Friday, May 1, 2015

2015 NFL Draft - Buccaneers Day Two - Who's #34?

The 2015 NFL Draft got off to a great start for the Bucs.  Not only did they land their (hopeful) franchise QB, but the way the rest of the night played out left a ton of attractive talent on the board to start day two.  Who will they pick?

First let me mention the 5 best available players that I don’t think the Bucs will target:

Randy Gregory – I don’t think he’s got the size that the Bucs are looking for with already two smallish ends in Jacquies Smith and George Johnson.  I understand that Lovie’s defense doesn’t rely on larger ends, but they can’t become so susceptible to the run by acquiring too many players with the same physical stats. 

Landon Collins – I hope the Bucs have learned their lesson about taking limited Alabama safeties.  Collins was thought to be a R1 pick by the experts, but his limitation to an in-the-box role has him still looking for a job on Friday.  The Bucs won’t bite, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the safety-needy Titans took him to kick off R2.

Owamagbe Odighizuwa – Hopefully this is the last time I have to type his name.  I don’t think much of OO as a pass rusher, but he’s one of the top rated remaining ends.  I believe there are less risky options for the Bucs with this pick.  They already have a ends who are questionable pass rushers.  No need for OO.

La’el Collins – Without knowing the specifics, I can’t say that it’s a shame that Collins went undrafted Thursday.  For be it for me to analyze his strategy, but I would have thought that, if innocent, he would have done everything possible to get out in front of the issue and save himself millions of dollars.  The fact that he didn’t definitely doesn’t make him guilty, but it certainly doesn’t point toward innocence. 

Dorial Green-Beckham (WR, Oklahoma)
The best way to describe this guy is to say it can’t be ignored.  I’m speaking to both his on-field talent and his off-field behavior.  Professional sports have been great at excusing transgressions by special talents, but that era seems to be fading.  If you believe what’s been written, DGB has been physical with women on more than one occasionOklahoma’s staff says he’s a changed young man, but it’s hard to ignore his past transgressions.  Is he a need or a luxury?  As talented as he appears, I can find a much safer receiver in the next round and not lose much in the talent category.

With those exclusions, here are my top 5 picks for the Bucs at #34:

5) Donovan Smith (OL, Penn State)
Initially believed to be a R3 pick, Smith earned a trip to the draft in Chicago.  That invitation does not guarantee a particular draft position, but I doubt he’s available when the Bucs pick at #65.  He’s large and projects as a top notch RT.  Some still project him as a LT, but he’s got quite a bit of work to do before he gets there.  I like him as an option at both RT and guard but not with this pick.  I believe I can find a less risky player in this spot.

4) Eric Kendricks (LB, UCLA)
My highest-ranked LB in this year’s draft, Kendricks went all of Thursday evening without hearing his name called.  I think he’d be a stud in the middle of Lovie’s defense, but they signed Bruce Carter in free agency with an eye on lining him up there.  Was he penciled in with the possibility of the draft forcing a move to SLB?  I think the Bucs would definitely be better at LB with Kendricks in the lineup, but is it worth it at the expense of the OL and DL?

3) TJ Clemmings (OL, Pittsburgh)
Here’s this draft’s biggest OL gamble in my opinion.  Clemmings shows the strength/potential to be a truly elite offensive lineman, but his technique needs a ton of work.  He’s also very inexperienced having played just two years on the offensive line.  Is the stress fracture in his foot a big deal?  There may not be a stronger or more physical imposing tackle in this draft, but with as much development as he apparently needs, is that a risk Bucs fans want to take?  Personally, I’m not optimistic about this staff’s ability to coach up the offensive line talent.

2) Preston Smith (DE, Mississippi State)
If the Bucs want to address the pass rush with this pick, it needs to be by selecting Smith.  He’ll play all three downs and give the Bucs the stability they’ve been searching for since they drafted Adrian Clayborn four years ago.  He has size, speed, strength, and hand usage to be an ideal compliment to Gerald McCoy up front.  He’s not a flashy speed rusher, but he’s also not the type of end to get washed out of plays.  You won’t see a lot of useless upfield rushed by Smith.  He fights well to the football.

1) Jake Fisher (OL, Oregon)
With the way R1 played out the Bucs will have their pick of a couple of top offensive tackles.  Are L&L focusing on the offensive line prospects as much as Bucs fans?  If they are, Fisher might be the pick.  A guy who steadily rose up draft boards throughout the process, Fisher projects as versatile OL with the ceiling of a franchise tackle and the floor of a decent RT.  I believe he can play guard as well and would provide the Bucs with two tackles who have the ability to play on both the left and right side.


If I had to put a wager on what I think the Bucs will do, I’d say Clemmings, and I wouldn’t be mad for a second.  The talent is certainly there.  It just needs to be developed in the right situation.  Here he wouldn’t be expected to be a LT right away but could start and grow at RT given the current state of affairs as the position.  Clemmings might have the most potential of any tackle in this class.  Unfortunately, he comes with quite a bit of risk as well. 

Honestly, the Bucs could take any of these top 5, and I’d be happy.  Although I’d really like to see it come from the top 3.  Locking up an offensive or defensive lineman after acquiring a potential franchise QB is the right way to build a winner. 

Go Bucs!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Predicting the 2015 Buccaneer Draft - Last Last Call (For Real)

Surprise, I made a few last minute changes today to my final Bucs mock.  
This is the final one...for real.

R1 - Jameis Winston (QB, FSU)

R2 - Jake Fisher (T, Oregon)
  Alternate pick - Preston Smith (DE, Mississippi State)

R3 - Trey Flowers (DE, Arkansas)
  Alternate pick - Tre Jackson (G, FSU)

*R3 - Rashad Green (WR, FSU)
  Alternate pick - Tre' McBride (WR, William & Mary)

R4 - Rob Havenstein (T, Wisconsin)
  Alternate pick - Derron Smith (FS, Fresno State)

R5 - Ben Heeney (LB, Kansas)
  Alternate pick - Jeremiah Poutasi (OL, Utah)

R6 - Max Garcia (OL, Florida)
  Alternate pick - Bobby McCain (CB, Memphis)

R7 - Darryl Roberts (CB, Marshall)
  Alternate pick - Junior Sylvestre (LB, Toledo)

R7 - John Crockett (RB, North Dakota State)
  Alternate pick - Tye Smith (CB, Towson)

* - Bucs trade Mike Glennon to Arizona for pick #86

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Predicting the 2015 Buccaneer Draft - Last Call

It’s finally here.  I guess I can now say from experience, the draft definitely does take longer to get here when you team has the first pick.  I’m going to be as short and sweet as possible with this version.  My first round mock has huge changes, and I’ve gone a slightly different route in my Bucs draft from the last version.

As I mentioned last time, I’m looking for the Bucs to be aggressive in this year’s draft.  If they take a best-available approach rather than drafting complimentary pieces and projects, as was a large part of last year’s plan, they’ll find plenty of players who can contribute right away.  That shouldn’t be asking for much considering the team needs to upgrade the starting caliber talent at QB, RT, RG, DE, WR, and FS. 

Spoiler alert – Jameis is going to be the 1st pick.  He’s also very likely to take the first snap in week 1 against the Titans.  I want the Bucs to aggressively shop Glennon to Buffalo, Arizona, St. Louis, Cleveland, and Houston for a R3 pick.  When it comes to the next most movable piece, Doug Martin, I’m split.  I was very high on the Bucs drafting him in 2012, but he looks far removed from the player who showed elite talent in stretches as a rookie.  Is it worth moving him for a R5 pick prior to what will likely be his last year as a Buc?  Does the L&L regime really want to move him bad enough to draft a back for the second year in a row?

For the last time in 2015, here’s what I think will happen in R1 of the NFL draft as well as what I think the Bucs should do with their picks.

