With the impending 2018 draft, it's time for NFL Network's Mike Mayock to weigh in. Members of the media were able to ask the draft expert some of their questions on Monday via conference call. Mayock was asked specifically about who he sees as a match for the Buccaneers who will be picking at No. 7 in a draft where quarterback is a heavy need among the first few picks.
Mayock ultimately settled on Minkah Fitzpatrick, a defensive back out of Alabama, with the assumption that North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb would be off the board by the time the Bucs were up. Fitzpatrick is a freak athlete by all expert accounts and can easily fit into any position within the secondary, which would serve the Bucs well.
View photos of Alabama DB Minkah Fitzpatrick in college. Photos by AP Images.
"You can play him any of the four starting positions, plus nickel and dime linebacker," Mayock said of Fitzpatrick. "That's how good he is."
The Bucs secondary situation is currently in flux, with cornerback Brent Grimes and safety T.J. Ward both due to be free agents next month. Cornerback Vernon Hargreaves, who the Bucs took with their first pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, had some success this past season inside before being sidelined with injury and it's yet to be seen exactly where he'll play in 2018 once healthy again.
Mayock also offered up offensive guard Quenton Nelson out of Notre Dame as another option should running back Saquon Barkley from Penn State, defensive end Bradley Chubb and Fitzpatrick all be off the board by the time the Bucs make their pick.
Mayock cited the aforementioned four players in addition to Washington defensive tackle Vita Vea as immediate impact players later in the call.
"[…] Chubb is definitely worth it. Saquon Barkley is a transformational back," Mayock said. "I would put him in the same category as Fournette, Gurley and Zeke Elliott, all of whom have been Top 10 picks and made their teams better immediately. I would throw Quenton Nelson, the guard from Notre Dame, in there, and Minkah Fitzpatrick, the safety/corner from Alabama, and for some teams Vita Vea for defensive tackle. So, to me, they're kind of like the five guys where you go, wow, you can plug and play."
View photos of Mike Mayock's top interior offensive linemen prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft. Photos by AP Images.
Offensive guard Quenton Nelson presents an interesting option that would fill another need for the Bucs on the O-line as well. Mayock gave his opinion on what separates Nelson from other offensive linemen in the draft.
"The first is DNA […] he's 330 pounds," Mayock said. "He's got a nasty demeanor. He finishes with an edge. He's probably the best run-blocking interior offensive lineman I've seen in years."
Nelson doesn't stop with run-blocking either, according to Mayock.
"In today's NFL, you've got to protect your quarterback," Mayock said. "Every quarterback I've talked to in the NFL says what bothers them the most is immediate pressure up the middle. So, you've got a guy [in Quenton Nelson] that can set a physical edge in the middle of your lineup front and allow your quarterback to step up. That's a big deal."
As the draft approaches, and especially after the NFL Combine, the draft landscape should start becoming clearer. For now, mock draft season is in full swing, and with it, ever-evolving hypotheses from draft experts across the country. Feel free to weigh in on which position the Bucs should address first with their seventh pick and compare your answer to other fans here.