What do you get the team that has everything? I mean, seriously. We all love talking about organizations picking the best player available as much as possible when their clock is running on draft day, but there’s typically something holding them back from truly having an even playing field of who’s the best player on the board no matter what.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers genuinely have that freedom. They have the quarterback; the best of all time, at that. They have plenty of bodies they’ve thrown into their running back room, they have top-tier wide receivers, and their entire starting five offensive linemen from last year are back. Tampa Bay has a relentless defensive line inside and out, elite linebackers, and a young, aggressive secondary who all seem to be coming into their own.
I’m not so sure any reigning champion has ever brought back as much of their championship team as the Buccaneers have, both at the starting levels and in their depth. But, just like every other team in the NFL, they had seven draft picks to start the 2021 offseason, and with them, the Buccaneers will have a chance to really take their depth to the next level. Even with all that veteran talent and experience, Tampa Bay had key rookie contributors at both right tackle and free safety who were X-factors and helped put the team over the top; rookies and securing the right prospects still matter, even for the Buccaneers. Here’s what a seven-round mock for Tampa Bay could look like using The Draft Network’s Mock Draft Machine.
Round 1 (No. 32 overall): Joe Tryon, EDGE, Washington
The Buccaneers' top need early in the offseason was EDGE, but that was because no one expected them to manipulate the salary cap the way they did to bring back Shaquil Barrett. Even with Barrett back, it’s never a bad thing to have more good outside pass rusher on your team. Tryon comes with a lot of versatility, which should be something that is very alluring to defensive coordinator Todd Bowles and the rest of that unit. Tryon’s athleticism could certainly make him a top-32 pick.
Round 2 (No. 64 overall): Quinn Meinerz, IOL, UW-Whitewater
This one just feels like a Jason Licht pick, right? Small school offensive linemen who the Buccaneers draft on Day 2 and eventually becomes a starter, where have I heard that before? Oh, right, that’s the story of both of their starting guards.
Quinn Meinerz didn’t get the chance to play last season due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but in the meantime, he taught himself how to snap at center and has some good versatility. With both Ryan Jensen and Alex Cappa pending free agents next year, Meinerz could have a starting role as soon as 2022.
Round 3 (No. 95 overall): Jay Tufele, IDL, USC
Though the Buccaneers did bring back Ndamukong Suh for another Super Bowl run, his contract is just a one-year deal. Though it’s not likely the Buccaneers will be moving on from defensive tackle Vita Vea, they could stand to draft a defensive tackle on Day 2 who could give them more 3-technique upside than what they currently have waiting in their defensive line room. If a player of Tufele’s athleticism can get to them in the third round, good luck to the rest of the league with a starting draft like this.
Round 4 (No. 137 overall): Ihmir Smith-Marsette, WR, Iowa
Tampa Bay has yet to come to an agreement with wide receiver Antonio Brown, and it might now. If the Buccaneers don’t, they’ll need some extra juice in their wide receiver room. They drafted Tyler Johnson last year, and he could still be a contributing slot player for them. But the bottom of the receiver room could use an upgrade. Ihmir Smith-Marsette could give them the field stretching athleticism they’re looking for.
Round 5 (No. 176 overall): Tre Norwood, CB, Oklahoma
I’m starting to believe that with as much as the NFL is in an arms race for the best offensive passing weapons, defenses need to admit that they can never have too many good quarterbacks. The Buccaneers likely have their starting three cornerbacks with Carlton Davis, Sean Murphy-Bunting, and Jamel Dean, but bringing in a promising Norwood would be good competition.
Round 6 (No. 217 overall): Sage Surratt, WR, Wake Forest
Sage Surratt is still one of my favorite receivers in the draft. That doesn’t mean I think he’s going in the first round or anything, but whoever drafts him is going to get a good wideout. Surratt brings a basketball background to playing the X receiver position. He’s a strong contested-catch player, he just doesn’t really separate much on his routes. However, the Buccaneers don’t have a quarterback or an offense that shies away from contested-catch throws. Surratt could stick in Tampa.
Round 7 (No. 251 overall): Kayode Awosika, OT, Buffalo
The seventh round of the NFL draft is either about filling out your special teams roles or filling out the depth in the trenches. Kayode Awosika brings a mean streak to playing on the offensive line with physical dominance at the point of attack. He might be more of a guard in the NFL, but that should stop a team from taking a flyer on him in the late rounds.
Round 7 (No. 261 overall): Luke Farrell, TE, Ohio State
I feel like I have picked Farrell in Round 7 of so many of my mock drafts lately, so this feels like cheating but if you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin’. The Buccaneers have a crowded tight end room, but they did just lose Antony Auclair, who was their special teams and blocking specialist in the tight end room. Farrell could be a good replacement.