Buccaneers 7-round mock draft: Tampa Bay reloads on defense and takes some offensive lottery tickets

It’s starting to look like the Bucs will have a top 10 pick to start building for the future.
Mississippi State v Alabama
Mississippi State v Alabama / Brandon Sumrall/GettyImages
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It’s been tough sledding for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers through 12 weeks of the season.

Things started out nice, with the Bucs winning three of their first four games and storming to an NFC South lead.

Since then, the Buccaneers have struggled mightily, losing six of their last seven games, including a four-game skid, to drop from first to third place and out of the playoff picture. To be fair, Tampa Bay is just one game back of Atlanta and New Orleans for first place, and still have one more games against their divisional foes this season.

It feels like they’re way further behind than that, though.

If the Buccaneers are unable to turn their season around, however, the offseason is going to get very interesting. First and foremost, a decision needs to be made on which players the team spend their projected $28 million in cap space on to re-sign as Baker Mayfield, Mike Evans, Devin White, Lavonte David, and Antonio Winfield Jr will all be free agents.

In additio to that, the Bucs hold the No. 7 pick in the NFL Draft, giving them the opportunity to take an uber-talented prospect that can change the trajectory of the franchise moving forward.

Buccaneers 7-round NFL Mock Draft after Week 12

Round 1

. . Cornerback. player. 523. Kool-Aid McKinstry. Kool-Aid McKinstry. Kool-Aid McKinstry. Alabama. 7

Although Tampa Bay will definelty check their options at the QB and WR positions, there are no clear-cut prospects at those positions to pick at No. 10. Instead, the Buccaneers opt for McKinstry, the premire cornerback prospect and one of the best corners in the nation.

After playing for the Crimson Tide sparingly as a freshman, McKinstry was given a larger role with the departure of Jalyn Armour-Davis, and quickly impressed in the secondary. To clarify, McKinstry recorded 35 total tackles, one sack, one interception, and 15 passes defended, which ranked fourth the nation. As a result, McKinstry was named to the All-SEC First Team at cornerback.

In addition to his lock-down coverage, McKinstry served as the Crimson Tide's primary punt returner, another area that McKinstry thrived in. Last season, McKinstry took 23 punt returns for 332 return yards and 15.8 YPR, both of which ranked second nationwide.

Not much has changed for McKinstry in 2023, as the former five-star recruit has continued to defend opposing team's top WRs at a high level. This season, McKinstry has notched 25 total tackles and six passes defended.

At first, McKinstry's stats appear very underwhelming for that of a future first-round pick. This is largely attributed to a lack of passes thrown McKinstry's way, as quarterbacks typically try to avoid throwing passes anywhere near McKinstry.

Despite this, McKinstry is still having an notable impact in Alabama's standout secondary. Ahead of Alabama's meeting with Georgia in the SEC Championship game, McKinstry has played 796 snaps out wide, and 427 of his 518 total coverage snaps were in press, per PFF. Even so, McKinstry has forced 18 incompletions this season, a team-high.

At 6'1" and 195 pounds, McKinstry's athleticism and physique are off the charts, allowing him to keep up with the fastest deep-threat receivers and make tough tackles at the line of scrimmage. Despite this, McKinstry still struggles with limiting separation opposing WRs create and penalties called on him. Outside of that, McKinstry is an elite cornerback prospect with years of notable production in one of the nation's toughest conferences.