Round 1

1) TB – Jameis Winston (QB, FSU)
The Bucs acquire their most talented player at the QB position since Vinny Testaverde, and I’ll put it on record once more – Jameis will finish his career as the greatest Buc QB of all time.  I don’t expect him to be the instant savior of a 2-14 and perpetually downward trending franchise, but he will give credibility to the position and lead in the establishment of a winning culture.

2) TEN – Marcus Mariota (QB, Oregon)
I’ve come around.  I now believe (especially after hearing Jim Wyatt say so) that the Titans will not take Leonard Williams at #2.  I believe that the Titans will be the team to draft Mariota but that he may be moved to Cleveland or (longshot) to Philly during or after the draft.  I don’t think San Diego is in play.  My final destination prediction (in order) – Tennessee, Cleveland, St. Louis, Philadelphia.

Also, the “where will Mariota go / end up” storyline will be the talk of the evening, even after the Titans take him at #2.  That will be the talking point, and the Bucs and Winston will be back page news.  Surprised?

3) *ATL – Dante Fowler (DE/OLB, Florida)
Here’s your first trade of the draft.  Since I believe that the R1-worthy talent runs dry after about 15 players, I believe that we will see at least two trades within the top 10 picks.  Here’s your first.  The Falcons move up to secure the draft’s first pass rusher.

4) OAK – Leonard Williams (DE, USC)
I’ve had the Raiders taking a WR in every prior version, but this is the first domino of Mariota going #2.  I would take Williams here over Cooper and White.  Pairing him with Fort Pierce’s Khalil Mach would help put Oakland’s defense back on the map.

5) WAS – Vic Beasley (DE/OLB, Clemson)
The Redskins must replace Brian Orakpo, and I’ve got them taking Beasley over an offensive lineman.

6) * CLE – Amari Cooper (WR, Alabama)
The Jets might take a receiver here themselves (I wouldn’t if I were them), but if the first 5 picks play out like this, I think someone will move up to take the draft’s first WR.  I believe Cleveland could very well be that team.  Who knows when/if Josh Gordon will play again, and Dwayne Bowe and Brian Hartline are ideally #2 and #3 receivers respectively.  Flip a coin in the Cooper/White talent argument, but Cooper is probably the safer option and will be able to contribute more early on.

7) CHI – Kevin White (WR, West Virginia)
The Bears will be in position to draft either Cooper or White or make a trade with someone who wants to move up and get them.  White and Alshon Jeffrey give the Bears a very dynamic duo at WR.

8) * JAX – Todd Gurley (RB, Georgia)
The first “WOW!” of the evening.  The Jags were aggressive in their pursuit of DeMarcos Murray.  I believe they want to make a big splash on offense, and what better way to do it than with the local-ish stud rusher?

9) NYG – Andrus Peat (T, Stanford)
In a mild surprise, Peat beats Scherff off the board.  According to reports by those closest to the team, of the two top-rated lineman, Peat is the preference.

10) STL – Brandon Scherff (OL, Iowa)
I believe that Peat and Scherff are going to go off the board at 9 or 10 in one of two ways.  Scherff could slot into either current openings at RG or RT.

11) * SF – DeVante Parker (WR, Louisville)
Many mocks hook Teddy Bridgewater up with his former Louisville target, but I think Minnesota is in a great spot to move down with whoever wants the draft’s 3rd receiver.  The Vikings could take Parker if they stay here, but they’re not desperate at the position after acquiring Mike Wallace.

12) * NYJ – Bud Dupree (DE/OLB, Kentucky)
In a deal that likely nets the Jets picks on day 2 and day 3, they grab a pass rusher that might end up worthy of a top 6 pick.

13) NOR – Danny Shelton (NT, Washington)
The Saints need help everywhere.  Lining up Shelton between Cameron Jordan and Akiem Hicks is a lot of beef up front. 

14) MIA – La’el Collins (OL, LSU)
With the way this draft has played out I think the Dolphins will go OL, and both Collins and Ereck Flowers should be options.  Assuming Collins is not a suspect in the death in which he’s being questioned, he should hear his name called in the top half of Thursday’s action.  With this pick, Miami has quietly put together one of the better, younger offensive lines in the league.

15) * MIN – Trae Waynes (CB, Michigan State)
The Vikings are still able to pick up (arguably) the draft’s best corner and player to whom they’ve been tied in draft conversations in the deal down with SF.

16) HOU – Breshad Perriman (WR, UCF)
I’m not that high on Perriman, but he’s apparently going to be selected in the early portion of R1.  I’d probably roll the dice with Randy Gregory at this point if I was calling the shots in Houston.  The potential of Gregory and Clowney on the edges behind JJ Watt would be very intriguing.  .

17) SD – Malcom Brown (DL, Texas)
The Chargers need help up front on defense.  Brown can play three downs which is key in a division with Peyton Manning’s arm and Denver’s run game. 

18) KC – Cameron Erving (OL, FSU)
The Chiefs replace Rodney Hudson with another Nole.

19) CLE – Ereck Flowers (OL, Miami)
It might not be the glaring need, but the Browns could stand to upgrade the RT and guard positions.  Flowers could start right away.

20) PHI – Nelson Agholor (WR, USC)
Another “WOW!”  Whoever Chip Kelly picks, it will elicit a strong reaction.  Agholor gives him a guy I see as an excellent compliment to Jordan Matthews.

21) CIN – Eddie Goldman (DL, FSU)
The Bengals need to beef up the interior, and Goldman provides plenty of that.

22) PIT – Randy Gregory (DE/OLB, Nebraska)
The freefall ends with Pittsburgh.  I think Gregory goes to a 3-4 team looking for a rusher, and if he doesn’t go to Houston at #16, I think he’ll slide to #22. 

23) DET – Kevin Johnson (CB, Wake Forest)
I don’t think we’ll see corners go early or often in R1.  Johnson at #23 is just the second one taken in this mock.

24) ARI – Melvin Gordon (RB, Wisconsin)
This seems like one of the most ideal picks of R1.  The Cardinals definitely need a RB, and Gordon’s talents would fit well in Bruce Arians’ offense. 

25) CAR – Cedric Ogbuehi (T, Texas A&M)
Still like the fit here.  Given their offseason signings, he won’t have to start right away and can completely heal that ACL injury.

26) BAL – Dorial Green-Beckham (WR, Oklahoma)
I think this is either WR or CB, and Baltimore is one of the few teams in the league with the leadership/stability to take on a question like DGB.  If focused, he’s a steal at #26.

27) DAL – Byron Jones (CB, Connecticut)
In this mock the CB-needy Cowboys have their pick of any corner not named Waynes or Johnson.  Hard for me to see them going in any other direction.

28) DEN – DJ Humphries (T, Florida)
Looks like an ideal fit for what they want to run in Denver; slides in immediately at RT.

29) IND – Damarious Randall (FS, Arizona State)
Will another safety really be drafted ahead of Landon Collins?  Don’t count it out.  Whether it’s a safety like Collins, a defensive lineman like Arik Armstead, or a linebacker like Eric Kendricks, the Colts must improve their defense if they want to get to the top of the AFC heap. 

30) GB – Eric Kendricks (LB, UCLA)
One of the better need/talent fits of R1.  GB would be thrilled to see Kendricks be on the board at #30.

31) NOR – Phillip Dorsett (WR, Miami)
Dorsett isn’t just a speed guy.  He’s a sharp route runner and gives Sean Payton another dynamic weapon to go with Brandin Cooks and transition from the Coltston era at receiver.

32) NE – Mario Edwards (DL, FSU)
The Patriots finish Thursday’s action with one last “WOW!” pick.  Not many project Edwards this high, but I believe he’ll be a much better pro than collegiate player.  What better place to land than with Bill Belichick?  They spent a good bit of time with him at FSU’s Pro Day.

