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Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2023 Mock Draft 8.0: Seven Rounds, All Bucs

Next up in the series, see how all seven rounds of the 2023 NFL Draft could shape out for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

AP Images 7-round mock

This week's edition of our Mock Draft series will look different from the ones that came before, as it is a seven-round mock draft of only the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' picks. The Buccaneers currently have nine selections in April's draft and will begin to refine the roster in a post-Tom Brady world.

Despite serious salary-cap limitations, the Bucs made more significant moves in the offseason then many predicted. Tampa Bay agreed to terms with Baker Mayfield on a one-year deal, adding a veteran presence to the quarterback room. He will compete with 2021 second-round pick Kyle Trask for the starting role and the Bucs added other salary-compliant options in defensive lineman Greg Gaines, running back Chase Edmonds and kicker Chase McLaughlin. Most notably, Tampa Bay was able to retain several of their top free agents including inside linebacker Lavonte David, cornerback Jamel Dean and outside linebacker Anthony Nelson. That sets up a competitive roster with few glaring deficiencies, but a squad that could bolster its depth at a variety of spots during the Draft.

For the purposes of this mock draft, I will not be incorporating trades. However, I will make note that with nine total picks, General Manager Jason Licht could opt to package some of the third-day picks to be used in a trade up in the early rounds. With that in mind, let's get started. Here are the picks, all of whom conducted interviews with the Bucs at the Combine whether formal or informal:

First round, No. 19 overall: S Brian Branch, Alabama

Several mocks have the Bucs going with an offensive lineman here, since there is not a current in-house successor for Donovan Smith. However, in taking the best player available approach, I am going with my previous selection at No. 19, Alabama safety Brian Branch. Tampa Bay is in need of depth after Mike Edwards signed with the Chiefs, Keanu Neal signed with the Steelerse, Sean Murphy-Bunting signed with the Titans and Logan Ryan remained unsigned two weeks into free agency.

At the NFL's 2023 Annual Meeting in Arizona, Head Coach Todd Bowles disclosed that he will be moving Antoine Winfield Jr. into a full-time role at free safety this season. Last season, Winfield lined up over the top to clean things up in the back of the team's base 3-4 and worked as the Bucs' slot option in nickel packages. Safety had been Winfield's primary role during his first two seasons in the NFL, but due to his physicality at the line of scrimmage, he served in a variety of roles in 2022: lining up in the slot, in the post, blitzing, and setting the edge versus the run. Bowles stressed the desire for an uptick in turnovers this season and with Winfield's ball hawk prowess, he will be put back at free safety in 2023. Branch fits the mold in Tampa Bay, with the versatility to play any position in the secondary. Branch primarily handled nickel coverage for Alabama and has plug-and-play potential. He is sticky in man coverage against slot weapons, big possession receivers and tight ends. Additionally, Branch is reliable in run support with a quick diagnosis and understanding of leverage/angles. Branch is quick, fluid and can handle a variety of coverage assignments. He is the best safety in the class with an intriguing skillset that Bowles would not be able to pass on.

Second round, No. 50 overall: Edge Felix Anudike-Uzomah, Kansas State

After using the first pick in the Draft to address a need in the secondary, the Bucs turn their attention to the trenches with their second-round selection. Tampa Bay did re-sign Anthony Nelson, one of the club's most improved players in 2022, but are in need of additional depth. Both Carl Nassib and Genard Avery remain unsigned free agents and Felix Anudike-Uzomah would add to the rotation for Todd Bowles to deploy. The Bucs should find a long-term successor for 30-year-old Shaq Barrett, who is coming off a torn Achilles. Joe Tryon-Shoyinka has immense upside but has not fully tapped into his ceiling. After the conclusion of the 2022 season, Bowles detailed the desire to see more consistent pressure and sack-production from the team's edge rush in 2023. Given the depth of this year's edge class, the Bucs take Anudike-Uzomah.

At the Combine, Anudike-Uzomah impressed with his approach to his pass rush plan, noting to reporters that he constructs a plan of moves throughout matchups that exploit the opponent's weakness after testing offensive tackles at the start of games. In 2022, he earned third-team Associated Press All-American and Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors with team highs of 11 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. Anudike-Uzomah possesses a variety of rush approaches in his arsenal to choose from and maximizes his length on bull rushes. With violent hands, urgency, powerful hips and ability to make tackles from challenging angles, he could help solidify the Bucs' defensive front.

Third round, No. 82 overall: DT Zacch Pickens, South Carolina

The Bucs have yet to re-sign Akiem Hicks or Will Gholston, and although Greg Gaines will help provide depth to offset one of the vacancies, the interior of the defensive line is a great place for an infusion of youth alongside Logan Hall – their top draft pick in 2022. Pickens' first-step quickness creates advantages for him against the run and pass. He ran a 4.89 in the 40-yard dash at 6-foot-4, 291 pounds. Pickens possesses the one-gap athleticism to attack upfield and processes blocking schemes well. He would help boost the defensive line with rotational value.

