My, my how things change in a week. In 5.0, most experts had the Buccaneers taking defensive lineman Levi Onwuzurike out of Washington or EDGE Jaelan Phillips from Miami with the 32nd overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft. Now that the Bucs have re-signed outside linebacker Shaq Barrett to a long-term deal, that seems to drop pass rushing help out of the list of top priorities as far as the draft pundits are concerned.
Onwuzurike still appears on the list for many but Phillips was ousted for a player on the opposite side of the ball: a running back.
And not just any running back.
The running back, y'all.
If you don't get that reference, I can't help you.
But we're starting to see Najee Harris out of Alabama's draft position fall in the last week. Where some were saying he could go as high as middle of the first round, even as a running back, some now think he will indeed make it to the bottom of the first round, where the Bucs would have the opportunity to snatch him up.
Tampa Bay has so far not re-signed free agent running back Leonard Fournette who was crucial to their offensive effort in the 2020 postseason. They also haven't re-signed Ndamukong Suh, who was the cornerstone of the Bucs' defense up front on the interior of the defensive line. As those stories develop, so will the draftnik's opinions.
See below for a full list of potential picks from experts around the league.
Pick: RB Najee Harris, Alabama
Comments: "Assuming the Bucs' focus is on their championship window, Harris would offer a three-down option who can help the run game and take pressure off of Tom Brady's shoulders."
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."
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."
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
Pick: WR Elijah Moore, Ole Miss
Comments: "What do you get for a Super Bowl champion who brought everyone back? Another toy for Tom Brady, of course. Tampa Bay appears ready to let Antonio Brown walk and the team may not be able to afford Chris Godwin long-term, so getting the electric Elijah Moore in the first round to play the WR3 role is the kind of move that will keep Tampa humming into 2021."
Pick: DL Levi Onwuzurike, Washington
Comments: "Tampa Bay is primed to run it back in 2021, but the one spot on the roster that remains in question is the defensive line and the void left behind should Ndamukong Suh not return. Onwuzurike has an appealing pass-rushing skill set and the ability to penetrate the line of scrimmage while also featuring a stout anchor and positional flexibility along the defensive line. He could help replace Suh and solidify the defensive line rotation as the Buccaneers gear up for another title run."
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."
Pro Football Focus
Mike Renner, PFF (March 22)
Round 1 – RB Najee Harris, Alabama
Round 2 – EDGE Rashad Weaver, Pitt
Round 3 – DL Marlon Tuipuloto, USC
Comments: [Harris] "A "luxury" pick for a team that quite frankly doesn't have many open spots on the roster after they ran it back in free agency. Harris' hands and tackle-breaking ability in space are night and day from any other back on the Bucs' roster."
Pick: RB Najee Harris, Alabama
Comments: "The Bucs don't *need* a running back, but Harris had such an impressive 2020 season for Alabama and he would be a big upgrade from Leonard Fournette. We can only imagine how Bruce Arians would find ways to use him in Tampa Bay."
Pick: DL Levi Onwuzurike, Washington
Comments: "Everyone came back for another run in Tampa, and Onwuzurike would make that defensive front even more ferocious."
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…"
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."