IT’S MOCK DRAFT SEASON!
I love this time of year! The flowers are blooming. The sun is shining. The air is fresh. And the NFL off-season is in full effect. Free agency is going on and teams are prepping for the upcoming NFL Draft. Even though the Bucs still have some work to do in free agency, they’ve done enough to give us an idea of what they might be looking for in the draft. They should have all of their starters back for next season, so depth will be the focus in Cleveland. It also wouldn’t hurt to start planning ahead for the future.
The Buccaneers originally entered this draft with seven picks, including no sixth rounder and two seventh round picks after their 2019 trade with the Pittsburgh Steelers. After being awarded a sixth round compensatory pick, they now have eight picks total.
I have a feeling that Jason Licht might shop around that last pick of the first round to try and get another pick or two in this draft, but for the purpose of this mock I’ll stick with that 32nd pick. The Bucs might be the ONLY team in the league NOT drafting for “need“. They’re drafting for depth. They could use some on both the o-line and d-line. They could use some at inside linebacker. They could use some at outside linebacker. But after re-signing most of their key free agents, the Bucs have ALL 22 of their “starters” returning next season. That’s unheard of in today’s NFL, especially after winning a Super Bowl. In fact, it hasn’t been done since 1979. So I think the eight picks Tampa Bay has in this draft are sufficient enough to find what the depth they’re looking for.
BUCS 2021 NFL MOCK DRAFT
QB Kyle Trask, Florida
That’s right, a quarterback! The Bucs have no clear cut plan for life AFTER Brady. They say they “like Gabbert“, but he turns 32 in October and I’m not convinced that the Bucs are convinced that he’s the guy. They need an heir apparent and that could be Trask. At 6’5″/240lbs, he’s got the size that NFL teams are looking for in a pocket passer QB. He’s got a high football IQ and a cannon arm that allows him to make any throw. The Bucs get a young QB with tons of potential that can sit behind Tom Brady for the next two years and develop. It worked out pretty good for Green Bay when they did it with Aaron Rodgers, so why not try it with Trask in Tampa.
G Quinn Meinerz, Wisconsin-Whitewater
The Bucs are set at guard as well with Ali Marpet and now Alex Cappa and Aaron Stinnie on the other side. However, they could use a solid backup for center Ryan Jensen. Even though Meinerz played guard in college, he got a shot at center during Senior Bowl week and was quite impressive. He also blew his pro-day out of the water. He’s been shooting up draft boards ever since, so if he’s still sitting here at the end of the second round I’ll take him. At 6’3″/320lbs, he’s got ideal size for an NFL center. He’s a bulldozer in the run game and solid in pass protection. Plus, he’s a perfect fit for Tampa’s o-line being from a D-III school.
DT Daviyon Nixon, Iowa
This is not a very good draft class for defensive linemen. That’s why I’m waiting until the third round to address it. However, if Nixon is still on the board at this point, I think he’s worth the pick. At 6’3″/305lbs, he’s got prototypical size for an NFL 3-tech with a quick get off, violent hands and athleticism not typically seen in someone his size. With the Bucs re-signing Ndamukong Suh, they won’t need Nixon to start right away. But he could end up being a solid part of their interior d-line rotation and potentially take Suh’s place with some development and experience.
RB/WR Demetric Felton, UCLA
The Bucs seem to like this kid having already met with him twice. And for good reason. They could use a dynamic, pass catching, third down back in their backfield and that’s what Felton brings to the table. And at 5’9″/190lbs, he can also play in the slot AND return kicks. He’s a very good route runner out of the backfield with great hands. He’s a bit undersized to be an NFL primary back, but that’s not what Tampa Bay needs him to be since they still have Ronald Jones II and they just re-signed Leonard Fournette for one more year. The fact that he can return kicks is a real bonus since that seems to be one of their few weak spots.
OLB Jordan Smith, UAB
Since I already addressed the interior defensive line, it’s time to help out the edge. With Jason Pierre-Paul at 32 and Shaq Barrett at 28, the Bucs could use some youth and depth outside. At 6’7″/255lbs, Smith has good size but relies on speed and quickness to get to the quarterback. In 21 games with UAB, he racked up 89 tackles, 23.5 tackles for loss, 12.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles and an interception. His combination of size and length with his speed and athleticism is appealing. He’s a bit raw and would be a project, but he does have the tools to work with and the Bucs wouldn’t need him to start right away.
ILB Grant Stuard, Houston
Jason Licht loves football players and this dude is nothing but that. Even though he might be considered slightly “undersized” at 6’/230lbs, you won’t see a more intense player in college football. He’s been called a “Tasmanian Devil” for the way he flies around the football field making plays. He’s an elite competitor, physical and aggressive with a relentless motor that stays on full speed. He’s excellent at processing the run and hunting down the football and he’s a very good at blitzing from the LB position. He loves the game of football, which automatically puts him on the Bucs draft board.
DT Khyiris Tonga, BYU
I stick with the defensive side of the ball here and more specifically with the d-line. At 6’4″/322lbs, I’m referring to this guy as “Mini-Vita” because he reminds me an awful lot of Vita Vea himself minus about 20lbs or so. He’s a run stuffing nose tackle and was almost unblockable when left one-on-one. His getoff is explosive and his bullrush is powerful. He does offer some pass rush potential simply because he collapses pockets and wreaks havoc up the middle of the o-line. He would make for a really solid backup for Vea in the middle of the Bucs d-line.
S Deontay Anderson, Houston
The Bucs lost Andrew Adams to the Eagles in free agency and they might look to add another safety in this draft. So, I go back to Houston to grab that guy. At 6’2″/220lbs, Anderson is a big bodied safety that plays the “enforcer” role on the back end of the defense. He’s no ballhawk. He’s more of a separate the receiver from the football type with 19 pass breakups over his three seasons. In the run game, he’s good at reading and processing then quickly getting downhill to the runner. Tampa Bay doesn’t need a starting safety, but he could end up being a solid reserve and a special teams superstar.
RD.1: QB KYLE TRASK, FLORIDA
RD.2: G/C QUINN MEINERZ, WISCONSIN- WHITE WATER
RD.3: DT DAVIYON NIXON, IOWA
RD.4: RB/WR DEMETRIC FELTON, UCLA
RD.5: OLB JORDAN SMITH, UAB
RD.6: ILB GRANT STUARD, HOUSTON
RD.7: DT KHYIRIS TONGA, BYU
RD.7: S DEONTAY ANDERSON, HOUSTON
There you have it. My mock draft for the 2021 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which includes three picks for the offense and five picks for the defense. I got eventual replacements (hopefully) for Tom Brady, Ryan Jensen, Jason Pierre-Paul and Ndamukong Suh. I got a third down back to compliment the duo of Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette. And I added depth to inside linebacker, nose tackle and safety. I feel like I hit every position that the Bucs should target in this draft, while bringing even more quality football players to an already talented, championship roster. I’m not sure that I can do any better than this, but I’ll try to come up with another mock before the draft coming up in about a month.
Until then, as always…GO BUCS!!!