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!

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