Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Mock Reality

With the start of the 2011 NFL draft just a day away, our annual round-up of mock drafts from on-line experts finds at least one point of consensus when it comes to the Bucs’ intentions

Kerrigan04_27_11_1_t.jpg


If the Tampa Bay Buccaneers want to defy expectations and shake up the first round of the draft on Thursday night – or at least the prevailing opinions about that round – they can do so rather simply.

Select an offensive player.

No need to be specific.  Obviously, the Buccaneers would surprise everyone if they took a quarterback, given the presence of young Josh Freeman, but there are plenty of other positions on that side of the ball.  Who couldn't use another playmaking receiver or a pillar for the offensive line?

Well, according to the NFL analysts scattered across the world wide web, none of those things are on the Buccaneers' first-round radar.  As we do every year in the days before the draft, Buccaneers.com has surveyed the mock drafts of the most prominent analysts, and one thing is abundantly clear.  Absolutely everyone expects Tampa Bay to take a defensive player with its first pick in 2011.

In fact, it will apparently be an upset if the Bucs don't specifically tab a pass-rusher of some sort.

Our survey touched on 20 mock drafters, from ESPN.com's Mel Kiper to SI.com's Don Banks, most of which have been updated within the last week.  All 20 of them paired the Buccaneers with a defensive player.  Of those 20, 19 expected the pick to be a defensive end.

The actual player the Buccaneers will pick?  There's not as much consensus there, in part because there are so many variables in play before the 20th pick, where the Bucs are scheduled to make their choice, barring a trade.  The 20 analysts in the survey selected seven different players, six of them ends.

The most common prediction for the Buccaneers' first pick is Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers, who was the choice in nine of the 20 mocks.  That selection is a good example of how draft opinions shift over time; as recently as January, Bowers was considered a strong possibility for the first overall pick.  Of course, Bowers' relative stock strength in the mocks, both now and earlier in the year, represents the best collective guess of the media, not necessarily his true value to the NFL personnel men actually making the selections.  The difference between the January and April predictions for Bowers is tied to health concerns that not everyone agrees are truly concerning.

Missouri's Aldon Smith and Purdue's Ryan Kerrigan, two more highly-regarded pass-rushers, tied for the most selections in our 20 assembled mock drafts, with three each.  The lone dissenting opinion, such as it is, among the 20 analysts in the survey belongs to NFL.com's Bucky Brooks, who has predicted that the Buccaneers will take Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith.

This year, we expanded our mock draft round-up to analyze what the experts believe the rest of the NFC South will do, as well.  And, with the exception of the Carolina Panthers, who are scheduled to make the first pick overall, the pass-rush theme extends to the entire division.

Seventeen of the 20 mock drafters buy into the prevailing opinion that the Panthers will take Auburn quarterback Cam Newton with the top pick.  The New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons, however, pick, 24th and 27th, respectively, and that area of the draft is where analysts expect the deep pool of defensive ends to come into play.

In fact, just as with the Buccaneers, 19 of the 20 experts expect New Orleans to start its draft with a defensive lineman.  Some of those selections – such as Baylor's Phil Taylor or Illinois' Corey Liuget, are defensive tackles rather than ends, but only Foxsports.com's John Crist really dissents, giving the Saints Alabama running back Mark Ingram.

Four of the 20 mock drafters think the Atlanta Falcons will draft Notre Dame tight end Kyle Rudolph in the first round.  The other 16, however, are mostly thinking defensive end.  Other than one vote each for Illinois linebacker Martez Wilson, Texas cornerback Aaron Williams and Baylor guard Danny Watkins, the rest are all pass-rushers, from Ohio State's Cameron Heyward to Wisconsin's J.J. Watt.

Below are the 20 analysts in question, along with their picks for the four teams in the NFC South.  The numbers in parentheses by each team represent where the teams are scheduled to pick in the first round.  The players are identified by last name; their full names, positions and colleges are listed at the bottom of the page.

