It’s hard to believe, but we are finally here. It’s Draft Day.
The 2020 NFL Draft officially kicks off Thursday night (tonight). Months of speculation, tape-grinding, debates, and smoke-and-mirrors will all come to life once Roger Goodell waves the green flag.
Since there has been so much offseason talk concerning the Bucs and what they will do in the draft, I decided to put together a comprehensive guide that helps piece together the current status of the Bucs and what may happen this weekend.
I hope you enjoy! Let’s get started.
Where do the Bucs currently stand?
It’s always good to know what you have at your disposal, right? Before we discuss what should/could/will happen in the draft, we need to know what we have when it comes to the current players on the roster. The Bucs’ current roster is comprised as follows:
- Tom Brady, Blaine Gabbert, Ryan Griffin
As you can see, this position is more than settled. There is no way Brady loses his job unless it’s because of an injury.
- Ronald Jones II, Dare Ogunbowale, T.J. Logan, Aca’Cedric Ware
The Bucs have bodies, but the impact is limited. Bruce Arians has expressed confidence in RoJo this offseason, but he’ll need help, plus he needs to work on his pass protection before he can be considered as a three-down back. Ogunbowale struggled often in 2019 and Logan is more of a returner, so depth is crucial, as well. Don’t be surprised if the Bucs take a running back early in the draft.
- Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Scotty Miller, Justin Watson, Bryant Mitchell, Spencer Schnell, John Franklin, Cyril Grayson, Jaydon Mickens
Evans and Godwin are widely considered as one of the top receiving duos in the league, but this offense needs a third option. Miller and Watson flashed last year, but neither has shown the consistency to step into a bigger role. The Bucs signed Mitchell to a one-year deal a couple of months ago, but he’s far from a known quantity, too. This is a very deep draft at receiver, so it almost seems like a guarantee that the Bucs will take a receiver at some point.
- Rob Gronkowski, O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate, Antony Auclair, Tanner Hudson, Jordan Leggett, Cody McElroy
This group will certainly look different after the trade for Gronkowski. Howard is already on the trade block, according to NFL.com’s Michael Lombardi. Brate took a pay cut and Auclair signed a one-year deal, but that doesn’t guarantee their safety. Hudson made the final 53 last year, but his status is unsure after the Gronk trade.
- Donovan Smith, Ali Marpet, Ryan Jensen, Alex Cappa, Joe Haeg, Zack Bailey, Anthony Fabiano, Aaron Stinnie, Brad Seaton
If you follow the Bucs then you know how much the offensive line has been talked about during the offseason. Tampa Bay returns four of five starters from 2018, but are currently searching for a starting right tackle. The team did sign Joe Haeg, but he doesn’t offer what one of the “Big Four” prospects in this year’s draft offer. There is also concern when it comes to depth along the offensive line.
- Vita Vea, Ndamukong Suh, William Gholston, Jeremiah Ledbetter, Rakeem Nunez-Roches, Patrick O’Connor
Like the offensive line, depth is a big concern here. Nunez-Roches is a good role player, but Ledbetter and O’Connor are mostly unknowns. The Bucs also need to have a plan for Suh’s eventual departure. If Javon Kinlaw or Derrick Brown are available at 14, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Bucs add another playmaker to a rising defense.
- Inside Linebacker (6): Lavonte David, Devin White, Jack Cichy, Kevin Minter, Kendell Beckwith, Noah Dawkins
David and White have the potential to be the best inside duo in the league. Minter is a solid backup who can step in and play effectively. The coaching staff liked Cichy last year, but another season-ending injury prevented him from seeing the field. Fans everywhere are hoping Beckwith will be able to play again, but there’s no guarantee he’ll return to form after sitting out two seasons. The Bucs could certainly draft an inside backer for depth and help on special teams.
- Jason Pierre-Paul, Shaquil Barrett, Anthony Nelson, Kahzin Daniels
Again, depth here is what the Bucs need. JPP and Barrett are great, but you don’t want to overwork them during the regular season. If the Bucs are serious about a playoff run, they will need everyone as fresh as possible all year long. Nelson has potential, but has to stay healthy. Daniels was promoted from the practice squad late in 2019, but was a healthy scratch for a couple of games, so I don’t know if you can rely on him right now.
- Carlton Davis III, Jamel Dean, Sean Murphy-Bunting, Ryan Smith, Mazzi Wilkins, M.J. Stewart
The coaching staff believes in this secondary. We’ve heard that all offseason and so far, the team’s actions have lived up to its words.
