After doing a combined mock draft with Luke Easterling a few weeks back and a potential wish list mock draft a couple weeks ago, this is my first attempt at what I think could possibly transpire for the Bucs on draft weekend.
This draft is not as weak as the 2013 NFL Draft, but it's much closer to that dud of a draft than the past two drafts. With the lack of overall talent, there is an added emphasis on scouting departments and attacking the draft's strengths.
This draft's strengths are along the line of scrimmage both offensively and defensively. Defensive tackle is absolutely loaded, while defensive end is leaning toward weak in this draft. Offensive tackle, cornerback, and safety all have nice players to draft if you're a team is smart enough to just allow the draft to play into their hands. This draft might also contain one of the best kickers to come out of college since Sebastian Janikowski or Stephen Gostkowski.
Here's my first look at how I think the NFL Draft might play out for the Bucs:
1st Round | DeForest Buckner | DE | Oregon
I know this isn't an earth-shattering pick, but I don't do mock drafts to just get a reaction. I do mock draft to share how I think things may shape out. The Bucs still have major needs along their defensive line. There is a chance Buckner goes before the Bucs' pick, but if he's available, I think he'd be a great selection. Buckner's size and strength can be used inside or outside, in a 4-3 defense or in a 3-4 defense. Buckner is the type of physical specimen Bucs DL coach Jay Hayes would be excellent with. Along those lines, I hope the Bucs give strong consideration to Robert Nkemdiche with this pick as well. Either Buckner or Nkemdiche would immediately make the Bucs defensive line significantly improved.
2nd Round | Jason Spriggs | OT | Indiana
I can see one of the top offensive tackles slipping to the top of the 2nd round. If that tackle that slides is Spriggs, good possibility, I wouldn't be surprised if Jason Licht pounced on him. Let's start with the why? Quietly, Jason Licht has revamped the Bucs offensive line with young players that can grow together for years to come. After the Bucs showed intyerest in 26 year old right tackle Mitchell Schwartz in free agency, it's apparent to me that Licht would love to get a young right tackle and complete his offensive line. Spriggs is a Licht type of player. He is hard-nosed and nasty. I think Spriggs would be an instant starter at right tackle. Oh, and please spare me the Demar Dotson talk. The Bucs would LOVE to replace and move on from him.
3rd Round | Hassan Ridgeway | DT | Texas
When a position is as loaded as defensive tackle is this year, potentially great players can slip. Ridgeway entered this draft early when he should have stayed at Texas and continued to grow. If he stays in school, he could have potentially been an early 1st round pick next year. I love Ridgeway's size (6'3'' 303 lbs), how physical he plays, his long arms (33''), and sudden burst to get to the quarterback. Ridgeway could end up as one of the biggest sleepers and best players of the 2016 NFL Draft. The combination of Buckner and Ridgeway gives the Bucs two young powerful defensive linemen for new Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith to get creative with.
4th Round | Rashard Robinson | CB | LSU
Robinson has a ton of talent, but character concerns, along with sitting out the 2015 season, will hurt him. Robinson is a long corner at 6'1", 32" arms, and a 35" vertical to be able to match up with bigger receivers. Now, let's factor in that he ran a 4.28 40-yard dash at his pro day on Monday. The Bucs struck goal on an LSU defender in the 4th round last year, why not do it again?
5th Round | Mike Thomas | WR | Southern Miss
Mike Thomas wasn't invited to the combine, and I hope the Bucs take advantage of that with the inside knowledge from his former college coach Todd Monken, who is now the Bucs' offensive coordinator and WRs coach. Thomas has speed to stretch the defense, and can be an excellent slot receiver.
6th Round | Dan Vitale | FB | Northwestern
As tough as the early rounds are to predict, these late round picks are stupid impossible. Most likely, the Bucs won't be picking with either of their 6th round picks as they can move up or down. If they don't have a full back by the draft, I'm avoiding the obvious Gronk or Watt bloodline and going with a smart, hard-nosed blocker in Vitale.
6th Round | Matt Judon | DE | Grand Valley State
Judon is a developmental defensive end with lots of natural talent. Judon is very raw and needs time, but patience can pay off with him.