It’s that time of year. You can’t go anywhere without hearing or seeing a mock draft. Bloggers, analysts, experts, celebrities all weigh in on who they think will go where, who they want their favorite team to get, and who they want their team to stay away from. The NFL Draft has gone from a small even hosted in a hotel conference room, to a must see spectacle at Radio City Music Hall, complete with red carpets, various news and entertainment media outlets, and uncomfortable green room footage of the guy who keeps slipping and slipping down the draft board (see Geno Smith, Aaron Rodgers, and Brady Quinn). You can have all the knowledge in the world and know exactly what a team is thinking to predict who they will take. But it only takes one other team to throw your entire plan out the window. Every year there is always a shocking pick, a surprising move, or a stunning plummet. One thing is for certain: nothing should surprise us on draft day, anymore.
With all that being said, I’ve spent some time looking at Tampa Bay’s needs, scenarios, and interests to compile my Buccaneers Mock Draft. Chances are, I’m wrong, just like the majority of mock draft. But they provide the ability to think outside the box, adjust to surprise moves by other teams, and are just plain fun to do. In a world where the majority of NFL fans put their GM hat on at least once a year for their fantasy football league draft parties, this is another opportunity to do the same, only this time you are trying to build the future of your favorite franchise, not stick it to your obnoxious brother-in-law who forced his way into your league. There are multiple sites that help you with the experience of drafting, without having to mock for every team just to get the couple of picks your team may have. For this, I used www.first-pick.com but have also used www.fanspeak.com. Both are great tools when doing mock drafts and I have yet to participate in two drafts that were the same. So without further adieu, here is the Buccaneers full mock draft:
Round 1; Pick 7
Johnny Manziel, QB Texas A&M
The Buccaneers have a glaring need at wide receiver, but it seems that for now, they have a major infatuation with Manziel. They need a quarterback of the future as Josh McCown is certainly a short-term solution at the most important position. Offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford could have a field day with “Johnny Football”.
Round 2; Pick 6
Kelvin Benjamin, WR Florida State
The Bucs grab their franchise quarterback and still get a first-round quality receiver early in the second. Benjamin was the star wide out for the NCAA Champion Seminoles. He adds speed to a bare receiver corps and solidifies the spot across from Vincent Jackson.
Round 3; Pick 5
Jackson Jeffcoat, DE Texas
Lovie Smith has stressed the importance of the front four in his defense. Gerald McCoy is the focal point, and new additions Michael Johnson and Clinton McDonald will surely help, but they don’t seem sold on incumbent Adrian Clayborn. They will look for a physical defensive end in the draft, and Jeffcoat fits exactly what Lovie wants.
Round 5; Pick 3
Deion Belue, CB Alabama
Belue could be a steal in the fifth round. The Bucs shipped Darrelle Revis out of town and brought in Pro Bowler Alterraun Verner and Mike Jenkins to fill in. Although Jenkins was brought in on the hope that he returns to form, the depth at corner is still very weak. After Verner, Jenkins, and Johnthan Banks, the Bucs have little help as far as reliable corners are concerned. Belue comes from defensive factory Alabama and would fit in perfectly with Lovie’s schemes.
Round 6; Pick 9
A.C. Leonard, TE Tennessee State
Even with the signing of Brandon Myers, the Bucs still have a need at tight end. Leonard is a big, physical end who is great in the passing game. He needs to develop his blocking skills, but could prove to be a great red zone target for the Bucs’ offense. Myers and Tim Wright are serviceable, but Leonard could be a great target to take focus off Jackson and Benjamin in those scoring opportunities close to the end zone.
Round 7; Pick 6
Andrew Norwell, OG Ohio State
The Bucs are forced to address a big need late in the draft, but find Norwell available. The Buckeyes were dominate in the running game, which is going to be a big part of the Bucs’ offensive game plan. They have a need at guard and a desire to get Doug Martin going again in 2014. Norwell will help the Bucs do exactly that.
So there it is, one of many mock drafts I have participated in playing the role of Jason Licht, but this one stood out to me as the most well rounded. Having Manziel fall in my lap at seven and knowing the Buccaneers’ feelings towards him made him impossible to pass on, then Benjamin in the second was almost too good to be true. The Bucs addressed all the major needs here and if they walked away from draft weekend with this haul, I don’t know of too many Bucs fans who would be disappointed.
Follow OPSN End Zone Score’s James Yarcho on Twitter @JYarcho_OPSN