NFL Mock Drafts are fun, addictive and occasionally even accurate to about 25 or 30%. NFL Mock Drafts in February are fun, addictive…and best forgotten by April. With the Scouting Combine, college pro days, potential trades and three months of rumors still ahead, common wisdom about which teams are eyeing which players is going to shift repeatedly before the real thing kicks off on April 23.
That's a common disclaimer that we hope will excuse our many incorrect guesses below. But in the case of the 2020 Tampa Bay Buccaneers it needs to be doubly emphasized. There are developments ahead – most of them probably in the month of March – that are likely to significantly affect the team's priorities in April. Most notably, the Buccaneers and quarterback Jameis Winston will be deciding on the shape of their possibly shared future and the team will be trying to retain as many of their potential defensive front-seven free agents as possible.
It stands to reason that the outcomes of those situations – and perhaps the free agency fates of wide receiver Breshad Perriman, running back Peyton Barber, tackle Demar Dotson and others – will either enhance or suppress the Buccaneers' draft-weekend appetites at certain positions.
And, of course, if you're reading a mock draft specifically on the Buccaneers' website, the most important considerations are Tampa Bay's own pick and how the other selections affect it. That's true even of the picks that come after the Bucs' choice at number 14, because the actual draft lasts more than one round.
As an example, we now know the Buccaneers were very interested in the cornerback position in the 2019 draft after they took Sean Murphy-Bunting in the second round and Jamel Dean in the third round. Interestingly, in retrospect, the corners dropped in the first round last year, with Deandre Baker first off the board at number 30. He was the only first-round cornerback, which in itself is a very rare occurrence, which allowed for a mini-run on the position at the top of the second round. The Bucs ended up with fourth one off the board in Murphy-Bunting. Meanwhile, LSU's Greedy Williams, a fixture in most first-round mocks, lasted all the way to the 46th pick.
So, as we kick off Mock Draft Season here on Buccaneers.com, Staff Writer Carmen Vitali and I hope to give you both thought-provoking predictions and, wherever it's relevant, our ideas on how this all affects the Buccaneers. As has been our method for the last two years, Carmen and I will alternate picks for most of these mock drafts, which will be posted every two weeks. For our last effort, in the week of the draft, we'll each make all 32 picks so that we can later compare results.
Before we begin, we must repeat our usual caveat. Though you are reading this on Buccaneers.com, none of this is meant to reflect the strategy or thinking of Jason Licht, Bruce Arians or any others involved in the Buccaneers' actual draft decision-making. These are our guesses, Carmen and Scott. Blame us if you don't like them. Oh, and for at least the first couple versions, we're not mocking any trades. Every team stays put.
Take a look at the Buccaneers players officially slated to become unrestricted, restricted, or exclusive rights free agents when the NFL's free agency period begins in March.
I checked back, and Carmen went first in our first mock draft a year ago, so this year I'm on the clock with the Cincinnati Bengals. That means Carmen gets the good fortune of drawing the first prediction for the Buccaneers at number 14. So here we go!
1. Cincinnati Bengals: QB Joe Burrow, LSU (Scott Smith)
Well, that was easy. When I checked back on last year's Mock 1.0, I also noticed that Carmen had given the Arizona Cardinals Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa, which of course didn't happen. This is absolutely not a knock on Carmen. As she said at the time, Bosa was the best player in the draft and it just made sense to make him the first player off the board. Plus, the Cardinals had used their first-round pick on a quarterback just the year before. It took some time before most mock drafters bought into the idea that the Cardinals would actually jettison that quarterback, Josh Rosen, after just one year and go with the apple of new Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury's eye, Kyler Murray. This year, I have the fortune of a much safer guess, as Burrow seems like the most obvious first-overall prediction in February since Andrew Luck in 2012. I'll be shocked if Burrow isn't picked first; the only question is whether it's to the Bengals or another team that makes a massive trade offer. Could that team be the Buccaneers? It would be extremely pricey. As a guide, to move up from 15 to one for Jared Goff in 2016, the Rams gave up two second-round picks, a third-round pick and their first and third-rounders the next year.
