Thursday, April 17, 2014

2014 NFL Draft - Ch Ch Changes

Much has happened since my first attempt to predict what the Buccaneer’s roster will look like in 2014.  Jason Licht and Lovie Smith have been hard at work turning it over and making it theirs.  Hell, we’ve even got new helmets and uniforms, but that’s a whole other conversation.

Josh McCown rejoins Lovie and will be the teams’ bridge to their next, hopefully franchise, QB.  Anthony Collins and Evan Dietrich-Smith are upgrades upon Donald Penn and Jeremy Zuttah, and they cost less than their predecessors.  Brandon Myers becomes the most experienced tight end on the roster. 

On defense, Michael Johnson was brought in to increase the teams edge pass rush presence, Clinton McDonald improves the play next to GMC, and Alterraun Verner replaces the one year waste of money and draft picks, Darrelle Revis. 

There’s still work to do. 

I don’t believe for a second that Mike Glennon has a future in Tampa.  I think the Bucs will draft McCown’s successor and look to move Glennon, possibly during the draft to obtain another ick.  Licht and Lovie have already begun quite the overhaul, and with only six draft picks, I’ve got to think they’ll make every effort to acquire more.  Glennon is their most valuable asset that they can and would most likely trade. 

Mike Jenkins and DJ Moore are two veteran corners brought in this offseason, but I believe the Bucs are mistaken if they feel either is up to the task of the role of slot corner.  Moore would likely start there if a game broke out today, but I don’t think it’s wise to rely on a guy who was out of football last year to be the needed upgrade over Leonard Johnson.  Lovie has also stated that his boundary corners will be boundary corners, which means Verner, a reputable slot corner, will not slide inside when they go nickel. 

The Bucs needed help at receiver before they moved on from Mike Williams.  There’s a wide talent gap between Vincent Jackson and the rest of the receivers.  Chris Owusu belongs at the bottom of the depth chart, and Tommy Streeter remains unrealized potential.  Louis Murphy and a personal favorite, Lavelle Hawkins, were added to compete, but in an ideal world, they’re fighting for one roster spot.

Oneil Cousins follows OL coach George Warhop to Tampa, but like the receivers above, he’s camp competition.  The same goes for the re-signed Jamon Meredith.  The Bucs are hoping Carl Nicks can suit up at left guard, but they need to at add least one more starting caliber guard.

You can never have enough pass rushers, and I’d like to have a tight end who doesn’t tip plays.  I’d still like to upgrade over Mason Foster, but I think his competition will come from Dane Fletcher rather than the draft.  Dashon Goldson might go the way of Penn, Williams, and Zuttah next year, but I don’t expect the Bucs to spend a day one or two pick on the position this year. 

What will the Bucs do at #7?  That’s the question on Bucs fans’ minds.  Below is my take on the draft’s first 38 picks as well as what the Bucs will do with all of theirs.  To make things as entertaining as possible yet remain fairly realistic, I’ve included trades, quite a few.  Might the Bucs be involved in such a scenario?  Let’s find out.

Round 1

1) Houston Texans – Blake Bortles (QB, UCF)
I’m still going with Bortles as the Texans pick to kick things off.  Ryan Fitzpatrick was brought in to be the bridge/backup to whoever they draft this year, and I think that’s going to be Bortles.  Clowney is the only other way I’d go with this.  He may not be an ideal 3-4 OLB, but Romeo Crennel would find a way to maximize his talents. 

2) Atlanta Falcons (TRADE) – Jadeveon Clowney (DE, S Carolina)
Again I have the Rams trading out of this spot, but this time I’m going with the Falcons to move up and get their pass rusher.  There are connections between the two front offices, and they even consummated a trade in last year’s draft. 

3) Jacksonville Jaguars – Khalil Mack (DE/OLB, Buffalo)
Last time I had the Jags passing on a passer for Clowney.  I still think they go with a pass rusher and address QB with a later pick.  While they have brought in a couple of Gus Bradley’s former Seahawks, the Jags aren’t suddenly pass rush rich.  Here they take the remaining consensus-elite defender.  I even think they’d take Watkins before any of the QBs. 

4) Cleveland Browns – Sammy Watkins (WR, Clemson)
Sorry Bucs fans.  I don’t think Watkins makes it to #7.  In fact, I see three teams more likely to end up with him than the Bucs.  If the Browns or Raiders don’t take Watkins, I think Detroit will maneuver ahead of Tampa Bay to get him.  Here the Browns get arguably the draft’s most talented offensive player and can find Brian Hoyer’s competition with their next pick. 