Round 2

As demonstrated above, I don’t think we’ll see much movement for draft picks from the middle of R1 on.  I don’t believe there is much of a disparity in talent from picks 15-35.  Therefore, I would be very much against the Bucs moving up to secure a player at the bottom of R1. 

33) TEN – Landon Collins (S, Alabama)
Safety is a huge need for the Titans, and I’m guessing they’d be happy to find Collins available at the top of R2.    

34) TB
I’ve had the Bucs taking a tackle, specifically Jake Fisher, in the last two versions of this exercise.  I’ve now cooled a bit on Fisher and am not so sure he’s the best option, despite the team’s needs, at this point. 

With the way R1 played out above, here are the players I would say are the consensus best available (in no particular order):  Eli Harold, Arik Armstead, Shane Ray, Jake Fisher, Marcus Peters, TJ Clemmings, Stephone Anthony, Preston Smith, AJ Cann, Owamagbe Odighizuwa, Devin Smith, Laken Tomlinson, Jaelen Strong, and Jalen Collins. 

My top 5 (in no particular order) from that group, based on my analysis of their talents and the Bucs’ needs, are:  Shane Ray, Marcus Peters, Preston Smith, Jake Fisher, and Jalen Collins. 

Of those I eliminated –
  • I think Armstead will go in R1 and be the biggest bust from this draft. 
  • Harold isn’t a fit. 
  • OO is overrated as a pass rusher
  • I love Anthony but don’t think LB is in play at #34. 
  • I’m not saying a guard isn’t worth this pick, but given the other talent on the board, I believe that Tomlinson and Cann would both be big need-leans rather than best talent picks. 
  • Clemmings’ project status and current injury push him out of the picture for me.
  • If it’s not DGB or Agholor, I’m not interested in a WR with this pick.  There’s better value in R3.

My final list comes down to two pass rushers, two corners, and one lineman.  I list Collins because of the possibility of him playing FS.  He likely has too many questions (failed drug tests and limited on-field snaps) to make L&L pull the trigger here, but the talent is undeniable.  Same with Peters.  Is he worth the headache?  The talent is there, but he was obstinate both on and off the field at Washington

That narrows it down to Ray, Smith, and Fisher. 

I believe I was lower on Ray than the consensus throughout the draft process (#12, #13, #19, #19 in my mocks), but prior to his traffic stop, he was a sure-fire R1 pick.  Is he worth the gamble here?  Aside from his questionable decision making, he’s dealing with a toe injury that supposedly doesn’t need surgery, and is small for the position.  Can he be an effective enough pass rusher to make the Bucs comfortable with his questions?

Is Fisher going to be a really good LT in any offense, or have I been ignoring/missing flaws in his game based on Oregon’s offensive style?  To me, he’s a guy who can step in right away at RT or possibly even guard with the potential to swing over to LT.  Will he become strong/stout enough to really anchor an end of the line, or is he best suited for a zone-heavy scheme? 

Smith is a guy I’m much higher on that apparently the expert consensus.  In my mind, he’s the ideal left end on this defense.  He wins with both power and speed and has a longer wingspan than Beasley, Ray, Orchard, Fowler, and OO.  Wingspan isn’t everything, but when I look at Smith’s combination of speed, strength, hand usage, and body type/usage, he’s what the Bucs need up front with Gerald McCoy.  A good example of Smith’s ability to make adjustments on the move is the 3-cone drill, a drill in which he finished 2nd to Beasley among all pass rushers at the Combine.  He’ll go in R2 because he doesn’t have elite speed or athleticism.  The Bucs should not let spend much of Friday as a spectator.

The pick – Preston Smith (DE, Mississippi State)

Some may argue the talent/value with this pick, but I feel very strongly about this prospect’s potential as a pro.  Put Smith at left end with William Gholston opposite Jacquies Smith and George Johnson, a position in question a month ago now has some semblance of stability.

I would love to draft Flowers, Humphries or Ogbuehi here, but they’re long since gone.  Just because the Bucs don’t get an offensive lineman with this pick doesn’t mean that the position can’t/won’t be addressed.  I’m also not giving up on Fisher; just backing off of him as my lockdown favorite here.  I’d really be thrilled with either one, but in the end I believe Smith is the best option of all the players I listed. 

Round 3

Again, I don’t want to force a position on a pick, especially this early.  Your selections through the first three rounds should be players who contribute right away.  With that in mind, I know I need to draft a starting caliber offensive lineman with one of my next two picks, and I also still need to take advantage of the most talent-laden position group in the draft, WR.

As I did last time, I’m dealing Glennon for a R3 pick.  I’ll project the destinations in this order – Buffalo, Arizona, Houston, St. Louis, and Cleveland

The picks – Tre’ Jackson (G, FSU) and Tre McBride (WR, William & Mary)

Jackson gives the Bucs an immediate upgrade at RG, and McBride steps in at the slot and projects an eventual ideal #2 opposite Evans.  I no longer see Donovan Smith lasting until R3, and I don’t think Ty Sambrailo is worthy of selecting this high.  Point being, I see the Bucs OT options in R3 as limited.  Take the guy who can play right away, and the fact that he blocked for the #1 pick the last two years doesn’t hurt.  I think you plug Jackson in at RG now and look to address the position again in another 8 years. 

I still love Rashad Green, but even I admit that following up Jackson with a third Nole would be a bit much.  I rank them virtually the same for the Bucs, but I think McBride has the slightly higher overall upside as a pro.  Back on the bandwagon!  I believe that McBride might have the best in-traffic receiving ability of any receiver in this class, and his downfield battles for the ball fill highlight videos.  His biggest knock is a lack of elite game speed, but his route running, formation flexibility, and the ability to consistently move the chains makes him well worth the pick here.

Round 4

So far:
R1 – Jameis Winston (QB, FSU)
R2 – Preston Smith (DE, Mississippi State)
R3 – Tre’ Jackson (G, FSU)
R3 – Tre McBride (WR, William & Mary)

If I’m Licht I see my highest remaining priority as drafting a starting caliber tackle.  I had the Bucs going FS, Derron Smith here last time, but based on how I have this version progressing, the safety position might be the odd spot out.

The pick – Rob Havenstein (T, Wisconsin)

You want to talk about upgrading the strength on the right side of the line?  Well you’ve done it with the Jackson and Havenstein combination.  Both players will need development in pass protection (as most rookies do) but excel as physical run blockers right now.  Yes, Havenstein projects as a right tackle only, but that’s why he’s available in R4.  Also, I’m not of the belief that every tackle on the roster must be able to play both sides of the line.  Havenstein will make himself plenty of money as a right side only guy.

Round 5
I had the Bucs trading Doug Martin in the last version for the first pick in R5.  This time I’m holding onto Martin and bypassing taking a RB in the draft.  Again, I’m not truly beholden to one side of the debate over the other.  Let’s see what he can do behind an improved line and with better play at the QB position. 

I’ve taken a QB, DE, G, WR, and T so far.  Since I’m holding onto Martin, I don’t need to take a RB.  The positions that would have my attention are OL, S, CB, and LB. 

The pick – Jeremiah Poutasi (OL, Utah)

I took Poutasi in an earlier draft, and I’m going back him here.  Like Jackson and Havenstein, here’s another powerful force up front.  Poutasi played predominantly tackle at Utah, but he would ideally be an eventual replacement for Logan Mankins at the guard spot opposite Jackson.  Centers Andy Gallik and Max Garcia would be in play for me here as well.  Get one of those three, and I’m pleased.  Also, if they need another tackle, Laurence Gibson is the guy I like in the R5-R6 range.  Ben Heeney and Ramik Wilson are the LBs I’d pursue in this round.