Fifth round, No. 153 overall: RB Deuce Vaughn, Kansas State

The Buccaneers will turn to second-year player Rachaad White as the primary back in 2023, but Deuce Vaughn would add competition to the running back room alongside Chase Edmonds and fourth-year player Ke'Shawn Vaughn. The club parted ways with Leonard Fournette, their leading rusher in 2022. Deuce Vaughn led the FBS with 1,936 all-purpose yards over 14 starts in 2022. There have been concerns regarding his size, but Vaughn's history of high-end production makes his ascension in the NFL seem attainable. He is a threat as both a rusher and pass-catcher. With solid vision and quality contact balance, Vaughn is a fascinating prospect. He is elusive to bypass traffic near the line of scrimmage, can work through tight seams and is effective between the tackles.

Fifth round, No. 175 overall: OL Andrew Vorhees, USC

This could very well be the steal of the draft. With the departure of both Donovan Smith and Shaq Mason, the Bucs will undergo a reboot along the offensive line in 2023. Trojans' offensive lineman Andrew Vorhees was originally a surefire top-100 prospect and a first-round talent on some mocks. He garnered third-team Associated Press All-American and honorable mention All-Pac-12 Conference honors in 2021, starting all 12 games (the first eight at left guard and the final four at left tackle). Vorhees was a first-team AP All-American and all-conference producer in 2022, starting 11 games at left guard (he missed three games due to injury). However, his worst nightmare became reality at the 2023 NFL Combine. Vorhees sustained an ACL injury that will likely make him unavailable until the 2024 season. It is unknown how far he will drop on draft boards due to the significant injury, but his courageous response at the Combine in addition to an already-impressive resumé should warrant a pick in the draft. His strength in the midst of adversity seems like a picture-perfect embodiment of the kind of players Jason Licht and John Spytek covet.

Vorhees was only allowed to partake in a few events at the Combine and went on to hit the most reps on the bench press (38) with only one foot on the ground. That is the level of dedication that will potentially help him outweigh the injury concerns. Vorhees has position flexibility, having played at right guard, left guard and left tackle. He was asked to climb to the second level in USC's inside and outside zone, man-gap blocks and he did so effectively. With consistency, high football intelligence and well-placed hands, Vorhees is a talent worth the plunge in the fifth round for a long-term advantage.

Sixth round, No. 179 overall: ILB Cam Jones, Indiana

Legendary Bucs' defender Lavonte David did re-sign with the club on a one-year deal, but the team needs to prepare a long-term plan for life without the 33-year-old inside linebacker. Tampa Bay could select an inside linebacker much higher in the draft, but for the purposes of this mock, depth is addressed in the sixth with Indiana's Cam Jones. Jones could develop behind David and Devin White while becoming a core special teams' player. Jones, a three-time team captain, has superb diagnosis skills and above-average play recognition following the snap. He is an explosive tackler in the box and showcases range in run support, tracking backs with proper angles of pursuit to achieve leverage. The athletic playmaker certainly has the intangibles and character-makeup to become a playmaker at the next level.

Sixth round, No. 181 overall: OT Nick Saldiveri, Old Dominion

With Vorhees' injury status, the Bucs add a versatile blocker on Day 3 who can play guard or tackle. Nick Saldiveri has the size/length profile and natural athleticism to succeed as a puller in space. His mobility allows him to redirect at the second level and slide laterally against counters. Saldiveri can help create in the screen game and has the potential to become a dynamic depth option for Tampa Bay in the trenches.

Sixth round, No. 196 overall: QB Malik Cunningham, Louisville

This is a developmental selection for the Bucs with a positive upside. Malik Cunningham would add to the team's quarterback room behind Baker Mayfield and Kyle Trask. Cunningham could help with scout-team duties and grow as a possible No. 3 quarterback. He missed time with a shoulder injury in 2022 but still led the Cardinals with 12 rushing scores, while passing for 1,568 yards and eight touchdowns (against five interceptions) in 10 games (nine starts). Cunningham broke Lamar Jackson's school record by accumulating 120 career touchdowns. He has intriguing dual-threat abilities, putting stress on defenses with running talent in an RPO and zone-read system. Cunningham is able to elude tacklers and having a player with his mobility/vision in the open field to provide the defense with certain looks during practice, would be beneficial.

Seventh round, No. 252 overall: WR Michael Jefferson, Louisiana

The Bucs have a talent-filled nucleus at receiver with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Russell Gage Jr. and Deven Thompkins returning from last year, but Michael Jefferson adds a deep threat to the squad. Jefferson's height (6-foot-4) and downfield ability make him a potential draft selection on Day 3. He hauled in 69 passes for 1,291 yards and 11 touchdowns in two seasons with the Ragin' Cajuns, including a 51-catch and seven-touchdown (15.9 yards per catch) season in 2022. Jefferson has a knack for setting up defensive backs by selling stems and possesses reliable hands. He is able to high-point the football and tracks the ball well downfield. He might not be the most polished receiver in the NFL Draft but has compelling value as a late-round project.

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