NFL Mock Draft 2014: Buccaneers' needs obscure draft intentions

Melina Vastola-US PRESSWIRE

In the latest post-free agency mock draft, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers select a wide receiver. But if Sammy Watkins isn't available, free agency has only made the team's outlook more obscure.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been busy, busy bees in free agency. They've signed seven new starters, re-signed five backups, added two new backups and are still looking for some additional help at cornerback and wide receiver. All of that activity has had an impact on the team's draft outlook: they now want to pick the best available player.

According to Dan Kadar's latest mock draft, that player will be wide receiver Sammy Watkins -- the explosive skill player we all love .

If one of the top three quarterbacks is still on the board when Tampa Bay picks, things may get interesting. NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah said Johnny Manziel's ideal fit is Tampa Bay. But general manager Jason Licht coyly said this about quarterbacks:

"I see franchise quarterbacks in this draft, but likely not the ones you're thinking of."

Let's just assume that he's referring to quarterbacks outside the big three. If so, that should preclude Tampa Bay from taking a quarterback with this choice. If the Bucs do skip a signal caller here, adding the best wide receiver in the draft in Watkins is a smart play. No other player in the draft is more capable of immediately stepping in and making an offense better.

Other options: WR Mike Evans, OT Taylor Lewan, QB Johnny Manziel

Sammy Watkins is a terrific player and probably the best fit for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, unless they like one of the top quarterbacks -- a distinct possibility. Interestingly, though, the other positions are not likely to be on the team's board.

With the addition of Anthony Collins at left tackle and the quality play of Demar Dotson at right tackle, drafting an offensive tackle like Taylor Lewan or Jake Matthews would be a waste, even if they were the best available players. That's not necessarily true of Greg Robinson, who's ridiculously talented and can be a dominant guard, too, but I do have a hard time seeing Lewan and Matthews suit up for the Bucs this year.

In fact, by filling needs in free agency with expensive contracts, the Bucs have actually reduced the number of realistic options available to them. Khalil Mack is probably off the board, given the fact that Michael Johnson is strictly a right end and Mack doesn't have the size to hold up as a left defensive end. If they see Mack as a Sam linebacker instead, he's unlikely to be worth the seventh overall pick. Similar points can be made regarding Anthony Barr.

If Sammy Watkins is not available, then, it's hard to see what the Bucs will do. If they like a quarterback, that will be the pick. But if that's not the case, a trade down may be the best options -- which is easier said than done. Eric Ebron would be a great fit at tight end, and C.J. Mosley would be a good middle linebacker, but neither player would represent good value at the seventh overall pick.

In all, the Bucs' free agency activity has only made their draft situation murkier.

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