I don't see Tampa Bay spending a high pick on a tackle.
Even if they wanted to, Cyrus Kouandjio's stock has seemingly gone into a nosedive since January. After struggling mightily in the Tide's Sugar Bowl loss to Oklahoma, the former blue-chip recruit reportedly had serious medical concerns from multiple teams at the combine. Add it all up, and I doubt you'll see Cyrus very high on the Bucs' wish list.
Rising: Joel Bitonio, OL, Nevada
As the Bucs demonstrated last year, depth and flexibility are vital, especially on the offensive line. Injuries are inevitable, so having players who can be effective at more than one position is extremely valuable.
One of the fastest risers over the past few weeks has been Joel Bitonio, who has the versatility to play either guard or tackle. He doesn't have the imposing size or natural physical ability you look for from a dominant tackle, but his motor never stops and he's fared well when going up against some of the nation's better pass-rushers. Don't rule him out for the Bucs on the second day of the draft.
Falling: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
Even though they brought in Brandon Myers in free agency, the Bucs could still target a dynamic playmaker at tight end early in the draft. One possible target could be heading south on the team's draft board, however, thanks to injury concerns.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins has the massive frame and physical skills that teams look for in a "new-breed" tight end, but a stress fracture in his foot kept him from participating in the combine, and will force him to miss the Huskies' pro day, as well. Combine that with a DUI arrest in March of 2013, and "ASJ" could find himself slipping down more than just the Bucs' board.
Rising: Marcus Smith, DE, Louisville
Even though the Bucs paid big money for free agent defensive end Michael Johnson, there's no such thing as having too many pass-rushers. It's not out of the realm of possibility for Tampa Bay to add one in the draft, even in the early rounds.
He may be a bit undersized to be an every-down 4-3 end, but Marcus Smith simply jumps off the tape with his overall playmaking ability. An impressive performance at Louisville's pro day didn't hurt, either. If Lovie Smith falls in love with Smith's athleticism and nose for making big plays in opposing backfields, he'll likely be moving fast up the board.
Falling: Trent Murphy, OLB, Stanford
There can be a huge disconnect between college production and NFL effectiveness for pass-rushers, often due to their inability to translate to a particular scheme at the next level. For Trent Murphy, falling into that category looks like a possibility.
Though he made big plays with relative consistency for the Cardinal, Murphy struggled to stand out at the Senior Bowl as a stand-up edge rusher in a 3-4 or a hand-in-the-dirt end in a 4-3. He reportedly got pushed around by opposing blockers despite his large frame, which could turn teams off. If the Bucs aren't confident that he can effectively translate to their scheme, he could topple down their rankings sheet.
Rising: Jaylen Watkins, CB, Florida
Though the signing of Mike Jenkins might keep the Bucs from taking a corner at the top of the draft, adding a corner in the middle rounds is still a possibility. Jenkins has had injury issues in the past, and you can never have too many good corners in a division that features Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Cam Newton at quarterback.
Of the three Gator corners who have been highly touted in this year's draft class, Jaylen Watkins (the brother of Clemson WR Sammy Watkins) had seemingly been trailing in third place until their recent pro day. Watkins reportedly outshined both of his teammates (Louchiez Purifoy and Marcus Roberson), showing scouts that he might be the most NFL-ready of the bunch. It wouldn't be surprising if Watkins is slowly climbing up the board at 1 Buc Place.
Falling: Aaron Lynch, DE, USF
Everybody loves a local hero, so projecting a top prospect to stay in the same city to continue his career in the pros can be entertaining. But it doesn't often work out that way, nor does it look like it will for Lynch.
After showing promise as a freshman at Notre Dame, Aaron Lynch transferred to USF to be closer to his family. After sitting out a year per NCAA regulations, Lynch was expected to blow up the American Athletic Conference with his freak athleticism and pass-rush ability. While he did show some flashes, his performance was largely underwhelming. He followed that up with a disappointing pro day workout, making him a prime candidate to fall down the board.