Buccaneers land a Top 10 player in final ESPN mock draft

Todd Bowles would be doing backflips around the room of this happened.
NFC Wild Card Playoffs - Philadelphia Eagles v Tampa Bay Buccaneers
NFC Wild Card Playoffs - Philadelphia Eagles v Tampa Bay Buccaneers / Julio Aguilar/GettyImages

It's been months of seemingly endless speculation, but everything comes to a head on Thursday night. We will finally get to see how many of the mock drafts we've seen end up being right -- and how wrong most of them were.

That's just the nature of this time of year, as the last week before the draft ends up becoming Smokescreen SZN as front offices try to jockey for positioning in order to land prospects that could turn their franchise around. Nobody actually knows what anyone is thinking except for those inside of each team's war room, and even then things can change at the last minute.

Hopefully for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at least one ends up being true and draft day chaos leads to the team landing a Top 10 player without needing to move up to get him.

Buccaneers land a Top 10 player without needing to trade in final ESPN mock draft

In his final mock draft, ESPN's Matt Miller has UCLA star Laiatu Latu falling all the way to No. 26 and right into Tampa Bay's lap.

Latu is a consensus Top 10 talent in the draft, but he's not a lock to be taken where he should. Miller's reasoning for his slide to Tampa Bay is a neck injury that could scare teams off, even if it happened three years ago.

"Medicals are the huge key for Latu's draft stock, which could set him up to be drafted much earlier than this if teams are good with the neck injury he had at Washington in 2020. He's the most pro-ready pass-rusher in the class, though, with hand usage of a veteran and consistent pass-rush plans. Latu had 23.5 sacks over the past two seasons, and Tampa Bay is looking for a boost off the edge," Miller wrote.

This is pretty on-par with the black-and-white nature of Latu's stock.

Nobody is denying he's the best pure pass rusher in the draft class, better than Alabama's Dallas Turner who is expected to be the first player at his position off the board. Landing Latu at No. 26 would require Jason Licht to turn the draft card in wearing a ski mask because it feels like highway robbery to get such a top-tier talent at that spot.

He'd slide right in with a line that already consists of stars like Vita Vea and Calijah Kancey, and would both give the Bucs a top edge rusher and deepen the talent in the trenches. Todd Bowles loves his defensive line depth, and so does Licht, and it's part of the reason Tampa Bay won a Super Bowl back in 2020.

Offenses having to account for Kancey and Latu, plus Vea and the rest of the defense, is an absolute dream scenario for the Bucs and here's to hoping it somehow becomes a reality.

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