Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Mock drafts are a labor of love for those of us who create them. We enjoy having the chance to play general manager and scout for 32 teams, and showing how we think all the pieces fit. There are some limitations of a mock draft, and the inability to wheel and deal as NFL general managers do is certainly the foremost shortcoming of the art of predicting the draft. With the Buccaneers in a very awkward position in the draft (having a pick squarely between the projected placement of the best players at their position of most dire need), most mock drafters are resigned to reach for a player that suits the Buccaneers’ needs, knowing full well it might not be the perfect option.
This was the case yet again with the Fansided 2013 NFL Mock Draft, as Josh Sanchez has Mark Dominik and the Buccaneers selecting Xavier Rhodes, cornerback from Florida State. While Rhodes has certainly shot up draft boards since he declared he was entering the selection meeting, the consensus from two of the biggest media outlets is that Rhodes would be a drastic reach at the 13th position. CBS Sports has Rhodes ranked as the 23rd best player in the draft, and the third best cornerback, behind Dee Milliner of Alabama and Desmond Trufant of Washington. ESPN’s Scouts Inc. does not even include Rhodes in its top 32 rankings, instead placing Milliner, UConn’s Blidi Wreh-Wilson, and Mississippi State’s Johnthan Banks ahead of Rhodes, with possibly other players ranking ahead of the FSU prospect if he is further down the list than players like Trufant, Jordan Poyer, or other 2nd round prospects.
Tampa Bay would have other options than to reach for a cornerback with the 13th pick, if the draft unfolds as Sanchez predicts. One option would be to select Ezekiel Ansah, defensive end from BYU. While the Buccaneers do not have as big of a need for defensive linemen as they do for defensive backs, the Pewter Pirates did rank very near the bottom in the NFL in sacks in 2012. Ansah is a very athletic prospect who has a very rare combination of size and speed. He also has a very high ceiling, and is probably the best player on the board as the scenario unfolds in the mock draft. Other options would include Kenny Vaccaro, safety from Texas, or Manti Te’o, linebacker from Notre Dame. Lane Johnson, offensive tackle from Oklahoma, might also fit a need for the Buccaneers, who will be looking for a right tackle to fill out what should be an excellent 2013 offensive line.
I believe that the Buccaneers will strongly consider a move up or down the draft board when the NFL Draft kicks off and players start having their names called. The ability to trade down and build even more depth on affordable rookie contracts might win out, but don’t rule out the possibility of moving up a few spots to nab a cornerback or linebacker. Either way, I believe strongly that a cornerback from anywhere but Alabama will not be selected by the Buccaneers at the number 13 selection in the 2013 NFL Draft.