NFL Mock Draft 2023: Experts shake up first round predictions for Buccaneers
With the Combine officially in the books, it’s time to take a look at some updated NFL Mock Drafts to see who the experts are predicting the Bucs will select with the No. 19 pick.
Now that the combine in Indianapolis is over, it’s officially NFL Mock Draft SZN.
For the Buccaneers, it’s a new chapter for the franchise now that Tom Brady has moved on. Whether or not he’s retired is a different question altogether, but no matter what he decides to do it’s clear that his playing days in Tampa Bay are over.
That has naturally connected the Bucs to quarterbacks in this upcoming class, but picking 19th means the team won’t be in a position to draft one of the top prospects at the position. Unless Tampa Bay can trade up for Bryce Young or C.J. Stroud, it’s going to be a tough sell to mortgage the future for a Will Levis or Anthony Richardson when the team still doesn’t know what it has in Kyle Trask.
If he busts, the Bucs will be higher in the draft order next year and in a better position to land a franchise quarterback of the future.
With quarterback essentially out of the question at No. 19, the Bucs have a number of other areas on the roster it can use the pick to address. Experts around the league have started to look at how the draft is shaping up now that we’re on the other side of the NFL Combine and what it means for the Bucs.
For reference, here’s a roundup of what the experts were thinking before the NFL Combine. Some folks like Mel Kiper Jr. haven’t released updated mock drafts yet so their picks can be found here.
NFL Mock Draft: Who the experts have Buccaneers drafting after Combine
Todd McShay, ESPN: Joey Porter Jr., CB/Penn State
A number of different experts changed up their picks for the Buccaneers this week, and McShay kicks it off with one of the most interesting. Cornerbacks have been projected for the Bucs at No. 19, but landing Joey Porter Jr. feels like it could be a steal. If the Bucs are able to replace Jamel Dean with Porter Jr., it could go a long way in soothing that loss (and would put the Bucs on a path to collect all of the sons of former NFL players).
Porter might not have the takeaway production just yet after only one pick in college, but he makes plays on the ball, breaking up 11 passes in 2022. I love his instincts and the way he uses his 34-inch length and 6-3 frame to reroute receivers.
Doug Farrar, USA Today: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR/Ohio State
There’s so much to love about this pick, not the least of which is how fresh it is. It also falls into the category of the Bucs using the No. 19 pick to reload and replenish rather than rebuild. So many mocks have predicted a cornerback here to account for the loss of Jamel Dean this offseason but picking Smith-Njigba this year could make up for the potential loss of either Mike Evans or Chris Godwin next year.
“Not that a list of household chores will make Tom Brady unretire again, but no matter what happens with the Buccaneers’ quarterback situation (and it ain’t Kyle Trask, folks), let’s avoid reaching for a lower-round quarterback at this slot and instead give the Bucs a dynamic slot and outside target in the person of Smith-Njigba.”
Ryan Wilson, CBS Sports: Broderick Jones, LT/Georgia
Broderick Jones had a strong 2022 campaign for the Bulldogs, where he faced some of the best defensive players in the country every day at practice for the last two years. He’s not yet a finished product, but he has the athleticism and strength to be a difference-maker when he puts it all together.
Dalton Miller, Pro Football Network: Nolan Smith, EDGE/Georgia
We’ve seen Smith mocked to the Bucs recently, but it seems like he’s being locked in as a mid-to-late first rounder. That’s good news for the Bucs if all other options dry up as the team can do much worse than a speedy edge rusher from one of the nation’s best defenses.
It’s incredibly difficult to keep track of the athletic freaks that play defensive end and outside linebacker these days. Nolan Smith must improve upon the finer points of being a professional pass rusher, but he’s a great fit for a Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense that asks their edge rushers to play in space.
Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: Kelee Ringo, CB/Georgia
“The Buccaneers know there’s a good chance Jamel Dean will leave as a free agent and Sean Murphy-Bunting also isn’t signed for 2023. With the rookie QB options not great here with four off the board, they can go with Ringo, the athletic and aggressive big corner Todd Bowles will like.”
Brad Wiess, FanSided: Cam Smith, CB/South Carolina
Looking at team needs, the Bucs have a ton of them, but bolstering the defense may be the No. 1 priority, especially in the defensive backfield. Dak Prescott shredded Tampa Bay in the playoffs, so by adding Cam Smith at cornerback, they can at least start to build back up the secondary.
Charlie Campbell, WalterFootball: Tyrique Stevenson, CB/Miami
Here’s a gamble. Stevenson is being mocked anywhere from the mid-to-late first round, to being a mid-to-late round pick. It seems potential “character issues” are affecting his stock — which are always tricky to decipher and read into this time of year — but he’s a new option on the board that Bucs fans might want to look into.
Team sources like Stevenson as a press-man corner and feel that he looked good in that technique in 2022. However, Stevenson had some uneven performances and displayed some issues at playing off-man coverage, which Miami made him do often. Sources say there are some character concerns as well. Stevenson is a bit of a love/hate prospect, with some thinking he could go in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft and others having him graded well into Day 2.
Jaime Eisner, The Draft Network: Brian Branch, S/Alabama
“Brian Branch worked out as a CB in Indianapolis but projects best as a versatile safety in the NFL. The Buccaneers have a handful of players in the secondary with expired contracts and have a lot of work to do to get their defense to a point where they can win games without Tom Brady.”