2. Washington Redskins: EDGE Chase Young, Ohio State (Carmen Vitali)
I will say, I got it right by the end of our mock draft trials, edging out Scott by getting five picks right to his four in our final dueling drafts. And no, that probably won't be the last time I bring that up. Regardless, this pick isn't too terribly difficult, either. Young is the best defensive prospect in this year's draft after leading the nation in sacks with 16.5 last year – without even playing a full season. In fact, you could tell me he's the best prospect period and I wouldn't argue with you. He's this year's Nick Bosa (the two even used to be teammates), who I'm now hopefully accurately predicting at number two. I also think this pick gets further solidified with noted defensive guru Ron Rivera taking the reins in Washington.
3. Detroit Lions: CB Jeff Okudah, Ohio State (SS)
Yes, this is high for a cornerback; in fact, it would match the Seahawks' selection of Shawn Springs in 1997 as the highest pick ever used on the position. But there's a reason why Okudah is showing up in this spot in a vast majority of early mock drafts: It just makes too much sense. For one thing, the Buckeye is considered far and away the best cornerback available this year, possibly the only one who will go in the top half of the round. For another, Detroit really needs help at the position after ranking last in the league in pass defense and picking off just seven passes. Okudah is big, smart, athletic and driven, and he's drawn comparisons to Jalen Ramsey. I would spend a top-three pick on Jalen Ramsey. All of that said, if we were allowing trades I'd be very tempted to move this pick to a QB-hungry team and hope to get Okudah just a little farther down.
4. New York Giants: WR Jerry Jeudy, Alabama (CV)
This is another spot I think a QB-needy team would want to slide into and New York would be all-too-eager to listen. But given that we aren't mocking trades, the Giants' number one need is probably at receiver. They need to get Daniel Jones some more weapons if they want him to continue his development. Last year, no Giants receiver got close to 1,000 yards. Darius Slayton led the pack with 740 on 48 receptions (84 targets, though). Whether Jeudy is by far and away the best receiver in a pretty deep class this year is up for debate – Oklahoma's CeeDee Lamb would probably have a few things to say about that. But I'm sure no one would fault Gettleman for going with the Alabama product in trying to shore up his receiver room.
5. Miami Dolphins: QB Justin Herbert, Oregon (SS)
You know who's happy we're not mocking trades: the Miami Dolphins. They can sit at five secure in the knowledge that they're almost certain to have their choice between Herbert and Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa. In reality, they might actually have to trade up a few spots to make sure they're not leap-frogged by other QB-hungry teams. And it's a tough choice, one that may have a different answer when we do Version 2.0. Herbert's big arm and strong performance in the Rose Bowl and at the Senior Bowl give him the edge here due to Tagovailoa's health uncertainty.
6. Los Angeles Chargers: QB Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama (CV)
And the Chargers will happily snap up Tua with the next pick. They are reportedly moving on from veteran Philip Rivers this offseason, leaving a gigantic question mark under center. It's not likely they're looking to replace Rivers with another vet in free agency so they go to the draft to get their man. Provided Tagovailoa can remain healthy, this is a solid place to get him.
7. Carolina Panthers: LB Isaiah Simmons, Clemson (SS)
Am I crazy for passing on Derrick Brown, who is an elite talent and fills a definite need? Maybe, but the retirement of Luke Kuechly means linebacker is a need, too, presuming that's where Simmons ends up in the NFL. He's already considered a top-10 talent but his stock is probably going to climb even higher when he blows away the Scouting Combine. Simmons' versatility makes him a great weapon in today's NFL. This is another spot where I might be calling for a trade when we start doing that in later mocks. Carolina could move down a bit and still get Brown or Javon Kinlaw and some team could think Simmons is worth giving up an extra pick to get.
8. Arizona Cardinals: OT Jedrick Wills Jr., Alabama (CV)
I apparently have an affinity for Alabama players in this inaugural mock. Wills has been touted as the best o-line prospect this year and he's thought to have some versatility. The Cardinals need to do a better job protecting the undersized Kyler Murray, no matter how mobile he is. Arizona gave up the fifth-most sacks in the league last year. Not great. While they have other offensive needs, I think they need to start up front in addressing them.
