The regular season is over, Raheem Morris and his supporting cast have been shown the door, and the next era in Bucs football begins now. With the number 5 overall pick, the Bucs are well positioned to bring in a promising class of rookies in 2012. So what will this draft look like?
When I mock a draft, I try to keep each team's needs at the forefront of my mind, as well as their historic drafting techniques. For example, if a team tends to stick to BVA regardless of need, I try to reflect that in my choice. So I was quite surprised with the draft I came up with here. The Bucs luck out with all three of their picks. Now I may face accusations that I'm being a homer or unrealistic with my picks, and I'm happy to address any criticisms. But please bear in mind that I was trying to address each team's needs one after the other, with no (conscious) intent to spin the draft in the Bucs' favor. Also remember that not every player mocked here has declared yet, and some may opt to stay in school. Regardless, this mock draft gave me hope that the Bucs will walk away from the real draft as winners.
A few notes: I usually don't include trades, but I've included one here. St. Louis trades away its pick to Washington. I think that either St. Louis or Minnesota will do this (I expect Miami and Seattle to vie for RG3 as well), and St. Louis seems like the likelier candidate due to 1) its higher pick and 2) its more comprehensive needs across the board. What they'll trade to get the pick is subject to speculation, but a second round pick and next year's first round pick seems more than fair to move up 4 spots. Also, there are two ties where a coin-flip will determine draft order (Carolina/Miami and Kansas City/Seattle): reality may differ from my own coin-flip, naturally.
Thoughts and comments are always welcome.
1. Indianapolis Colts
Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
Yes, it's possible they could trade out the spot for a king's ransom. But I don't think there's a team willing to give up what they'd ask, and the opportunity to take the franchise QB of their future will be too tempting.
TRADE: St. Louis Rams trades the #2 overall pick to the Washington Redskins for Washington's 1st round pick (#6 overall), 2nd round pick (#38 overall), and 2013 1st round pick.
2. Washington Redskins (via St. Louis Rams)
Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
One team that has even more holes to fill than the Buccaneers is St. Louis. If they can find a trade partner and pick up some extra picks, it's likely they'll trade out of the spot (the same applies to Minnesota). Washington needs a franchise QB more than any other team, and they're historically unafraid to make big moves.
3. Minnesota Vikings
Matt Kalil, OT, USC
The Vikes could go in several directions, but a foundation left tackle like Kalil is too tempting a prize to pass up.
4. Cleveland Browns
Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
With RG3 off the board, there's no QB to tempt the Browns away from Colt McCoy worth a #4 pick. Whoever ends up taking snaps in Cleveland, they need some weapons on offense in the worst way. Richardson might tempt them, but adding a real option at WR will probably be their best play.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
The consensus top target of the Bucs, he falls to us at #5 in this scenario. It's not guaranteed that this will happen- but if St. Louis or Minnesota trades down and the other team takes Kalil, our chances just got a lot better: Cleveland is unlikely to take another CB this high and has other key needs to address.
6. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins)
Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
Martin's a good consolation prize in place of Kalil- the Rams need to move on from Jason Smith, and Martin projects as a long term quality left tackle.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars
Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina
Jeffery's draft stock has dropped a bit this year, but the combine will likely send him moving upwards again. Jacksonville needs new receivers in the worst way possible.
8. Carolina Panthers
Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
The Panthers could also opt to upgrade the O-line, but their pass defense has been major weakness when they play teams that aren't the 2011 Bucs. Kirkpatrick at Carolina and Claiborne at Tampa Bay could set up a long-term rivalry between the two.
9. Miami Dolphins
David DeCastro, G, Stanford
Riley Reiff or Courtney Upshaw are other prospects that would make sense for Miami (assuming they don't beat Washington in the trade up for RG3), but they need a solid interior lineman and DeCastro is a phenomenal prospect.
10. Buffalo Bills
Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama
The Bills need pass rush in the worst way. Upshaw would help solidify their 3-4 scheme.
11. Kansas City Chiefs
Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
O-line is the Chiefs' most glaring weakness and Reiff is an excellent value at #11.
12. Seattle Seahawks
Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
Coples is a versatile pass rusher who could provide an immediate upgrade for Seattle's front four.
13. Arizona Cardinals
Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College
Stewart Bradley is likely to be cut this offseason, and Kuechly could provide an instant upgrade and a huge value at #13 as BPA.
