For the past couple years, we here at Buccaneers.com have combined our efforts to produce one mock first round in the days leading up to the real NFL Draft. It, uh, hasn't gone particularly well. This year, we've gathered the same four contributors – Joe Kania, Andrew Norton, Casey Phillips and me – but we're going to try to bring out the best in all of us by turning it into a cutthroat competition.
Our previous mock drafts were more of a collaboration, in which we would take turns making picks for the various teams until we got all the way through pick #32. This year, each of the four of us has created an entire first-round mock draft, which you can view side by side below. We then followed that with some commentary on our own picks and those of our competitors. We're not going to explain every pick, but we'll hit on the highlights.
Next week, after the 32 teams get together for the real thing, we'll see who among us really had our fingers on the pulse of the 2017 draft.
Now, let's break it down.
*First and most importantly, please explain your pick for the Buccaneers.
Andrew:* I still had FSU RB Dalvin Cook available at #19, but I don't see the Buccaneers going running back here, even if he is still the most popular player mocked to the Bucs. I think adding a tight end gives you one of the most formidable starting offensive lineups in the league, especially with the Buccaneers often working out of a two-tight end set. Defenses would have their hands full defending against Evans, Jackson, Brate AND Njoku on the field at the same time.
Casey: I went back and forth a few times between Njoku and Cook before making my final call. I'm still not confident, but my reasoning went something like, "I just don't think they pass him up if he's still available." Yep, very deep thinking. And hey, while we are at it, let's make our FSU QB incredibly happy. But in reality it all depends on what they've seen and heard from Doug Martin, so we can't know where the Bucs RB situation actually stands.
Photos of Peter King's mock draft.
Joe:** If you're picking in the bottom of the first round, there usually aren't many "holes" that need to be filled. While the Bucs could use players at a few different positions, the team doesn't have one glaring spot that they need to address with their first-round pick. I like the idea of drafting Dalvin Cook, but the Bucs still have three very accomplished running backs on their roster. Are there enough carries to go around for four? While the Bucs don't necessarily "need" an offensive lineman, I decided to go with Forrest Lamp at No. 19. In the scenario that J.R. Sweezy is healthy and starts at left guard and Ali Marpet moves to center, Lamp could step in and fill the right guard spot. Lamp, coupled with Donovan Smith and Marpet, would give the Bucs a talented core of young offensive linemen to build around. It would also enable the Bucs to have significant depth on the offensive line; Kevin Pamphile and Joe Hawley, starters in 2016, would be coming off the bench, as would Evan Smith.
Scott: Well, I just let it come to me. I would have taken any of the top three receivers had they fallen to 19, and John Ross nearly did (it was hard not to cheat there and "change my mind" on the Titans pick at #18). I would have had a hard decision if Dalvin Cook was there, and I definitely would have been tempted by O.J. Howard. With none of that happening, I did what I've been doing in all of this draft analysis over the last month: I noted the amazing depth at cornerback at this part of the draft and took advantage of it. I personally think it's a position of need for the Buccaneers; the only difficulty was deciding which one. I'm hoping Alabama's Marlon Humphrey can compete right away to play in the slot and be a long-term answer at one of the starting positions.
Did you have difficulty deciding where to slot the quarterbacks, and how many to put into the first round?
Andrew: Quarterbacks are what tripped me up the most. In my first version, I had the Jets and Browns skipping on QBs, with the first one going all the way down in the mid-20s, which is completely possible. I opted to give one to the Jets and have the Browns waiting until a later round to find a signal-caller.
Casey: Oh my goodness yes. I put Mitchell Trubisky in and took him out of the first round like five times, being picked by as many as four different teams. I currently only have two QBs going in the first round, but if one gets taken fairly high, it could start a QB feeding frenzy that I don't think this QB class deserves.
Photos of CBS Sports Senior Writer Pete Prisco's mock draft.
Joe:** The consensus seems to be that none of the quarterbacks in this year's draft class will be ready to play come Week 1. It was tough for me to place a quarterback in the first round, because most teams need their first-round picks to be contributors from the get-go. I had two quarterbacks in the first round of my mock draft – Mitchell Trubisky to the Cardinals at No. 13 and Deshaun Watson at No. 25 to the Texans. Trubisky will have the opportunity to sit behind Carson Palmer and Watson will be joining a team that won a playoff game in 2016 without an established quarterback.
