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Mel Kiper’s first 2018 NFL Mock Draft has the Bucs passing on pass-rushers

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Mel Kiper prefers to fix the running game instead.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 01 Citrus Bowl - Notre Dame v LSU Photo by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

ESPN’s Mel Kiper published his first 2018 NFL mock draft of the year yesterday, and he has the Tampa Bay Buccaneers grabbing Quenton Nelson, the Notre Dame guard, who’s a surprisingly popular pick for Tampa.

The Bucs couldn’t run the ball in 2017, averaging only 3.7 yards per carry and 90.6 yards per game. Was it the running backs, the offensive line or both? Nelson is a plug-and-play starter who would be an upgrade for almost every team. He’s a dominant run-blocker at 6-5, 330, who causes destruction at the point of attack. If Barkley falls a little bit, could the Bucs snag him at No. 7?

I don’t get why the Bucs would grab a guard in the top ten, to be honest. They’re not worth a pick that high, because their added value isn’t that high. Even the most dominant guards around aren’t going to make a massive difference compared to the average guard. The Bucs certainly should add talent along the offensive line, but this is a bit much—especially given the capital, both in draft picks and in free agent money, the Bucs have invested in the line over the past years.

Making matters stranger is that the Bucs’ run game and passing game was mostly fixed by the end of the season, by a healthy Jameis Winston and by replacing Doug Martin with Peyton Barber. If anything, the Bucs should focus on getting a better back, not a better guard.

Realistically, though, the Bucs should just grab the top defensive end available. That’s by far their biggest need, and they haven’t invested enough draft picks in the defensive line in recent years. Time for that to change.