On Monday, most mock drafts had the Tampa Bay Buccaneers going with Eastern Kentucky defensive end Noah Spence. Seems like ESPN's Todd McShay didn't quite get the memo: he has the Bucs picking number nine in today's mock draft.
At 6-foot-7, 285 pounds, Buckner isn't a traditional edge rusher -- and some teams may view him as a 5-technique -- but playing in a four-man front, he could be a stout run defender at left defensive end and move inside to rush the QB on obvious pass downs. Posting 12.0 tackles for loss in conference play this season, Buckner would give the Bucs a much-needed playmaker at DE.
Guess what the Bucs already have? That's right: stout run defenders at left defensive end, and players who can rush the quarterback from the inside on obvious passing downs. Heck, William Gholston can even do both. Buckner's a talented player, he just doesn't work for what the Bucs need.
And it's slightly amazing that draft analysts keep making this mistake because it's not exactly a secret what the Bucs need: a better pass defense. They can defend the run. They've been defending the run for years on end. What they can't do is stop the pass. And I don't see how Buckner helps there. McShay doesn't even see how Buckner helps there, and he's still projecting Buckner to the Bucs.
Buckner also doesn't fit Mike Smith's history. He generally used light-weight, athletic edge rushers who could get after the passer. Players like John Abraham and Kroy Biermann, guys who are closer to linebackers than defensive tackles. Even when the Falcons moved to a 3-4 defense in Smith's last year, they had no one even remotely close to Buckner's 6'7" frame. It's not impossible that Smith is going in a different direction now, and Buckner does show some flexibility and bend on tape, but if they're picking him they'd do so only if they think he can be a consistent impact player in the passing game.
McShay has both Eastern Kentucky's Noah Spence and Clemson's Shaq Lawson on the board at number nine. Either player would look good in pewter and red, fill a much bigger need than Buckner, and have a bigger impact on their defense.