Mel Kiper Jr. makes a final bold NFL Draft prediction for Buccaneers ahead of Round 1

Not for nothing, but Kiper specifically picked out the Bucs pick to break down.
NFL Draft, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
NFL Draft, Tampa Bay Buccaneers / Mark Cunningham/GettyImages

We've finally arrived at the NFL Draft, and tonight is going to reveal which way the Tampa Bay Buccaneers break after months of speculation.

NFL GMs are already hard to figure out, especially when Smokescreen SZN is in full swing, but Jason Licht is a whole different enigma. Last year he zigged when experts thought he'd zag to an offensive lineman, and this year the Bucs' plans seem to be just as big of a mystery.

While we won't know for sure which way Licht goes until tonight, it seems a consensus is forming about where the Bucs might look when the No. 26 pick goes on the clock.

Final Mel Kiper Jr. NFL Mock draft specifically highlights the Buccaneers pick

In his final mock draft of the year, which was more of a list of predictions than a traditional mock, Mel Kiper specifically plucked the Bucs out to break down what might happen.

Based on what he's hearing, Kiper thinks that it'll be Chop Robinson's name called when the Bucs head to the podium for the No. 26 pick.

"I've heard Bucs GM Jason Licht is trying to upgrade his pass rush at No. 26, and I like the connection between the Bucs and Robinson (Penn State), who is skilled but didn't always put it together in college. The Bucs ranked 24th in pressure percentage (27%) despite blitzing at the third-highest rate in the NFL (40%) last season, so they have to improve their front seven. They might still be able to land Robinson if they move down a couple of spots," Kiper wrote.

This isn't far off from what the consensus seems to be for the Bucs pick, assuming they stay put at No. 26. There's a chance they could trade down if the board doesn't fall the way Jason Licht likes, and a trade up to land a guy who falls into range can't be counted out either.

Daniel Jeremiah had the Bucs taking Jared Verse, who fell to No. 26 in his final mock draft, while also being in a position to take Jackson Powers-Johnson on Day 2. It seems that most experts, regardless of the specific prospect, believe Tampa Bay will use its first pick to draft a top edge rusher and then wait to use later picks to rebuild the offensive line.

It's not a bad strategy, as Tampa Bay would have three Top 100 picks remaining after the first round and could use them in a number of different ways. The Bucs could trade up if Powers-Johnson falls, or they could use all three to land primo Day 2 targets that Licht has a knack for mining.

Either way, the Bucs are shaping up to have a pretty fantastic draft, and the fact that Mel Kiper Jr is singling them out in his final predictions goes to show how well positioned they are.

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