14. Dallas Cowboys
Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska
Dallas needs secondary help in the worst way and Dennard has been steadily rising up draft boards all season long- it's no longer a stretch to project him in the top 15.
15. Philadelphia Eagles
Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
DeSean Jackson's career in Philadelphia is over, and the Eagles will be looking for a new receiver. Floyd would be a perfect fit. Zach Brown or Vontaze Burfist would be other options if the Eagles decide to address their woeful situation at linebacker instead.
16. New York Jets
Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois
The Jets need help with their pass rush and Mercilus (What a name! Did he study with Cobra Kai?) has the size and speed to be an excellent 3-4 OLB.
17. Cincinnati Bengals (via Oakland Raiders)
Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
Isn't it strange to see Cincy picking this late? And this isn't even their position, it's the pick they got from Oakland! Jenkins may have serious off-the-field issues, but Cincinnati has traditionally tolerated antics in return for solid play.
Jenkins has tremendous talent and the Bengals need a replacement for the departed Jonathan Joseph.
18. San Diego Chargers
Cordy Glenn, OT/G, Georgia
San Diego's O-line is in tatters, with guard Kris Dielman considering retirement, left tackle Marcus McNeill suffering consistent injuries and possibly requiring neck surgery this offseason, and center Nick Hardwick set to be a free agent. Glenn is the kind of versatile lineman the Chargers could really use right now, capable of playing several positions including left tackle.
19. Chicago Bears
Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina
The Bears could use some help generating pass rush and Israel Idonije is a free agent this season. Ingram is an excellent needs/value pick for Chicago here.
20. Tennessee Titans
Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin
The Titans' O-line has been abysmal all season long. Drafting Konz would give Tennessee a top talent in the middle and would allow them to shift Eugene Amano to left guard, effectively upgrading both positions.
21. Denver Broncos
Devon Still, DT, Penn State
Though there's a possibility that Elway and Fox will gamble on drafting a non-Tebow QB or take Trent Richardson, Still makes more sense overall. They need an interior force on their D-line and Still projects well to that role.
22. New York Giants
Vontaze Burfict, ILB, Arizona State
The Giants always go for BVA, Burfict falls down draft boards due to a disappointing senior season, and New York coincidentally needs a middle linebacker badly. Zach Brown or Trent Richardson are other viable options here.
23. Cincinnati Bengals
Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
I could very easily be entirely off about how far Richardson will fall, but there's was no team so far that clearly needed a top RB over all other needs (Denver and New York were the closest I came before here)- note that this is still higher than Mark Ingram went last year. Adding Richardson to an offense that already features Andy Dalton and A.J.Green could keep the Bengals in contention for a long time.
24. Detroit Lions
Barrett Jones, OT, Alabama
The Lions need help at left tackle- Jones could be the solution
25. Cleveland Browns (via Atlanta Falcons)
Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma
If Jones declares, Cleveland will take a gamble on him if he falls to their second first round pick.
26. Houston Texans
Alameda Ta'amu, NT, Washington
Shaun Cody has been serviceable for Houston, but the Texans need a long-term true nose tackle to serve as the core of their D-line. Ta'amu would be an excellent match for them with a good needs-value ratio.
27. Pittsburgh Steelers
Dont'a Hightower, ILB, Alabama
With Farrier possibly retiring, the Steelers need to address ILB. Hightower is a good value here and shouldn't jar too much with their mindset of BVA.
28. San Francisco 49ers
Chase Minnifield, CB, Virginia
CB is arguably San Francisco's biggest need and Minnifield is a good value late in the first round.
29. New England Patriots
Brandon Jenkins, DE/OLB, Florida State
New England is so tough to mock for, because they almost inevitably trade away one of their top picks for future picks. With that porous secondary I could easily see them taking Stephon Gilmore, T.J. McDonald, or Mark Barron. But Jenkins is too big a talent and the pass rush too much of a liability for the Patriots to pass on taking him. Until they trade away the pick, of course.
30. New England Patriots (via New Orleans Saints)
Mark Barron, S, Alabama
But wait! New England gets two picks in a row. Patrick Chung can't do it alone- look for New England to take a safety early in this draft.
31. Baltimore Ravens
Nick Perry, DE/OLB, USC
The Ravens draft for BVA and Perry has great upside. Baltimore could use a complement for Suggs.
32. Green Bay Packers
Vinny Curry, DE/OLB, Marshall
Eric Walden has been inconsistent and Matthews has been double-teamed, limiting his effectiveness. Green Bay could really use another playmaking OLB to line up across from him, and Curry would fit that bill nicely.
