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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Round 5

. Ty'Ron Hopper. . Ty'Ron Hopper. 169. Linebacker. Ty'Ron Hopper. 531. Missouri. player

This season, linebacker has been one of Tampa Bay's strongest position groups. Led by the dynamic duo of former Pro Bowlers Devin White (69 TCKLs, 2.0 SCKs, 3 PDs, 1 INT, 2 FFs) and Lavonte David (90 TCKLs, 3.0 SCKs, 1 PD), LB hasn't been highlighted a position for the Buccaneers to address this offseason.

With this said, both White and David could be in their final season as Buccaneers. To clarify, White will and David will become unrestricted free agents this offseason, and the latter may retire after finishing his age 33 season. Luckily, the 2024 NFL draft has plenty of notable LB prospects, headlined by the aforementioned Carter. Later in the draft, Missouri's Hopper will likely hear his name called, and for good reason.

In his fifth collegiate season, second with Missouri, Hopper has been a defensive stalwart for the Tigers. For the 2023 season, Hopper recorded 55 total tackles, six tackles for loss, three sacks, and three passes defended.

Last season, Hopper was just as, if not better in Mizzou, complying 74 total tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, four passes defended, one interception, and one forced fumble, becoming the ninth SEC LB in the last 20 years to record such a stat line.

Since transferring from Florida in 2021, Hopper has had a noticeable impact on Missouri's defense as whole. In the two years with Hopper in the fold, Tigers have finished 56th and 48th in opponents' points per game, at 23.1 and 25.4 PPG, respectivly. In 2020 and 2021, however, Mizzou ranked 85th and 113th in the nation, at 32.3 and 33.8 PPG.

Standing at 6'2" and 228 pounds, Hopper may be built like a defensive back, but hits like a linebacker. To put it simply, Hopper is good athlete, as he shows a natural feel for pass rushing, and has very good lateral agility to shake pass blockers.

In coverage, Hopper is excellent at changing direction, using his speed to keep up with faster receivers down the sideline while being able to come back to the middle of the field to wrap up tight ends or running backs.

As far as critiques go, Hopper's pass-rushing ability is still a work in progress due to a limited repertoire of pass-rush moves and an inability to use his hands effectively. In the open field, Hopper is more of a grab-and-drag tackler who could stand to be more violent as a hitter, which would cause more turnovers for the defense.