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NFL Mock Draft 2016: Buccaneers go defense-only early on

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Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

It's Monday, and that means Dan Kadar has a new mock draft out. This week, he's doing a two-round mock. In the first round, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are widely seen as likely to target a defensive end or cornerback, their top two needs. Kadar has the top three defensive backs off the board early, though: Jalen Ramsey, Mackensie Alexander and Vernon Hargreaves have all been picked by the time the Bucs go on the clock in this draft.

Which means they settle for Clemson defensive end Shaq Lawson.

With the best corners and Bosa and Buckner off the board in this scenario, this sort of feels like settling with Lawson. He's not a bad player to settle on, however. For Clemson he was a good all-around end who can get after the passer and can hold up against the run.

Lawson led the nation in tackles for loss, but notched just 12.5 sacks in 15 games. That would be a good result in the NFL, but it's fairly lackluster for a top pass rusher in college football -- especially given the fact that he managed just 7.5 sacks in the prior to seasons. Sacks are only part of any defensive end's prowess, of course, and he does flash occasionally when watching him play.

The problem I  have with basically every edge rusher in this draft is that so few of them line up wide at right defensive end and just get up the field to rush the passer. That's not their fault -- it's the result of offensive and defensive schemes -- but it makes them hard to project to the NFL. Of all the defensive ends I've watched so far (excluding Joey Bosa), Lawson may show most of the traditional NFL traits -- explosiveness and the ability to bend around an offensive tackle -- but he only gets a few opportunities per game to show off those traits so it's hard to judge how consistent he'll be in the NFL.

Here's the problem for the Bucs: at this stage in the draft process, it seems unlikely they're going to get a defining presence for their defense -- even though they desperately need a pass-rushing defensive end and help at cornerback and safety. That doesn't mean the players they can draft won't help -- they surely will -- but they're not going to turn around this defense.

At #39, the Bucs at least grab a cornerback in William Jackson out of Houston, which should help the secondary. But second-round draft picks rarely make big, early impacts, especially in the secondary. All of that points to the team's needs to once again dip into free agency.