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2017 NFL Mock Draft: An all-defense start for the Buccaneers

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Could the Buccaneers start the draft by focusing on defense?

NFL: Combine Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Mock drafts are everywhere, all the time. Understandable now that we’re just one way removed from the 2017 NFL draft, and yet we still don’t have a clear picture of who the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will pick.

That’s part of their strategy, of course: they don’t want things to be too obvious. Which leads to somewhat curious mock drafts like today’s, from Adam Stites. In two rounds he has the Bucs picking Connecticut safety Obi Melifonwu, followed, by Auburn defensive end Carl Lawson.

If Christian McCaffrey is still on the board at No. 19, he could be hard to pass up, but the fit of Melifonwu in Tampa Bay is just too perfect. He’s one of the true athletic freaks of the class and would give a significant upgrade to both the pass and run defense in Tampa Bay as a box safety. In the second round, Lawson would be another explosive rusher for a team that already has Robert Ayers and Noah Spence.

I continue to think that “box safety” would never be a perfect fit for the Bucs this draft. They have three safeties who are all better fits in the box than outside it, so what adding a fourth does to fix their needs remains a bit of a mystery.

That doesn’t mean they won’t pick one, of course. But Melifonwu is a particularly unlikely choice. He’s highly athletic and talented, but his versatility is a question mark and he often looks a beat slow in his reactions on the field. That’s a terrible trait to have for any safety.

Lawson makes a lot more sense to me, though. You can’t really have too many edge rushers, and it’s not like the Bucs are overflowing in quality ones. Jacquies Smith’s place on the roster remains a question mark as the San Francisco 49ers might try to poach him, while he’s also returning from a serious knee injury.

These two picks would leave the Bucs without any offensive reinforcement in the first two rounds, but that’s not an insurmountable problem. The Bucs have depth at the necessary positions, and could bet on Doug Martin and a mid-round running back to aid the running game.