Rounds 6 & 7
To close things out, I’m sticking with my three previous picks:

Bobby McCain (CB, Memphis)
Junior Sylvestre (OLB, Toledo)
Tye Smith (CB, Towson)


I emerge from this version pleased with the work done of the offensive side of the ball.  The Bucs get their QB, an ideal fit at WR, and three starting caliber linemen.  As I detailed (excruciatingly) I think Smith is the way to go at #34, and McCain is going to impress a lot of people with the way he plays the slot.  I would have preferred to add a safety at some point, but we can’t always get everything we want. 

Final haul –
Jameis Winston (QB, FSU)
  • week 1 starting QB
Preston Smith (DE, Mississippi St)
  • a needed DL force; does what Clayborn was drafted to do
Tre’ Jackson (G, FSU)
  • day 1 starting RG
Tre McBride (WR, William & Mary)
  • today’s #3 WR, tomorrow’s #2
Rob Havenstein (T, Wisconsin)
  • may not start right away but will play for a long time once he does
Jeremiah Poutasi (OL, Utah)
  • the cherry on top of a power-focused OL expedition
Bobby McCain (CB, Memphis)
  • Ronde-lite nickel to groom behind Moore
Junior Sylvestre (OLB, Toledo)
  • Special teams dynamo and depth at LB
Tye Smith (CB, Towson)
  • Developmental corner who could eventually start on the outside

Go Bucs!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Predicting the 2015 Buccaneer Draft - The Time is Now

The lead-up has been painfully slow, but the 2015 NFL Draft is less than two weeks away.  Since the last time I went through this exercise, the only substantive move the Bucs have made is to trade for DE George Johnson and drop 63 spots in the draft in the process.  I’ve already expressed my thoughts on that “deal”.  That move doesn’t lessen the need to add a pass rusher, but Licht and Lovie might disagree. 

I see the Bucs needs as QB, T, G, DE, WR, S, CB, and LB, and as it stands right now, they have 7 draft picks.  Coming off a 2-14 season followed by an unspectacular free agency period, April 30 starts possibly the most important three day span of the L&L regime. 

For this reason, I expect them to be active in the trade market draft weekend.  As a fan who has been disgusted by the organization’s performance both on and off the field for more than a decade, I need them to be active in the trade market draft weekend.  In addition to the 7 draft picks, they have a couple of movable parts (namely Mike Glennon and Doug Martin) that could net them additional prospects. 

Barring the upset of all upsets, the Bucs will kick off the draft by selecting what they hope is a franchise QB.  I believe they need to partner that pick with aggressive moves that give them multiple players who can contribute right away.  If the Bucs take who I expect them to take #1 and he performs as I expect he will perform, the wise move would be work the draft to address those primary needs with players who can step in as soon as possible.  But that’s just me. 

On with the picks…

Round 1

#1 TB – Jameis Winston (QB, FSU)
January…check.  February…check.  March…check.  First half of April…check.  Jameis was the Bucs best bet back in January, and all he had to do to stay at the top of the draft board was to stay clean.  Mission (nearly) accomplished.  Sooner than later, this will be his team.  They will finally have someone to truly build the franchise around.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.  Jameis will be the best QB in the history of the Buccaneer franchise. 

#2 TEN – Leonard Williams (DL, USC)
Here is where most “experts” have Marcus Mariota going.  I don’t see it.  I don’t believe that there will be a team that offers anything of significance to Tennessee for the rights to the Oregon QB, largely because unless he’s playing for Chip Kelly, he’s likely to need a professional redshirt.  I’ve dropped him in each of the mocks I’ve done (3rd, 5th, 6th).  I simply don’t see him as a prospect worthy of giving away the future to take at 2.  Anyways, for the fourth time in four tries, Williams follows Winston off the board.

#3 JAX – Vic Beasley (DE/OLB, Clemson)
Dante Fowler gets mocked here a lot, but I’m sticking with Beasley.  I think they are the two most likely picks, and I still believe that Beasley is the better fit for Gus Bradley’s LEO position.  We’ll find out what he thinks soon enough.

#4 OAK – Kevin White (WR, West Virginia)
I went with White the first two times and Cooper the last go-round, and now I’m back on White.  The only other player I’m considering here is Williams if he falls to #4.

#5 (trade) ATL – Dante Fowler (DE/OLB, Florida)
I proposed this WAS/ATL trade last time around, and I still like it.  Atlanta must add an elite pass rusher, and jumping up 3 spots allows them to take the best of what’s left after the Jaguars take their pick.  I really see a strong possibility of this exact trade pairing happening April 30. 

#6 (trade) PHI – Marcus Mariota (QB, Oregon)
I have no clue where Mariota is going to go, but aligning him with Chip Kelly seems like a safe move.  I’m sticking with the deal I proposed last time:

Philly trades Bradford to the Browns for pick #19.  Philly then flips that selection, the 20th overall pick, and Mychal Kendricks, to the Jets for pick #6.  If you look at the trade value chart, #19 and #20 are more than enough for pick #6.  I think Kendricks is the cherry on top and an expendable player based on Philly’s offseason activity.  Chip Kelly said that he wouldn’t mortgage his future to move up for one player, but this scenario allows him to get his star pupil and stay true to his word.

#7 (trade) MIA – Amari Cooper (WR, Alabama)
Just as strongly as I feel Atlanta will move up for a pass rusher, I believe that the Dolphins will move up for a receiver.  They’ve reworked their receiving corps by trading and releasing Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline and trading for Kenny Stills.  Jarvis Landry is best in the slot, so they need to add a boundary #1 opposite Stills.  Whether it’s White or Cooper, I think Miami moves up to get the second receiver off the board.  Chicago makes sense as a trade partner because they have multiple needs and don’t appear to be keying on one player or position.

#8 (trade) WAS – Brandon Scherff (OL, Michigan)
Washington still gets their guy at #8.  This trade pairing with ATL just makes too much sense to not happen.  The Falcons are desperate for a pass rusher, and no one in the top 7 other than the Redskins is going to take an offensive lineman. 

#9 NYG – La’el Collins (OL, LSU)
Collins will line up at either RT or RG for the Giants, depending on what they want to do with Justin Pugh.

#10 STL – Andrus Peat (OL, Stanford)
The first pure/definite tackle goes off the board.  If this draft looks exactly like my last one so far, it’s because it is.  I promise picks will change.

#11 (trade) SF – Bud Dupree (DE/OLB, Kentucky)
Starting here.  I don’t know the odds of this happening, but I like the idea of San Fran moving up a handful of spots to secure their target.  This just seems like something they’d do.  The Niners move up 4 positions, and ahead of the pass rush needy Saints, to land Dupree, a player reportedly held in very high regard by coaching staffs.

#12 CLE – DeVante Parker (WR, Louisville)
The Browns actually do some things that make sense.  After acquiring their QB in Bradford, they give him a legit #1 receiver.

#13 NOR – Arik Armstead (DL, Oregon)
It might surprise some folks if Armstead goes this high, but he may have more raw potential than any other defensive player in the class.  The production hasn’t been there, hence the lack of top 5 mentions.  I had Randy Gregory here last time but feel that Armstead may be more worthy of the selection.

#14 (trade) CHI – Danny Shelton (DL, Washington)
He makes sense for them at #7 and is a heck of a value 7 spots later.  Plugging Shelton in as the nose of their new 3-4 defense is a great way to start restocking that side of the ball.

#15 (trade) MIN – Trae Waynes (CB, Michigan State)
Wrapping up the SF/MIN swap, the Vikings deal down and are still able to secure the press corner that fits Mike Zimmer’s defense. 

#16 HOU – Randy Gregory (DE/OLB, Nebraska)
I think the Texans are going to take a front 7 defender.  This time I give them the sliding pass rusher who Greg Cosell said is more athletic than Houston’s #1 overall pick from last year, Jadeveon Clowney. 

#17 SD – Todd Gurley (RB, Georgia)
This is right around the range I expect him to come off the board, and again, a franchise back like Gurley might be enough to convince Rivers to make the move with the rest of the team to LA.

