Perfect Picks- Tampa Bay Buccaneers
By Murf from 5 Yard Rush
With the NFL Draft approaching we will be looking at each team and evaluating where they need to improve. In this particular series we will run a seven round mock using the Draft Network Mock Machine and find the ‘Perfect Picks’ for each franchise.
We will highlight four players that could help each team. This will include a ‘flex’ pick where we give you two ways a potential pick could go depending on how the board falls. All in all you will get picks 1 and 2, a mid round gem and a late round sleeper.
Last year the Buccaneers used five of their seven picks to shore up a poorly performing secondary and defense. The Buccaneers have drafted secondary help in Day 2 of the last three drafts, so will things be different this time around? From an outsider looking in, I certainly think so.
Round 1 - Pick 14 - Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
The Buccaneers have selected one Offensive Lineman with their 1st round pick in the last 29 years. You will still have to go all the way back to Kenyatta Walker in 2001. Walker was a LT who was switched to RT in his rookie year and ended up starting in SuperBowl XXXVII.
Thomas played RT as a true Freshman for Georgia before switching to left tackle. I can see the Buccaneers, if this draft was to fall the way it has, taking Thomas here due to his versatility and experience at playing RT as well as his ability to create holes for the Running Backs.
Thomas has great foot speed, great hands and a great football IQ. RT has been a problem for the Buccaneers for a number of years. Getting Thomas in to fill the hole and shore up an under-performing Offensive Line over the last few years means Arians can finally get a ground game going. This will be good news for whoever is under centre for the Buccaneers in 2020. Not to mention, it worked out pretty well the last time the Buccaneers drafted an RT in Round 1.
Flex Pick- 14th Pick - Javon Kinlaw, IDL, South Carolina
I personally believe the pick here will be Javon Kinlaw. In this mock, the Colts snagged him the pick before. Don’t get me wrong, Andrew Thomas is no consolation prize. He is someone who I personally believe doesn’t make it to 14, hence the flex option here.
The Buccaneers are inclined to move on from Ndamukong Suh. He had a very good season for the Bucs last year. However, his cap demands to remain in the $10 million a year range. With players such as Shaq Barrett, Jason Pierre-Paul, Carl Nassib and potentially Jameis Winston all needing to be paid, I can see the Buccaneers looking to find the long term partner for 2018 1st round pick Vita Vea.
In Kinlaw, they cannot go wrong. He shone at the workouts at the Senior Bowl before an injury kept him out of the game. Kinlaw can play both 3-Tech and 5-Tech, showcasing his explosiveness and technique form multiple spots. He is incredibly strong and is a massive unit who comes in at 6 Feet 5 and 315lbs. Having him next to Vita Vea makes this run defense, which ranked number 1 in the NFL last season, potentially even stronger. Not to mention, that rookie deal for a player of Kinlaw’s size and ability could be an absolute steal. It will certainly allow the Buccaneers to spend the Suh money in another position in Free Agency, or on contracts.
2nd Round - 45th Pick - Jacob Eason, QB, Washington
The former Georgia Bulldog started his true Freshman year by making some waves. However, he was benched in his Sophomore year, leading to him transferring to Washington.
There is no secret that the Buccaneers need to take a young QB in this draft, regardless of the Jameis Winston decision. A veteran option like Rivers, Brady, and Bridgewater will only last in the very short term. Therefore, the Buccaneers need to look at who is going to challenge for the starting job in 2021 and beyond.
I, personally, can see the Bucs trading up from 45 to 31 to grab Eason. That security of a 5th year option will be attractive and could come at the price of a 3rd/4th round pick. In a deep class like this, that looks like a good trade for San Fransisco to make and add to their Super Bowl roster.
Eason is the perfect Arians QB. He is a ‘no risk it, no biscuit’ QB with a big arm and all the confidence to sling it. However, he is very accurate at throwing the deep ball and anticipating where the receivers will end up, making the plays look easy when they aren’t. He has a great presence and great attitude and will fit right in at the Buccaneers.
The problem with Eason is that he isn’t the finished article. He requires coaching to assist with his reads – and not just his 1st and 2nd read options either. He also has not shown a lot of consistency due to only starting for 2 years in college, on two different programs.
However, with access to the “Quarterback Whisperer” he might just be able to develop and reach his full potential.
Mid Round Gem - Pick 107 - Alex Highsmith, EDGE, Charlotte
Another prospect that probably would be off the board by this pick, Alex Highsmith’s stock has risen so much in the pre draft process he’s likely gone on day two. As mentioned earlier, two of the Buccs edge rushers, Jean Pierre-Paul and Carl Nassib, are hitting the market this offseason. If they don’t come back it’s imperative Jason Licht identifies some talent to replace them.
My colleague Oli Hodgkinson had the pleasure of interviewing Highsmith recently – check out his awesome piece here. With 75 tackles, 21.5 for a loss and an impressive FIFTEEN sacks in his senior season the value at this pick was too much to ignore. He comes in and adds to what already was a much improved defensive unit in 2019.
Late Round Sleeper - Pick 174 - James Proche, WR, SMU
A deep sleeper pick here, but a position of need. Proche isn’t getting any buzz. Mostly because he is probably the best sleeper you have yet to hear of.
SMU were ranked for the first time this season in the AP polls since the 80s. A recent Wide Receiver graduate from this school is Cortland Sutton, who was drafted by Denver in 2018 and is now their number 1 receiver on their depth chart.
Proche, since Sutton’s graduation, has put up some very good numbers. And he has done it under the radar. In 2018, Proche went 93-1199-12 and in 2019 he went 111-1225-15. These are impressive.
At 5’11 and 196lbs he is on the small side and heavy for his frame. He also isn’t lightning quick and won’t take the top off defenses. However, in the slot, that frame and weight could come into good use. He has remarkable hands and can catch everything. He could be very useful as a gadget player, running some sweeps, using screens for, or getting open in the flat. There is a vacancy in this offense since Adam Humphries left the Bucs offense in 2019. And whilst Chris Godwin will garner most of the targets from the slot, versatility is key. Having someone like Proche on the roster really opens up the playbook, especially in short yardage situations.
Draft Picks In Full:
1st Round- Andrew Thomas OT Georgia
2nd Round- Jacob Eason, QB Washington
3rd Round- Zack Moss, RB Utah
4th Round- Alex Highsmith, EDGE, Charlotte
5th Round- Jordan Elliott, IDL, Missouri
6th Round- James Proche, WR SMU
Feature Image Credit: Christian Petersen (Getty Images)
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