It's Mock Draft Monday again. Most mock drafters assume the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are going to target defense in this year's draft -- at least in the first round. After all, the only drafted one defensive player in the past two years. At some point they need to address that side of the ball.
But Dan Kadar's latest mock draft goes in a different direction entirely. In fact, he has the Bucs drafting offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley -- one of the top two tackles on the board, and a good value pick if he drops to the Bucs.
Donovan Smith played solidly as a rookie left tackle last season, but was projected by some as a right tackle before last year's draft. With a player of Stanley's quality on the board, Smith could be shifted over and the Buccaneers could have a nice pair of bookends for years.
I get the allure of moving Donovan Smith to the right side. After all, his rookie season was far from perfect, and his massive frame lends itself well to a more run-blocking oriented role on the right. But there are two problems with this reasoning. For one, the difference between right and left tackles has been slowly eroding for years now. Oftentimes, right tackles will be going up against an opposing team's best pass rusher as much or even more than left tackles.
The second problem is more practical: the Bucs like what Donovan Smith did as a rookie at left tackle, and are not inclined to move him to the right side. Dirk Koetter repeatedly spoke highly of him, and the team made no efforts to sign a left tackle in free agency. They did look at a few right tackles, reportedly, but those moves apparently never got very far: no tackle was brought in for a visit, and no one was signed.
If the Bucs draft Stanley, it's much more likely that they see him as their right tackle of the future than their left tackle of the future. Of course, plans can change once they get him in the building and see how he and Smith compete look in training camp. But finding someone to replace Demar Dotson and Gosder Cherilus, both of whom are over 30 and have just one year left on their contracts, would make a lot more sense right now than drafting an outright replacement for Donovan Smith.
Stanley would make some sense, but the Bucs are still far more likely to address defense. In his seven-round mock draft Luke Easterling has the Bucs taking Oregon defensive lineman DeForest Buckner -- not a great fit for a team that just signed Robert Ayers to play outside and inside, though. Roy Cummings gives the Bucs Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves instead, with them taking Noah Spence in the second round -- that would be quite the coup, though it seems unlikely Spence drops that far unless he really bombed his interviews.
If we look at Adam Stites' compilation of mock drafts from all across the internet, we can see that Noah Spence has almost completely fallen off the radar. Shaw Lawson and DeForest Buckner are both more popular picks at defensive end, Vernon Hargreaves continues to be the most common pick, and even Ronnie Stanley is more popular than Spence. So one thing's clear: we still don't have a clear picture of where the Bucs will go on draft day.