Here are the rules:
1) I will NAPALM the next sonofabeech who thinks the Bucs should draft Manti Te'o in the First Round or Tryrann "Tanard and Talib Headaches Combined" Matthieu at ANY point in the draft. I am serious. If you dare mention either name, I want your address and best times of the day to catch you and drop the canisters you so richly deserve on your bleeping empty craniums.
3) Okay, getting back to saner mindset, I will focus only on the Bucs this mock draft. My suggestions are based on how other teams are expected to draft and on whom will be available on the boards when it's the Bucs' turn.
4) I would love to see trades done for the Bucs to move about to both A) draft players at their proper values, and B) to secure additional high or middle-range draft picks to shore up serious depth or starter needs. But trades are the most random aspect of the draft: until they start happening you can't tell who's going to even want to trade up or down.
5) Each draft selection will list a need position: at least three that are both most needed and at best value. More can be listed if it's a draft spot where the Bucs can focus less on starter needs and more on development / depth.
6) See that NAPALM? I am not kidding if you bring up anything that rhymes with "Sonny Gadger" I will HIT YOU WITH THAT NAPALM until you are more fried than James Franco during Oscars Night.
Now, onto the team's Mock Draft:
First Round (13) - Needs: CB, DT, DE, TE
Before this month, I was completely stone set on the Bucs drafting Cornerback. No other options were open in my humble opinion. Our starter quality at the moment is non-existent: our depth at CB one of the worst roster spots on the entire line-up. But Sander, wisest and sanest of us all, argued elsewhere that our CB situation is not as dire as I fear - especially if Wright stays on at a more sensible contract - and that the Bucs are in the best possible position to pursue multiple CB talents in Free Agency.
Meanwhile, our situation with the defensive line has gotten shakier: Bowers arrested on a gun charge hurting our DE depth; Roy Miller more than likely departing via FA leaving a talent gap (vs. the run especially) at the DT spot. If a deal can't get done with Michael Bennett, our DE situation becomes just as bad as our CB situation.
Mixing in with all this is the need on offense for a sure-fire receiving Tight End to fix the team's questionable red-zone offense and lack of receiving targets past our WR pairing of Jackson and Williams.
In the end, I'm still thinking that getting a CB in the First is the Bucs' best move: I have faith the Bucs can re-sign Bennett to DE. I also have faith that a decent TE could be had in Free Agency as well, reducing the need to draft one this high in the rounds. On the other side of the FA coin, I think the Bucs can snag ONE quality veteran in FA: however, there are too many other teams hungry for CB needs of their own and we're facing a tighter market than hoped. This means the Bucs have to grab a good CB in the First over all other needs.
Good news is, the recent combine gave a number of CB rookies a chance to show off and prove they could be of good value by the 13th pick. I personally wasn't too high on him earlier, but given that the guy I was championing - Banks - is coping with injury questions it's looking like the Bucs could draft Xavier Rhodes and call it a good first night.
Bucs select: CB Xavier Rhodes, Florida St.
Second Round (43) - Needs: DT, DE, TE
There could be a need for drafting ANOTHER Cornerback in the Second... and given Dominick's draft history of making back-to-back draft picks for players in the same position, it's possible. This would only happen if the Bucs utterly failed to get even one starter-caliber CB in Free Agency... and given the amount of cap space the Bucs have to work with and the fact that Tampa Bay is again a place veterans would want to play, that scenario is very unlikely.
This is where the Bucs take care of needs at the other high-end question marks: Tight End and Defensive Line. This all depends on Free Agency, obviously. But at the moment the needs are a good receiver-type TE and a Nose-Tackle run-stuffing DT. You can get the run-stuffing DT by the Third Round. That means TE.
By this point the most likely candidates - Eifert, Ertz - are long gone. The ones left are surprisingly good, especially the kid out of Cincinnati, Travis Kelce. He's noted by the scouts as very good blocker with surprising release and acceleration, which could translate into a decent mid-field receiving threat.
Bucs select: TE Travis Kelce, Cincinnati
Third Round (73) - Needs: DT, DE, WR
Wide Receiver slips into need territory because the Bucs could be in the market for a slot receiver/punt returner type: after Jackson and Williams, the Bucs don't have a reliable third-down option on passing plays. The middle of the draft is when you start shopping for those.
But the earlier needs remain dominant, DT more than DE. Especially finding a run-stopping DT with above-average tackling skills to line up next to Gerald McCoy. Earlier DTs taken tend to be pass-rushing types like McCoy: by this point run-stuffers should be still on the market. Best available run-stuffer by the looks of the scouting reports would be Illinois' Akeem Spence: Experienced, tough, and a great tackler. If the Bucs are in more dire need of Defensive End at this point, the most likely need is for a pass-rushing DE leaving Auburn's Corey Lemonier as a likely candidate.