Smith is the most experienced player of the bunch, but he’s a special teams ace and a backup. Davis is entering his third year, so he is the “old guy” among the starters.
The Bucs have to be wary about some type of regression with these guys. If their development doesn’t go as planned, then it could spell disaster for the secondary. A big injury would leave the Bucs with hardly any depth, as well.
- Jordan Whitehead, Mike Edwards, Andrew Adams, Justin Evans, D’cota Dixon, Deiondre Hall
Whitehead is the Bucs’ box safety and has shown improvement each year, so the defense has a guy who can play close to the line of scrimmage. Edwards is promising, but needs to show major improvement after an inconsistent 2019. Adams has flashed and played well enough last year for the Bucs to give him another go, but hey may be better suited as a backup.
Evans is the wildcard, here. He has (or had) the range to play the free safety position in Todd Bowles’ defense, but injuries to his feet and heels as well as almost two years removed from playing his last snap may have done him in.
It won’t be a surprise if Tampa Bay adds another safety during the draft for both starting and depth purposes.
What are the Bucs’ biggest needs?
Offensive Line - Even though Haeg could end up as the starting right tackle, the Bucs still need to find a foundational piece at the position and they need depth in a big way. When your quarterback is 43-years-old, you need to protect him as much as possible.
Safety - Outside of Whitehead, this group is a question mark. Who will play free safety and will Evans return to form? If Whitehead goes down, then there will likely be trouble in the defensive backfield.
Defensive Line - The Bucs need a guy who can add a pass rush element along the line and they also need a plan for when Ndamukong Suh eventually leaves.
Outside Linebacker/EDGE - The Bucs lost Carl Nassib during free agency, which will hurt more than most people realize. Tampa Bay still has Pierre-Paul and Barrett, but there is no proven pass rusher behind them. Nelson only played half a season in 2019 and he’s likely the next-best option after JPP and Barrett. As great as they are, Bowles needs to find someone who can give them a breather and also be productive when the time calls.
Running back - RoJo is definitely capable of carrying the load, but he’ll need help. Brady also loves to use running backs, so it would make sense for the Bucs to find their quarterback another weapon out of the backfield.
Wide Receiver - We all know how much Bruce Arians loves to throw the ball. A reliable third option in the passing game can really elevate the offense.
So, who are the best options in this year’s draft?
There are hundreds - if not thousands - of eligible prospects for the 2020 NFL Draft, so naturally, it’s going to be next to impossible to track them all down unless you’re a professional scout. To keep things simple, we’ll take a look at two of the Bucs’ best prospects from each round.
Some of these picks may get repetitive, as in you’ll see the same position go in more than one round, but that’s only because I’m going to look at the picks from a realistic standpoint. If a player isn’t going to be available in Round 2, then I won’t list them as a “best option” for that round.
But enough with the context. Let’s look at some prospects.
Round 1, Pick No. 14:
OT Andrew Thomas, Georgia Bulldogs
Thomas played in a pro-style offense and manned both the left and right tackle positions during his career. He has all the tools and the IQ to get it done at the next level. He’s the best fit for the Bucs out of the “Big Four”.
DL Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina Gamecocks
If none of the “Big Four” are there, then the Bucs should take Kinlaw if he’s still available. He would be the perfect replacement for Suh and could thrive in this defense.
Here are my evaluations of two of the top interior DL in this draft class - Derrick Brown and Javon Kinlaw. Here's a question to ponder: Must an interior DL be a quality pass rusher to have premium value in both the draft and the NFL? pic.twitter.com/ngFmOaPhJY— Greg Cosell (@gregcosell) April 11, 2020
Round 2, Pick No. 45
S Antione Winfield Jr, Minnesota Golden Gophers
Trust me, Winfield’s injury history is definitely something to be concerned with. The Bucs already have one second-round safety who is currently shelved due to injuries, but Winfield may be too good to pass up.
RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire, LSU Tigers
CEH looks like he was born to play in this offense, but it’s what he does with the ball in his hands that makes him so special. He would be the perfect complementary back to RoJo and would add another element to this offense.
One prospect whose stock is soaring and has received rave reviews from everyone that I’ve talked to is LSU RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire. pic.twitter.com/6pBwj0duEc— Jordan Reid (@JReidNFL) April 18, 2020
Round 3, Pick No. 76
EDGE Darrell Taylor, Tennessee Volunteers
Taylor has all of the tools to succeed at the next level. He just needs time and the proper coaching to put it all together. Learning from guys like JPP and Barrett - who are both technique masters - could turn Taylor into the steal of the draft.
