Amid a mid-season collapse, highlighted by losses in six of seven games following a 3-1 start, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers looked to be firmly out of the playoff picture. Ahead of their Week 13 game with Carolina, the Bucs held the No. 7 pick in the draft, giving them the luxury of taking one of the top prospects in the draft class.
Since then, however, Tampa Bay has managed to win back-to-back games for the first time since the beginning of the season and has reclaimed first place in the NFC South with four games remaining on the schedule.
Although the two divisional wins likely saved Tampa Bay's chance of securing their third straight NFC South divisional title, the draft outlook has taken a hit. The Bucs have dropped out of the Top 10 and now hold the No. 20 overall pick -- one that would stay outside of the Top 18 if they end up making the playoffs this year.
Due to an extremely deep player pool at franchise-changing positions such as quarterback, linebacker, and wide receiver, however, the Buccaneers will still be able to land solid players while picking in the back half of the draft.
Buccaneers 7-Round NFL Mock Draft after Week 14
Due to the near certainty that USC's Caleb Williams and North Carolina's Drake Maye will be selected with two of the top-three picks, Tampa Bay is on the clock with their choice of any other remaining QB prospects.
With the selection between Michigan's JJ McCarthy, LSU's Jayden Daniels, and Oregon's Bo Nix, the Buccaneers opt for the elite dual threat play of Daniels, who singlehandly changed the landscape of college football last season.
Before dominating with the Tigers, Daniels committed to Arizona State to play under HC Herm Edwards as the top QB in his class. During three seasons as the Sun Devils' QB1, Daniels completed 451-723 (62.3%) pass attempts for 6,025 passing yards, 32 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions, while recording 296 rushing attempts for 1,288 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns.
Led by Daniels, Arizona State managed to finish the 2019 and 2021 seasons at 8-5 and 2-2 in the Covid-19 shorted 2020 season. With just two years of college eligibility left, Daniels decided to transfer to LSU ahead of the 2022 offseason to join recently hired HC Brian Kelly and a revamped Tigers roster.
In his first season in Baton Rouge, Daniels lived up to the preseason hype. Starting in all 14 games, Daniels completed 266-388 (69.0%) pass attempts for 2,913 passing yards, 17 touchdowns, and three interceptions, along with 1,134 rushing yards and ten rushing touchdowns on 135 carries.
Based on Daniels' superb season debut, the Tigers rebounded from last season's 6-7 campaign and finished the 2022 season with a 10-4 record, the SEC West division title, a 63-7 thrashing of Purdue in the Citrus Bowl, and a No. 16 finish in the final AP poll.
Even with the departure of 2023 NFL sixth-round draft pick WR Kayshon Boutte, Daniels continued his dominant ascension in his Senior season with the Tigers. In 12 starts this season, Daniels completed 236-327 (72.7%) pass attempts for 3,812 passing yards, 40 touchdowns, and four interceptions, while notching 135 attempts for 1,134 rushing yards and ten touchdowns.
Furthermore, Daniels would led the nation with 4,946 all-purpose yards and 50 touchdowns from scrimmage, while also finishing first in Passing Yards Per Attempt (11.7), Passing Efficiency Rating (208.0 PER), and Rushing Yards Per Attempt (8.4).
To no surprise, Daniels earned a multitude of nation-wide awards and recognition, such as winning the 2023 Heisman Award, the Davey O'Brien Award, the Walter Payton Player of the Year Award, the AP Player of the Year Award, and the SEC Offensive Player of the Year Award.
Throughout the 2023 season, Daniels had plenty of phenomenal games, but none were greater than his performances in week 11 and 12 against Florida and Georgia State, respectivly. After suffering a lingering concussion from last week's 28-42 loss to then No. 8 Alabama, Daniels proceeded to throw for 372 passing yards and three touchdowns while running for 234 yards and two touchdowns on the ground to led the Tigers to a 52-35 win over the Gators in The Swamp.
Just one week later, Daniels managed to have an even better game, completing 25-30 (83.3%) pass attempts for 413 yards, six touchdowns, and zero interceptions while rushing for 96 yards and two touchdowns on ten carries to blow out the Panthers 56-14. The 42-point blowout win marked Daniels' sixth time accounting for at least 410 yards of offense, along with becoming the first player in LSU history with at least five passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns in the same game.
At 6'4" and 230 pounds, Daniels has the size of a prototypical NFL QB, but his unstoppable ability to dissect defense on the ground and through the air makes the Heisman Award Winner a truly unqiue and irresplable QB prospect. Although durability is a major concern for him moving forward, there isn't a limit for how great Daniels may become in the NFL.