Tampa Bay Buccaneers Mock Draft Roundup
With the 2014 NFL draft just days away, the internet's repository of mock drafts has reached critical mass. The draftniks have changed their minds so many times that former "first overall picks" have slipped to the second round, and former sleepers are wide-awake and headed for a top-10 selection.
The Buccaneers' perceived prospects for this year's draft have endured a roller-coaster ride of expectations. A diverse array of players has been projected at the seventh pick, from quarterbacks to wide receivers to edge-rushers.
While much debate has been made over the Bucs' first-round pick, their subsequent draft picks are nearly as important. The Bucs are not only in need of better depth, but they need players to better fit head coach Lovie Smith's team design.
The following mock draft picks reflect a range of mock drafts from across the landscape of draft experts. While some of their opinions reflect popular attitudes and assumptions, none of the mock picks should be assumed to be final authority on what will, or even should, happen on draft day.
Round 1: Texas A&M Wide Receiver Mike Evans
Mock Draft: CBS Sports' Rob Rang
Like so many other mock drafts, Rang's mock draft plays it safe by projecting Texas A&M WR Mike Evans as the Bucs' first-round selection. The favorable comparison to Vincent Jackson makes it all-too-perfect.
Evans possesses a size and speed combination that makes him a nightmare to cover anywhere on the field. Pairing him with Jackson would provide Bucs QB Josh McCown with big, physical targets all over the field.
Evans would be a fine addition to the Bucs, but he may not be the best value pick for the Buccaneers to make at the seventh overall selection. This draft is so stacked with talented wide receivers that the Bucs may find a terrific pass-catcher in the second or third round while addressing other needs and greater talents elsewhere.
Though he has taken a beating in the media since his pro day, Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater remains a viable top-10 pick. His game tape doesn't lie. He can make every throw and pick defenses apart with his ultra-fast reads and accurate throws.
However, just because a quarterback is available doesn't mean the Bucs should pull out all the stops to obtain one. Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio reported today that the Bucs are looking to move up to the second overall pick and if successful would take Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.
This would be a colossal mistake.
First, Manziel is not a sure thing. While he was very successful in college, he may not be ready for the NFL. Manziel has yet to demonstrate the ability to run an offense from the pocket.
Second, the Bucs have far too many other holes on the roster to commit half their draft to a player like Manziel. Giving up their second-round pick could doom another needy position like wide receiver or guard.
Round 2: Alabama Tackle Cyrus Kouandjio
Mock Draft: CBS Sports' Dane Brugler
Arguably the biggest project Lovie Smith and Jason Licht tackled this offseason was revamping the Bucs' offensive line. Built to be an area of strength, last year exposed the unit as overpaid and ineffective.
For all that was added, holes remain on the line, specifically at guard. This year's draft class does not possess a robust selection of quality guards.
However, there are a great many tackles, like Alabama's Cyrus Kouandjio, who could cut their teeth in the NFL playing guard while being groomed for a position at tackle.
Kouandjio is a monster of a man and could be an elite tackle. However, he is raw and needs seasoning, making him an ideal candidate for the Bucs' O-line reclamation.
The Bucs should also consider UCLA G Xavier Su'a-Filo. One of the best guard prospects in this year's draft, Su'a-Filo possesses quick feet and speed that would make him an ideal fit on the Bucs' new athletic line.
Round 3: Texas Defensive End Jackson Jeffcoat
Mock Draft: NFL.com's Bucky Brooks
Defensive end is not a position the Bucs have had much success with over, well, the past decade. They brought in former Cincinnati Bengal Michael Johnson to remedy their chronic deficiency of pressure off the edge, but the Bucs could still use more talent at the position.
NFL.com's Bucky Brooks has the Bucs taking Texas DE Jackson Jeffcoat. Brooks thinks Jeffcoat is a good fit in the Bucs' rotation of defensive ends with his "non-stop motor."
However, Jeffcoat struggled to stay healthy during his college career and may require more work than a third-round pick is worth.
The third round could be rich in wide receivers as well as defensive ends. If the Bucs pass on a wide receiver in the first two rounds, they ought to consider Ole Miss WR Donte Moncrief or Penn State WR Allen Robinson.
Other viable defensive ends that could be available in the third round include Oregon State DE Scott Crichton and Stanford DE Trent Murphy. Crichton is also a project but looks more powerful and doesn't have a long injury history, while Murphy is a true natural on the edge who plays bigger than his actual size.
Round 5: Pittsburg State WR John Brown
Mock Draft: Pewter Report's Scott Reynolds
Under former general manager Mark Dominik, the Bucs frequently addressed holes on the roster by drafting two players at the same position, like wide receivers Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn in 2010 and defensive ends Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers in 2011.
Given the lack of proven talent at wide receiver, the Bucs may again implement that strategy.
Pewter Report's Scott Reynolds penciled in Pittsburg State WR John Brown for the Bucs' fifth-round pick. Brown is a speed demon who can return kicks as well as catch passes.
Brown's biggest weakness is his size, weighing only 179 pounds and standing 5'10". He may not last long if subjected to the prolonged abuse entailed with a full NFL season.
Reynolds had previously projected LSU linebacker Lamin Barrow as the Bucs' fifth-round pick. That pick may be more likely.
Barrow would compete with the Bucs' current middle linebacker Mason Foster for the starting spot. Barrow and Foster are actually pretty similar players who often look the part, but too frequently misdiagnose and aren't often in position to blow up plays.
Round 6: Maine Cornerback Kendall James
Mock Draft: WalterFootball's Walter Cherepinsky
Walter Cherepinsky of WalterFootball.com selected Maine cornerback Kendall James for the Bucs' sixth-round pick. James is a small-school prospect with tremendous speed and could double as a kick returner.
Like Pitt State's Brown, size is James' biggest problem. At 5'10" and 180 pounds, James would be eaten alive by bigger wide receivers and most tight ends.
The Bucs could use more cornerback depth following Darrelle Revis' departure. Notre Dame CB Bennett Jackson and Virginia Tech CB Antone Exum could provide some relief to the Bucs' secondary woes.
Jackson isn't an exceptional athlete, but he does have extensive experience playing zone coverage. Exum is recovering from an ACL tear in 2013, but is a big corner who can lay a big hit as well as play in coverage.
Round 7: Wyoming QB Brett Smith
Mock Draft: Bleacher Report's Matt Miller
The seventh round is the right place for teams to take a risk on a player. Wyoming QB Brett Smith may be that late-round gamble for the Bucs.
Smith may have been a much higher-rated prospect if he played for another team. Instead, he battled behind an atrocious offensive line while putting up pretty respectable numbers.
With a cannon of an arm, Smith intrigues as a project. He impressed teams with his precision throwing at his pro day, but he's proven little on an actual field of play.
There is some expectation that the Bucs will try to trade QB Mike Glennon, according to NFL.com's Ian Rapoport:
If the #Bucs can get a second rounder for Mike Glennon, expect them to make the move (if they draft a QB early this week).— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) May 6, 2014
While the notion that the Bucs could get a second-round pick for Glennon is absurd, the idea of moving him in favor for a passer of Lovie Smith's choosing is not.