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2017 NFL draft analysts think the Buccaneers will target a running back

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Will Dalvin Cook be their first-round pick?

Capitol One Orange Bowl - Florida State v Michigan Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images

A few weeks ago the consensus among analysts was that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would select Miami tight end David Njoku with the nineteenth overall pick. It made sense: he’s a rare talent, fills a need for the Bucs, and is likely to be available at their pick.

The last week or so, though, the consensus has shifted toward running back. And to Florida State’s Dalvin Cook in particular. On Friday, Mike Mayock told the press in his conference that he thought the Bucs should target him. And ESPN’s Dan Graziano wrote yesterday that the Bucs’ ideal scenario would be having a group of running backs to choose from.

No one knows what's going to happen with Doug Martin. Jameis Winston is out there publicly stumping for Adrian Peterson. The Bucs are set at receiver and like their tight end, and they came as close to the postseason as any team that missed it in 2016. Winston needs someone to whom he can hand off. They're sitting too low in the first round to get Leonard Fournette or Christian McCaffrey, but maybe they can trade up. Or sit and take Dalvin Cook. Whatever they do, this draft is going to look great if they can avoid moving up to pick a kicker in the second round.

All of this obviously depends on the extent to which the Bucs see running back as a need, and the extent to which they believe spending a first-round pick at the position is prudent. Which is mostly an unknown.

I remain skeptical of their desire to spend significant draft capital on a running back, but perhaps that’s just wishful thinking on my part. One reason to remain skeptical: the Bucs have been pretty consistent in trying to muddy the waters in the week before the draft. Johnny Manziel became a suddenly popular selection for the Bucs in the final two weeks before the 2014 NFL draft, even though Mike Evans was always the obvious and eventual choice.

We’ll see what happens on Thursday. I wouldn’t be overly surprised at a running back, but I am far from convinced that that is where they’ll go.