33. Indianapolis Colts
Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
The Colts' secondary was hideous this past year- Gilmore would be a great value at the top of the second round.
34. St. Louis Rams
Jayron Hosley, CB, Virginia Tech
Cornerback or wide receiver? With the top CB prospects flying off the board, I think that the Rams would take a CB first.
35. Minnesota Vikings
Casey Hayward, CB, Vanderbilt
Speaking of which...Hayward might be a slight stretch here, but the Vikings need a cornerback badly and can't wait another round if they want one of the remaining top 10 CBs (seven gone already!).
36. Cleveland Browns
Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
The Browns need help at both right tackle and left guard. Adams, the former Ohio State standout, would be an excellent match for their needs.
37. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Zach Brown, OLB, North Carolina
I swear I didn't plan it this way- but if Brown falls to the Bucs at the top of the second (and there's a chance it could happen, especially if both the Eagles and Giants pass), there's no question that we would need to snatch him up and thank whatever deities we may believe in. Brown is arguably the top 4-3 OLB in the draft and could be an instant start at either Will or Sam.
38. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins)
Dwight Jones, WR, North Carolina
Speaking of teams that benefit from Tarheels dropping below their ranking on the big boards.....the Rams need help at receiver badly and Jones has a ton of potential.
39. Jacksonville Jaguars
Andre Branch, DE, Clemson
The Jags' defense did well in 2011, despite their record, but they need some consistent pass rush.
40. Carolina Panthers
Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
It can't be all Steve Smith, all the time- the Panthers need more options at WR.
41. Miami Dolphins
Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
Miami may make a play for Matt Flynn in FA, or they may stick with Matt Moore and Chad Henne- or they might sell the farm to trade up (as Washington did in this mock) for RG3. Regardless, I think they'll draft a QB at some point and if Tannehill is available in the second round, I think they'll pull the trigger.
42. Buffalo Bills
Mohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers
The Bills are in desperate need of a receiver besides Steve Johnson. Sanu, who has been the core of the Rutgers offense, would be a huge asset for Buffalo.
43. Kansas City Chiefs
Kelechi Osemele, OT/G, Iowa State
Two offensive linemen in a row for the Chiefs? They could use the help that badly, and Osemele is a great value here- likely he'd be plugged into the RT position at Kansas City. RB or TE are other possibilities, but better values can be found in later rounds.
44. Seattle Seahawks
Ronnell Lewis, OLB/DE, Oklahoma
Seattle could take a RB or even a QB here, but can probably wait another round for either without slipping too far. Lewis is a great value with the speed to function well in Pete Carroll's hybrid schemes.
45. Philadelphia Eagles (via Arizona Cardinals)
Lavonte David, OLB, Nebraska
The linebacking corps was the Achilles' heel of the "Dream Team"- an improved run defense is paramount to Philly's future success. David has excellent speed, instincts, and tackling technique- it weren't for his being slightly undersized, he'd probably be considered a first round pick.
46. Dallas Cowboys
Kevin Zeitler, G, Wisconsin
The Cowboys need some interior line help, and Zeitler's a good value midway through the second. Safety (T.J. McDonald) is another possibility.
47. Philadelphia Eagles
Kevin Reddick, ILB, North Carolina
Philly needs to add a Mike as well, and Reddick is the best value available at that position: great instincts and technique, with the sideline-to-sideline capability that will allow him to be a threat as a pass rusher as well.
48. New York Jets
Marvin McNutt, WR, Iowa
McNutt is a sleeper prospect whose stock may rocket upwards after the combine. The Jets need an explosive playmaker at WR.
49. New England Patriots (via Oakland Raiders)
Billy Winn, DE/DT, Boise State
Defense, defense, defense is the mantra for the Patriots this year: Winn would work well as a 3-4 5-technique for the Pats.
50. San Diego Chargers
Dwayne Allen, TE, Clemson
Gates is aging fast and Allen would be a steal halfway through the second round.
51. Chicago Bears
Nick Toon, WR, Wisconsin
The Bears still lack a true playmaker at WR. If Toon is available late in the second round, they won't hesitate to jump- he has the size and skills to be their long term #1 receiver.
52. Tennessee Titans
Shea McClellin, DE, Boise State
The Titans need to improve their pass rush, and McClellin is one of the top players available.