#18 KC – Cameron Erving (OL, FSU)
I’ve got two players that I really like in this spot for the Chiefs.  Erving is obviously one, and Eric Kendricks is the other.  Here Erving replaces fellow Nole, Rodney Hudson as the Chiefs center.

#19 (trade) NYJ – Shane Ray (DE/OLB, Missouri)
#20 (trade) NYJ – Melvin Gordon (RB, Wisconsin)
I’ve still got the Jets picking up Ray and Gordon in the trade with Philly.  I’m thinking one of Ray and Gregory will be on the board at this point, and I still like the Jets to take Gordon despite their signing of Stevan Ridley.  I’m projecting the Jets to head into the season with Ridley or Chris Ivory (likely Ivory) along with a rookie and Bilal Powell.

#21 CIN – Ereck Flowers (T, Miami)
I’m sticking with Flowers here as a future fixture on the outside, but I also think Malcom Brown could be in play if he’s still on the board.  If anyone’s counting, that’s 5 offensive linemen in the first 21 picks.

#22 PIT – Byron Jones (CB, Connecticut)
Jones is one of the more difficult players to project in this year’s draft.  He could end up being the first corner selected, or he could go early R2.  My money is right in this range, and corner is the biggest need for the Steelers.

#23 (trade) IND – Landon Collins (S, Alabama)
Here’s a new trade.  I’ve been ready for a while here and there that Collins is high on Indy’s board, and I think they’ll have to move ahead of Baltimore and Dallas to ensure that they get him. 

#24 ARI – Malcom Brown (DL, Texas)
This isn’t the biggest area of need for the Cardinals, but Calais Campbell and the recently signed Cory Redding are on the wrong side of their playing primes.  I like Kendrick as an option here as well.

#25 CAR – Cedric Ogbuehi (T, Texas A&M)
This is a pick I don’t believe I’ll be changing.  The Panthers reportedly have been big on Ogbuehi for a while and see someone they can groom (and let heal) behind their stopgap additions.

#26 BAL – Breshad Perriman (WR, UCF)
I’m sticking with receiver for the Ravens, but I’m swapping Strong for Perriman, who has a very similar skill set to the recently-lost Torrey Smith.

#27 DAL – Kevin Johnson (CB, Wake Forest)
The RB position for the Cowboys gets a lot of talk when it comes to this pick, but I think they’re far more likely to draft either a corner or DT.  Johnson could be off the board long before 27 on the 30th

#28 DEN – DJ Humphries (T, Florida)
I’ve got to think the Broncos go OL with this pick.  Cameron Erving was my pick for them in the last 2 versions, but he’s gone at 18 this time around.  Humphries can be inserted immediately at RT and be a potential eventual replacement for LT Ryan Clady.

#29 (trade) DET – Eddie Goldman (DT, FSU)
With the 2nd half of my 5th R1 trade, the Lions finish addressing the losses of Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley by pairing Goldman with Haloti Ngata. 

#30 GB – Eric Kendricks (LB, UCLA)
Some “experts” say that Kendricks doesn’t belong going in R1.  I’m having trouble keeping him on the board through the first 29 picks.  I’ve got to think the Packers would pounce on him here given their desperate situation at ILB.

#31 NOR – Eli Harold (DE/OLB, Virginia)
After netting Armstead at 13, the Saints select a pass rusher in this spot.  Corners Jalen Collins and Marcus Peters could be in play, and my sneaky pick for them is AJ Cann.

#32 NE – Mario Edwards (DL, FSU)
I’m closing out this version’s R1 with a bit of a surprise.  I don’t think Edwards is listed as a R1 pick anywhere, but the Patriots are known to be interested in him and he’s apparently endeared more by coaching staffs than scouts. 

Round 2

#33 TEN – Dorial Green-Beckham (WR, Oklahoma)
If Tennessee holds onto this pick, I think they will be intrigued with the possibility of adding DGB, a first round talent with questions.  The Titans have a bunch of #2 and #3 receivers, and DGB (if focused) is a legit #1.  Maybe they feel comfortable taking a chance with this pick after taking, arguably, the draft’s safest selection, Leonard Williams, in R1.

#34 –
I had 7 OL picked in R1 which is (give or take one) likely what we’ll actually see.  The Titans are also a threat at #33.  With the way this mock has played out, Jake Fisher and TJ Clemmings are the best available OL.  I basically have Fisher and Humphries neck and neck as my favorites at #34, and Mississippi State DE Preston Smith remains my third choice.  If Clemmings is the highest rated tackle left in this spot, I could see the Bucs fielding calls.  Donovan Smith drew a draft invite, but I think this is too high to take him. 

The pick – Jake Fisher (OL, Oregon)

Fisher steps in right away at RT and, paired with Demar Dotson, gives the Bucs two tackles with the skill sets to play both ends of the line.  Fisher is an athletic tackle who offers quite a bit of power drive blocking in the run game as well. 

Round 3

The Bucs own the first pick in R3, but I believe they can gain another one.  If Jameis is the pick at #1, he’s in all likelihood going to start right away.  That would make Glennon one of the league’s better backup, a position in which I’ve placed less and less importance in recent history.  I’d rather take an aggressive approach in getting what I can for Glennon and back up Jameis with a veteran that becomes available after the draft.  In a league where we struggle to identify 20 quality QBs total, I believe that the band-aid approach is the most economical way to manage the roster.  I don’t need to aim for having a starting-caliber backup, because the odds of needing that starter to play for a significant stretch doesn’t outweigh my need to upgrade other positions.

Also, look at the available QBs in this year’s class.  After Jameis and Mariota, there’s not even a consensus on who’s the third best passer.  I think Petty and Grayson could eventually be decent starters, I’m not sold on Hundley at all, and it only gets worse after him.  So if these QB-needy teams are seeing what I’m seeing, where are they going to find a starting caliber passer? 

Arizona has Carson Palmer.  Technically, they don’t need a starter, but everyone remembers how their defense was dragging a limp offense into the playoffs while he was out.  Palmer also turns 36 two days after Christmas and is coming off his second ACL tear.  With San Francisco trending in the wrong direction this offseason and St. Louis being St. Louis, Arizona is on the verge of establishing itself as Seattle’s biggest nemesis. 

The other team I’m looking at is Buffalo.  They have Matt Cassel penciled in as their starter and Tyrod Taylor and EJ Manuel as backups.  The latter two aren’t guaranteed to make the final roster, and Cassel shouldn’t be starting on any team looking to compete for the playoffs.  Buffalo’s roster is built, both defensively and offensively, to get to the playoffs right now. 

Would the Cardinals think the 86th overall pick is worth the insurance of not repeating last year’s struggle?  Might the Bills think the 81st pick is worth what would be the best signal caller on their roster?  These two teams will be definitely be looking for QBs, as will the Jets, Browns, Rams, Texans, and Redskins.  Is it logical to think they’ll find a better option with those picks who can help them sooner than Glennon?  Is it reasonable to think the Bucs can negotiate a R3 pick from one of those many teams looking for QB in a dead market?

I have the Bucs acquiring Buffalo’s R3 pick (#81 overall) for Mike Glennon.

What should the Bucs do with those two picks?

After going QB and OT, I’m looking to find a third starter.  Which positions?  I believe WR, DE, and OL are where to look, and here are my picks –

#65 – Rashad Greene (WR, FSU)
#81 – Anthony Chickillo (DE, Miami)

Greene was my R3 pick for the Bucs last time around as well.  As I mentioned, he offers exactly what the team needs in a receiver – someone who can play right now and be a real asset in the slot while providing the ability to play out wide when Vincent Jackson inevitably moves on.  The fact that he’s been the #1 target of the team’s likely #1 pick for the last two years can’t be ignored.