5) Oakland Raiders – Aaron Donald (DT, Pittsburgh)
Surprising no one, the draft’s first swerve comes from Oakland.  Their roster is the most depressing in the league and needs help literally everywhere.  Taking one of the top tackles would be my alternate route, but acquiring arguably the drafts best interior rusher is a great way for a team that defines the word ‘rebuilding’ to start doing just that.

6) St. Louis Rams (TRADE) – Jake Matthews (T, Texas A&M)
I had the Rams selecting Matthews last time, and I’m sticking with it here.  Robinson has received more air time during draft season, but I still think Matthews is the smarter pick. 

7) Baltimore Ravens (TRADE) – Mike Evans (WR, Texas A&M)
Yes, the Bucs move down.  Evans would address the departure of Williams, but I believe there is better value in trading down.  Ozzie Newsome finally gets his replacement for Anquan Boldin, and combined with Torrey Smith, a healthy Dennis Pitta, and the recently-acquired Steve Smith, gives the Joe Flacco an impressive arsenal that may need to lean more on the passing game, depending upon what happens with Ray Rice’s off-field situation.  To make the move down the board to #17, I have the Bucs picking up Baltimore’s picks in round one, two, and four. 

8) New York Giants (TRADE) – Greg Robinson (T, Auburn)
I think Minnesota is very eager to move down, and having Robinson remain on the board should help their cause.  The Giants really need to turn things around, and while Robinson isn’t going to score a lot of touchdowns himself, most importantly the Giants needed to emerge from the first round with a great player.  Moving up for Robinson helps them do that.

9) Buffalo Bills – Zack Martin (OL, Notre Dame)
The Bills are often good for a surprise pick on draft day, and they continue the tradition here.  I don’t think Martin is a bad pick but one that would surprise a lot of people who take prospect rankings as fact.  Martin gives the Bills options on the left side with Cordy Glenn. 

10) Detroit Lions – Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (S, Alabama)
Failing to trade up for Watkins or Evans, the Lions here look to upgrade the secondary.  Pass rusher or cornerback would be my other guesses, but I think getting a player with Ha Ha’s upside would be a good use of this pick. 

11) Tennessee Titans – Justin Gilbert (CB, Oklahoma State)
Gilbert appears to have solidified his place atop the list of cornerbacks and would fill an immediate need.  The Titans are often linked to Anthony Barr, and while they could use a talent upgrade at the position, they already have four OLBs that are likely to make the team.

12) Minnesota Vikings – CJ Mosley (LB, Alabama)
By trading down four spots the Vikings gain a pick or two and still get the player I think they’d be happy to select at #8.  I don’t believe they’re interested in any of the day one QBs and will instead select Zach Mettenberger on day two. 

13) St. Louis Rams – Odell Beckham (WR, LSU)
Rather than taking Watkins or Evans with their first pick, I think it would be wiser for the Rams to take their highest rated lineman there and then grab Beckham here.  Beckham is my second rated WR behind Watkins and gives Sam Bradford the best receiver he’s had as a pro.  I think Beckham is going to be really special. 

14) Cleveland Browns (TRADE) – Johnny Manziel (QB, Texas A&M)
What a first day for the Browns.  They get Watkins with their first pick and are able to package their other first rounder and additional picks to swap spots with the Bears and get their QB.  Johnny Football sits in the green room longer than he’d have liked, but he’s got to like the prospects of throwing to Josh Gordon, Watkins, and Jordan Cameron.

15) Philadelphia Eagles (TRADE) – Anthony Barr (OLB, UCLA)
Yes, another trade.  The Eagles are reportedly looking to upgrade their pass rush and have targeted former Chip Kelly Duck, Dion Jordan.  If they don’t acquire the third overall pick from last year’s draft, I could see them making this move for Barr.  I’m not a fan of his game, but maybe Kelly is.

16) Dallas Cowboys – Taylor Lewan (T, Michigan)
The Cowboys have seen just about all they want to see from Doug Free, so an upgrade at right tackle is high on their list of priorities.  I could see Jerry Jones targeting Lewan or Martin with his first round pick before a defensive player.

17) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (TRADE)
With the agonizing additional ten pick wait having passed, the Bucs are now on the clock again.  Watkins, Clowney, and Mack are what I would consider the elite of the elite in this year’s draft, and with them off the board at #7, I would hope the Bucs exhaust all efforts to deal down.  I’ve mentioned QB, WR, G, and CB as the greatest positions of need, in my opinion, and see the Bucs targeting either a passer or a pass catcher in round one over one of the top tackles.  Do Licht and Lovie prefer Evans or more picks with which to continue their Buccaneeer makeover?

