With mock drafts getting more and more focused the closer we get to the actual draft, some analysts take it upon themselves to predict beyond the first round. Such is sort of the case in Mel Kiper Jr.’s latest mock. There are a few caveats to his method this time around.
Firstly, he didn’t factor in trades that are sure to happen come draft night. I don’t think there has ever been a trade-less first round of the modern NFL draft as we know it.
The second thing to note is that these aren’t necessarily the picks Kiper thinks teams will make but rather, these are the picks they would need to make an ‘A’ grade on ESPN’s draft grade scale. It means the projections are all about filling team needs, not taking into account best player available scenarios that may be too good to pass up for some teams.
For the Bucs, that means addressing the defense with the first two picks. Like many other draft analysts, Kiper has the Bucs taking inside linebacker Devin White with their fifth overall pick in the first round, presumably to fill the void left by middle linebacker Kwon Alexander who departed in free agency. Kiper then goes with Juan Thornhill, a safety from Virginia who has garnered many first-round grades. Grabbing him in the second round would help with depth at what will be a rotating position in the Bucs’ new defense.
Kiper, who seems to be very high on running back David Montgomery, then has the Bucs taking the tailback to complement Ronald Jones, the team’s 2018 second round pick with no mention of starting running back Peyton Barber, leading to some skepticism on my part.
For his full analysis, see below. If you want to see the full three-round mock, you’ll have to subscribe to ESPN+.
Tampa could go a number of directions here, and trading down should be an option. But I think White is a perfect fit in the middle of that defense as a Kwon Alexander replacement and three-down stud. This is high for a linebacker who doesn't rush the quarterback, but the 2018 Butkus Award winner is that good.
Thornhill is my third-ranked safety, but I know some teams think he's the best safety in this class. He could sneak into the bottom of Round 1. The Bucs used a second-round pick on running back Ronald Jones last season, but he couldn't get on the field for an offense that averaged just 3.9 yards per carry. Montgomery is a more physical back than Jones, who has more upside in the receiving game, and they could complement each other.