Well, we've made it. Almost. Starting Monday, players will be back in the building to start the offseason program. The Buccaneers are able to start Phase I, which includes strength and conditioning and limited classroom time, a week earlier because they have a new head coach. Teams with a coaching change are allowed to start one week in advance of teams that did not. I, for one, can't wait to have more buzz around the building. The offseason is, well, not my favorite time of the year necessarily.
This time of year, we're pretty focused on looking toward the NFL Draft. The Combine is over, Pro Days are in full swing and mock drafts are springing up left and right.
-Today, NFL.com released its first four-round mock draft, as compiled by draft analyst Chad Reuter. Most mocks only focus on the first round, because even predicting that is a shot in the dark. It gets murkier and murkier the further you go, but Reuter apparently braved the draft mud and put out a rationale for all 128 picks through the first four rounds. He starts off with a bang, having the Raiders trade up from the fourth spot to the second spot… to get quarterback Drew Lock. Right there, you know you might want to take this whole thing with a grain of salt. While I definitely questioned the Raiders' decisions throughout last season and into the offseason, they actually seem to now have a plan. And I don't think trading up to take Lock, when Haskins is considered QB2 in this draft, is part of it.
But now to what you want to see. Who does this Reuter guy have the Bucs picking through four rounds? Let's take a look:
Round 1: EDGE Josh Allen, Kentucky
Reuter: "The Bucs are switching to a 3-4 scheme under new coordinator Todd Bowles, and Allen fits like a glove at outside linebacker. In fact, he'd fit at linebacker in any system."
While Bowles' actual scheme has yet to be determined, it's definitely going to be more flexible and fluid, exploiting the confusion it creates. Therefore, players need to be versatile. And fast. Allen is both, so the rationale is there… now, if Allen is at pick number five remains to be seen.
Round 2: S Darnell Savage, Maryland
Reuter: "Savage, an appropriate name for a Buccaneer, has the needed coverage skills for a safety in today's NFL and fits a need for Tampa Bay."
Though I appreciate the word play that could come with a name like Savage, that's not actually a reason to take a player. That said, there ARE other reasons to take Savage and after seeing his performance at the Senior Bowl firsthand, this would be a great addition to the Bucs' roster with how versatile safeties and secondary players will need to be in this new scheme. Savage earned one of the defensive practice players of the week awards in Mobile, which is actually more significant than any award given during the game itself. Practice is where you get to see prospect against prospect and put them through some of the rigors of NFL practices. He followed his Senior Bowl up with a great Combine performance and looks to be a riser in this draft.
Round 3: WR Terry McLaurin, Ohio State
Reuter: "McLaurin's speed and improved hands will help make up for the loss of big-play threat DeSean Jackson."
So, that rationale would make sense to me if the Bucs hadn't already addressed the deep threat in signing Breshad Perriman from the Browns. Cleveland tried to hold onto him by offering him a deal in free agency and I had someone in the Browns' front office classify his speed as 'elite' to me. But once they traded for OBJ, Perriman knew he wouldn't get the touches he wanted. He opted for Tampa Bay instead, and with that elite speed is thought to be the guy who can stretch the field vertically in Bruce Arians' offense. For those reasons, I'm not so sure about this pick, especially considering Licht and Co. have been so successful with second, third, fourth-round guys, that I think they address a need in the third-round rather than a receiver.
Round 4: RB Damien Harris, Alabama
Reuter: "A fourth-round run on running backs starts with the Bucs, who could use an all-around back like Harris to compete with Peyton Barber (signed through 2019) and 2018 second-round pick Ronald Jones II."
Say what you want about Alabama running backs but this could make sense in the fourth round. Arians has stressed how impressed he is with Peyton Barber, so I'm not totally sure that Harris would be competing with who Arians has already tapped as the starter, but more competition in the room overall couldn't hurt. Given that the last two picks from Reuter have been skill positions though, I remain skeptical with no mention of offensive line or cornerback help.