This is the year for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
*voice off stage*
“Actually, you’ve been saying that for three straight years now.”
I’m sorry, can you let me do my job please? Thank you.
Okay, where was I? Oh, right.
This is the year for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Under the leadership of their new head coach Bruce Arians, there is no time to waste or buffer year to get acclimated. Right now they have a franchise quarterback who was drafted No. 1 overall currently playing into the added fifth year of his rookie contract. That’s because he has yet to be the player on and off the field (consistently) that they have wanted to invest big money in — and it’s not just big money, as Winston will likely be signing the biggest deal in NFL history, if re-signed.
In order to find out exactly what they have in Winston, they’re going to have to surround him with the best roster they possibly can in 2019. That will start with free agency, but they will definitely need contributors from the draft, too.
With needs in both tranches and beyond, I used The Draft Network’s new Mock Draft Machine to show you what my ideal mock draft and draft strategy would be for the Buccaneers come April.
Round 1, Pick No. 5: Quinnen Williams, IDL, Alabama
Whether or not the team is going to move on from long-time defensive tackle Gerald McCoy or not, offensive line would still be the Buccaneers’ top need, in theory. However, if a player like Quinnen Williams makes it to them at No. 5 overall, you have to abandon the need hierarchy and take one of the best players in the draft when you have the chance.
If McCoy were to be cut, Williams could step right in and be a starter in defensive coordinator Todd Bowles’ defense — which will likely be a 3-4 Under as a base. Williams showed some rare ability and production as just a one-year, redshirt sophomore in 2018, and I have no concerns with him producing in the NFL right away.
Round 2, Pick No. 39: Yodny Cajuste, OT, WVU
If the Buccaneers don’t go offensive line in the first round, their entire focus on Day 2 of the draft should be centered around the offensive line. It’s a pretty good offensive tackle group, but there is a chance most of the starting caliber guys will be going by even the start of the second round.
One player who could make his way to the Bucs in round two would be West Virginia’s Yodny Cajuste. Cajuste would be somewhat of a projection pick because he played left tackle at WVU and the Bucs are likely to have Donovan Smith back at left tackle, at least for another year. You’re hoping Cajuste can make the transition to right tackle to potentially play a big role in 2019, if Demar Dotson continues to not play the way he used to due to age.
As for Cajuste’s ability, he’s a strong offensive tackle who would thrive in a gap/power scheme. But being in a vertical offensive and asking him to drop deep into pass protection sets for long periods of time may test him. That part will be on coaching. The physicality and mentality is there.
Round 3, Pick No. 70: Dru Samia, OG, Oklahoma
Oklahoma’s offensive line was very underrated for most of the seasonn, as Cody Ford, Ben Bowers and Dru Samia made up one of the best college offensive lines in the country.
I think one of Powers or Samia will be available when the Bucs come on the clock in the third round, but if they have their pick of the two, I’d vote Samia. He was a four-year starter for the Sooners, earning the right tackle job his first year then being moved inside to guard. He’s a bit lighter, as he is under 300 pounds, but he moves well and still has a mean streak to him.
Round 4, Pick No. 101: Montre Hartage, CB, Northwestern
Even if you have faith in guys like Carlton Davis and Vernon Hargreaves, you know the Bucs have to get some depth at cornerback.
Just looking at the types of defenses Todd Bowles has run over the last few years, longer cornerbacks who can succeed in press coverage and man coverage will be to his advantage with how much they like to blitz. At 6-foot-1, Hartage has the size to play press and play it well. He gives the Bucs starter upside while identifying a type of cornerback to have as a depth player moving forward.
Round 5, Pick No. 135: Rodney Anderson, RB, Oklahoma
When you get late in the draft, you’re likely deciding between being happy with just depth players or taking chances on potential starter who have certain risks to them.
For Anderson, that risk is health. Anderson has had just one healthy season during his college football career. He’s torn his ACL, he’s broken his leg, and he just has not been very available for the Sooners. But in the one year he was healthy (2017), he rushed for 1,161 yards with 17 rushing touchdowns, and added five more touchdowns as a receiver, all at 6-foot-1, 220 pounds.
The Bucs have Peyton Barber and Ronald Jones on the roster already. If you’re up two runs and you have runners on the bases, why not take a chance to hit a home run?
Round 6, Pick No. 166: Savion Smith, CB, Alabama
If the Bucs can come away with two offensive linemen and two cornerbacks in their six-pick draft, that would be a success, at least from a draft strategy point of view.
Smith, a former 4-star recruit, didn’t have a great year as a starter at Alabama in 2018, but he has the size and length that the Buccaneers would likely want to fill their cornerback depth rotation with. I think this is a nice chance to take this late in the draft.