Analyst

Site*

CAR (1)

TB (20)

NO (24)

ATL (27)

Steve Wyche

NFL.com

Newton

Bowers

Clayborn

Ayers

Pat Kirwan

NFL.com

Newton

Bowers

Austin

Rudolph

Bucky Brooks

NFL.com

Newton

J.Smith

Wilkerson

Clayborn

Brian Baldinger

NFL.com

Newton

Clayborn

Bowers

Rudolph

Charles Davis

NFL.com

Newton

Bowers

Clayborn

Williams

Mel Kiper

ESPN.com

Newton

Kerrigan

Taylor

Clayborn

Todd McShay

ESPN.com

Newton

Bowers

Liuget

Clayborn

Peter King

SI.com

Newton

A.Smith

Clayborn

Watt

Don Banks

SI.com

Newton

Bowers

Wilkerson

Clayborn

Doug Farrar

Yahoo.com

Green

Bowers

Houston

M.Wilson

Clark Judge

CBSSports.com

Dareus

A.Smith

Wilkerson

Heyward

Pete Prisco

CBSSports.com

Newton

Bowers

Liuget

Clayborn

Chad Reuter

CBSSports.com

Newton

Bowers

Kerrigan

Rudolph

Rob Rang

CBSSports.com

Newton

Bowers

Clayborn

Sheard

Peter Schrager

Foxsports.com

Newton

Kerrigan

Heyward

Clayborn

John Crist

Foxsports.com

Newton

Ayers

Ingram

Heyward

Nolan Nawrocki

Profootballweekly.com

Dareus

Kerrigan

Wilkerson

Clayborn

Rick Gosselin

Dallasnews.com

Newton

A.Smith

Austin

Taylor

Evan Silva

Profootballtalk.com

Newton

Bowers

Sheard

Watkins

Greg Cox

Walterfootball.com

Newton

Houston

Bowers

Rudolph

  • Some of the listed sites, such as Foxsports.com partnered with analysts whose mock drafts also appear on other sites.

One of the more interesting players in that group is Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn.  By one analyst or another, Clayborn has been matched up with every team in the NFC South except the Panthers.  For instance, Brooks thinks Clayborn will end up in Atlanta and his NFL.com colleague Charles Davis expects it to be New Orleans, but a third NFL.com expert, Brian Baldinger, doesn't believe the Hawkeye end will get to either of those teams because the Bucs will nab him first.

Bowers, Kerrigan and Georgia's Justin Houston also are matched up with at least two of the NFC South teams.  However, it appears that most analysts think the Buccaneers are the only team picking high enough to have a shot at Missouri's Smith.

Overall, 12 of the 20 mock drafters went D-Line heavy for the NFC South, giving ends or tackles to Tampa Bay, Atlanta and New Orleans.  Two of those 12 even went all the way, giving a defensive lineman to Carolina with the first pick, too.  Those two were Clark Judge of CBSSports.com and Nolan Nawrocki of Profootballweekly.com, both of whom bucked the trend by making Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus the top pick.  Judge and Nawrocki also agreed on Muhammad Wilkerson of Temple going to the Saints.

It will be no surprise if Judge and Nawrocki's minority opinion is proven wrong and the Panthers do indeed alight on Newton, hoping to secure a long-term franchise quarterback.  It will be a surprise if more than a few of the predictions for the rest of the NFC South prove correct.  It is proven year after year that even the most well-informed mock drafters have little hope of hitting on too many predictions in the latter half of the first round.  That's no knock on those analysts; again, there are simply too many variables in play.

Still, this look at 20 different mock drafts certainly makes it clear what the prevailing opinion is about the Buccaneers and their fellow double-digit-winning teams in the NFC South.  The 2011 draft class is considered particularly deep in quality pass-rushers, and the experts expect Tampa Bay's division to take full advantage of that depth.

(Players listed, in alphabetical order: North Carolina DT Marvin Austin, UCLA LB Akeem Ayers, Clemson DE Da'Quan Bowers, Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn, Alabama DT Marcell Dareus, Georgia WR A.J. Green, Ohio State DE Cameron Heyward, Georgia LB Justin Houston, Alabama RB Mark Ingram, Purdue DE Ryan Kerrigan, Illinois DT Corey Liuget, Auburn QB Cam Newton, Notre Dame TE Kyle Rudolph, Pittsburgh DE Jabaal Sheard, Missouri DE Aldon Smith, Colorado CB Jimmy Smith, Baylor DT Phil Taylor, Baylor G Danny Watkins, Wisconsin DE J.J. Watt, Temple DE Muhammad Wilkerson, Texas CB Aaron Williams, Illinois LB Martez Wilson.)

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Advertising