Chickillo is a three-down end who, according to the player himself, feels that he was misused (and therefore undervalued) at Miami.  He’s a strong edge setter who, even miscast, showed the ability to use his arms to direct the action and vision to make consistent reads on the ball.  I believe that he would make a fine pairing with William Gholston at the base end position opposite the combination of George Johnson and Jacquies Smith.  It wouldn’t rival the pass rushing potential of the Giants during their Super Bowl run, but it would make the Bucs competent at the position. 

Round 4

After a lengthy R3, I’ll keep this one short and sweet.  Bradley McDougald has shown promise at SS, but the Bucs appear to be actively looking for a FS after trading Dashon Goldson to the Redskins.  Chris Conte and Major Wright make for better depth than starters. 

I don’t want the Bucs to spend an earlier pick on a safety.  Yes, I said I wanted to get starters with the first three (four now if you include the Glennon trade) picks, but I believe you can get equitable R3 DE value for a FS in R4. 

The pick – #109 – Derron Smith (FS, Fresno State)
Smith is a playmaker with coverage skills who I believe he possesses the ability to play the role in Lovie’s single-high sets.  Having Wright and Conte around would allow Smith to focus on certain sets early while learning the entire defensive playbook.  He also looks to have the ability to line up in coverage against slot receivers, surely a plus for a team lacking in talent and depth at CB.

Round 5

The Bucs had two R5 picks until the George Johnson trade, but thanks to the magic of pretend general managing, they’re about to have a second once again.

Despite public quotes that could vaguely be construed to contain support for Doug Martin, I believe the L&L regime is ready to cut ties with former R1 pick.  Whether it was the offensive line, QB play, or Martin himself, the muscle hamster hasn’t resembled the back who tallied the 5th most yards in the league as a rookie.  Still, he has value. 

One locale where I believe he would prove valuable is Tennessee, where last year’s flop Bishop Sankey resides as the team’s only rosterable rusher.  Maybe Martin can give the Titans a glimpse of the record setting rookie from a few seasons ago, but safe estimates say he could give the Titans more of what they’re looking for (a starting, three-down-capable back) in a rusher than a R5 pick will.

I have the Bucs acquiring Tennessee’s R3 pick (#138 overall) for Doug Martin.

Order has been restored.  The Bucs again have two R5 selections, and here are the picks –

#138 – Andy Gallik (C, Boston College)
#162 – Matt Jones (RB, Florida)

Gallik was my R4 pick for the team in the last version.  I’m going to gamble that he’s still available at the top of R5.  Gallik would give the Bucs interior depth and a starting caliber center should they ever decide to move EDS to another position or team.  More about Gallik here.  Should Gallik be gone, I’d stay with an interior offensive lineman and take Max Garcia from Florida.  Unlike Gallik, Garcia has played multiple positions in college and projects as a versatile interior guy.

I can’t believe I’m going to mention two of “their” players in a row, but according to Roy Cummings (among others), the Bucs like Jones as a day 3 RB.  He would give the Bucs a different back than they currently have on the roster; a strong interior rusher capable of picking up short yardage or cashing in at the goal line.  He’s also an underrated pass protector. 

Rounds 6 & 7

Through five rounds the Bucs have secured a QB, OT, WR, DE, FS, C, and RB.  They have three picks left and (going by my list of needs) should target G, CB, and LB with them.  Sadly, I’m only going to address two of those positions.  The picks –

#184 – Bobby McCain (CB, Memphis)
#218 – Junior Sylvestre (LB, Toledo)
#231 – Tye Smith (CB, Towson)

McCain remains a faux Buccaneer for the third time in a row.  He would develop behind Sterling Moore in the slot and contribute on special teams. 

Sylvestre stretches to reach 6’0 and is on the small side for an NFL LB.  However, he has excellent sideline-to-sideline speed and is more than passable in coverage.  Sound like a fit for a particular coach’s defense?  Sylvestre would be depth behind Lavonte David and a guy on which to focus your binoculars on special teams. 

Smith is an FCS corner who plays physical football for a guy who was 180ish during the season.  He’s got a nice skill set that could develop behind the current starters.


#1 – Jameis Winston (QB, FSU)
#34 – Jake Fisher (OL, Oregon)
#65 – Rashad Greene (WR, FSU)
#81 – Anthony Chickillo (DE, Miami)
#109 – Derron Smith (FS, Fresno State)
#138 – Andy Gallik (C, Boston College)
#162 – Matt Jones (RB, Florida)
#184 – Bobby McCain (CB, Memphis)
#218 – Junior Sylvestre (LB, Toledo)
#231 – Tye Smith (CB, Towson)

That’s 10 picks in total with a bit of an unintentional theme.  I have no idea if L&L or the Glazers are focusing on local talent, but I have them taking four players from the state of Florida.  Drafting identifiable talent is one way to spark a largely disenchanted local fanbase.  If the Bucs do not draft a guard, as they do not in this scenario, I expect them to reach out to Dan Connolly the following week. 

Go Bucs!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Predicting the 2015 Buccaneer Draft - Almost There

The first pick is nearly four weeks away, but it’s finally draft month.  Tampa Bay has been quiet in free agency the last couple of weeks, so the needs remain the same.  Here’s my updated look at how I believe the first round plays out as well as what the Bucs should do with all of their selections.

1) TB – Jameis Winston (QB, FSU)
It goes without saying that this pick will not change.  I believe that Jameis is the best player in this draft and will go down as the best QB in Tampa Bay history.  He was the team’s best option back in January, and the events of the offseason have only strengthened his case.  Some Bucs fans hesitate to embrace Jameis because of concerns about his character.  They may be dismayed that he’s not concerned with making people believe he’s a good guy.  He’s focused on greatness.  He’s been a winner and wants to continue that at the next level.  His message has been consistent.  He wants to be compared to Tom Brady.  He wants to win a Super Bowl this year.  He wants to be a hall of famer.  Like him or not, Bucs fans are going to appreciate the way this young man plays the position and becomes a leader of this franchise. 

2) TEN – Leonard Williams (DL, USC)
I’m still not buying Mariota going #2.  Tennessee takes the guy widely considered to be the best overall player in the draft.  Lining Williams up opposite Jurrell Casey beefs up an improving defense.

3) JAX – Vic Beasley (DE/OLB, Clemson)
I’ve had Dante Fowler here before, but I believe that Beasley is probably the best fit for the Jags LEO position on defense.  Jax will have their pick of edge rushers, so we’ll eventually see how right I am.

4) OAK – Amari Cooper (WR, Alabama)
Like anyone else who talks draft, I’m having a hard time putting any discernable difference between Cooper and Kevin White.  I’ve had White here both times in the past, but right now I’m leaning Cooper because he might be the safer option.  Can I really count on Oakland making the safe choice?

5) ATL – Dante Fowler (DE/OLB, Florida)
I think this trade makes a ton of sense for both teams.  Yes, Washington could use a pass rusher like Fowler after losing Brian Orakpo this offseason, but if they feel they can receive similar value three picks lower and gain one or more picks in return, I think they pull the trigger.  I like the potential of a trade between WAS/ATL.  Atlanta moves up to secure, arguably, the draft’s best pass rusher rather than hoping the guy they want falls to #8.

6) PHI – Marcus Mariota (QB, Oregon)
Here’s how this one goes down.  There are several parts to it, but I believe it has substantial legs. 

First, I’m going to assume Philly and Cleveland have at least discussed the potential of making a deal should the draft play out where Mariota is available here.  The Browns reportedly were in on Sam Bradford, and here they get him.

Philly trades Bradford to the Browns for pick #19.  Philly then flips that selection, the 20th overall pick, and Mychal Kendricks, to the Jets for pick #6.  If you look at the trade value chart, #19 and #20 are more than enough for pick #6.  I think Kendricks is the cherry on top and an expendable player based on Philly’s offseason activity.  Chip Kelly said that he wouldn’t mortgage his future to move up for one player, but this scenario allows him to get his star pupil and stay true to his word.