Scott: You bet I did. I think that's the most difficult part of trying to do a mock draft this year. The general feeling is that there are no sure-fire prospects worthy of a top-five pick this year (there has been a quarterback taken in the top five – and often more than one – in 15 of the last 16 years), and yet the positional value always seems to push those players upward. I think my biggest longshot prediction – my Steph Curry-depth three-pointer – is Deshaun Watson to the Jets at #6. My hope is that they want an immediate solution at the position and think he is the most ready to play. I'm not buying that the Browns will take Mitch Trubisky first overall; I think they believe he'll be there at 12 or they can use their boatload of extra picks to move up a little bit. And I just think Houston has to find a QB of the future and Patrick Mahomes is an intriguing prospect and good value at #25.
Looking back, are there any picks you now regret or feel particularly unsure about?
Andrew: I thought long and hard about giving the Browns a QB at 12. If the Jets pass on Trubisky, the Browns could get him there, which could cause Howard to fall. (Perhaps all the way to #19?) I also I think I have Derek Barnett far too low.
Casey: I struggled with who might pick O.J. Howard. Big boards list him as a top 10 talent, but when TE is considered a "luxury pick," that's not usually what a top 10 draft team typically needs. Also, the news hadn't come out yet about Reuben Foster's Combine drug test when we did this mock. I don't know if teams will view a diluted sample as enough to drop his stock as compared to actually testing positive for a banned substance.
Photos of every 19th NFL Draft pick since the AFL-NFL merger.
Joe:** Most analysts seem to believe Leonard Fournette will land in Jacksonville at No. 4, and I think he could be a good fit. My logic behind selecting Marshon Lattimore No. 4 was based on longevity. I think Lattimore could have a productive, decade-long career while Fournette's skillset might hit a peak as he gets older. Or Fournette is the next Adrian Peterson and I missed hard on that pick.
Scott: Deshaun Watson at #6 is a straight-up gamble, as I noted above. A shot in the dark. We'll see. Same story with linebacker T.J. Watt all the way up at #21, to the Lions. I haven't seen him that high in many mock drafts, but I'm playing a hunch. Maybe I should have given Jonathan Allen to the Panthers at #8 instead of Derek Barnett, as it seems like Allen is a more highly-regarded D-Line prospect. But I just felt that Carolina was already solid inside, where Allen is more likely to make an impact, while Barnett is more of an edge rusher. But I don't feel great about it. And I really can't remember my reasoning for giving Jabrill Peppers to Washington at #17. I guess they need safety help?
*How about your fellow mock-drafters, did they stumble with any particular picks, in your opinion?
Andrew:* My favorite part about watching the first round of the NFL draft is seeing all of the experts' picks fall apart faster than a Cinderella-happy March Madness bracket. That said, I am not one to judge their picks. Some picks that surprised me were Scott having McCaffrey all the way at #29, Joe pegging the Bucs with a guard (which I haven't seen tied to us very often in major mocks), and Casey leaving Trubisky out entirely.
Casey: I've never been a big believer in the mocks who have the Bucs taking an OL in the first round. It's not to say it couldn't happen, and I will never be mad about decisions concerned with protecting Jameis Winston. But Jason Licht has mentioned several times being satisfied with the OL personnel currently on the roster, especially due to the versatility of guys like Kevin Pamphile. I just don't see that being the Bucs' biggest priority at that pick.
See every first-round Draft pick ever selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Joe:** I am going to give Andrew some grief for excluding Jabrill Peppers in his first round. He went as high as No. 17 in Scott's draft and was a first-round pick by myself and Casey. It was also interesting to see Christian McCaffrey almost slip out of the first round in Scott's mock. The more that I think about it, though, both scenarios aren't unreasonable.