The pick – Derek Carr (QB, Fresno State)
I still have Bortles as my #1 QB, but I’m in on Carr as well.  He fits what Tedford will look to do offensively and hopefully gives the Bucs the franchise QB they’ve been pursuing since Brad Johnson left.  Having McCown in house affords Carr a year to assimilate himself to the pro game and get even more on the same page with Tedford.  The QB-OC relationship is critical, and I couldn’t see a better fit in that regard.  I don’t believe the Bucs are interested in Bortles, Bridgewater, or Manziel and will rather look to draft Carr, Jimmy Garoppolo, or Connor Shaw.

18) New York Jets – Eric Ebron (TE, North Carolina)
This may be a little later than expected for Ebron, but he’s a guy I think will slide a bit on day one.  The Jets would be happy to see it happen, as they’re desperate for offensive playmakers.

19) San Francisco (TRADE) – Brandin Cooks (WR, Oregon State)
The Niners have plenty of picks in this year’s draft to move up and get their guy and are looking to upgrade receiver and cornerback.  Here I have them making a deal with the Dolphins to move up and get a dynamic receiver to line up inside boundary playmakers Boldin and Crabtree.  They’re really lacking behind their two starters, and Cooks gives them someone else for the Seahawks and the rest of the NFC to scheme against. 

20) Arizona Cardinals – Calvin Pryor (S, Louisville)
I don’t think the Cardinals will spend their first pick on an offensive lineman, so if they don’t’ take a pass rusher, I think they’ll look to solidify the safety spot next to Tyrann Mathieu.  I see Pryor as a really nice fit.

21) Green Bay Packers – RaShede Hageman (DT, Minnesota)
Ted Thompson hopes to pull off some more draft magic and get the good RaShede Hageman, the day one prospect generating the most polar predictions. 

22) Pittsburgh Steelers (TRADE) – Louis Nix (DT, Notre Dame)
Defensive line and cornerback are the two areas I think Pittsburgh will look to address first, and they take the anchor they’ve needed since Casey Hampton fell off a few years ago.

23) Kansas City Chiefs – Marqise Lee (WR, USC)
The Chiefs finally get a viable target to pair with Dwayne Bowe.  I’m not sure how much longer they can continue to win by giving Jamaal Charles 99% of their offensive touches. 

24) Cincinnati Bengals – Kony Ealy (DE, Missouri)
I’m going with a defensive end over a cornerback here.  Ealy helps make up for the loss of Johnson and gives them a versatile presence up front.

25) San Diego Chargers – Kyle Fuller (CB, Virginia Tech)
I think Fuller ends up going higher than this, but it didn’t happen here.  If not a corner, then Nix might get consideration if available.

26) Chicago Bears (TRADE) – Timmy Jernigan (DT, FSU)
Defensive line and secondary are the focus early on.  I think Chicago would pass on a DB to get a DT who can step in contribute right away.

27) New Orleans Saints – Dee Ford (DE/OLB, Auburn)
Dee Ford may think he’s as good as Clowney, but talent evaluators believe otherwise.  If not a pass rusher, a receiver like Benjamin wouldn’t surprise me. 

28) Carolina Panthers – Cyrus Kouandjio (T, Alabama)
It’s unknown how individual teams feel about Kouandjio’s health, but if his knee checks out, he’s quite a value at a high need position.

29) New England Patriots – Jace Amaro (TE, Texas A&M)
Maybe this is too common of a pick, but it makes a ton of sense.  With or without Gronk, the Patriots need to add a move-TE to the roster.  Amaro could be really dangerous in this offense.

30) Miami Dolphins (TRADE) – Morgan Moses (T, Virginia Tech)
The Dolphins signed a former Hokie in free agency to man the left tackle position, so it would only make sense to draft a former Hokie to fill the void at right tackle. 

31) Jacksonville Jaguars (TRADE) – Jimmy Garoppolo (QB, E Illinois)
The Jags get antsy and move up with Denver to grab Garoppolo.  Teddy Bridgewater remains unselected.

