The 2016 NFL season is officially, completely, entirely done with. The New England Patriots are once again the champions, the Atlanta Falcons the losers, and everyone’s preparing for the new season. That means draft prep — and all the mock drafts that come with it.
This week, we have two multi-round mock drafts for you. Let’s start with a three-round mock by SB Nation’s Dan Kadar, which is full of Bucs goodness. In the first round: Jabrill Peppers.
Although many are down on Peppers because of his lack of a true position, I still see him as a top 20 pick. Tampa needs a playmaking safety, and Peppers fits.
I am not a fan of Peppers, but at 19 he does represent decent value. I fear he’s going to be another Mark Barron: a talented safety whose limitations in deep coverage will lead to him becoming a box safety/linebacker. There’s value in a pick like that, but it’s hard to make someone like Barron and Peppers shine without a good back-end safety to cover for him, which the Bucs don’t have right now.
In the second round, he has the Bucs picking Iowa defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson, and in the third Texas A&M tackle Avery Gennessy. The first is a big dude who would probably fit best as a nose tackle for the Bucs, taking Akeem Spence’s space. Gennessy would be a nice depth pick, though the Bucs don’t necessarily need that along the offensive line right now.
What they do desperately need: an offensive weapon to complement Mike Evans, and Kadar gives them none of that. No receiver, no tight end, no running back even — and that’s not going to be good enough to help the offense get over the hump.
Meanwhile, Matt Miller of Bleacher Report put out a seven-round mock draft, and he had the Bucs picking Miami (Fla.) tight end David Njoku.
The Tampa offense is poised to break out very soon, and one way to ensure that happens is by surrounding Jameis Winston with athletic freaks like Mike Evans at wide receiver and Njoku at tight end. Want to keep safeties from bracketing Evans over the top? Put this monster at tight end and let him attack the seams all day.
Njoku isn't the biggest need pick for Tampa Bay, but this is the type of selection that can make a good offense a great one. With his run-after-catch skills, box-out size and what he brings to the table as a run- blocker, Njoku has a great chance to rank as a top-15 player from now until draft day.
A quality tight end would make a lot of sense for the Bucs, but usually the pick here would be Alabama tight end O.J. Howard, who Miller has going one pick earlier. Certainly the Bucs could use an explosive and versatile tight end, and if the junior (who had 698 receiving yards last year) can bring that to the table, I could see the Bucs picking him.
I don’t know if Njoku is actually good enough to warrant a top 20 pick, but there are some reasons to believe he’s better than O.J. Howard. For one, his production in his first (and only) two years far outstripped that of Howard. Second, he’s coming out early, unlike Howard, which suggests teams are very high on him. Third, he looks a little more athletic on film, though that’s admittedly subjective and hard to judge.
After Njoku, Miller has a few more interesting picks. Florida defensive tackle Caleb Brantley would do nicely to replace Akeem Spence at nose tackle, while UCLA cornerback Fabian Moreau would be a decent player to groom for the future, though his presence is kind of redundant given the team’s depth at the position. More worrying is that he only has the Bucs picking a receiver in the fourth round: LSU’s Malachi Dupre. Finding a second starting receiver is probably the team’s most pressing need.
In the final three rounds, he has the Bucs picking a safety, a tackle and a running back. All depth players at positions where the Bucs could use some depth, but late-round picks are always a gamble, especially in mock drafts.