In his latest NFL Mock Draft, Mel Kiper Jr. takes into account the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offseason moves and predicts the team fills a huge position of need at No. 19.
Now that we’re a week into NFL Free Agency, attention is beginning to shift away from available veteran players and toward young prospects entering the league next month.
It’s NFL Mock Draft SZN, and there’s no other time of year that guys like Mel Kiper Jr. flourish than the stretch between the combine and the draft. While the Tampa Bay Buccaneers don’t have a high draft pick this year, the team has a number of options with the No. 19 pick — options that continue to expand with each offseason move that is made.
We’ve gone through the full life cycle of rumors involving the Bucs and their top pick. In the immediate aftermath of Tom Brady retiring, the knee-jerk reaction was to have the team trading up to draft Will Levis. Once it became clear that a trade wouldn’t happen, folks started mocking Jamel Dean replacements to Tampa Bay, with some out-of-the-box ideas like Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer landing with the Bucs in some drafts.
Things seem to have normalized, at least for now. With a number of options available, the Bucs have more than a few ways to add a young player who can have an immediate impact for a team that has made it clear that competing for a playoff spot and a Super Bowl is how it’s approaching this upcoming season.
Mel Kiper Jr. has Buccaneers addressing a huge need in his latest NFL Mock Draft
In his first Mock Draft, Kiper had the Bucs taking Emmanuel Forbes to address a need at cornerback. That could still be on the table, although things have changed with both parties since Kiper last checked in.
Tampa Bay was expected to lose Jamel Dean this offseason, which is what most experts accounted for when putting together their predictions for the Bucs. Now that Dean is back on a four-year, $52 million deal the need to use the No. 19 pick to find his replacement isn’t as necessary as before.
Forbes stock has also increased a bit over the last month, and Kiper now has him off the board when the Bucs go on the clock. Instead of looking at the defensive side of the ball, Kiper has the Bucs using the pick on right tackle Darnell Wright out of Tennessee.
Lost in the conversation about Tom Brady retiring, the Bucs surprising offseason moves, and Baker Mayfield joining the team is what the team is expected to do with Tristan Wrifs. He’s one of the best tackles in the NFL, but Tampa Bay is likely to move him over to left tackle to replace Donovan Smith.
That fills one need but creates another, and Kiper things the No. 19 pick is the perfect way to address it.
"If that’s the case, they need an instant starter at right tackle. Tristan Wirfs is moving over to the left side, so there’s a void. The 6-foot-5, 333-pound Wright started 42 games in college, including 27 at right tackle. This would be a move to get new offensive coordinator Dave Canales off to the best start, no matter the quarterback."
This is both a new pick and a new prospect, which means things are pretty fluid with the Bucs first-round plans.
What’s becoming clearer is that the team likely won’t address the future at quarterback early in the draft. Perhaps selecting Wright could be a sign that the team is looking at Hendon Hooker on the second day, but with Baker Mayfield and Kyle Trask set to battle it out in training camp, the likelihood is growing that the Bucs will wait until 2024 to truly look at their options for the future.
For now, adding protection for the eventual quarterback of the future seems to be a higher priority. As bad as things were for the Bucs last year, PFF ranked the offensive line as No. 9 in the league, so there’s a huge upside to adding someone like Wright — who Kiper notes could start out of the gate — and getting things back to where they were in 2020 versus the abysmal time everyone had last year.