7) CHI – Kevin White (WR, West Virginia)
I’ve had them taking Cooper, and with him off the board, they take White.  Again, I don’t see a ton of difference in projecting these two receivers.

8) WAS – Brandon Scherff (OL, Iowa)
The Redskins move down 3 spots and still get a guy they would likely be comfortable taking at #5.

9) NYG – La’el Collins (OL, LSU)
I’ve got to think this pick goes to either the offensive or defensive line.  Scherff and Danny Shelton have been my previous picks for the Giants.  Collins is an immediate starter at RT and gives Eli some much-needed protection.

10) STL – Andrus Peat (OL, Stanford)
The run on offensive linemen continues with the Rams.  I think they’re in a tough spot here with Scherff and Collins going with the two previous picks, but they’ve apparently been in on Peat for a while.  Maybe they don’t see much separation here.

11) MIN – DeVante Parker (WR, Louisville)
Teddy Bridgewater gets his man.  This pick makes too much sense.  Parker is not a reach here at #11, fills a need, pairs nicely with recently acquired Mike Wallace, and is reunited with his collegiate QB.

12) CLE – Danny Shelton (DT, Washington)
If Shelton falls this far, I’ve got to think the Browns jump on him.  Great value and fit.

13) NOR – Randy Gregory (DE/OLB, Nebraska)
Bob Marley doesn’t fall far.  The Saints take a bit of a chance in attempt to address their need for a pass rusher. 

14) MIA – Trae Waynes (CB, Michigan State)
Todd Gurley would be a nice surprise pick here, but with I think Waynes matches up well with Maimi’s need for a corner.

15) SF – Bud Dupree (DE/OLB, Kentucky)
Back before the regular season ended I had Dupree on my radar as an option for the Bucs in R2.  He’ll be off the board well before R1 ends, and even this might be too low for him.  Aldon Smith is unreliable, and there’s no pass rushing depth to speak of.

16) HOU – Malcom Brown (DL, Texas)
Big man doesn’t have to travel far and gives the Texans help opposite JJ Watt.

17) SD – Todd Gurley (RB, Georgia)
Barring a trade, San Diego is the second team in the draft (after Miami) I could see taking Gurley.  Taking the talented back and focusing on the offensive line in subsequent rounds would be a way to entice Philip Rivers to hang around.

18) KC – Eric Kendricks (LB, UCLA)
Same as last time.  I think this is either Kendricks or someone (Flowers) who can play RT.

19) NYJ – Shane Ray (DE/OLB, Missouri)
With the first pick acquired in the in the Mariota deal, the Jets take a pass rusher.  Ray “slides” in this version.  I think his less than stellar workout numbers will cause him to be the guy from this closely grouped group of pass rushers that could wait to hear his name called.

20) NYJ – Melvin Gordon (RB, Wisconsin)
The Jets need to add talent in the backfield, and Gordon pairs nicely with Chris Ivory.

21) CIN – Ereck Flowers (OL, Miami)
Here’s another pick I think coes down to either the offensive or defensive line.  Flowers could be the best available lineman at this point. 

22) PIT – Landon Collins (S, Alabama)
Fit meets need meets value.  Collins could be the Andrew Luck to Troy Polamalu’s Peyton Manning.

23) DET – Eddie Goldman (DT, FSU)
Haloti Ngata was a nice response to losing Ndamukong Suh, but there’s still work to do up front.

24) ARI – Jalen Collins (CB, LSU)
After losing Antonio Cromartie in free agency, there’s an opening opposite Patrick Peterson.  Landing with a fellow former Tiger should be a good thing for the talented and inexperienced Collins.

25) CAR – Cedric Ogbuehi (T, Texas A&M)
Ogbuehi often gets left out of the tackle conversation, in large part because of his ACL injury.  Free agent signing Michael Oher might be the bridge to the future of Ogbuehi. 

26) BAL – Jaelen Strong (WR, Arizona State)
Anyone paying attention knows that WR is a huge need for the Ravens.  I think Strong is their best option here, but Breshad Perriman could get their attention as well.

27) DAL – Kevin Johnson (CB, Wake Forest)
After adding Greg Hardy, finding a corner is Dallas’ biggest need.  Johnson doesn’t get a lot of attention but will be among the first off the board at his position.

28) DEN – Cameron Erving (OL, FSU)
He can play center or guard for the Broncos right now, both positions of need.

29) IND – Arik Armstead (DL, Oregon)
If the Colts want to make it past the Patriots, they must get better players on the defensive side of the ball.

30) GB – Stephone Anthony (LB, Clemson)
I’m going corner or linebacker here.  Anthony fills a need that seems to exist every year for this team.

31) NOR – Marcus Peters (CB, Washington)
If they go in on Gregory at #13, then why not go with another off-field question here?  Peters could be the best cornerback in this year’s draft class.

32) NE – Byron Jones (CB, Connecticut)
One of the stars of the offseason completes R1 and helps the Patriots slow the bleeding from the losses of both Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner.

Round 2

33) TEN – TJ Clemmings (T, Pittsburgh)
The Titans could obviously go in several directions here, including trading the first pick of day two, but I’ve got them addressing a need at RT with a guy should pair nicely with LT Taylor Lewan for quite a while. 

34) TB
Nothing has changed.  Given the Bucs needs this pick still must be spent on either an offensive or defensive lineman.  Drafting any other position would be a mistake.  There are no “must have” prospects still on the board; no one to entice the Bucs to stray from their needs here. 

My three targets with the 34th pick are (in order) Jake Fisher, DJ Humphries, and Preston Smith.  The tackles are both among the top of this year’s class in their present ability to protect the passer.  Here’s how they checked in at the Combine:

Fisher – 6’6, 306 with 33 ¾ arms
Humphries – 6’6, 307 with 33 5/8 arms

Both have the size and athleticism (footwork, range, recovery) to project as left tackles with the ability to play on the right side as well.  I’m more comfortable with Fisher because of how refined he is already, but Humphries has just as much, if not more, potential.  Adding either Fisher or Humphries will not only improve protection for their rookie passer, but the skill sets of these two players along with Demar Dotson’s gives them some side flexibility/versatility with their tackles. 

Smith remains my favorite pass rusher in this range.  He’s got the size and ability to play all three downs, something this team desperately needs and won’t likely find in this year’s draft after this round.  One reason Smith isn’t rated higher is that he doesn’t play as fluid as his numbers suggest.  His versatility to line up in multiple spots up front will also be attractive to Lovie Smith. 

The pick – Jake Fisher (T, Oregon)

Round 3

So far the Bucs have taken a QB and someone to protect him.  I’d love to find a stud pass rusher here, but there’s a reason those guys aren’t readily available with the 65th pick in the draft.  The Bucs need to capitalize on talent here rather than blindly continuing down their checklist of needs. 

The three players I’m projecting here hold the talent worthy of the selection and address immediate needs.  In order they are Rashad Greene, Tre McBride, and Tre’ Jackson.  Yes, two of them are Noles. 

Possibly the biggest factor in Rashad’s favor is the fact that he’s Jameis’ go-to guy.  On a ’13 team with Kelvin Benjamin, Kenny Shaw, and Nick O’Leary, Rashad led them all in receptions (76) by 21.  This year he caught 99 passes, or 41 more than any other receiver on the roster.  Getting your new #1 asset his favorite collegiate target seems like a no-brainer.  Rashad obviously has a great relationship with Jameis, but he’s not simply a product of his QB’s success.  He has excellent hands, runs a full route tree, and despite a lack of great size or speed combined with the attention he gets from the defense, he’s routinely able to get open and make plays.  For the Bucs, he fills the immediate need of a slot receiver while also bringing the ability to play out wide when Vincent Jackson inevitably moves on. 