Bucs select: DT Akeem Spence, Illinois
Fourth Round (? comp picks affect draft spot) - Needs: WR, CB, DE
If the Bucs haven't gone after a DE by this point - and if the team re-signed Bennett or got a replacement veteran via FA - they probably won't go after one from this spot onward. Only if a rough-gem type slipped out of Third Round, which seems unlikely. Cornerback comes back into play for depth / long-term development considerations.
But getting a WR for the slot spot, and for depth needs - some of the WRs on roster may be FA fodder - is of higher concern at the moment. By the Third - Fourth Rounds you're finding either great speedsters with lousy route running and weak hands or else fearless route-focused ball-catchers who can't burn anything even if they've got my NAPALM on hand. Considering our QB - Freeman throws a lot of stuff too high or away if the route-runner's not there - we're in need of a fearless route-runner who can focus on catching the ball above all else. The best likely candidate by this spot based some of the scouting reports looks to be Ryan Swope.
Bucs select: WR Ryan Swope, Texas A&M
Also Fourth Round - Needs: CB, DE, ROT
Ah, the advantages of getting extra draft picks. 'Tis a pity we didn't get this one in a higher Round though: the team needs are pretty steep.
I'm adding Right Tackle into the equation only because I feel the need to have the Bucs pursue a solid ROT and add some fresh legs to our O-line. Word is, however, that Dominick prefers going after veteran OL talent, out of the belief that A) experience at blocking trumps youth and B) talent other than Left Tackle seems relatively interchangeable (hence training up the back-up Guards for Center duties).
While I'd draft a Tackle for ensuring depth needs vs. injury woes, the team most likely won't. Meaning smart money is on the Bucs going after a raw, long-term train-up for CB.
Bucs select: CB Steve Williams, California
Fifth Round - Needs: S, OL, LB
From here on out the need for starter talent can't be answered: we're looking at Special Teams and long-term development.
I didn't have Safety as a high need - unlike some scouts and mockers - because I do feel the Bucs' talent depth at S is underrated and from the high probability that Ronde Barber can return for One. More. Year. at the Safety spot. But going after a Safety by the Fifth Round is a solid move to make, and this year the talent pool at the Safety position is relatively deep. By the Fifth Round a good possibility is Josh Evans out of Gainesville: the scouting report item that sticks out big time to me is the tackling numbers, considering the secondary's need for better tackling this would be a good need fit.
I'm throwing LB in here only as a nod to going after Special Team types - tacklers, above all. My opinion on our LB situation, even with Quincy Black most likely retiring or getting cut with his injury woes, is that our backup talent and starters are ready to rock and roll.
Bucs select: S Josh Evans, Florida
Sixth Round - Needs: LB, OL, anybody who can block on kickoffs and tackle on returns
This is also where I like to make a vanity pick for either of my alma maters, Florida and/or South Florida. I've gone with Evans out of Florida for purely logical reasons - he's a good player and solid tackler - but here this is pure rah-rah go-school-go stuff. :-)
Bucs select: LB Sam Barrington, South Florida
Seventh Round - Needs: a pulse would help, but functioning brain cells so much more
By this point, if the Bucs even goes with two out of my varied selection suggestions, I'm calling it a good draft. The only way the Bucs can screw up the Seventh Rounder is if they go after wassisname, that clueless moran out of Louisiana State who keeps wrecking his career by thinking he lives in Colorado or Washington State rather than a state that tends to frown on cannabis use (wait for Obama to swing his opinion on pot legalization, THEN go public with your use, DUH. And DON'T DEAL IT). You'd think they'd teach potheads the value of PATIENCE, but noooooo...
Bucs select: WR Josh Boyce, TCU
Other notes for your consideration:
Why I Didn't Draft:
Quarterback: this is a weak year for drafting one, period. Freeman may still be a major headache, but he's proven to be a starter. Just not a very good one at the moment. If he can get his head back to where he played great - 2010, those six grand weeks when the Bucs were on a roll last season - then worrying over a starter won't be a concern. The depth need is more along the need for experience, something you WON'T get with a rookie QB. The last couple years of rookie QBs coming in and playing like GODS has been more aberration than trend.
Running Back: Martin is set, obviously, but depth even if Blount goes can always be addressed via Free Agency or UFA post-draft. Also, the Fullback need isn't there much.
O-Line: mentioned earlier. Dominick doesn't seem to ever want to draft a lineman - we'll see if Left Tackle ever becomes a need, though - so if he doesn't, none of us should consider.
Defensive End: Really do feel the Bucs will get Bennett back, and that Bowers' gun arrest can get delayed or plead out well enough that he's available for most of 2013. There's also the chance a decent veteran DE could be had in FA if Bennett goes that way. But if Bennett departs and the FA market for ends dries up quick, expect DE to be THE First Rounder pick, not CB.
Punter: NEVER! Not to mention the fact the punter we have - Koenen - is often our best player on the field... ;-)
Kicker: Barth is still solid. Until he shows signs of missing 35-yarders on a regular basis, we can keep him.
So, what do you think sirs? (and you in the back, mumbling something about Matthieu? NAPALM TIME, MUTHASMURFER!)
Poll to follow.