RB Cam Akers, Florida State Seminoles
I wouldn’t be surprised if Akers isn’t around at this point, but for some reason, I keep seeing him last until the third round in most mock drafts, so I definitely think the Bucs have a shot to get him. Just like CEH, Akers would add another dynamic to this offense that would also help out Brady in a big way.
Round 4, Pick No. 117
DL Leki Fotu, Utah Utes
Not only would Fotu and Vea have the chance to become one of the league’s more effective duos on the defensive line, but they’d also set league records for the most hair on the defensive line.
Even Troy Polamalu would be jealous.
WR Lynn Bowden Jr., Kentucky Wildcats
Bowden has kind of been a forgotten man over the last few months, but that’s because he had to move to quarterback during his final year at Kentucky. Injuries overwhelmed the position, which forced Bowden to take over as signal-caller. He was a very good slot receiver before that happened and will likely turn into a very good pick for whomever selects him.
Round 5, Pick No. 161
ILB Shaquille Quarterman, Miami Hurricanes
I’ve been pounding the table for this guy since the offseason began. He may not have lived up to the hype at Miami, but the dude is still talented and will blow up plays at the second level. He seems like the perfect backup inside linebacker/special teams player for the team.
LB Tanner Muse, Clemson Tigers
The Bucs have a shot to land some really good depth at linebacker in the later rounds of the draft. Muse is a guy who would mostly play inside linebacker, but could also be a poor man’s Deone Bucannon in this defense at times.
Round 6, Pick No. 194
QB Anthony Gordon, Washington State Cougars
Gordon is tiny (6-foot-2, 205-pounds) but could turn into a solid backup. I mean, there’s already one former Cougar that was a former sixth-round pick starting in the NFL, why not try and make it two when Brady’s time is up?
RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Vanderbilt Commodores
If the Bucs decide to forgo running back early, don’t fret, because Vaughn has a chance to be a really good back in the NFL. He just has to stay healthy. If he can stay out of the blue tent, then he could provide a big spark for NFL offenses.
Ke’Shawn Vaughn— Chris Stoops (@Stoops1990) December 3, 2019
1,028 Rushing Yards
9 Rushing TDs (7 inside RZ)
29 Rec./37 Tar. (78.4%)
286 Rec. Yards
1 Rec. TD
5.8 Yards Per Touch
7.6 Yards Per Target
9.9 Yards Per Catch
Scrimm. Yard Distribution: 36%
56 1st Downs
Stats Per @XTBoxscore #WeGotStats pic.twitter.com/lpwlaG6Rjg
Round 7, Pick No. 241
WR Jauan Jennings, Tennessee Volunteers
Jennings would provide a big red zone target and is willing to do the dirty work on special teams. His limited quickness and speed keeps his ceiling low, but his work ethic and dedication will help him carve out a role in the NFL.
WR Josh Pearson, Jacksonville State Gamecocks
You wanna talk about speed and size? Pearson has it. He runs a 4.46 and weighs in at 6-foot-3, 205-pounds. He would be a much better gamble in the seventh round when compared to other receivers.
Out of all the prospects that will be there at No. 14, the ideal prospect would be.....
Specifically, it would be Andrew Thomas, the offensive tackle out of Georgia, but any one of the “Big Four” would likely do. But getting back to Thomas, as I briefly mentioned earlier, he played in a pro-style offense his whole career in Athens and also played both spots. He appears to be a very good fit at right tackle, but could also play left tackle in case Donovan Smith goes down with injury. There’s also a good chance he’s the right tackle for the next decade much like Demar Dotson was during his career.
What’s the worst-case scenario at No. 14?
All of the top four offensive linemen are gone, Javon Kinlaw is gone, any quarterback worth taking at No. 14 is gone, and K’Lavon Chaisson is gone. The Bucs could go wide receiver and it would still make sense in terms of roster management and best-player-available strategy. They could also trade back, but that obviously takes two to tango and there’s no guarantee you’ll find a viable/practical partner. While the Bucs still stand to get a decent player, there would surely be some disappointment (not in regard to the franchise) in missing out on one of the aforementioned guys.
