With the Draft finally here, experts are turning in their final NFL Mock Draft predictions before the action officially kicks off later tonight.
It’s finally here, the NFL Draft is tonight and we will officially learn who the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be adding with the No. 19 pick.
We’ve heard a lot of speculation over the last few months about what the Bucs could do, now we’ll see what they will do. It’s a rather intriguing spot to be in, as Tampa Bay can go a number of different directions with their pick including trading it.
ESPN’s Bill Barnwell mused that the Bucs could make four different trades that involved both Devin White going to Houston or Jonah Williams coming to Tampa Bay. Those were hypotheticals that were fun to chew on, but other experts are starting to lock in their actual predictions.
Positionally it looks like the Bucs will be eyeing a right tackle to take over for Tristan Wirfs, who is moving over to left tackle to replace Donovan Smith. There has been speculation about taking a quarterback, perhaps Hendon Hooker, or taking a skill position player like Bijan Robinson.
Let’s take a look at the last-minute predictions that NFL Mock Draft experts are turning in for the Buccaneers.
NFL Mock Draft: Final expert predictions ahead of Round 1 (Updated)
Note: This will be updated with the latest predictions from top experts as they submit their final NFL Mock Draft picks.
Mel Kiper Jr., ESPN: Broderick Jones, OT/Ohio State
He’s not always spot on, but Mel Kiper Jr has earned the credit he gets from fans for his work over the years covering the draft. Even if his picks aren’t exactly right, he’s usually correct about breaking down a prospect, which bodes well for the Bucs and their need for a tackle in this year’s class.
Jones has been mocked to the Bucs before but has fallen off with the rise in popularity of Darnell Wright and even Anton Harrison. Fans stopped seeing him attached to Tampa Bay, which could have implied that his stock was dropping despite early praise.
The endorsement here from Kiper is huge, but it also confirms that the run on tackles can happen and the Bucs can still manage to walk away from the first round with a huge piece of the offensive line secure.
"I expect the Bucs to be in the tackle market, and they could take the best available guy here. Tristan Wirfs could move from right to left tackle, opening up a void on the right side. Jones was outstanding for the national champs last season."
Daniel Jeremiah, NFL Network: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR/Ohio State
Here’s an interesting one. Jeremiah hasn’t been shy about zagging with the Bucs picj throughout all of his mock drafts and Smith Njigba is the latest plot twist he’s tossing out.
It’s also one that Bucs fans probably won’t be mad at.
The pick is out of left field, but it does have some intriguing elements to it. Smith-Njigba could form a dangerous three-headed receiving monster with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, and could be a replacement for one of them if the Bucs have to let one walk in free agency.
"Smith-Njigba could be a top-10 pick or he could slide to this spot. The Bucs need to get younger and add more weapons offensively. He’d be a great addition."
Todd McShay, ESPN: Darnell Wright, OT/Tennessee
Another mainstay in our NFL Draft feeds this time of year is Todd McShay, who is in line to become the next Kiper with Matt Miller filling McShay’s shoes. As for filling shoes in Tampa Bay, McShay is among the many pundits predicting the Bucs will look at finding a tackle — as Kiper did — but goes with the closes thing to a consensus pick for them as of late.
Tennessee’s Darnell Wright has been penciled into for the Bucs a lot lately, and it makes sense since he can fill a hole on the right side of the line vacated by Tristan Wirfs. With Wirfs moving to left tackle, Wright can come in and not only lock down the other side of the offensive line but might even be blocking for his college quarterback if the Bucs end up going with Hendon Hooker at any point.
"The best one in the class is Wright, who excels as a run blocker and has the foot quickness to help give Baker Mayfield and/or Kyle Trask time in the pocket. The Buccaneers only allowed 22 sacks last season, fewest in the league, but they also had Brady getting the ball out faster than any other QB. That won’t be the case in 2023, and Brandon Walton — the current starter at right tackle — has two career starts under his belt, neither of which were on that side."
Dane Brugler, The Athletic: Nola Smith, EDGE/Georgia
Offensive line has been the consensus pick among most experts for a while now, but as we saw with Jeremiah’s prediction there have been some other picks peppered in too.
Specifically, some experts have focused on the defensive side of things for the Bucs and Dan Brugler is among them. He has the Bucs addressing the need to bolster the defensive line, something that makes sense given the state of things up front.
Outside of Vita Vea there’s not a ton to write home about. There are new sheriffs in town all over the NFC South with Derek Carr in New Orleans and possibly two new young Top 10 rookies in Atlanta and Carolina before Day 1 of the draft is over. That’s something the Bucs will need to account for and stay ahead of defensively if they don’t want to fall behind.
"The Buccaneers have question marks at quarterback, but they also need more help on defense rushing the passer. Smith has the pass-rush speed and run-defending skills that fit Todd Bowles’ scheme."
Matt Miller, ESPN: Peter Skoronski, OT/Northwestern
What an absolute dream this would be if it happened. Miller noted that he didn’t project any trades in his mock and that these players were falling naturally, which means a lot coming from an expert like him.
Skoronski is a top-rated tackle in this year’s class and has typically been the first or second tackle off the board in most NFL Mock Drafts. So to see him fall all the way to the Bucs at No. 19 is a bit of a godsend for a team that wants to ensure it doesn’t miss out on a top tackle this year.
There’s expected to be a run on tackles in the middle of the first round, one that the Bucs are rumored to be thinking about trading up to get ahead of. If this scenario plays out though, and Jason Licht can stand pat at No. 19 and land a stud tackle, there’s not a better way to have spent the first day of the draft.
"There are questions about arm length (32¼ inches), but there is no questioning Skoronski’s dominance in the run game. He is poised and powerful, and he has fantastic pass-protection technique that helps cover up for his short arms. Some scouts still say Skoronski is best suited to play guard in the pros, though."
Will Brinson, CBS Sports: Lukas Van Ness, EDGE/Iowa
This one is almost like turning back the clock at this point. Early on there were a handful of mocks that had the Bucs taking Lukas Van Ness, but that fell away as it became clear the team would be looking at tackles above all.
In this mock, Darnell Wright is still on the board which feels like it would be the pick. Brinson argues that the Bucs have a bigger positional need on the edge of the defense and need to account for new young quarterbacks arriving by bolstering the defense.
"The Bucs are a hard team to figure out because of their needs and roster status, the latter being mixed with the state of the NFC South. I think they just keep adding to the roster and hope they pop a draft class and steal the division."