Buccaneers land two key pieces for Baker Mayfield in latest 7-round Mock Draft

Now that Baker Mayfield is back, the Buccaneers can use the NFL Draft to build around him.
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With the first pick of the 2024 NFL draft set to be announced in less than two weeks, all 32 teams have finished their business in free agency and have shifted their focus to April 25th.

For teams like Tampa Bay, both free agency and the draft have or will play pivotal roles in the team's success this upcoming season.

Ahead of 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, and are also setting up a fantastic foundation for the future. From April 25-27, Tampa Bay has the chance to solidify that with another solid draft class.

Round 1, Pick 26: Chop Robinson, DE/Penn State

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As evident from last season's marks of 19.1 points and 344.2 yards per contest, the Buccaneers' defense was one of the better units in the NFL, in large part to their collection of capable pass rushers. Highlighted by defensive end Calijah Kancey, defensive tackle Vita Vea, and outside linebacker YaYa Diaby, Tampa Bay has multiple pass rushers who have shown flashes of stardom early in their careers.

Excluding Kancey, Vita, and Diaby, the Buccaneers are shallow on defensive line and rush linebackers. Between defensive end Logan Hall, defensive tackle Greg Gaines, and outside linebacker Joe Tyron-Shoyinka, Tampa Bay has options, but none are inspuring and game-changing talents at their positions.

Therefore, it shouldn't come as a surprise that Hall, Gaines, and Tryon-Shoyinka are all set to become free agents after the 2024 season. To add another talented pass rusher to their defense, Tampa Bay selects Robinson from Penn State, who projects as one of the top defensive lineman prospects after three solid seasons as a Terrapin and Nittany Lion.

As a freshman, Robinson played a minimal role as a backup, appearing in eight of 13 games and totaling just 263 snaps. Even so, Robinson still compiled 14 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, and two sacks as a Terrapin. Following the 2021 season, Robinson transferred from Maryland to Penn State, and immediately slotted in as one of the Nittany Lions' starting edge pass rushers.

Starting in 12 of 13 games, Robinson notched 26 tackles, 10.0 tackles for loss, and 5.5 sacks, with those marks ranking seventh and fifth in the Big Ten conference. As a result, Robinson was named to Pro Football Focus' All-Big Ten second team, and was an All-Big Ten team honorable mention by conference coaches and media.

This past season, Robinson continued his ascension as one of the conference's top pass rushers as a senior. Per Sports Reference, Robinson finished the 2023 season with 15 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, and four sacks in ten starts. Robinson was later named to the Bednarik Award, Lombardi Award, and Bronko Nagurski Trophy watch lists for his play.

Following a solid senior season and leading Penn State to a 10-3 record and Peach Bowl appearance, Robinson attended the 2024 NFL draft combine. There, the former five-star recruit finished with a 4.48 40-yard dash, a 34.5-inch vertical, a 10-inch, eight-foot broad jump, and a 4.25 20-yard shuttle, all impressive marks for Robinson.

Round 2, Pick 57: DJ James, CB/Auburn

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For the past four seasons, Carlton Davis III and Jamel Dean formed a formidable 1-2 punch at cornerback and was a key anchor on the Buccaneers' solid defense. Just weeks into the offseason, Tampa Bay traded Davis III to Detroit for a 2024 third-round pick, creating a glaring hole in one of their two starting spots.

While the Buccaneers did sign free-agent cornerbacks Bryce Hall and Tavierre Thomas from New York and Houston, neither has shown the ability to succeed as a starter alongside Dean. With that, Zyon McCollum, a fifth-round pick in the 2022 draft from Sam Houston State, is poised to play a pivotal role in Davis III's absence, but more talent and youth is needed in the secondary.

To solve that, the Buccaneers use their second-round pick on James, who has been one of the top cornerbacks in the SEC for the past two seasons. James started his collegiate career at Oregon, and tallied 70 tackles and two interceptions in 32 games from 2019-2021. In the 2021 offseason, James transfered to Auburn, and quickly thrived as one of the Tigers' starting corners.

Starting in all 12 games for Auburn as a Junior, James recorded 37 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, eight pass breakups, and one interception, and earned All-SEC Second Team honors. Next season, James was even better, posting 38 tackles, 3,5 tackles for loss, ten pass breakups, and two interceptions in 12 starts, and was named to the All-SEC First Team and was invited to the 2024 Reese’s Senior Bowl.

At 6'0" and 185 pounds, James is a fluid athlete who has loose hips, very good body control, and plays with a low pad level. James' quick feet in press coverage allow him to keep his leverage and stay square, and James does a great job of keeping leverage and controlling receivers. Coupled with a 4.42 40-yard dash at the combine, James projects to be a lockdown corner at the next level with the right coaching and defensive schemes.