The Tampa Bay Buccaneers hold the 14th overall pick of the 2020 NFL Draft. As such, the field for potential first-round draft picks is wide open and despite it being January, draft pundits from around the country continue to weigh in.
The Bucs' needs and draft focus will be largely affected by what they are able to do (or not do) in free agency. With that in mind, let's see who the analysts have as front-runners to land in Tampa Bay come end of April.
Pick: DT Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina
Comments: "Kinlaw is a man among boys. This will be a value pick for the Bucs, and they can't pass on this type of talent -- keep in mind that Ndamukong Suh is a pending free agent."
Pick(s): 1st round – OT Mekhi Becton, Louisville; 2nd round – RB Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin; 3rd round – EDGE Josh Uche, Michigan
Comments: "While it is unclear who will be playing quarterback for Bruce Arians' Bucs in 2020, he should find a starting-caliber tackle at this point in the round. Becton's massive frame and nasty attitude should make him a favorite among NFL offensive line coaches."
Pick: QB Jacob Eason, Washington
Comments: "Tampa might trade back, but Eason could still be the target. While I expect him to be taken later than this pick, his stature and arm strength will give Bruce Arians some Carson Palmer vibes."
Todd McShay, ESPN (Feb. 3)
Pick: DE K'Lavon Chaisson, LSU
Comments: "Pass rushing was a strength for the Bucs in 2019, but they are now faced with free agency for Shaquil Barrett, Jason Pierre-Paul, Ndamukong Suh, Carl Nassib and Beau Allen -- and expect Barrett to get paid after his incredible season. No matter how it shakes out, Tampa Bay will likely now need help getting after the QB off the edge, and a strong late-season push from Chaisson (4.5 sacks in his final four games) has him in play in this range. He'd bring a lot of speed to the front. But don't rule out a quarterback if GM Jason Licht decides Jameis Winston isn't in the team's 2020 plans. If Herbert is already off the board, Utah State's Jordan Love, who is rising after the Senior Bowl, could be another option."
Mel Kiper Jr., ESPN (Jan. 24)
Pick: OT Tristan Wirfs, Iowa
Comments: "This is another tough team to peg because we don't yet know whether it will bring back quarterback Jameis Winston or breakout pass-rusher Shaquil Barrett, who are both free agents. The Bucs also could lose defensive linemen Ndamukong Suh, Carl Nassib, Jason Pierre-Paul and Beau Allen in free agency. That's a lot of unknowns, and the entire defensive line could be addressed here, really, particularly if Bruce Arians & Co. spot a pass-rusher they like. Because this is my mock draft, though, I see a perfect fit for Wirfs on the right side of the line with Demar Dotson likely leaving in free agency. Wirfs is powerful at the point of attack and tremendous in the running game. And if you're keeping count, that makes four offensive tackles in the first 14 picks here."
Pick: [TRADE] QB Jacob Eason, Washington at No. 12 after the Bucs throw in their third round pick to the Las Vegas Raiders to move up two spots
Comments: "With a wild run on QBs early in this draft, you've got to go after your guy as quickly as possible — especially with a team like Indianapolis sitting at No. 13, with the potential to grab a developmental QB behind Jacoby Brissett if they want it.
So, Bruce Arians goes and gets his guy, and sometimes, it's that simple. Arians has been tethered to Jacob Eason from the beginning, as his height/weight/arm length profile places him firmly in the bucket of Arians-style passers. Eason wouldn't be a Round 1 player for most teams, but as Tampa Bay tries to figure out life after Winston, perhaps it pairs Eason with a veteran QB (Rivers?) to work into the starting gig."
Pick(s): DL Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina (Round 1), DL Ross Blacklock, TCU (Round 2)
Comments: "At 6-foot-5, 315 pounds, with 34-plus inch arms, Kinlaw is a specimen at the defensive tackle position. He doesn't even have that many pass-rushing moves yet and still put up a 90.7 pass-rushing grade last year in the SEC."
"Blacklock came back after missing all of 2018 to be one of the best run defenders in college football. He ended the season with the seventh-highest run-defense grade of any interior defensive lineman in the country (89.3)."
Ryan Wilson, CBS Sports (Feb. 17)
Pick(s): OT Tristan Wirfs, Iowa, at No. 14, [TRADE w/SF] S Grant Delpit, LSU, at No. 31
Comments: "Wirfs was dominant last season and he can play either right or left tackle. In Tampa, Demar Dotson will be a free agent in March and Donovan Smith has two years left on his rookie deal. Now the Bucs just need to settle on a quarterback. QB Jordan Love makes some sense here, but if the Bucs prefer a veteran (whether it's Jameis Winston or, say, Philip Rivers), Love wouldn't likely be targeted this high."
"We've typically had Xavier McKinney going to the 49ers here, but he's already off the board. Delpit, who entered the season as the top safety in this class, battled through an ankle injury and struggled to consistently make tackles. When he's on, however, he can be one of the best players on the field."
Kristopher Knox, Bleacher Report (Feb. 16)
Pick: EDGE A.J. Epenesa, Iowa
DL Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina (Round 1), RB Clide Edwards-Helaire, LSU (Round
Comments: " Kinlaw to the Bucs has been a trendy fit–he was Tampa Bay's selection in PewterReport.com's initial 2020 Bucs' 7-Round Mock Draft in early January – but with good reason. He fills a big position of need even if Ndamukong Suh does return (it'll only be on a short deal, and his pass rush prowess is all but gone), and he completes what will be a fearsome defensive line when/if Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul get re-signed. The Bucs desperately need that with a young secondary that is still gelling together in the defensive backfield."
"Could Edwards-Helaire be the first running back off the board? It might not be likely, but I don't think it's crazy at all. He's the most complete running back in the class, and everything about him is exactly what Jason Licht loves at the position. The Bucs might have more pressing needs depending on how free agency transpires, but for now let's just enjoy thinking about an offense that adds this monster to an already loaded group."
Check out Charley Casserly's entire 2020 NFL mock draft 1.0 from NFL.com. Photos from AP Images.