It’s an annual event: Mel Kiper’s first mock draft of the year. Not because he’s the best prognosticator or evaluator, just because he’s by far the most prominent one, which means we kind of have to write about it..
Today, Kiper published his initial 2017 NFL mock draft, and he has the Bucs picking Michigan defensive end Taco Charlton.
Charlton plays with good leverage for his height (6-5) and has active hands and an incredible wingspan. I’m curious what he’ll measure at the combine. He can play on his feet, too, which means he could fit in a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme. The Bucs took Noah Spence in the second round last year, and he improved in their 4-3 as the season progressed (5.5 sacks). Charlton would be a great pick.
At 6’5”, 273 lbs. is a very different player from Spence, though. The latter is an undersized defensive end who is best as a dedicated pass rusher, while Charlton is massive. He may be a very good edge rusher, too, but he has the mass to play every down and stop the run, too — something Spence struggles with in a 4-3 alignment.
The question is to what extent Charlton would fit the Bucs’ needs, especially if they re-sign William Gholston, which seems likely. With Spence, Robert Ayers, Gholston and Jacquies Smith returning from injury, they don’t have a massive need at the position, and it may be hard to find playing time for Charlton.
Intriguingly, Kiper also still has Kiper on the board when the Bucs pick. The Western Michigan would be a terrific fit for the Bucs, but is generally seen as unlikely to fall that far. If he is still available at number 19 it seems unlikely the Bucs pass on him.