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Now that the combine is over, what does this mean for all the players who’ve been mocked to the Bucs with the 14th pick?

NFL: FEB 26 Scouting Combine
Georgia offensive lineman Andrew Thomas at the combine
Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With the 2019-2020 NFL season being long gone, and the start of free agency looming on the horizon, the NFL landscape is akin to a barren wasteland where fans are starving for answers to their teams largest looming questions.

What free agent will my team sign and for how much? Who will my team draft? Are these players any good or are they even a good fit? These are likely the most oft uttered questions from these deprived fans and the only hope for answering these questions comes with a long wait, and nothing more.

Well, Bucs fans, we’re doing our best to speculate the answers to these questions and which players are going to make the difference in sending the Bucs to the Super Bowl once again. With the Bucs sitting on the 14th pick, there are a lot of questions as to what they’re going to do with it.

We have tons of mock drafts at our disposal to see what the experts think the Bucs will do at 14, and there doesn’t really seem to be a consensus. The four most common answers I’ve seen when scouring the web include: Tristan Wirfs, AJ Epenesa, Javon Kinlaw, and K’Lavon Chaisson.

We’ll be taking a look at how these players performed at the combine and hopefully answer some questions you may have about not only who these players are, but what these combine numbers even mean. Additionally, I will be going into how Lance Zierlein of NFL.com views these players in terms of their veteran comparison.

Unfortunately, neither Javon Kinlaw nor K’Lavon Chaisson participated at the NFL combine due to nagging injuries, so they will not be included in this analysis. Instead, they will be replaced by another commonly mocked player, Andrew Thomas.

Now when it comes to the combine, results can be misleading and can often make a player with average tape get taken earlier than expected or a player with good tape, taken later than expected. Even Bruce Arians himself said, “You might run a 4.3, but your tape says you’re 4.6…The tape don’t lie. The combine lies.” Based on this comment, I personally feel more comfortable about how Arians and Licht will handle this year’s draft as I know they won’t get caught up in all the hoopla of a player’s 40 time. With that being said, let’s get started.


COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 03 Iowa at Purdue
Iowa Hawkeyes offensive lineman Tristan Wirfs (74) blocks Purdue Boilermakers defensive end Kai Higgins (98).
Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

First up, we have Tristan Wirfs, the former Iowa Hawkeye RT who declared for the NFL draft after a fairly successful junior season. Not only would he be a good replacement for the aging Demar Dotson, but according to a number of mock drafts, he should be available at pick 14 (or so we hope).

Measurements (from NFL.com):

Height: 6’ 5”

Weight: 320 lbs

Arm length: 34”

Hand Size: 10 1/4”

When looking purely at his size, he is around the same size as free agent RT Bryan Bulaga with slightly longer arms and slightly larger hands. Bucsnation’s own Bailey Adams wrote a free agent spotlight on Bulaga which you can check out here. The long-time packer is also the player that Lance Zierlein compared Wirfs to. If he has close to the same NFL success as Bulaga, he will hopefully anchor that Bucs right side of the line for years to come.

His combine performance (from NFL.com):

40 time: 4.85 seconds

Bench: 24 reps

Vertical Jump: 36.5”

Broad Jump: 10’1”

3-Cone Drill: 7.65 seconds

Reactions

Wow. All I can say about it. Based on that performance I’m not sure he will even make it to 14 at this point. While a 40 time is not particularly important for an OL, his time was the top of his combine class. His vertical jump is a combine record for OL which is not just impressive, but a great display of his explosiveness. His broad jump result was also tied for the combine record set by Raiders’ LT Kolton Miller in 2018. On top of this, his 3-cone drill was top five, highlighting good mobility, which is be important for everything a lineman does like countering speed-rushers, reach blocking, pulling, and lead blocking screens.

I mean, just look at this:


San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl - USC v Iowa
Austin Jackson #73 of the USC Trojans blocks A.J. Epenesa #94 of the Iowa Hawkeyes
Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Next up, we have AJ Epenesa, who played on the opposite side of Wirfs at Iowa. He declared for the draft after his junior season in which he finished with a team high 11.5 sacks and 14 tackles for loss. Epenesa would be a nice fit to play 5-technique DE and add to what was already the top rush defense in the NFL last year. Even if many of the defensive free agents remain, he would be a great addition to the pass-rush rotation and would be a nice upgrade over Will Gholston.

Measurements (from NFL.com):

Height: 6’ 5”

Weight: 275 lbs

Arm length: 34 1/2”

Hand Size: 10 1/8”

His size alone represents his length and his ability to create separation from opposing OL. As a comparison to someone currently in the NFL, his size is reminiscent of Will Gholston as he is long and lean with long arms. However, Lance Zierlein compared him to Carlos Dunlap which seems like a more apt comparison in terms of play as they both have fantastic hand usage and use their size similarly.

