Buccaneers fix a huge area of need in latest 7-Round Mock Draft

NFL Draft
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Despite a successful free agency period, Jason Licht and his staff still have some clear holes to fill on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers roster.

If the front office plays its cards right, this draft can potentially cement the Bucs as an NFC contender and one of the most talented young rosters in the league.

Latest Tampa Bay Buccaneers 7-round mock draft

Round 1, Pick 26: Jackson Powers-Johnson, C/Oregon

If Jackson Powers Johnson is still available when the Buccaneers are on the clock, Jason Licht should sprint to the podium to secure an anchor for the interior of the offensive line. What jumps out when watching the young center is his tenacity; or "prickness" as Jason Licht might call it.

This seems to be a trait that gets Licht's attention often in prospects, as he tends to be drawn to aggressive, relentless personalities in his players, especially offensive linemen. At his press conference to announce the contract extension of Baker Mayfield, Jason Licht told the media, "He sets the tone for this team with his — well, for lack of a better word — probably one out of 10, he’s a 10 on the ‘prick’ scale...That’s what you want in your offensive linemen."

With the unfortunate retirement of beloved center Ryan Jensen this offseason, the Bucs have an opportunity to immediately plug that hole with a talented prospect who models his game after Jensen. In an interview with Justin Melo of The Draft Network, Powers Johnson was asked which NFL player he'd compare himself to, to which he replied, "I would choose Ryan Jensen. I would probably say him because we both have similar body types. We both play the game with a mean streak. We’re both very physical. I’ve admired him for a while now. I had an opportunity to meet him a few years ago. He’s a guy I look up to. I love studying his film."

The Bucs just invested heavily in Baker Mayfield with a contract worth up to $115 million, and the logical next step is to protect their quarterback. It wouldn't be surprising if Licht explores trading up a few spots to ensure he lands his guy and continues to shore up the offensive line.

Round 2, Pick 57: Payton Wilson, LB/N.C. State

Payton Wilson is a perfect fit for the Buccaneers. The team lost Devin White this offseason, and although they retained Lavonte David, he is only on a one-year contract, and is in the twilight years of his career. The Bucs could secure their future at the position by securing Wilson.

Last season alone, Wilson was awarded the Butkus Award as the nation's top linebacker, was named a first-team All-American, and earned first-team All-ACC honors. Wilson did it all last year for the Wolfpack, with 138 total tackles, six sacks, three interceptions, as well as a forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and a defensive touchdown. What stands out when watching Wilson play, is that he seems to always be in the right position to make a play on the football. He is a truly special athlete, turning in a blazing 4.43 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, and scoring a 9.81 raw athletic score. This score ranks 52nd out of 2,649 linebacker prospects dating back to 1987 according to Kent Lee Platte, the creator of the raw athletic scoring system.

So what is the catch?

Wilson would be a slam dunk first-round draft pick if not for his worrisome injury history dating back to high school, and his age. Wilson tore his ACL as a senior in high school, and he injured his knee again as a freshman in college. In 2021, his junior season, Wilson suffered a season-ending shoulder injury. In addition to his injury history, at the start of his rookie NFL season Wilson will already be 24 years old.

If the Bucs are willing to take a chance on Wilson despite these concerns, they will have a chance to secure a high-character, high-motor player who will inevitably become a leader in whatever locker room he gets drafted into.

Round 3, Pick 89: Austin Booker, EDGE/Kansas

Austin Booker is an intriguing prospect, because while he is considered a consensus top 100 draft pick, he has a very small sample size of production to his name.

According to PFF, Booker has logged just 505 career snaps, which is an extremely low amount of playing experience compared to other prospects. Booker actually compares to the Bucs 2021 first-round pick Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, as they both were highly touted prospects despite limited production, mainly because of their impressive athletic profiles. They offer similar measurements, with JTS measuring in at 6'5 and 260 pounds and Booker measuring in at 6'4 and 240 pounds, respectively.

The Bucs drafted Tryon after a collegiate career where he earned nine sacks in two seasons before sitting out in 2020 and entering the NFL Draft. In comparison, Austin Booker only has one true season under his belt, but he flashed elite upside in his limited playing time, earning eight sacks and a conference leading 38 QB pressures. Booker is definitely worth a swing in the third round for a team that is in desperate need of an explosive presence off the edge.

Round 3, Pick 92: Johnny Wilson

As Mike Evans enters this season at 31 years old and Chris Godwin enters the final year of his contract, it is time for the Buccaneers to begin to plan for the future of their wide receiver room. The team drafted Trey Palmer out of Nebraska in the sixth-round last year, who was impressive as a rookie, but outside of Palmer, the team lacks any depth at the position.