53. Denver Broncos
Lamar Miller, RB, Miami
The Broncos wait to pick up a RB- and Miller falls into their laps anyway. Tebow & Miller are a rushing matchup that would give defensive coordinators fits.
54. New York Giants
Brandon Thompson, DT, Clemson
DT doesn't seem like the biggest need area for the Giants, but their policy of BVA argues that he's their choice here.
55. Cincinnati Bengals
Ryan Miller, G, Colorado
Cincy's interior line is weak and the Bengals need to protect their young QB- Miller's a good value for them here.
56. Detroit Lions
Micah Hyde, CB, Iowa
Detroit needs help in the secondary. If Hyde declares, he'd be a great choice for the Lions.
57. Atlanta Falcons
Nate Potter, OT, Boise State
Sam Baker hasn't panned out for Atlanta. Potter's a good bargain for a team starting its draft in the late second round.
58. Houston Texans
Tommy Streeter, WR, Miami
The Texans need a #2 receiver to take some pressure off Andre Johnson. Streeter's a tall and lanky (6'5", 215 lbs.) receiver who's a legitimate deep threat. Adding him would cause coverage nightmares for the Texans' opponents.
59. Pittsburgh Steelers
Dontari Poe, NT, Memphis
BVA matches needs again for Pittsburgh, who need to draft their next nose tackle.
60. San Francisco 49ers
T.J. McDonald, S, USC
Cornerback first, safety next- San Francisco's draft is all about improving the secondary, and McDonald's an excellent value here.
61. New England Patriots
Rueben Randle, WR, LSU
It's safe to say that the Ochocinco experiment is over in New England. It's tempting to give them another safety here, but with both Branch and Ochocinco close to retirement and Wes Welker a free agent, the Patriots need some young receivers.
62. New Orleans Saints
Travis Lewis, OLB, Oklahoma
The Saints luck out by have a good pick at a key position of need fall to their first selection deep in the late second round. Lewis has been slow since coming back early after an injury, but he should help New Orleans stop the run.
63. Baltimore Ravens
Ben Jones, C, Georgia
The Ravens need a new center, and the bottom of the second is an ideal place to grab Jones, the projected #3 center in the draft.
64. Green Bay Packers
Derek Wolfe, DT/DE, Cincinnati
Neal's injury and Jenkins' departure have made depth at 5-technique a priority for Green Bay.
65. Indianapolis Colts
Robert Lester, S, Alabama
Indy's secondary gets another infusion of life with Lester, an excellent value at the top of the third round.
66. St. Louis Rams
Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State
A great bargain pick for St. Louis, Worthy would instantly improve the Rams' interior pass rush.
67. Minnesota Vikings
Ryan Broyles, WR/PR, Oklahoma
Minnesota will look to add another option at WR in the draft. If Broyles recovers from a torn ACL in time to have a strong combine, the Vikes would be happy to take him at the top of the third round.
68. Cleveland Browns
Frank Alexander, DE, Oklahoma
Next up in priority for the Browns is either a DE, WLB, or G. Alexander is the BVA at these positions: Cleveland could really use a bookend for Jabaal Sheard.
69. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech
Once again, I didn't plan it this way- but if the draft transpires this way, the Bucs will have their choice of all but two of the RBs available, with only two (Richardson and Miller) off the board. Choosing between Wilson, Montee Ball, Chris Polk, and LaMichael James would be a dream scenario for the Bucs- even if I'm off on only two being gone, we should have several options. I gave Wilson the edge because I think he's the best all around prospect with speed that can equal James', but the combine will tell us more about all of these prospects. Other options for the Bucs here would include a right tackle (Matt Reynolds or Ricky Wagner), a second linebacker (Danny Trevathan or Sean Spence), a second cornerback (Shaun Prater or Donnie Fletcher), a safety (Markelle Martin), a wide receiver (T.Y. Hilton, Jeff Fuller, or Ryan Swope), a center (William Vlachos), a guard (Lonnie Edwards or Lucas Nix), or a tight end (Coby Fleener). There's no guarantee things would fall out this way, but there's a shot. This would be an incredible draft for the Bucs. Let's hope that reality's at least somewhat close to this scenario.
70. Washington Redskins
Matt Reynolds, OT, BYU
If the 'Skins are drafting a franchise QB this year, they'll likely look to protect him with their next pick.
71. Jacksonville Jaguars
Donnie Fletcher, CB, Boston College
The Jags needs secondary help badly and Fletcher could be an excellent grab for them.
