The NFL Draft is next week and draft analysts around the country are getting their mocks in before the real thing. ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. came out with a two-round mock that's in line with what most pundits are predicting for Tampa Bay, at least at No. 14 in the first round. This week has seen nearly every major draftnik take Georgia's Andrew Thomas for the Bucs, banking on the fact that Thomas will be one of the 'Big Four' offensive tackles to fall that far in the draft.
It's no secret that Tampa Bay has a need at the right tackle position, especially with veteran Demar Dotson still a free agent. The addition of quarterback Tom Brady has placed an even bigger emphasis on shoring up the offensive line and with a good crop of prospects in this year's draft class, it seems that it's only a matter of which tackle is available when the Bucs pick mid-round.
"I'll stick with offensive tackle here, as it is the best way to help Tom Brady and a Bucs team that is trying to win now," wrote Kiper. "Thomas started the past two seasons at left tackle for the Bulldogs, but he was their starting right tackle as a freshman, so he has some experience there. This is too high for a running back, but Tampa Bay could address that position in Round 2."
Kiper then went on to address another need for the Bucs, which is that of a pass-catching running back, in the second round of his Mock Draft 4.0.
"How about this help for Tom Brady?" said Kiper. "Ronald Jones II was in and out of Bruce Arians' doghouse last season, so it wouldn't be surprising for the Bucs to target a running back on Day 2. Taylor rushed for 6,174 yards in his career, but he also lost 15 fumbles, and that's how you catch Arians' ire. Taylor's 4.39 40-yard dash at the combine was an eye-opener, though, and there's a chance he's the top back off the board."
Though Arians has voiced the need for a pass-catching back to complement the current stable of running backs, Kiper's thinking here is likely that Taylor is too good to pass up. The former Wisconsin Badger posted back-to-back 2,000 yard seasons his last two years in Madison and like Kiper said, reinforced his tape with a stellar Combine performance. He'd join running back Dare Ogunbowale as former Badgers in the Bucs' running back room.