NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah believes the Tampa Bay Buccaneers could target an offensive tackle in the first round of next week's draft. He also thinks the Buccaneers are making contingency plans in case the 14th overall pick isn't high enough to land the player they covet.
"Well, I know it's normal during this time of year to call a bunch of teams, so I don't want to make too much of it, but I know Tampa has already made phone calls to inquire what it would cost to move up," said Jeremiah during a wide-ranging pre-draft conference call on Thursday. "So I would not be surprised at all if they tried to move up, and I keep coming back to kind of that Jacksonville area. If you wanted a tackle, that's the partner because you'd get ahead of Cleveland, who's a tackle team, and the Jets who are a tackle team. That would not shock me at all if Tampa moved up there to get their choice of who's left at that point in time. That would not shock me."
The Buccaneers or any team intent on landing one of the top-rated offensive tackles will be watching to see how soon the run on the position begins. And if the New York Giants share Jeremiah's opinion on what they should do with the fourth-overall pick, that run could start quickly.
The Cincinnati Bengals are widely expected to start the draft with LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, and the Miami Dolphins and Los Angeles Chargers could go after quarterbacks with the fifth and sixth picks, as well. The Washington Redskins and Detroit Lions, picking second and third, are believed to be targeting the highest-rated defensive players, possibly the Ohio State duo of edge rusher Chase Young and cornerback Jeff Okudah.
The Giants, however, are the subject of mixed opinions from draft analysts at the fourth spot. They could address a defense that struggled in many ways in 2019, possibly with do-everything Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons. Or they could bolster an offensive line in front of second-year quarterback Daniel Jones, whom they picked sixth overall a year ago.
Jeremiah thinks the latter idea makes more sense for the Giants, not just to protect Jones but also to help New York's first-round pick from two years ago.
"I absolutely think they should go offense there in the first round," he said. "I think they should go tackle. They've got to get better up front. I know all the holes on the defense. I can spout out all the numbers about where they rank, and it's not good. But they need to protect Daniel Jones, and they can get a two-fer, and that you can get a player that's going to help him continue to develop, and it's also going to be a big benefit to the best player on your team in Saquon Barkley.
"That would be what I would expect, and when you look at who that would be in the first round, I think I've said [Tristan] Wirfs for a long time is what I've heard, and as we come down the home stretch here, I'm beginning to think it's going to be Jedrick Wills. That's what I expect to happen there in the first round, and then in the second round maybe they come back and they can get a corner like a Jaylon Johnson. They could go get one of the top linebackers would be there off the ball would be interesting, as well. They'll have options there in the second round."
As Jeremiah notes, the Jaguars could be a willing trade partner at the ninth-overall spot if they are not also targeting one of the top tackles. The Buccaneers or any team looking to trade up could also make inquiries with the Panthers at number seven or the Cardinals at number eight. The point would be to jump ahead of some other teams – possibly Cleveland in the 10th spot and the Jets at number 11 – that are also thought to be interested in the tackle position.
In addition, the Buccaneers might be more eager to trade up for a specific offensive tackle if they agree with Jeremiah's assessment of the top prospects at the position. While conventional wisdom has a quartet of tackles at the top of the board – Iowa's Wirfs, Alabama's Wills, Louisville's Mekhi Becton and Georgia's Andrew Thomas – Jeremiah sees a top tier of just three players, with two in particular standing out.
"We've been saying the 'Big Four," said Jeremiah. "I have three guys up there and then I have a little bit of a gap. I'll give you the numbers. So Becton is my seventh player overall, Wills is my tenth. I view that as kind of the top tier for me, those two guys. Then I think right behind him is Wirfs, he's my 13th player, and then Andrew Thomas is my 18th player. So I have four top-20 guys in my opinion, but I think there's a little bit of separation between those top three and then Andrew Thomas."
A former scout for the Ravens, Browns and Eagles, Jeremiah does extensive analysis on draft prospects every year. He posted his list of the top 50 draft prospects on NFL.com earlier this month. On Thursday he broke down the top tackle prospects more thoroughly, pegging Becton as the best of the bunch in the long run though Wills might be more effective at the beginning.
"Becton is my top player," said Jeremiah, referring to the tackle position and not the prospect list overall. "God didn't make many like this. I mean, he is the definition of a freak. To be that big and to still be able to move the way he does is incredible, and he dominates in the run game and the pass game. Even though he's still working through some things technically, he's so big and so long you can't get through him and you can't get around him.
The Buccaneers have a new look in 2020 - take a look at pictures of their new uniforms!
"I think Jedrick Wills on Day One, the first day of practice, is going to be ahead of Becton, but I think Becton, the upside is what puts him over the top for me. So he's my top guy. Jedrick Wills is just a natural knee-bender who's very explosive. He can get himself in bad positions and find ways to recover with his athleticism. He played the right tackle spot there at Alabama. I think he's got left tackle ability. I think he can kick over there no problem, and he's somebody in the run game that can uproot players. Again, just very explosive, very athletic player who I think he's a top-10 pick in just about any year in my opinion."
Wirfs dominated the drills at the NFL Scouting Combine in February, which helped convince Jeremiah that he could stay at tackle at the professional level rather than kicking inside to guard. Meanwhile, Thomas's game tape uncovered some areas of concern for the NFLN analyst.
"Tristan Wirfs, when I first watched him, I thought he was going to be a guard, just because he has some issues oversetting," said Jeremiah. "He got beat on a bunch of up-and-under moves which worried me and concerned me a little bit, but I thought he got better as the year went along. And then obviously the show that he put on at the Combine, you see the athleticism there, and you say, okay, I know this guy is -- he's got the ability to play better at tackle. That's where I moved him back out, kept him at tackle. He's somebody that can really move people in the run game. But he's just got to be a little bit more patient in pass protection and continue to work in developing that area, but again, he's somebody with tremendous upside.
"Andrew Thomas, he's just a big, powerful run blocker. He creates a lot of movement when he gets his hands on you. He can really move you. He uproots guys, but I thought he was more of a one-track player. He struggled to adjust a little bit in space and pass protection. If he can get out in front of you and stay square, he's fine. I did not see that elite level of foot quickness, and I thought when he sees some of the better speed rushers in the NFL, that could give him a little bit of trouble, so that's why I had him as the fourth guy."