72. Chicago Bears (via Carolina Panthers)
William Vlachos, C, Alabama
Chicago's O-line came a long way this season, but it still hasn't fully recovered from losing Olin Kreutz. With Vlachos at center, Garza can move back to guard and the whole line improves.
73. Miami Dolphins
Ricky Wagner, OT, Wisconsin
Offense again: with a revamped O-line and new QB, Miami will look to have an entirely different offense in 2012.
74. Buffalo Bills
Bruce Irvin, DE/OLB, West Virginia
Pass rush, pass rush, and some more pass rush just for good measure. The Bills took Upshaw in the first round, but they won't hesitate to give him a partner if Irvin is available in the third.
75. Kansas City Chiefs
Josh Chapman, NT, Alabama
The Chiefs need a new nose tackle and, lucky them, one of the top prospects is still available to them in the 3rd.
76. Seattle Seahawks
Nick Foles, QB, Arizona
The 'Hawks may have missed the boat on the top QBs in this draft, but they could draft an intriguing developmental prospect with Foles.
77. Arizona Cardinals
Bobby Massie, OT, Ole Miss
The Cardinals' O-line needs an infusion of youth and vitality, stat.
78. Dallas Cowboys
Markelle Martin, S, Oklahoma State
The Cowboys use a second pick on their secondary, which badly needs the attention.
79. Philadelphia Eagles
Cliff Harris, CB, Oregon
As strange as it is to ponder Philly needing to draft a CB, with both Samuel and Rodgers-Cromartie uncertain beyond next season, this is a real need.
80. New York Jets
Ray Ray Armstrong, S, Miami
The Jets need a new safety and aren't likely to be too concerned about any character red flags.
81. Oakland Raiders
Terrelle Pryor, QB, Ohio State (2010 supplemental draft)
Is he the future of the Raiders behind Carson Palmer? Outlook unclear, ask again later.
82. San Diego Chargers
Coryell Judie, CB, Texas A&M
The Chargers are thin in the secondary and whatever scheme their likely new coach chooses, they'll need some new d-backs.
83. Chicago Bears
Winston Guy Jr., S, Kentucky
The Bears need an upgrade at free safety. Guy, one of the top prospects in the country at the position, would be an immediate shot in the arm to the Chicago secondary.
84. Tennessee Titans
Danny Trevathan, OLB, Kentucky
Will Witherspoon is on his way out and Barrett Ruud has been hopeless. Akeem Ayers and Colin McCarthy are the future of the Titans' LB corps, but they need a Will. Enter Danny Trevathan, number five in the nation in tackles despite playing for an SEC punching bag (and the 2010 leader in tackles in the SEC).
85. Denver Broncos
Shaun Prater, CB, Iowa
Champ Bailey is heading towards retirement and the Denver secondary needs some fresh blood.
86. New York Giants
Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin
Ahmad Bradshaw could use a young set of legs to spell him and Ball is probably the BVA at this point: so win-win for the Giants.
87. Cincinnati Bengals
T.Y. Hilton, WR/KR, Florida International
Yet another offensive weapon for Cincy, to relieve the pressure on A.J. Green.
88. Detroit Lions
Lonnie Edwards, G, Texas Tech
A second O-line pick for Detroit. I doubt Stafford will be upset.
89. Atlanta Falcons
Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford
Atlanta scores a coup with its second overall pick, landing a potential heir to Tony Gonzalez's legacy.
90. Houston Texans
Audie Cole, ILB, North Carolina State
The Texans could use some depth at ILB.
91. Pittsburgh Steelers
Lucas Nix, G/OT, Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh needs help on the interior of its line and Nix is a great value late in the third.
92. San Francisco 49ers
Andrew Datko, OT, Florida State
The Niners O-line could use some attention and Datko's a good value here- San Francisco could potentially move him inside to guard.
93. New England Patriots
Brandon Taylor, FS, LSU
A second safety? If you saw New England's pass defense this year, you understand why.
94. New Orleans Saints
Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
The Saints addressed the edge in the first round last year; with their second overall pick, they could very well address the interior.
95. Baltimore Ravens
Tank Carder, ILB, TCU
The Ravens need to address the future of their ILB position while Ray Lewis is still around to mentor a replacement.
96. Green Bay Packers
Trenton Robinson, FS, Michigan State
The Packers don't have many needs, but some depth at safety would have to be one.