Draftniks, which is one of my favorite made-up sports words and only applicable this time of year, are mostly hypothesizing the Buccaneers will go defense with their first pick of the 2021 NFL Draft. Specifically, most are picking an edge rusher or interior defensive lineman, which could both be positions of need should the Bucs be unable to retain outside linebacker Shaq Barrett and/or defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh.
But there are a couple rumblings of offensive positions, namely running back and tackle, that have started to gain some steam in draft circles when pairing a prospect with Tampa Bay. Offensive tackle seems to be a need either way but in a year with a pretty deep class at the position, will the Bucs spend their premium capital at the position just a year from taking (the very well worth it) Tristan Wirfs at No. 13 overall? Running backs are rare in the first round but with the Bucs picking dead last in the first round and pass-catching prospects like Travis Etienne from Clemson and Najee Harris from Alabama available, could Tampa Bay see a need to make them first-rounders?
See below for a full list of potential picks from experts around the league.
- Charley Casserly, NFL.com (February 25)
- Pick: EDGE Patrick Jones II, Pitt
- Comments : "The Bucs have a lot of guys to pay this offseason, so my guess is Shaquil Barrett will depart in free agency. Jones would be a good fit in Todd Bowles' unit."
- Daniel Jeremiah, NFL.com (February 16)
- Pick: LB Nick Bolton, Missouri
- Comments: "There are three good options at linebacker between Bolton, Tulsa's Zaven Collins and LSU's Jabril Cox. If the Bucs lose Lavonte David in free agency, I think Bolton would be a great replacement."
- Chad Reuter, NFL.com (February 8)
- Pick, Round 1: EDGE Joe Tryon, Washington
- Comments : "Tryon's a big-bodied edge rusher who can also move well in space for his size. The Bucs need youth in the front seven, especially if pending free agent Shaq Barrett finds a new address."
- Pick, Round 2: DT Daviyon Nixon, Iowa
- Pick, Round 3: LB Derrick Barnes, Purdue
- Lance Zierlein, NFL.com (February 4)
- Pick: EDGE Jaelen Phillips, Miami
- Comments: A long-limbed edge rusher with exciting athletic talent and size, Phillips would help bolster a Bucs pass rush that could lose Shaq Barrett and Ndamukong Suh to free agency. Due to a lengthy injury history, his medical reports will garner plenty of attention.
- Mel Kiper Jr., ESPN (February 25)
- Pick: EDGE Azeez Ojulari, Georgia
- Comments: "With Tryon off the board to the Packers, Ojulari is the next pass-rusher in my rankings. And with the uncertainty around whether free-agent defensive end Shaq Barrett will return, it makes sense for the Bucs to get younger on the edge. Ojulari had 8.5 sacks last season, including three in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl win. He has some versatility to move around the defense, but he's one of the top pure pass-rushers in this class. Wide receiver is a position to watch for Tampa, particularly if it doesn't bring back Chris Godwin, who is a free agent."
- Todd McShay, ESPN (February 9)
- Pick: DT Christian Barmore, Alabama
- Comments: "Super Bowl champions don't typically come with flaws, and this Bucs team is indeed a complete roster. Or at least it was. Free-agency concerns loom for most of the dominant defensive front seven that kept the Chiefs' high-octane offense scoreless on Sunday. Shaquil Barrett, Lavonte David, Ndamukong Suh, Rakeem Nunez-Roches and Steve McLendon headline the guys without a deal at the moment, and Tampa Bay won't be able to bring them all back. But luckily Barmore is still on the board as Day 1 gets ready to close down shop, and he provides the Buccaneers with versatility along the line, a developing pass-rush skill set and power run-stopping. The champs could also seek a wide receiver to fill the void left by Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown if either or both leave this offseason."
The Draft Network
- Trevor Sikkema, The Draft Network (March 1)
- Pick: DL Levi Onwuzurike, Washington
- Comments : "The Buccaneers always keep a close eye on what is going on with the Washington Huskies program. I expect them to like what they see in Onwuzurike, a versatile defensive lineman who can be an undersized one-gap 3-tech defensive lineman next to Vita Vea (fellow Husky). Onwuzurike played a variety of spots for the Huskies' defense and can be deployed in a similar fashion with Todd Bowles' multiple front/looks."
- Drae Harris, The Draft Network (February 21)
- Pick: DL Daviyon Nixon, Iowa
- Comments: "Tampa Bay has six significant free agents—one of which is Ndamukong Suh. They obviously cannot re-sign all of them and Suh appears most likely to be the odd man out, so they draft his replacement in Nixon. Nixon can play the 3-tech or the 1 for Todd Bowles."
- Brentley Weissman, The Draft Network (February 18)
- Pick: DT Christian Barmore, Alabama
- Comments: "The Super Bowl Champion Buccaneers are a tough team to pick for. Ideally, when you draft a first-round player you'd want them to be able to start and contribute immediately. This roster is so talented that I struggle to see where a rookie could start and have an impact. That's a good problem to have, of course. If there was a position I could see a rookie coming in and contributing it would be at defensive tackle, as the team could be losing Ndamukong Suh to free agency. Still an ascending player, Barmore has tons of upside as an interior penetrator. He would be a great alongside Vita Vea."
Pro Football Focus
- Eric Eager and George Chahrouri, PFF (March 1)
- Pick: S Ar'Darious Washington, TCU
- Comments: [Chahrouri] "There are those who see a strength and ignore it. That quickly turns a strength into a weakness. The Bucs have drafted better than any other team over the past four seasons, and a big reason why is their investment in coverage players. Washington adds to that dynamic defense with playmaking ability that extends all over the field. He saw 100-plus snaps each at slot corner, in the box and at free safety last season. Washington has the Honey Badger dynamism that makes him a no-brainer at the end of the first round for the defending champs."
- Ryan Wilson, CBS Sports (March 1)
- Pick: EDGE Joe Tryon, Washington
- Comments: "Tryon, like teammate Levi Onwuzurike, opted out in 2020, but at 6-foot-5, 260 pounds, he looks the part. Had he played this season, he likely would have improved his draft stock and may have gone earlier in Round 1.
- Chris Trapasso, CBS Sports (February 26)
- Pick: DL Levi Onwuzurike, Washington
- Comments: "Onwuzurike would provide some youth on the Buccaneers' stellar defensive line."
- Jon Ledyard, PewterReport.com (February 16)
- Pick: RB Najee Harris, Alabama
- Comments: "I'm not saying this is what the Bucs SHOULD do, I'm just saying that if the first round falls this way, I could easily see them taking Harris in the first round. He checks every box they care about at the position with rare receiving skills, route-running, catch radius and tackle-breaking ability for a running back. Harris may not have elite speed, but everything else about him screams three-down, feature running back.
Yes, the Bucs need to develop talent on the defensive line, but it's a very weak defensive tackle class and the value isn't there at edge defender in this mock, with most of the top talents already off the board. Most likely the Bucs trade back from this pick, but if they stay put, Harris would fill a huge hole for the low cost the team prefers to have in a feature back. With Leonard Fournette likely gone in free agency and Ronald Jones II heading that direction after next season, drafting Harris makes sense on paper, even if isn't the most high value position to prioritize in Round 1."
- Steven Cheah, Barstool Sports (February 8)
- Pick: RB Travis Etienne, Clemson
- Comments: "One of the biggest holes in the WORLD CHAMPION Buccaneers is a pass catching Runningback. Playoff Super Bowl Lenny can catch checkdowns most of the time, but Ronald Jones has hands of stone and Etienne would give Tom Brady some serious juice out of the backfield as a pass catcher in addition to being another home run threat taking handoffs in the backfield."