NFL expert has Bucs drafting surprise Baker Mayfield replacement in first round

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Indianapolis Colts
Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Indianapolis Colts / Justin Casterline/GettyImages

We're entering the home stretch of the regular season and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are firmly on the fence.

On the one hand, the Bucs are just a game out of first place in the NFC South and well within striking distance of securing a home playoff game. The flip side is that the Bucs are 1-6 since they're bye week and are in absolyte shambles at every level. Offensively the team can't get anything going, failing to average more than 19 points per game over that stretch, while the defense is starting to pack it in as it runs out of steam -- and the will the live.

So with six games left on the schedule, there's an equal chance the Bucs host a playoff game in January or have a Top 10 pick in April.

Truly a Bucs Life.

Most folks are betting on the latter outcome, as there hasn't been much to suggest Tampa Bay will put up much of a fight in the playoffs or do much to even get there. It's looking like an offseason of resetting, with a Top 10 pick being key among the pieces the Bucs use to usher in a new era.

Latest NFL Mock Draft has Bucs taking a huge swing to replace Baker Mayfield

Dane Brugler released his first NFL Mock Draft and has the Bucs taking a rather surprising swing in the first round. Right now Tampa Bay picks No. 7 overall, which is out of range to draft a guy like Caleb Williams but Bugler thinks a different quarterback makes sense instead -- LSU's Jayden Daniels.

"At the beginning of the season, I wouldn’t have guessed that Daniels would appear in the top 10 of my first mock draft. But in studying his tape and seeing his continual improvements, you start to run out of reasons why he doesn’t belong. I think several teams slotted in the top 10 will think the same way," Brugler wrote.

Quarterback has been a question for the Bucs going back to last February when Tom Brady retired. There was no succession plan in place, as Kyle Trask was thrown out as an option at the time because he was the only guy in the room. Tampa Bay eventually signed Baker Mayfield as a low-risk, high-upside gamble but the Hail Mary move seems to be falling short.

There's a chance Baker comes back next year, as statistically he isn't the thing holding the Bucs back. He's not helping the team break through any barriers, though, which is where drafting a franchise quarterback to build around comes into play.

Daniels is a rising star, but he won't be the last college quarterback to surge up draft boards. Last year Anthony Richardson saw his stock rise from being a late-first rounder to a Top 5 selection, and this year's class is deeper than the one we saw last year.

What he's doing at LSU is outrageous, as Daniels has put up video game numbers seemingly every Saturday this season. He's an electric talent, and while he seems to be a tier below Caleb Williams and Drake Maye, he has the tools to both develop into a star and has the type of stuff that can help make the Bucs exciting again.

We're only in December, and Mock Drafts are rarely right even days before the Draft. Daniels is a fun name to keep an eye on the main takeaway is how the Bucs played themselves into this awkward spot of being both a potential playoff team and one that NFL Draft experts are mocking top quarterbacks to high in the order.

More Tampa Bay Buccaneers news and rumors