9. Jacksonville Jaguars: DT Derrick Brown, Auburn (SS)
Well, the Jaguars benefit from my choice of Simmons to the Panthers, grabbing a player who could easily go in the top five. I feel like this has to be the floor for Brown on April 23. The Jaguars found a super new pass-rusher in last year's draft in Kentucky's Josh Allen, who racked up 10.5 sacks as a rookie. Now they pair him with a force in the middle as they continue to pour resources into their defensive front.
10. Cleveland Browns: OT Andrew Thomas, Georgia (CV)
I've seen plenty of mocks that have more OTs going in the top ten given the talent there this year, but I think the run really starts here. Wills is off the board with the Cardinals, leaving Thomas and/or Iowa's Tristan Wirfs for the Browns. Cleveland was middle of the pack in sacks allowed last year but turned it around in the latter part of the season. There's going to be a hole on their line when Greg Robinson departs that they can fill here with Thomas, given that he has the experience as a left tackle.
11. New York Jets: EDGE K'Lavon Chaisson, LSU (SS)
I agree completely, Carmen, and I could definitely see the Jets getting in on that tackle run here, too. However, the New York defense only had one front-seven player with more than three sacks in 2019, and none with more than eight. Productive edge rushers are hard to find, and I think the Jets will find it harder to pass up one of those than a tackle at this point. It helps that Chaisson is anything but a one-dimensional pass-rusher, as he can also hold his own against the run.
Editor's Note: If you'd like a little more information on Chaisson, here's what Carmen wrote about him when she tried to draft him for the Falcons at #16…after the National Championship, Chaisson's stock rose way, way up. Plus, I couldn't possibly continue my run on Alabama players with Terrell Lewis, right? In all honesty though, the 6-4, 250-pound RS sophomore led LSU in both tackles and sacks in 2019. He also earned Defensive MVP in the Tigers' semifinal game against Oklahoma. Despite being the underclassman, Chaisson seems more than ready for the pro level and the Falcons give him that chance.
Additional Editor's Note: We were drafting the day after I returned from Super Bowl weekend in Miami. I needed a nap, ok?
Editor's Note: You're not the editor.
12. Las Vegas Raiders: WR CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma (CV)
Typing that out was weird. I don't think it's going to stop being weird for a while. We'll get to see how weird it is firsthand when the Bucs visit the Raiders this season, too. Speaking of weird, the Raiders have a pressing need at wide receiver after the whole Antonio Brown saga didn't pan out last season. Lamb is one of the best receiver prospects in the draft and can fit right into Las Vegas' offense. Let's just hope he can fit in with the lifestyle, too.
13. Indianapolis Colts: DT Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina (SS)
Well, if you're worried about Lamb in Las Vegas, you could send him to the mean streets of Indianapolis. The Colts were really hoping he wasn't drafted Sooner than they were on the board, and they only missed by one. They really need a new receiver or two, but I'm not as thrilled with Henry Ruggs or Tee Higgins here, so let's hit another need with the big and powerful Kinlaw. He is already an awesome inside presence but still has room to grow with more pass-rush moves. He was great at the Senior Bowl, too. By the way, if this draft falls this way the Buccaneers could be happy that the offensive tackle run didn't totally heat up.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: OT Tristan Wirfs, Iowa (CV)
I'm picking up what you're putting down, Scott (and don't think that Sooner joke went unnoticed) in that Bucs indeed get some help along the line at pick No. 14. Wirfs played right tackle in college and that's a question mark for the Bucs and veteran Demar Dotson, whose contract is up this offseason. Does Dotson still have some juice? That's the question the Bucs will determine, but it wouldn't hurt to draft some help. Plus, the longer an offensive lineman is given to develop once he gets to the pro level, the better. Just look at the jump Alex Cappa made in his second year this past season. So get Wirfs in and see how quickly he can mesh with the line, though by all accounts, he's starter material right now.
