The Tampa Bay Buccaneers can probably start focusing on the draft, even if they win this weekend, which means it’s probably time to start looking at some mock drafts. That’s timely, because there’s a flurry of mock drafts out this week.
Let’s start with Matt Miller over at Bleacher Report, who thinks the Bucs will grab Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers with the seventh overall pick. That makes sense: the Bucs need to upgrade their safeties, Peppers is a special talent who can play many positions (not unlike Mark Barron...wait....), and Peppers is widely seen as one of the best players in this draft.
The downside? He is not a free safety. We’ve been hammering this point for years and years, but the Bucs have actually done fairly well in the strong safety section. They can defend the run. They’ve had players who can cover tight ends one-on-one. Bradley McDougald is not a problem in the box.
What they don’t have and what they haven’t have since Tanard Jackson still played full seasons rather than sitting on his couch smoking weed, is a free safety who can roam the back end of the defense. Someone who can actually cover deep, and not just sit there and watch balls fly by him, like Chris Conte tends to do.
That free safety is more likely to be found in the form of Alabama’s Jamal Adams — though he, too, is perhaps a better fit at strong safety. Still, he has the range and coverage skills to be a good back-end safety. CBS Sports and Luke Easterling over at The Draft Wire project him to go to the Bucs, though he’s also off the board in a few other mock drafts.
The final mock draft: Yahoo! Sports’ Shutdown Corner, and their selection of defensive end Derek Barnett. A solidly sized, all-around defensive end who is not a special pass rusher, but who can boost the Bucs defensive line anyway. A decent pick, but not one to get excited about, and not one that is going to really boost this defense. Not that there’s anything wrong with a pick like that — it’s just more of an incremental-gains than radical-improvement selection, but you need those too.