One name keeps popping up for the Buccaneers picking at 32 in this year's NFL Draft: Jaelan Phillips, edge rusher out of Miami. Most draftniks have the Bucs going defense overall, with defensive lineman Levi Onwuzurike another popular name – including on Buccaneers.com in mock drafts from Scott Smith and me.
It's unclear how much of the rationale for those two players is that experts around the league don't see a way for the Bucs to keep both Shaq Barrett and Ndamukong Suh. What we've seen so far may suggest the opposite with General Manager Jason Licht, Director of Football Administration Mike Greenberg and Director of Football Research Jackie Davidson working some magic so far as the legal tampering period begins.
And while most have picked a defensive player for Tampa Bay, Ryan Wilson from CBS Sports has running back Travis Etienne from Clemson falling to the Bucs at 32.
See below for a full list of potential picks from experts around the league.
- Maurice Jones-Drew, NFL.com (March 9)
- Pick: LB Zavon Collins, Tulsa
- Comments: "The Bucs add an athletic freak to an already loaded defense. Collins' ability to shoot gaps and slice through the O-line is scary, and he has solid coverage skills, too. The Super Bowl champs get better with this pick."
- Cynthia Frelund, NFL.com (March 2)
- Pick: DT Levi Onwuzurike
- Comments: [Draft based on win potential model] "Should free agent Ndamukong Suh no longer be a Buc (which is my assumption), Onwuzurike could add production immediately. He opted out in 2020, but in 2019, his run-stopping ability and ability to quickly move laterally stood out. At the defensive tackle position, he ranked fifth in terms of pushing O-linemen back on rushing downs in 2019 in the FBS."
- 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."
- Todd McShay, ESPN (March 4)
- Pick: ILB Jamin Davis, Kentucky
- Comments: "Tampa Bay can replenish a front seven that could look a lot different in Week 1 than it did on Super Bowl Sunday. Davis could potentially be considered a reach here, but he's very underrated, and I love his tape. If the Buccaneers can't hang on to Lavonte David, Davis -- who made 102 tackles and picked off three passes last season -- could slide into his role alongside Devin White. Someone like Alabama defensive tackle Christian Barmore also makes some sense here."
- 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."
The Draft Network
- Joe Marino, The Draft Network (March 15)
- Pick: DL Christian Barmore, Alabama
- Comments: "Barmore lacks consistency on tape, but his high-level flashes are elite. If there is a team that I trust to maximize Barmore's potential and help him find consistency, it's Tampa Bay, who has a need on the defensive line. Barmore can play multiple positions up front and his blend of athleticism and flexibility allows him to make dynamic plays behind the line of scrimmage."
- Jordan Reid, The Draft Network (March 11)
- Pick: EDGE Jaelan Phillips, Miami
- Comments: "When it comes to roster building, Jason Licht has shown that he isn't afraid to take chances on players that involve some risk. Phillips' concussion history and brief retirement due to injuries may bring about some hesitancy with drafting him, but strictly as a pass rusher, the talent is undeniable. A strong argument can be made that he's the best pass rusher in this class. With Shaq Barrett's long-term future still in question, Phillips slots in as the new option opposite Jason Pierre-Paul."
- Trevor Sikkema, The Draft Network (March 4)
- 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."
Pro Football Focus
- Brad Spielberger, PFF (March 15)
- Pick: EDGE Jaelan Phillips, Miami
- Comments: "Tampa Bay has the luxury of taking a gamble here, with the team boasting a loaded roster that is set to return most of its Super Bowl core. Phillips would have been a surefire top-10 pick if not for some concussion issues in his past, but the talent is all there.
- The Buccaneers can do their extensive homework on a player not too far away in Miami, and if they aren't overly concerned with Phillips' injury history, then they could end up with an absolute steal. Jason Pierre-Paul is entering his age-32 season, so Phillips could seamlessly replace him opposite Shaquil Barrett if a deal can be struck there."
- Ryan Wilson, CBS Sports (March 15)
- Pick: RB Travis Etienne, Clemson
- Comments: "The Bucs have some things to sort out in free agency, including what to do with Playoff Lenny Fournette. A defensive tackle or an edge rusher makes sense here, but Travis Etienne is coming off back-to-back strong seasons, a lights-out pro day, has elite contact balance and is a pass-catching threat coming out of the backfield."
- Chris Trapasso, CBS Sports (March 12)
- Pick: EDGE Jaelan Phillips, Miami
- Comments: "Phillips slips a bit, but the Buccaneers get some edge-rushing insurance for the long-term."
- Scott Reynolds, PewterReport.com (March 5)
- Round 1 – DT Levi Onwuzurike, Washington
- Round 2 – OLB Joe Tryon, Washington
- Round 3 – RB Kenneth Gainwell, Memphis
- Round 4 – OG/C David Moore, Grambling State
- Round 5 – OT D'Ante Smith, East Carolina
- Round 7 – ILB Grant Stuard, Houston
- Comments: [On Onwuzurike] "The Buccaneers have a recent fondness for Washington defensive linemen, evidenced by the drafting of nose tackle Vita Vea in the first round in 2017 and signing defensive lineman Benning Potoa'e as an undrafted free agent in 2020. Tampa Bay turns back to the Huskies program, which is led by former Bucs defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake, for Onwuzurike (pronounced "own-zerr-EE-kay") with the 32nd overall pick in the first round. The Bucs will need to invest in their defensive line, as free agent defensive tackles Steve McLendon and Ndamukong Suh, are 35 and 34, respectively, and Rakeem Nunez-Roches turns 28 in July. Defensive end Will Gholston, who is under contract for 2021, turns 30 in July. The Bucs drafted Khalil Davis in the sixth-round last year, but he barely saw the field as a rookie and can't be counted on as a future starter given his draft status and lack of experience and playing time…"
- Steven Cheah, Barstool Sports (March 8)
- Pick: Trade with Atlanta
- Comments: "The 32nd pick is typically a hot trade spot just so teams can take advantage of the 1st round pick's 5th year option. Bucs GM Jason Licht is on record saying he loves 2nd round picks, so the Bucs move down three spots to #35 and swap 4th rounders (#104 overall ATL => TB, #138 overall TB=>ATL) with the Dirty Birds. Atlanta addresses the Runningback position which is a huge help both Matt Ryan and QB in waiting Trey Lance as they'll be more of a balanced offense under new HC Arthur Smith."