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Kiper’s latest mock has Bucs addressing the trenches

The veteran analyst sets the priority for both sides of the ball.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 31 Semifinal Game Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The the 2023 NFL Draft inching closer and closer each week and many mock drafts are beginning to zero-in on teams selecting certain positions. Especially after what the teams have done during free agency to this point.

Same applies in the case of the Buccaneers. After signing veteran quarterback Baker Mayfield, many are pointing to the Bucs prioritizing the offensive line and ESPN NFL Draft Analyst Mel Kiper, Jr.

In his latest mock draft, Kiper has Tampa Bay selecting an offensive lineman in the first round of this year’s draft.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State

It really seems as if the Bucs are planning to wait out the tackle class with this pick. It’s a big need. Tristan Wirfs has been a star at right tackle, but he could move over to the left side. In this scenario, why not keep Wirfs on the right and let Johnson play left tackle? Johnson had a stellar 2022 season for the Buckeyes, and he can dominate in pass protection and move defenders in the run game. As Tampa Bay moves forward with Baker Mayfield or Kyle Trask at quarterback, it needs a steady O-line to protect them.

This would be a solid selection for the Bucs, although the offensive line may not be the direction the team goes in the first round.

The secondary and defensive front seem to be the area the team most likely will address come April 27. But Kiper feels Tampa Bay will go in that direction come Round 2.

50. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Adetomiwa Adebawore, DL, Northwestern

I had Adebawore in Round 1 of my previous mock draft, and I’ve heard varying opinions on where he could end up and which teams like him. There’s a chance he goes much higher than this, even as high as the top 15. But if we’re trying to find a spot for him with a 3-4 team — I think his best position is as an end in a 3-4 — this is the team. Adebawore put on a show at the combine, but he didn’t have great numbers in college (9.5 sacks over the past two seasons) and might never be a great pass-rusher. He could be a physical run-stopper for the Bucs, though.

Mock season.

They have decent depth across the offensive line, especially with bringing back projected 2022 starter Aaron Stinnie who was never able to play a regular season snap due to injury. Drafting an offensive lineman is not so far-fetched, but could just be unlikely in the first round.

However, addressing the defense could be very likely, even in the first two rounds of the draft.