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(s): 1st round – EDGE A.J. Epenesa, Iowa; 2nd round – RB J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State; 3rd round – OT Ben Bartch, St. John's
Comments: "Even if Shaq Barrett returns, as is expected, the Bucs could use another big body like Epenesa on the defensive line."
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: 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."
Mel Kiper Jr., ESPN (Feb. 18)
Pick: EDGE K'Lavon Chaisson, LSU
Comments: "I mentioned in my Mock Draft 1.0 the Bucs' possible departures along the defensive line -- Ndamukong Suh, Carl Nassib, Jason Pierre-Paul and Beau Allen are all free agents -- and Chaisson would be a perfect fit as an outside linebacker in Todd Bowles' 3-4 defense. Chaisson had just 9.5 sacks in his college career, but this is a bet on a terrific upside for a twitchy pass-rusher who should test well at the combine later this month. After taking Devin White in the first round last year, Tampa can go back to the LSU well here with Chaisson."
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."
Pick: [TRADE] Bucs trade out of the first and pick up OT Austin Jackson, USC in second round.
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. 23)
Pick: EDGE K'Lavon Chaisson, LSU
Comments: "The Bucs' 2019 draft class was defense-heavy and the results were immediate; the unit was the No. 5 defense in the league but the D-line could look completely different next season; Ndamukong Suh, Jason Pierre-Paul and Rakeem Nunez-Roches are all soon-to-be free agents. Chaisson will need to add 10 pounds to his frame but he's already an explosive, disruptive presence off the edge."
Kristopher Knox, Bleacher Report (Feb. 23)
Pick: EDGE A.J. Epenesa, Iowa
Pick(s): DL Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina (Round 1), RB Clide Edwards-Helaire, LSU (Round 2)
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."