I’ve been driving the McBride bandwagon for a while now, and only the #1 pick’s #1 target could cause him not to be my #1 choice.  Like Rashad, McBride has the skills to play both inside and outside the formation.  His level of competition is in question, but McBride’s ability to make contested catches is not.  I’d be thrilled with either receiver. 

Jackson rounds out this group of candidates.  Regarded as one of this class’ top guards (for reference I have Cann and Tomlinson off the board at this point), he would slide right into the opening at RG, a position he played at FSU for the past 3+ years.  Jackson does most of his damage destroying defenders in the run game and needs to improve his technique in pass protection. 

Want a shocker for the 3rd round?  TJ Yeldon (RB, Alabama).  If the Bucs were to take a RB early, it should be Yeldon.  In my opinion, he represents this draft’s best running game partner to Charles Sims.  Yeldon could handle the early down work, while Sims is allowed to play the change of pace role for which he is better suited.  I still expect Doug Martin to be moved at some point, and while most Bucs fans would be upset with another early pick being spent on a RB, I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility.  Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (CB, Oregon) and Trey Flowers (DE, Arkansas) are two other players I’d consider in R3.

The pick – Rashad Greene (WR, FSU) 

Round 4

Here’s the haul through 3 rounds –
QB – Jameis Winston
OL – Jake Fisher
WR – Rashad Greene

The biggest remaining needs are starting talent on the offensive and defensive lines and depth at linebacker and in the secondary.  Seeing as how the Bucs current roster is lacking in overall talent, no position can be ignored.  However, I think the lines will receive higher consideration.

I’ve got a ton of candidates for this pick, spanning the offensive line, pass rusher, cornerback, wide receiver, and running back.  My favorites are Andy Gallik, John Miller, and Lynden Trail. 

I’ve already mentioned Gallik as an option for the Bucs.  He’s a really strong anchor who won’t get pushed around, which of course is a desirable trait for the guy playing in front of your passer.  Consistency is his game.  He was BC’s starting center for four years and the key to an offensive line that produced 212.5 rushing ypg in ’13 and 251.8 in ’14.  He makes all the line calls, and you don’t see many missteps in his footwork in the run game.  His knock is a lack of athleticism and size (6’2, 306), which has him in the R4 range rather than being an earlier pick. 

Similar to Gallik, Miller does everything you want from an interior lineman, but he isn’t as athletic or big as one might prefer.  Miller has good size (6’2, 303), but he’d ideally be another inch taller and 10 pounds heavier.  Power and consistency are his game.  He could step in and start right away at RG.

Trail was my previous R4 pick.  The athletic pass rushing project is still a candidate, but I believe Gallik and Miller represent safer gambles; something a team that has swung and missed as often as the Bucs must consider.

The other players I would consider in this round –
Rob Havenstein (T, Wisconsin), Mike Davis (RB, S Carolina), Donovan Smith (T, Penn State), Senquez Golson (CB, Mississippi), Justin Hardy (WR, ECU), Jeremy Langford (RB, Michigan St), Mitch Morse (G, Missouri), Za’Darius Smith (DE, Kentucky), and Cedric Reed (DE, Texas).

The Bucs currently own one 4th round pick, but if they are able/decide to deal Martin and/or Mike Glennon, maybe one of those other guys enters the equation.

The pick – Andy Gallik (OL, Boston College)

Round 5

The Bucs own two selections in this round.  In the past I’ve mocked Jeremiah Poutasi, Jarvis Harrison, and Stefon Diggs with those picks.  Given the way this draft has played out, with the Bucs spending all four previous picks on the offensive side of the ball, I’ve got a few new candidates for the fifth round, namely Ben Heeney and Zack Wagenmann. 

Heeney was a three year starting MLB for Kansas, team captain for the last two, and led the NCAA in solo tackles in ’14.  At 6’0, 230 he’s light for your prototypical MLB but is the epitome of the sideline-to-sideline player that the Bucs are reportedly looking for at the position.  He demonstrates above average straight line speed and change of direction.  Heeney is a form tackler and doesn’t make many missteps or misreads to the ball.  If you want to play a little past player association, Heeney should strive for Shelton Quarles’ career.  His speed, pursuit, and tackling ability will make him an instant star on special teams, and I expect he would start out as depth at SLB.  Also, if you haven’t done so already, do yourself a favor and check out the Captain Heeney website

Wagenmann is a pass rusher who accumulated 37.5 career sacks and 52 TFL in college.  Why in the world is he a 5th round prospect?  For starters, he played at Montana, an FCS university.  He also measures in at an undersized 6’3, 247.  His weak showing of strength at both the Combine and his pro day reveal his likely future as a situational rusher.  There’s plenty of room for guys like that in today’s NFL.  The guys at Pewter Report have been on Wagenmann for a while now, so I did some digging myself.  If the Bucs haven’t drafted a pass rusher at this point, I believe Wagenmann represents excellent value as someone to get after the passer and make contributions on special teams.

Poutasi would be on my radar if the Bucs don’t add a couple of offensive linemen earlier, but I think Harrison and Diggs have seen their stock settle a round lower.  Other players I’d target in R5 – Kenny Bell (WR, Nebraska), Jamison Crowder (WR, Duke), Karlos Williams (RB, FSU), Kevin White (CB, TCU), Kurtis Drummond (S, Michigan State), and Adrian Amos (S, Penn State).

The picks – Ben Heeney (LB, Kansas) and Zack Wagenmann (DE, Montana)

Rounds 6 & 7

Through five rounds, here’s the haul –

QB – Jameis Winston
OL – Jake Fisher
WR – Rashad Greene
OL – Andy Gallik
LB – Ben Heeney
DE – Zack Wagenmann

After signing Sterling Moore to man the nickel corner spot, I like the Bucs starters in three receiver sets.  What I don’t like is the complete lack of talented depth behind Alterraun Verner, Johnthan Banks, and Moore. 

As I mentioned earlier, I still believe that Martin gets moved.  Fans may not like the return, but that hasn’t stopped this regime from moving players they don’t believe fits their plan. 

I wouldn’t sneeze at another offensive or defensive lineman in these rounds either.

In the end, I’m sticking with my previous picks.  I still believe that Bobby McCain will be a starting caliber corner and that John Crockett can be a three-down NFL rusher.

The picks – Bobby McCain (CB, Memphis) and John Crockett (RB, North Dakota State)

I’ve got quite a few players I’d consider either in R7 or as undrafted free agents.  They are –

Cody Fajardo (QB, Nevada)
Hutson Mason (QB, Georgia)
Shane Carden (QB, ECU)
Laurence Gibson (OL, Virginia Tech)
Mark Glowinski (OL, West Virginia)
Doniel Gambrell (OL, Notre Dame College)
Adam Shead (OL, Oklahoma)
Max Garcia (OL, Florida)
DeAndrew White (WR, Alabama)
Mike Reilly (DE, North Dakota State)
Mark Nzeocha (LB, Wyoming)
Tye Smith (CB, Towson)
Bryce Callahan (CB, Rice)
Robertson Daniel (CB, BYU)
Donald Celiscar (DB, Western Michigan)
Cody Riggs (DB, Notre Dame)
Dean Marlowe (S, James Madison)

Total Haul

Jameis Winston (QB, FSU)
Jake Fisher (OL, Oregon)
Rashad Greene (WR, FSU)
Andy Gallik (OL, Boston College)
Ben Heeney (LB, Kansas)
Zack Wagenmann (DE, Montana)
Bobby McCain (CB, Memphis)
John Crockett (RB, North Dakota State)

In this draft the Bucs take their 5th R1 QB in team history, two long term starters on the OL, a starting slot receiver and new #3 on the depth chart, a starting caliber nickel corner, two defensive reserves with big special teams potential, and a rusher to add to the backfield equation.

Go Bucs!