Johnny Wilson, a hometown talent out of Florida State University, posts a rare frame, measuring in at 6'6 and 231 pounds at the NFL Combine while running a 4.52 40-yard dash. He actually tests very similarly to the Bucs current star receiver, Mike Evans, who measured in at 6'5 and 231 pounds while running a 4.53 40-yard dash when he was a prospect.

The knock on Wilson is that his play doesn't quite live up to his frame, as he isn't as dominant in contested catch situations as you would expect for his size. In contrast, Evans excels in contested catch situations, and Wilson could potentially learn a lot from Evans in regard to using his rare size as an advantage in these situations.

Another knock on Wilson is that he suffers from occasional drops. Sound familiar Bucs fans? Mike Evans, despite his status as a future Hall of Famer, has been known to struggle with occasional unexplainable drops throughout his career, but he makes up for it due to his explosive play ability as Wilson did in his college career. There is a lot of work to be done as Wilson develops, he is truly a raw prospect, but nobody is more suited to mentor the young receiver than Mike Evans.

Round 4, Pick 125: Jaylen Wright, RB/Tennessee

Rachaad White certainly earned his place as the team's lead running back after an impressive 2023, but there is a concerning lack of depth behind White. The team liked what they saw out of Chase Edmonds in limited action, and they are high on last year's undrafted free agent signing Sean Tucker. But despite how the team feels about Edmonds and Tucker, there is little production to back up these beliefs, and the front office needs to add another threat to their backfield.

Jaylen Wright can be just what the Buccaneers need to complement their existing running back room. Wright ran a blistering 4.38 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, compared to White's 4.48 and Edmonds' 4.55. Wright has the rare speed to create explosive plays as a runner, but also has solid hands and can contribute as a receiver out of the backfield. In 2023, Wright ran for seven yards per carry, which ranked second in the FBS. 

The Buccaneers could use a home run threat out of the backfield, and one that can contribute both as a runner and a receiver to take some of the load off of Rachaad White. Wright, with his sure hands and explosive speed, is the exact player the Bucs should be looking for to strengthen the depth at the running back position.

Round 6, Pick 220: Eric Watts, EDGE/UConn

After drafting Austin Booker in the third-round, the Bucs double-dip at the edge rusher position here to further address a serious need for the defense. Watts is an athletic freak, scoring a 9.95 out of 10 on the raw athletic score test, which ranks ninth out of 1,637 defensive end prospects since the program was created. 

Watts compares to last year's third-round draft pick, YaYa Diaby, who posted a 9.86 raw athletic score and went on to be one of the league's best defensive rookies, earning 7.5 sacks. Watts is taller, heavier, and has a longer wingspan than Diaby, but Diaby has more speed, as evidenced by his 4.51 40-yard dash.

Watts measures in at 6'5 and 277 pounds, possessing the ideal frame for his position at the pro level. His 4.67 40-yard dash is impressive relative to his size and position. He simply has all the physical traits and tools that Jason Licht could hope to find in a prospect. 

However, despite his athletic profile, Watts' production leaves something to be desired, which is why he remains on the board on day three. Watts notched just 9.5 sacks in his four-year college career, and seven of them came in 2022 before regressing to just two sacks in his senior season.

Although his production is limited, Watts is absolutely worth a late-round flyer based on his athletic profile alone, in hopes the coaching staff can help him better utilize his physical gifts to become a dominant force off the edge.

Round 7, Pick 246: Qwan'tez Stiggers, CB/ N/A

Stiggers is an unconventional prospect, as he would become just the third player ever to be drafted into the NFL with no college experience. Stiggers played in the Fan Controlled Football League before earning a spot with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League.

Stiggers made a name for himself in the CFL as a ballhawk, notching five interceptions and being named the CFL's Most Outstanding Rookie.  Stiggers ran a 4.45 40-yard dash and measured in at just under 6'0 and 200 pounds at his Pro Day.

Stiggers has built himself a reputation as an instinctual player with exceptional ball skills and also brings a willingness to tackle. If he isn't ready to contribute in the secondary as a rookie, he can surely contribute as a key player on special teams. Stiggers excels in zone coverage more than man coverage, which seems to fit Bowles' scheme, as he tends to rely more heavily on zone coverage in his blitz-heavy system. 

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Stiggers is his work ethic and ability to overcome adversity. Stiggers is a high-motor, high-character player who by all accounts will stop at nothing to achieve his dream of pursuing football. He overcame countless challenges on his path to becoming a legitimate NFL prospect. The chip on his shoulder will help make Stiggers a natural fit within the locker room and help him earn the support of the fanbase.

This would be a low-risk, high-reward pick for the Bucs as they have a chance to strike gold in the seventh-round on a young, motivated player who consistently flashed as one of the best defensive players on the field in his prior professional experience in the CFL. 

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