The Athletic’s mock draft has Bucs passing on two potential top players at No. 26

It's hard to see the Bucs making this decision, but who knows?
Miami v Florida State
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It's getting down to crunch time with the NFL Draft, and that goes for more than just front offices around the league.

Mock Draft SZN is almost over, almost as quickly as it came, and with that a barrage of penultimate predictions ahead of next week's action. We're still in store for everyone's final mock draft, but in the meantime, we're getting the second-to-last batch of musings from experts.

Remember how the penultimate episodes for Game of Thrones were always the best? This doesn't seem to be the case for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, at least not when it comes to The Athletic's most recent mock from their NFL guru.

Buccaneers pass on two potential top targets in The Athletic's NFL Mock Draft

In The Athletic's most recent mock draft, Dane Bugler has the Buccaneers selecting Clemson cornerback Nate Wiggins at No. 26 overall.

Bugler's logic is solid, but it's the context in which the pick is made that seems to be a little off.

"The Buccaneers have more questions than established answers on their cornerback depth chart, especially after the Carlton Davis trade. Although his marginal play strength is a red flag, Wiggins is a high-level athlete with cover awareness that will appeal to coach Todd Bowles," Bugler wrote.

Fair enough, but there's a hidden cost of doing business here that goes overlooked when thinking about the pick in a vacuum.

Jackson Powers-Johnson is off the board in Bugler's mock, but both Jared Verse and Kool-Aid McKinstry are available. Wiggins ranks pretty close to McKinstry in terms of top cornerbacks, so it's not that much of a stretch to see the Bucs taking one over the other. Passing on Verse would be a bridge too far, though, as he's arguably the best edge rusher in the draft.

Verse ranks behind Laiatu Latu and Dallas Turner on most Big Boards, but it's pretty close. Some early mocks had Latu slipping down the draft but that doesn't seem like it will be the case. If anything, Verse might be gone well before the Bucs go on the clock which has prompted suggestions that Tampa Bay could trade up if they really want him.

Wiggins fills a need at corner but Verse fills a much bigger need for the Bucs. One of the loose threads still dangling after free agency is needing to beef up the defensive line and rotational depth, which Verse does in spades. He'd join a group consisting of Yaya Diaby and Randy Gregory but one that doesn't have a clear cut leader.

That could be Verse, and he's form a potential dup with Diaby that could be a menace for offenses.

If he's on the board it's simply hard to see the Bucs passing on him. Licht shocked everyone last year by taking Caljiah Kancey at No. 19 last year and the idea of having Verse zooming around behind him to wreck backfields is too good to pass up.

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