15. Denver Broncos: WR Henry Ruggs, Alabama (SS)
I'm breaking up your monopoly on Nick Saban products, Carmen. Courtland Sutton, a second-round pick in 2018, broke out for the Broncos in a big way this past season but he needs a partner in a big way after Emmanuel Sanders was traded to the 49ers. It would be nice if that partner had speed, and Ruggs has that by the bushel, which is how speed is stored.
16. Atlanta Falcons: EDGE Terrell Lewis, Alabama (CV)
You learn something new every day, I guess. We learned last week, in a widely publicized non-move, the Falcons parted ways with Vic Beasley, electing not to renew his deal. This means they're going to need some fresh legs on the edge and I'm taking my Alabama monopoly right back with Lewis. Do I secretly have a closet full of houndstooth and fedoras? Maybe. But the tide is rolling in this first round.
17. Dallas Cowboys: CB C.J. Henderson, Florida (SS)
I'm seeing a lot of mock drafts pairing the Cowboys with yet another Alabama player, safety Xavier McKinney, and that is definitely a good match of need and talent. However, there's a good chance that cornerback becomes just as big of a need when Byron Jones departs via free agency. The Cowboys still have to pay Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper and might not be able to retain Jones, who is likely to get a very big deal on the open market. Here's his replacement, a fast and instinctive corner who can step right into the lineup.
18. Miami Dolphins (via Pittsburgh): OT Josh Jones, Houston (CV)
Miami got their quarterback and now has another chance in the first round to grab some protection for their shiny new toy, thanks to some savvy moves that give them a ton of draft capital this year. Jones jumped into the first-round conversation after this year's Senior Bowl in which he was by far and away the standout offensive line prospect. He has played almost exclusively left tackle - his athleticism and ability to block into the second level that he showcased in Mobile should serve Herbert's blind side extremely well.
19. Las Vegas Raiders (via Miami): LB Patrick Queen, LSU (SS)
Carmen ticked off one major box when she got the Raiders Lamb at #12. Next up for the Raiders is probably either linebacker or cornerback, and Queen would bring some much-needed speed and playmaking ability to the Raiders' defense.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars (via Los Angeles Rams): CB Kristian Fulton, LSU (CV)
The Jags got their defensive tackle thanks to Scott and use this pick to shore up their cornerback room with the LSU senior. Let's face it, Jacksonville has a lot of needs but at this point with Kinlaw gone, cornerback is where they find the best player available on the defensive side of the ball.
21. Philadelphia Eagles: WR Laviska Shenault, Colorado (SS)
I've seen Shenault described as a little raw…and I've also seen him described as "a bigger Julio Jones." I'll take that. The Eagles really missed DeSean Jackson's speed when he was out and Shenault has clocked 40 times under 4.4. I also think it would be great to see Shenault in the hand of a creative play designer like Doug Pederson. The possibilities are limitless.
22. Buffalo Bills: WR Brandon Aiyuk, Arizona State (CV)
PHEW. I really thought you were going to take Aiyuk there, but instead I grab him for Buffalo. Speaking of speed – Aiyuk is deceivingly fast and can provide an excellent downfield target for Josh Allen's monster arm. I was looking forward to seeing Aiyuk at the Senior Bowl, but he didn't participate due to a medical flag. He still garnered some buzz and was impressive in interview sessions, though.
23. New England Patriots: Mekhi Becton, Louisville (SS)
I have a very hard time believing that Becton will still be on the board at the 23rd pick, but if any franchise needs some good fortune to shine on it, it's the Patriots, right? Their offensive line struggled for a good portion of the 2019 season and Isaiah Wynn has only played eight games since he was the 23rd pick two years ago. Even if Wynn does solidify one spot, the Patriots could still upgrade the other with Becton. The Louisville product is 6-7 and 369 and that is…(checks notes)…very big. He's nimble for his size, too.
24. New Orleans Saints: WR Tee Higgins, Clemson (CV)
Drew Brees isn't going anywhere, so New Orleans tries to give him more players to throw to. Sure, they have Michael Thomas who makes plays despite everyone accounting for him, but outside of that, the Saints' offense could use another outside receiver. Clemson is known as 'Wide Receiver U' for a reason and as a result, Higgins heads down to the Big Easy.