His combine performance (from NFL.com):

40 time: 5.04 seconds

Bench: 17 Reps

Vertical Jump: 32.5”

Broad Jump: 9’9”

3-Cone Drill: 7.34 seconds

Reactions

Meh. This was not necessarily a good combine showing but does it really matter with the tape he put together? Maybe. Based on Arians’ and Licht’s comments, I would say that they won’t be putting too much of this performance into his stock. This being said, his combine did him no favors as he did not test particularly well. The explosiveness he showed on film didn’t stand out as much as I expected, but then again, his tape does speak for itself. To put his 40 time into perspective, Vita Vea ran a 5.11 while outweighing Epenesa by 72 pounds. Zierlein’s pro-comparison, Carlos Dunlap, tested much better and posted a 4.68 40-yd dash, 21 reps, and had a 7.21 3-cone drill.


Georgia v Tennessee
Andrew Thomas #71 of the Georgia Bulldogs looks to block DeAndre Johnson #13 of the Tennessee Volunteers
Photo by Silas Walker/Getty Images

Finally, we have Andrew Thomas, the former Georgia Bulldog who decided to cash-out on his talent after a pretty impressive three year career. The three-time All-American played LT throughout the majority of his career at Georgia, however with the amount that the Bucs are paying Donovan Smith and the age of Demar Dotson, he would most likely fill in at RT. This is not a problem, however, since he did play RT in his freshman campaign and has familiarity with the position. What makes this prospect more interesting is that Smith can be cut without a cap penalty after next season, so if Thomas ends up a Buc, he may end up moving over to that side if they decide to part ways with their starting LT in 2021.

Measurements (from NFL.com):

Height: 6’ 5”

Weight: 315 lbs

Arm length: 36 1/8”

Hand Size: 10 1/4”

Looking at a size comparison, he is similarly sized to Mitchell Schwartz, the RT of the reigning Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs. The biggest difference coming from Thomas’s arm length being 3 inches longer, which is always important for an NFL lineman.

Lance Zierlein has Thomas comped with Ju’Wuan James, the Broncos’ oft-injured RT. While James has been injured quite often as of late, he is not a poor player and this comparison bodes well for the Bucs as this would be an upgrade over Demar Dotson. I would just hope that if the Bucs took Thomas at 14, he plays at a higher level than James. However, based on the career he put together and the tape he produced, I don’t believe this should be an issue.

Below is a look at what Thomas can do, while this is only a two-play example, the rusher he is handling with ease is projected top-20 pick OLB K’Lavon Chaisson as Fansided’s Tommy Jaggi points out:

His combine performance (from NFL.com):

40 time: 5.22 seconds

Bench: 21 Reps

Vertical Jump: 30.5”

Broad Jump: 9’1”

3-Cone Drill: 7.58 seconds

Reactions

These results are pretty okay, but not fantastic, and may potentially be the reason that Thomas falls to the Bucs at 14. This fall can be seen in Trevor Sikkema’s latest post-combine mock draft on The Draft Network. With four incredibly strong tackles at the combine in Mekhi Becton, Tristan Wirfs, Jedrick Wills, and Andrew Thomas, combine results may improve or impair some of their draft stocks.

As mentioned earlier with Wirfs, his performance may send him skyrocketing up draft boards as he showed everyone that he is an athletic freak. When it comes to Thomas, his stock may have dipped based on these results, despite him being one of the top tackles mocked pre-combine. With this being said, his actual performance in drills showed us why he is a top tackle. He displayed good lateral quickness and change of direction, which is always beneficial when pulling or trying to get to the second level.


While combine results are not all that is considered when assessing a player’s abilities, it gives us and coaches information that can either wrap a nice bow around a collegiate career, or give us reason to question taking someone so high. In either case, the combine is no supplement for tape and as previously mentioned, Arians and Licht will be using tape and taking combine results with a grain of salt.

What did we learn about these potential Bucs prospects? Well, we learned that Wirfs may not even make it to 14, that Thomas might make it to 14, and that AJ Epenesa is not the fastest or most agile edge defender. Word is still out on how Javon Kinlaw and K’Lavon Chaisson will perform, we can only wait and see how they perform at their pro-days which will be coming up soon.

Poll

Out of the players discussed here, who do you want the Bucs to take with the 14th overall pick?

This poll is closed

  • 62%
    Tristan Wirfs
    (142 votes)
  • 1%
    AJ Epenesa
    (3 votes)
  • 19%
    Andrew Thomas
    (44 votes)
  • 5%
    K’Lavon Chaisson
    (13 votes)
  • 10%
    Javon Kinlaw
    (24 votes)
226 votes total Vote Now