Tampa Bay Buccaneers

ESPN's Kiper Has Bucs in on Tackle Run in Latest Mock

Mel Kiper Jr. has Tampa Bay taking an offensive tackle off the board with their 14th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.

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Georgia Bulldogs offensive lineman Andrew Thomas (71) pursues against the Vanderbilt Commodores during an NCAA football game on Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019 in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brett Carlsen)

Following the first week of free agency, many mock drafts have predictably changed. It seemed NFL general managers weren't immune to the cooped-up feeling, expelling their energy on a flurry of action this past week. The biggest move was still the Bucs' signing of free agent quarterback Tom Brady. And you thought Ndamukong Suh was a splash last year, didn't you?

Speaking of the defense, Suh remains a free agent but the Bucs also locked up their outside backers, placing the franchise tag on Shaq Barrett and re-signing Jason Pierre-Paul to a two-year deal. Other than that and Brady, the Bucs have been relatively quiet during this period. They added offensive lineman Joe Haeg from the Colts as the only other new addition.

Now, we find Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN with his Mock Draft 3.0, where he nabs offensive tackle Andrew Thomas as a means of furthering the protection around the Bucs' new quarterback investment.

"After the Bucs largely bypassed free agency to address their offensive line -- they did add swing tackle Joe Haeg -- this is the spot in which they need to get help protecting Tom Brady, (It felt strange to type that.)" writes Kiper. "With Demar Dotson still a free agent, the right tackle spot is wide open. Thomas played both left and right tackle for the Bulldogs, and he would help keep Brady's jersey clean. I also thought about a running back to help Brady, with D'Andre Swift a great option to catch a bunch of passes from the future Hall of Famer. But offensive tackle feels like a lock at this point."

The former Bulldog was a three-year starter at Georgia, even as a freshman, where he started all 15 games at right tackle and garnered Freshman All-American honors. He switched to left tackle the next year where he would stay through 2019. His efforts there won him the SEC's Jacobs Blocking Trophy, making him the first Bulldog to take home the award in 21 years. His Combine performance was just average but Thomas is still touted as the most polished of the 'Big Four' offensive tackle prospects given his experience.

He would get to learn from a now well-established offensive line for the Buccaneers. Center Ryan Jensen is entering his seventh season in the league – third with the Buccaneers. The men on the left side, guard Ali Marpet and tackle Donovan Smith, are going into their sixth seasons in the league (all with the Buccaneers). Right guard Alex Cappa will be entering his third season after taking a big step forward in his sophomore campaign in 2019. That leaves the right tackle spot wide open for Thomas or someone else to step in.

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