With the Super Bowl over and the offseason underway, it’s officially NFL Mock Draft SZN.
Technically, it’s mock draft season for teams that didn’t make the playoffs, as most of the league has been in draft mode since the middle of the season. The Bucs fall into a weird middle ground, as the team has been in contention but mostly without much hope.
A lot of the future hinged on what would happen with Tom Brady and what happened with the vacant offensive coordinator position. Now at least part of that has been figured out, the Bucs can move forward with some semblance of a plan for 2023.
Whether or not the team will compete this season has been something influencing how fans are viewing the offseason, but that’s always seemed like a silly question. Of course coaches in the building are going to approach this season with the mindset of winning and not tanking, and the offseason strategy will reflect that.
That means the NFL Draft, too.
A knee-jerk reaction has been to assume the Bucs will trade up to take a top quarterback of the future, or take one with its original first round pick. Quarterback is indeed a position of potential need for the Bucs, but there are holes all over the roster and upcoming free agents at key positions that might need to be replaced through the draft.
Latest Todd McShay Mock Draft has Bucs
In his latest mock draft, ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay has the Buccaneers selecting Iowa defensive end Lukas Van Ness with the No. 19 overall pick.
"Shaquil Barrett should be returning from a torn Achilles, but the edge rush group could otherwise see a lot of turnover in free agency. Van Ness, meanwhile, never started a game at Iowa but managed back-to-back seasons with seven sacks. His length, quickness and power would be welcomed in Tampa Bay, where pressuring the QB is a big part of the team’s defensive identity."
Van Ness is projected to be one of the top edge rushers in the draft, and could come in and help bolster a defense for the Bucs that will almost certainly become the team’s identity in the post-Brady era.
It could be argued that the defense was the identity even with Brady as the best-remembered thing from the Super Bowl win over the Chiefs was how the defense stifled Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City offense.
With Brady gone, and no real power on that side of the ball, the defense is going to be the Bucs best chance to win games. Adding to that unit with a top prospect makes a ton of sense.
For what it’s worth, McShay has four quarterbacks off the board by the time the Bucs go on the clock in his mock. Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud, Will Levis, and Anthony Richardson all went to the Colts, Texans, Raiders, and Panthers respectively.
That would leave Hendon Hooker, Tanner McKee, and Malik Cunningham as the next best available quarterbacks, none of whom are being projected as first round picks.
Tampa Bay can get a guy who will fill a position of need — defensive end — and still potentially get a quarterback on the second or third day of the draft.