32) Seattle Seahawks – Kelvin Benjamin (WR, FSU)
Benjamin fills a need and would be a perfect fit for the champs, lining up with the dynamic Harvin and underrated Baldwin


Round 2

33) Houston Texans – Demarcus Lawrence (OLB, Boise State)
If they don’t take Clowney #1, I could see the Texans taking a pass rusher like Lawrence or Georgia Tech’s Jeremiah Attaochu here.

34) Washington Redskins – Bradley Roby (CB, Ohio State)
The Redskins badly need to upgrade their defensive backs and defensive backs coach.  They can only address one of them in the draft and grab the corner from Ohio State

35) Chicago Bears (TRADE) – Jimmie Ward (S, N Illinois)
After addressing the defensive line with Jernigan, the Bears take Ward with a pick obtained in my hypothetical trade with Cleveland.

36) Oakland Raiders – Teddy Bridgewater (QB, Louisville)
Finally.  This looks awfully low for Bridgewater, but who really knows when any of these QBs will be picked?  This has to be the most uncertain and non-consensus QB class in quite some time.

37) St. Louis Rams – Jason Verrett (CB, TCU)
After getting Matthews and Beckham with their first two picks, the Rams get a really tough corner who will play a lot early and provide them with insurance should Trumaine Johnson struggle as a starter opposite Janoris Jenkins.

38) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Best available at WR, DL, and CB is where I’m looking both here and with the #48 pick, the second rounder obtained from the Ravens in that first round trade.  Of those three positions, receiver is the clearest need.  I mention DL because I think Lovie really wants to beef up that front and could get an impact player in this round.  I rank cornerback as a higher need than most, but I’m simply not impressed with what the Bucs have other than Verner.  Of the players I’ve got going off the board in this vicinity, I think Benjamin and Verrett would both interest the Bucs quite a bit. 

Given that Vincent Jackson is the only starting caliber receiver on the roster, I think the Bucs will have a tough time waiting any later to address the position.  If I’m picking a wideout here, and Benjamin isn’t in play, I’ve got it down to three players – Davante Adams, Donte Moncrief, and Allen Robinson.  What are the Bucs likely looking for? 

They need a starter; someone who can be today’s #2 and possibly tomorrow’s #1.  They want a receiver with speed in space who can gain separation and win downfield.  I’m also going to assume that Lovie will influence catch radius and winning the battle at the point of catch.  Who checks the most boxes?

As much as I like Robinson, he’s the first one eliminated.  I think he would interest Lovie as someone who plays with a lot of physicality and wins at the point of contact, but how much will his lack of separation hurt him in the pros?  I’d be happy if he was the pick, but I think the Bucs are going to look for a receiver with a better chance of developing into a #1. 

Moncrief and Adams better fit that mold.  I’m a huge Moncrief fan.  I believe that in three years, he will be at worst the fifth most productive receiver from this class.  I think Moncrief has a higher upside and played with a lot more physicality in college than Adams.  On the other hand, Adams is a more consistent and fundamentally sound pass catcher and does a better job of winning aerial battles for the ball.  I love how he snatches it out of the air from a variety of positions on the field; shows very reliable hands.  If the Bucs indeed take Carr in the first round, you’ve got to think that couldn’t hurt Adams’ chances of being the pick. 

In the end I think Licht and Lovie would take who they see as the safer of the two options.  Although I like Moncrief more, I’m guessing that would be….

Davante Adams (WR, Fresno State)

Pick #48
I’m having a really hard time trying to decide between two players with this hypothetical second rounder from Baltimore

I’ve listed slot corner as a need for the Bucs on more than one occasion and believe that Lamarcus Joyner would be an ideal fit in Lovie’s defense.  He can cover the slot, support the run, blitz the passer, contribute on special teams, and potentially, see time at safety as well.  That last item could be of importance depending upon what Licht and Lovie think of Goldson’s future with the team.

Back and forth I’ve gone on this, and I’m sure I will again.  As much as I love Joyner, I wouldn’t be able to pass up Dominique Easley if he were to be here for the Bucs to take with an additional second rounder.  As I type this he has yet to work out for teams, and we don’t know much about his knee.  Given the type of talent he was prior to his injury and how quickly and successfully he recovered from his first ACL injury, he’s a steal and a damn good addition to a young defensive line. 

The pick – Dominique Easley (DT, Florida)

Round 3
Offensive line and cornerback are two positions of need I’ve yet to address, but I don’t love the projected value at those positions in this round.  Dakota Dozier is the only guard I’d target in this range, and I don’t know enough about him to make a case for the guy.  Jaylen Watkins might be the best value at corner in this round, but I can’t go there for fear of Gooberville overload.

