With the first wave of free agency in the books, we have a pretty good idea of which positions will need to be addressed in the 2017 NFL draft — and thus, we can get a better view of the likely draft results. Which makes today’s mock drafts the most useful ones yet.
We’re looking at a pair of mock drafts today, and how they reacted to the Bucs’ free agency moves. The Bucs, of course, signed speedster DeSean Jackson and defensive tackle Chris Baker, added safety J.J. Wilson and re-signed safety Chris Conte, cornerback Josh Robinson and running back Jacquizz Rodgers.
That addressed a bunch of needs and makes it harder to see the Bucs picking a wide receiver or defensive lineman who’s not an edge rush specialist in the first two or three rounds of the draft. Which is part of why SB Nation’s Dan Kadar has the Bucs taking running back Dalvin Cook, instead.
The Buccaneers went into this offseason wanting to get a playmaking wide receiver, and they certainly got that by bringing in DeSean Jackson. They can add another playmaker on offense by drafting Cook, a do-everything runner who can command snaps early in his career.
Cook would make sense: he’d hopefully give the team a lead back to replace Doug Martin, who’s versatile enough to be a useful addition in the passing game as well. Plus, he’s from Florida State and the Bucs have shown a preference for players from Florida recently.
Of course, the question then becomes whether running backs are worth a significant investment — but most indications are the Bucs think they can be, as evidenced by the contract they gave Doug Martin last year. Which, of course, backfired.
Another option is a tight end, which is what Pewter Report’s Trevor Sikkema thinks the Bucs should go for at number 19. Specifically, he likes Miami’s David Njoku.
I do think that a wide receiver is still in play here at No. 19 depending on how the board falls, but if the draft plays out like this, adding a dynamic pass catcher from a different position would be the way to go. To say that Njoku is an athlete for his size wouldn’t be doing him justice. He’s one of the youngest players in the entire draft and would be a mismatch nightmare with Cam Brate in an offense that also features DeSean Jackson and Mike Evans.
I think O.J. Howard might be a slightly better fit because he’s a better blocker and still a very athletic receiving tight end, but Njoku is such an explosive athlete that it’s hard to take issue with this pick. Also Sikkema has Howard coming off the board at number four soooooo...not really an option.
And, like Cook, Njoku played his college football at a college in Florida, which seems to help matters for the Bucs.
All of these options leave the team’s biggest need unaddressed, though: safety. The Bucs re-signed Conte and added J.J. Wilcox, but both are somewhat limited and mistake-prone safeties who could and should be upgraded. The Bucs could use a speedy, deep cover safety and the draft has a few of those who would make sense.
Still, I wouldn’t complain if the Bucs came out of this year’s draft with Njoku or Cook. They’d both provide an immediate boost to the offense, and could turn the Bucs into an offensive juggernaut.