7-round Tampa Bay Buccaneers Mock Draft ahead of free agency

Tampa Bay adds a game-changing talent on defense with three of first four picks, add running back, wide receiver, and tight end for next quarterback
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With NFL free agency set to begin on March 13, most of the attention and focus for the Buccaneers has been on resigning their top free agents.

Heading into the legal tampering period, the Bucs brought back all three key free agents set to hit the market. Mike Evans agreed on a two-year, $52 million contract extension, used the $19.8 million franchise tag on free safety Antoine Winfield Jr., and the team re-signed Baker Mayfield to a $100 million deal.

The Bucs have already taken huge strides toward putting themselves back into contention this season but are also setting up a fantastic foundation for the future. That's where Jason Licht can cook next, as this year's draft class could be another banger.

He nailed it last year and has another shot to put even more pieces into place that will help guide the Bucs into a new era.

Round 1, Pick 26: Cooper DeJean, CB/Iowa

As a majority of the nation's premier teams have dominant and explosive offenses, Iowa is one of the few to go against the grain and still find success. In the last two seasons, the Hawkeyes' offense has mustered just 17.7 and 15.4 points per game, marks that ranked 123rd and 132nd in the nation, per Sports Reference.

In spite of this, Iowa has still managed to go 8-5 and 10-4 in those two seasons, while earning their third Big Ten Conference Championship appearance in school history last season. Dating back to 2012, the Hawkeyes have not endured a losing season, and have won nine or more games in four of their last six seasons.

Iowa's continued success can be traced to the shutdown defense, which has been one of, if not the top units in college football. Since 2019, the Hawkeye defense has allowed their opponents to score an average of 15.8 points per game, and have notched a mark of 16.0 OPPG or less in four of the six seasons.

Recently, Iowa's defense has still improved, dropping their mark of opponents' points per game to 13.3 and 14.8 in 2022 and 2023, the second and fourth lowest marks in the nation. That is largely attributed to the phenomenal play of defender Cooper DeJean, who has done it all for Iowa.

Since being elevated as one of the team's starting cornerbacks in 2022, DeJean has been a versatile and ball-hawking threat all over the field. In 23 starts as a Hawkeye, DeJean has recorded 120 tackles, five tackles for loss, 13 passes defended, and seven interceptions, equating to a 45.2 passer rating when targeted, and was named a consensus All-American in 2023.

In the 2022 season, DeJean was especially great, recording 75 tackles, three tackles for loss, eight passes defended and five interceptions, the second-most in the Big Ten. Of his five picks, DeJean returned three for touchdowns, the most of any player in college football.

Standing at 6'0" and 203 pounds, DeJean is one of the most athletic and strong cornerback prospects in the class, as shown by his 4.50 40-yard dash. Due to this, DeJean also served as Iowa's primary punt returner, posting 461 yards and one touchdown on 31 punt returns.

Overall, DeJean is one of the most exciting and balanced secondary prospects in recent memory, and will definitely be a first-round pick on April 25. With recent inconsistency at strong safety, DeJean would be an excellent fit in Tampa Bay, and would pair with 2023 NFL All-Pro First Team selection Antoine Winfield Jr. to form one of the best safety duos in the NFL.