Scott: The only possible answer to this is yes. Picture in your mind the best possible NFL analyst doing a mock draft. He or she will definitely stumble with a great many picks. So there's no shame in it. In particular, though, I'm not fond of Christian McCaffrey going to the Panthers at #8, as Andrew predicts. I think they'd be more likely to target a power runner, which would mean waiting a round or two if Fournette is off the board. I also believe the Saints are far more likely to get in on the cornerback run at the end of the round than take a safety. I was surprised to see Joe give the Bucs' guard Forrest Lamp. Good player but I don't think the position is as high on our list of needs as some NFL pundits believe.
On the opposite end, are there any picks your competitors made that you now wish you had done the same?
Andrew: Scott going defense with the Buccaneers pick. I was torn between giving them Njoku, a cornerback or another defensive lineman. I had Derek Barnett still available on my board at #19.
Casey: I think Jamal Adams has a good chance of going higher than I selected him, like both Scott and Joe predict. I also think the Jets could be the first team to go after a QB. I can see Andrew or Scott getting that pick right, but since Trubisky's stock seems to be rising more the closer we get to the draft, maybe I'll lean a little more towards Andrew's selection.
A look at the best players on the Buccaneers' schedule, according to their Pro Football Focus grade.
Joe:** I was the only mock drafter without Patrick Mahomes in their first round, and I definitely regret that. I had trouble placing quarterbacks. I really like Scott's pick of Garrett Bolles at No. 26 to Seattle. He was the only one to put Bolles in his first round. Casey and Andrew both picked O.J. Howard at No. 12 to the Browns, I felt that Howard slipped too far in my mock draft.
Scott: Andrew gave cornerback Gareon Conley to the Eagles, and that makes a lot of sense, probably more so than my choice of Dalvin Cook. Philly definitely has a need at that spot and this is the perfect draft to address it. I like Casey giving Jabrill Peppers to the Steelers at #29; I probably have him going too high, and Pittsburgh just seems like the perfect landing spot for a player many compare, in terms of versatility and overall impact, to Troy Polamalu. Joe is the only one of us who had Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams going before the 10th pick, and now that I see it in print, Williams to the Chargers makes a lot of sense. Philip Rivers definitely needs another big-time weapon.
*Which team, other than the Buccaneers, got the most value with a particular selection?
Andrew:* I have a big DB rush in the final quarter of my first round, and I think the Seahawks would be pleased to see Humphrey down at 26. I can't imagine the Giants passing on Cook if he is there at 23 either.
Casey: With this being considered a down year for OL, it took a while for me to have a team select one. So if Ryan Ramczyk pans out, that could be quite the value at 20th overall for the Broncos. I also think if the Saints are able to get both a DL and Marlon Humphrey in the first round, that would make a massive difference to their defense.
Take a look at our 2017 opponents in order of our schedule.
Joe:** Cam Robinson at No. 23 to the Giants in Scott's mock draft is a steal, as is Derek Barnett to the Falcons at No. 31 in Andrew's. Marlon Humphrey at No. 32 in Casey's mock draft has great value as well.
Scott: Hopefully my prognostication skills aren't very good, because I would hate to see the Falcons wind up with Forrest Lamp at #31. There's a clear need at that spot with the retirement of Chris Chester, and to have the consensus best guard fall into their laps at the end of the round would be quite fortunate. For them, not the Buccaneers. We don't need Atlanta to have any more good fortune. Defensive end Taco Charlton to the Cowboys at #28 also seems quite fortunate; in truth, that's the one and only pick I changed after my first attempt at slotting 32 players. I didn't have Charlton going in the first round, which seemed like a stretch, so I found a spot for him in Dallas. I think it's probably more likely that the Cowboys address their secondary at this spot, but if Charlton does drop that far, it will be awfully tempting for a team that needs all kinds of defensive help.
*Are there any particular players you were hoping would be available for Tampa Bay but were chosen before #19?
Andrew:* Not really. I honestly believe that the Buccaneers are in a position to take the best player available with their first round pick.
Casey: If John Ross, Corey Davis, or Mike Williams were to fall obviously that would be a great addition. Plus it would repeat the successful formula of last year's doubling-up on a position with free agency and the draft. I would also use the same logic about some of the top safeties in the draft this year.
Photos of CBS' top 100 NFL prospects.