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NFL Mock Draft 2017: Defense for the Buccaneers?

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Michigan v Ohio State Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

It’s a Monday during the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offseason, so we’re talking about mock drafts and whatever new thing is happening in that department. Let’s look at two new 2017 NFL mock drafts this fine day.

In previous weeks, mock drafts mostly had the Bucs picking wide receivers and defensive ends, the former fitting a massive need, the latter...not so much. In fact, I’d be slightly surprised if adding a defensive end is anywhere close to being a priority for the Bucs this offseason.

This week, though, mock draft writers had different ideas. Let’s start with Dan Kadar of SB Nation, who thinks Michigan’s Jabril Peppers would be a nice fit.

Peppers’ draft stock seems to be all over the place because of his positional ambiguity. Safety becomes a big need for Tampa Bay if Bradley McDougald leaves in free agency, so Peppers could be used to fill his spot.

As I’ve said, before, I don’t quite see how Peppers fits the Bucs. He’s an interesting player, but he’s very similar to Mark Barron, who had to move to linebacker in the long run. There’s room for those players in the NFL and perhaps even on the Bucs’ roster, but they’re not necessarily the kind of game changers you’d prefer in the first round.

Then again, perhaps Peppers is. He has a penchant for splash plays and could be a valuable weapon, though he’s also disappeared against tougher competition, and the NFL is a different beast than college football. This will mostly hinge on how Mike Smith sees him and whether he can find a place for Peppers in his defense.

Moving on to other mock drafts, Lance Zierlein of NFL.com goes with a defensive tackle in Michigan State’s Malcolm McDowell.

McDowell has Pro Bowl potential, but there is some bust potential as well. He often played on the nose at MSU but can play anywhere along the defensive line.

The Bucs like versatile defensive linemen, and someone like McDowell would give defensive coordinator Mike Smith more versatility with some potential 3-4 lineups. While the Bucs generally have a somewhat undersized and penetrating defensive front, Smith has a history of going for bigger and more versatile guys — like McDowell, possibly.

Then again, a defensive tackle is hardly a big need, and a nose tackle in particular would be an odd use of a first-round pick.

Selecting either McDowell or Peppers would leave the Bucs with a pretty big hole at wide receiver, too, or on offense in general. Finding a quality second weapon for Jameis Winston should be a priority for the Bucs this offseason, and unless they fix that in free agency, that’s likely what their first-round pick will address, too.