I still want the Bucs to get a tight end, and CJ Fiedorowicz, the guy I listed as the Bucs fourth round pick in my last mock, is my favorite for them.  He’s an underutilized pass catcher who would be the teams’ best blocking tight end the moment he signed.  Lots of upside there I think.

Instead I pass for who I believe to be a better talent as a position, and specifically a skill, in which the Bucs are lacking.  I’ll keep my rant short.  I’ve been pining for a quick/elusive talent for some time, and Tedford is, thankfully, looking for receivers with that ability.  Here they get a really tough slot guy with a ton of potential.  He doesn’t shy away from contact and runs like a running back with the ball in his hands.  Like Adams, I think he’ll be attractive to Lovie due to his ability to make contested catches. 

The pick – Bruce Ellington (WR, South Carolina)

Round 4
The Bucs still don’t have a fourth round pick, but I gave them one in this mock trade with the Ravens.  If they have yet to address the cornerback position and have a chance to do so here, my target would be Rashaad Reynolds.  If the Bucs can’t get Joyner, I think Reynolds brings that same style of play as an undersized physical corner who can cover, support the run, and line up in multiple spots. 

I hate to keep taking player with medical issues, but if Clemson’s Brandon Thomas is still on the board at this point, you’ve got to think he’s worth the investment, even if you don’t get anything from him this year.  Thomas was viewed as a rising talent in the draft capable of playing both tackle and guard in the NFL.  EJ Gaines from Missouri is the other corner I’d consider if Reynolds isn’t available.  Two more players I like in this area (rounds 3-5) are Terrence Brooks and Christian Jones.  Yes, two Noles.  Brooks would be a great fit at free safety, and Jones could provide competition at both SLB and MLB. 

The pick – Rashaad Reynolds (CB, Oregon State)

Round 5
I understand the situation at guard.  Carl Nicks is a huge question mark, and Oneil Cousins better not be starting on the right side.  Still, I’m simply not in love at all with the guard talent in this draft.  Despite the need at the position, I cannot justify spending earlier picks on inferior talent at the expense of other positions of need.

Here I think the Bucs can get a guy like Anthony Steen from Alabama or Jon Halapio from Florida.  I’ve been on the Halapio bandwagon a while, but I think Steen might offer more of what this coaching staff is looking for.  Steen doesn’t have superstar athleticism, but I think he has a fairly high floor as someone with incredible strength and consistent technique. 

The pick – Anthony Steen (G, Alabama)

Round 6
With the Mike Williams pick I’m taking a shot on one of the few TE prospects I like in this draft.  This guy is a big bodied TE who offers a lot of upside in both the receiving in blocking games.  If they haven’t taken a corner yet, I would target Bene Benewikere from San Jose State (no that’s not him in the picture below). 

The pick – Crockett Gillmore (TE, Colorado State)

Round 7
Like most seventh round picks, this one is really a shot in the dark.  The Bucs need depth on the offensive line more than anywhere else, so here I’m taking a shot on a guy who was a captain and brings a lot of natural strength to the position.  John Brown of Pittsburgh State is a vertical threat I’d look at if the Bucs had not drafted two receivers already. 

The pick – Corey Linsley (C, Ohio State)

R1 – Derek Carr (QB, Fresno State)
R2a – Davonte Adams (WR, Fresno State)
R2b – Dominique Easley (DT, Florida)
R3 – Bruce Ellington (WR, South Carolina)
R4 – Rashaad Reynolds (CB, Oregon State)
R5 – Anthony Steen (G, Alabama)
R6 – Crockett Gillmore (TE, Colorado St)
R7 – Corey Linsley (C, Ohio State)

I get a hopeful franchise QB, a steal of a pass rusher, and two receivers who can contribute right away.  I also address other needs with a potential slot corner, two offensive linemen, and a tight end to develop behind Myers and Wright.  The dual Fresno State picks early on may turn off a lot of people, but I’m now a believer in Derek Carr.  I think he has what it takes to make those around him better players and be a leader of a perennial contender.  If you put Adams on another college team, he’s still a stud.  His familiarity and success with Carr is a plus, not what makes him.  I believe they’ll both excel in traditional style pro offenses. 

I realize predicting a trade of this nature for the Bucs isn’t terribly likely.  If it ends up happening, maybe I need to go into another line of work.  I did it to demonstrate the potential gains of moving down the board in round one should the situation present itself and, to be quite honest, to point out the prospects I’m high on at positions of need. 

Go Bucs!

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