25. Minnesota Vikings: CB Trevon Diggs, Alabama (SS)
Some team should just draft "Alabama." Anyway, despite the fact that the Vikings spent first-round picks on corners in 2015 and 2018, plus a second-rounder in 2016, that position looks potentially messy heading into 2020. Xavier Rhodes didn't have his best year in 2019 and he's got a big cap number in 2020. The Vikings might want to turn to Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander going forward, but both are pending unrestricted free agents. Minnesota may need to restock in the draft and in Diggs they get a tall corner with speed and athleticism and a lot of room to develop. He originally arrived at Alabama as a wide receiver.
26. Miami Dolphins (via Houston): EDGE A.J. Epenesa, Iowa (CV)
Yes, Miami has (in my best Sesame Street voice) one-two-three first-round picks this year. They've got their guy under center and someone to protect him – now they go over to Brian Flores' bread and butter with a pass rusher in Epenesa. The Iowa Hawkeye led the Big Ten in sacks in 2018 with 10.5 then followed it up with a 2019 campaign that saw 11.5 sacks and 14.5 for loss. It gives Miami some much needed help at defensive end.
27. Seattle Seahawks: EDGE Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State (SS)
Okay, that made things easier, as Seattle was choosing between these two pass-rushers, desperately needing to add to their rotation up front. Seattle had just 28 sacks last year and no single player had more than 4.0. Their second-leading sack artist was Quinton Jefferson, who is a pending unrestricted free agent. As are Jadeveon Clowney, Ezekiel Ansah and Mychal Kendricks.
28. Baltimore Ravens: LB Kenneth Murray, Oklahoma (CV)
The Ravens don't need a lot. But they could use a better presence at the linebacker level to complement their high-powered offense. That being said, Lamar Jackson could use another weapon and I would have taken a wide receiver here, too, but I think you could get a value guy later on that could be just as effective for the versatile Jackson to utilize.
29. Tennessee Titans: T Austin Jackson, USC (SS)
The Titans, who bulled their way to the AFC title game with Derrick Henry running behind a road-grading offensive line, taking a tackle? Especially when they clearly need pass-rush help? Well, hear me out. Jack Conklin, who regained his all-pro form at right tackle in 2019, is a potential free agent and the Titans already have to deal with re-signing Henry and Ryan Tannehill. Conklin could get away. Even the Titans' swing tackle, Dennis Kelly, who started four games for Taylor Lewan last year, is a pending free agent. By the time the draft arrives, this position may be their greatest area of need.
30. Green Bay Packers: WR Jalen Reagor, TCU (CV)
Did I pick the TCU product because his name sounds straight out of Game of Thrones? We'll never know. But the Packers were actually hoping Jackson fell to them to help protect Aaron Rodgers up front, of course, until the mighty, mighty Titans snatched him away instead. That's ok, because if there are two certainties in life – death and taxes – Green Bay needing a wide receiver is the third.
31. San Francisco 49ers: S Grant Delpit, LSU (SS)
First off, as soon as we start allowing trades in this thing I'm getting the 49ers out of the first round in a hurry. After this pick, John Lynch isn't scheduled to pick again until the fifth round, as the Dee Ford and Emmanuel Sanders trades cost the 49ers their second through fourth-round picks. As for this selection, you can never count out San Fran using its first-round pick on a defensive lineman, but in this case safety is potentially a big need if Jimmie Ward walks in free agency. Plus, there are several good choices on the board right now. I'll go with Delpit, who should make practices fun going one-on-one with George Kittle.
32. Kansas City Chiefs: CB Jeff Gladney, TCU
The Chiefs are built for sustained success but if there's anything that can be cleaned up a bit, it's the cornerback position. They were middle of the pack in total yards allowed on defense and ranked near the bottom in the regular season in passes defensed at No. 23. Kansas City was fortunate enough to have a high-powered offense to cover for their secondary shortcomings, but if they get a lockdown corner like Gladney from TCU, they could be unstoppable again.