If the Bucs need to make a move in the first round, these previous draft-day trades will give us an idea of how much it will cost to move up, down, or back into the first round:
1. Tennessee Titans trade with Cleveland Browns to move up from No. 15 to No. 8:
2016 NFL Draft
Browns receive: #15 overall, #76 (3rd round), 2017 2nd-rounder
Titans receive: #8 overall, #176 (6th round)
Final Mock Draft
You know a draft guide is worthless without a final mock draft. This will be rooted in reality and what I think will happen.
Round 1, Pick No. 14: DL Javon Kinlaw
I don’t think any of the “Big Four” will be there, but Kinlaw will be there. The Bucs solidify their defensive line with this pick.
Round 2, Pick No. 45: OT Isaiah Wilson
I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bucs trade up after missing out on the chance to draft an offensive lineman, but those are nearly impossible to predict, so I’ll leave trades out of this mock. The Bucs nab a potential starter and are able to give Haeg some competition with the selection of Wilson.
Round 3, Pick No. 76: RB Cam Akers
This should make a lot of Bucs-fans-who-are-also-Florida-State-fans excited. Akers is electric and will immediately upgrade the running back room.
Round 4, Pick No. 117: OG Logan Stenberg
I’m not sure if the Bucs will draft a receiver after the addition of Gronk. The team may keep Howard and run most of the offense through 12 personnel, much like the Pats did with Gronk and Aaron Hernandez back in the day. This leads the Bucs to draft another offensive linemen to ensure this offense reaches its full potential.
Round 5, Pick No. 161: CB Javaris Davis
Yea, yea, yea I know. Another cornerback drafted! I know the team says they love their current group of guys, but they need depth. Davis is strictly that and can help on special teams, too.
Round 6, Pick No. 194: EDGE Carter Coughlin
The Bucs finally give their outside pass rush a little bump. I wouldn’t expect Coughlin to turn heads during his rookie year, but he could have a couple of shining moments if he plays his cards right.
Round 7, Pick No. 241: WR Josh Pearson
The Bucs nab a wideout in the final round. Pearson caught 30 touchdowns over the last two years of his college career and can run a 4.46 at 6-foot-3, 205-pounds. He obviously has the athleticism to mold, so it would make sense for the Bucs to take a flyer on the kid.
Now that we’ve gotten all of the informal stuff out of the way, let’s have some fun.
Top Three Moments From The Offseason (so far):
1. Tom Brady signs with the Bucs
This one is pretty obvious. The biggest name in the history of NFL Free Agency signed with the team that possesses the worst winning percentage in NFL history. The hope around One Buc Place is that the addition of Brady will get this team into the playoffs for the first time since the 2007 season.
Brady also brings a whole new perspective when it comes to covering the Bucs. Even though the team is still a small-market team, there will be eyes from all over the world watching what happens with Brady in the Bay simply because of his celebrity status.
2. Tampa Bay gets new uniforms
After years of pain and misery and being compared to an alarm clock, the Bucs finally got new uniforms. Well, they’re not really new, but you know what I mean.
The team decided to go back to the “Super Bowl Era” unis, which are considered by many to be the best edition of all the Bucs’ threads. It was a big deal and the release was perfectly executed by the team’s social media staff.
Per reports, it was included in Brady’s contract that the Bucs get new threads, or he would remain in New England (kidding).
3. Rob Gronkowski is a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Yea, a crazy offseason gets even crazier with the addition of one of the best tight ends in NFL history.
The Bucs traded their extra fourth-round pick (No. 139) for Gronkowski and the Patriots’ seventh-rounder (No. 241) in 2019. That’s pretty cheap for a future Hall of Fame player. There’s little chance that the Bucs would have found someone in the fourth round that would have the impact Gronk will have on the team.
He’s only with the team for 2020 right now, as well. That’s a good situation for the Bucs. If he doesn’t play well, they aren’t financially strapped to him beyond this season, so they can part ways if need be.
Five Final Predictions
- The Bucs will pick at No. 14. I think there will be a prospect there that they like and they won’t trade up nor trade back to get the guy they want.
- Even though they won’t trade out of No. 14, they will trade back into the first round in order to select one of their guys.
- Both a running back and a wide receiver will be drafted this year.
- Tampa Bay will draft more offensive players than defensive players.
- O.J. Howard will not be traded on any day of the draft, even after the Gronk trade. I think Cameron Brate will be the one to go.
I really hope you enjoyed this, it was a lot of fun to put together.
What do YOU think will happen during the draft? Let us know your predictions/preferences/thoughts/ideas in the comments below!!