The 2017 NFL draft is only just in the rearview mirror, but draft analysts are already looking toward next year’s selection meeting. Hey, they need to eat too, right?
The latest 2018 NFL mock draft is Todd McShay’s. The ESPN analyst has the Bucs picking 11th, which is based on Football Outsiders’ early rankings. We talked about those pessimistic predictions here.
More importantly, he has the Bucs targeting LSU defensive end Arden Key.
I'm not completely sold on Key. He shows flashes on tape (12 sacks in 2016) but needs to be more consistent. Scouts will dig deep on why Key took a leave of absence from the team earlier this year.
It’s far too early to say anything specific about Key as a player, but in terms of his type he’s an interesting fit. A light-weight (6’4”, 238 lbs.) speed-rusher who’s been very productive and obviously has the potential to be a destructive pass-rusher.
Any team could use a player like that, but the Bucs may pass on him if Noah Spence develops the way they hope. A bigger defensive lineman would make more sense, given Mike Smith’s desire to show more 3-4 looks on defense—though those 3-4 looks would also give them the ability to field Key opposite Spence as a stand-up rusher.
Of course, if Key continues to develop the way he has, he won’t be available at the 11th pick let alone where the Bucs are actually going to be picking (I hope). If he is available, he’ll have had a disappointing final season.
This pick would mean the Bucs passing on what is likely to be a need next year: offensive line. Demar Dotson’s getting older, we don’t know how J.R. Sweezy will do, and a few other players still need to continue developing, which is always fraught with uncertainty. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Bucs grab a lineman next year.