As the draft approaches and mock draft after mock draft come across your faces as fans it’s always fun to take a slightly different look at what the team may do. Let’s say everyone is available, who should the team look at? In what order should the team have the available players ranked? Would a trade down make the most sense assuming a dance partner is willing to partake in the action? Let’s take a look at what the team needs, who is available and what impact, both long and short term, each of the potential top 10 players on the Buccaneers board would have on this team.
Along the defensive line, one could still argue that even after the additions of Allen, Pierre-Paul, and Curry that the team is still in need of another pure pass rusher off the edge as well as a defensive tackle to work along the likes of McCoy and Allen. With Pierre-Paul as the top pass rusher off the edge that the team has, Curry being a career rotational end with expectations of producing 4-6 sacks tops and Noah Spence being riddled with injuries early on in his career, the defensive end position is still a premier need on this team. Beau Allen is a formidable option as a running mate with Gerald McCoy but is hardly a high-end nose tackle and would best be suited in a similar role to what he had in Philadelphia where he was used in a rotation.
The defensive backfield is still in need of some help both short and long term as well. With Vernon Hargreaves III best served as the slot corner and Brent Grimes back on a deal to get the team through 2018 as the lone true starter outside, the team will need to add somewhere along the line in this draft another corner. Justin Evans improved steadily as the season went on a year ago and will continue to man the deep end of the backfield at safety and the team brought back Chris Conte who should assume the safety spot opposite of Evans for the upcoming season. A long term option to replace Conte is needed soon and one would expect this to be addressed in some manner in the 2018 NFL Draft.
The running back position will almost assuredly be addressed with one of the Buccaneers first two picks as the team needs a true number one back. Peyton Barber did an admirable job filling the role late in the season but was far from a feature back as far as production and overall ability goes. The team would be well suited to take a running back in the top 50 picks this time around and get themselves a true number one guy who can man the role on all three downs. Should the cards fall right, the team may even take two this year to get themselves a legitimate change of pace back and allow Barber to be an early down replacement when the lead back needs a breather.
Offensive line, to some, is a luxury pick should the team find itself in position to take a player like Quenton Nelson. But the fact remains that he is a potential elite guard and pairing him with the likes of Ali Marpet is one of the things a quarterbacks dreams are made of. On the other hand, Demar Dotson isn’t getting any younger and one could make the argument that Donovan Smith isn’t exactly getting any better (something many of you on Twitter see become a point of argument each and every Sunday). Caleb Benenoch may be the answer but the team would be remiss to ignore an opportunity to upgrade.
Before anyone jumps to conclusions let’s not forget that the team picked up Winston’s 5th-year option and will almost certainly sign him to a huge extension when the time comes. The team isn’t in the need of a new quarterback, not in the least, but the team would be wise to try and find a competent long term option at backup with Winston’s price tag increasing dramatically in the near future over continuing to sign veteran backups. Ryan Griffin hasn’t worked out, so it’s time to go try again with a late round pick or UDFA signing.
My top 10 Big Board for the Buccaneers should they pick at 7 (or trade back) with all names available.
- Quenton Nelson, Offensive Guard, Notre Dame - Far from the sexiest pick in the draft but Nelson is quite possibly the best overall player and closest thing to a future All Pro that this draft has to offer. Nelson would mean putting a lot of money into the offensive interior but could play huge dividends in the run game and pass protection for Jameis Winston.
- Harold Landry, Edge Defender, Boston College - Landry is the top pass rusher in this entire draft and is scheme versatile with the ability to stand up and rush, drop into coverage and most importantly, rush off the edge in a 4-3. Landry could very well push for a starting position with Curry as the current guy to beat. With pressure and sacks at a premium in this league, Harold Landry makes every bit of sense in the top 10.
- Bradley Chubb, Defensive End, N.C. State - Chubb is the best overall defensive lineman in this draft but is second fiddle to Landry is the pass rush department and that’s why he lands at number three hear. Chubb is a true three down end and can provide pass rush while holding his own and then some against the run. The team couldn’t go wrong with this pick and pairing him up with a healthy Noah Spence as the teams future ends while Curry and Pierre-Paul are featured early on.
- Derwin James, Defensive Utility Player, Florida State - James may be the best overall athlete in this draft and certainly takes that prize on the defensive side of the ball. You’ll notice the distinction position wise of “Utility Player” because that’s where his value is. I’m not sure that I consider James in the top 10 if the team were to exclusively line him up at safety. James is best suited for a split-safety role and needs to be used as a utility player to get the most out of his talent.
- Saquon Barkley, Running Back, Penn State - Barkley did not grade out at an otherworldly score for myself but he did grade very high none the less. Barkley is the type of home run threat that the Buccaneers need in the backfield given the offensive appetite for explosive plays. A back like Barkley who can pass protect, catch balls out of the backfield and take a carry to the house is a necessity at this point for what should be a high octane offense. While running backs in general shouldn’t be coveted this high necessarily, the Buccaneers are in a unique position offensively for this pick to make sense.
- Minkah Fitzpatrick, Safety, Alabama - With nearly all of Buccaneer nation clamoring for Derwin James I couldn’t help but find Minkah as the better overall pure safety with some projection based grading. James is a physical freak but Fitzpatrick is regularly in position and plays with more refinement in his game. I need a safety that I can trust play after play and that guy is Minkah. Fitzpatrick displays a ton of leadership qualities and flare on defense and can dip into the slot to cover tight ends as well as plug into the run game with ease. Fitzpatrick will be thought of as a corner for many fans but the fact is he only played 13 snaps at outside corner, living primarily in the box.
- Taven Bryan, Defensive Tackle, Florida - We’ve now hit the trade back target portion of this piece and it starts with an unlikely name for many with Taven Bryan. Vea, Payne and Hurst are the usual names but I consistently find myself back at Taven Bryan when it comes to a trade back target for the Buccaneers. McCoy isn’t getting any younger and Beau Allen isn’t going to make that big a difference for the productivity of the line. Given those two facts, adding a dynamic raw talent like Bryan to learn behind and potentially alongside McCoy like the team did with McFarlane and Sapp once upon a time could be a good move to make.
- Josh Jackson, Corner Back, Iowa - Jackson is my top corner in the draft and despite holding that rank, is still a trade back option as I don’t see a top 15 talent at corner in this draft. Jackson would give the team a legitimate number two corner outside and would be the heir apparent to Brent Grimes as the teams future number one corner. Allen has prototypical size for the position, something the Buccaneers have long lacked outside.
- Sony Michel, Running Back, Georgia - Michel is my top trade back target should the team be looking at a running back. Michel has dynamic explosiveness and is the top pass protector among the running backs in this draft. Michel’s split backfield at Georgia should mean there’s plenty of tread on the tires and his play style would be a great fit for Jameis and this offense here in Tampa.
- Derrius Guice, Running Back, LSU - Guice is a fan favorite and for good reason, he isn’t the same dynamic kick-it-outside type of back that Michel and Barkley are but he is without a doubt the most physical of the bunch. Guice packs a monster punch upon contact and is a beast to take down. Marshawn Lynch would be more than proud of this kids demeanor. Should the team look to move back from 7 or up from their second round pick, Guice would be a prime target to add some nasty to this offense.
When it comes down to it, the Buccaneers really are in a solid spot at 7th overall. There will be worthy options at 7 regardless of how the top 6 picks fall as well as some suitable trade back options. Fans should be ready for an eventful Thursday night as the draft offers a chance to once again turn this franchise around. What say you Buccaneer fans?