Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs Seven-Round Draft Projection, Challenge Style

In our first Bucs-only draft, you'll find seven selections that hit on some of the team's biggest needs plus an alternate-reality draft class in which the two selectors issued each other challenges that had to be met

Georgia offensive lineman Andrew Thomas runs the 40-yard dash during the NFL football scouting combine, Friday, Feb. 28, 2020, in Indianapolis. (Aaron M. Sprecher via AP)

We've done multiple first-round mock drafts. We've even done a full-two round mock, making all 64 pick predictions. Now Carmen Vitali and I are going to focus on just the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and what they may do throughout the upcoming 2020 NFL Draft. And, as Butcher in "The Boys" would say, we're going to get a little diabolical.

Despite the title above, this is really going to be a six-round projection, because the Buccaneers' seven picks include two in the fourth round but none in the final frame. In the seventh round, we'll rest. The twist here is that in each round, one of us is going to challenge the other to do or not do something specific with that pick. We'll alternate the challenges so that in each round one of us will also be making a 'straight' pick without limitations.

Obviously, since we're only picking for the Buccaneers in each round, we'll have to make some assumptions about the availability of certain prospects. In doing so, we'll make an effort to make our picks realistic. For instance, we'd probably all love to get a running back like Cam Akers or Clyde Edwards-Helaire in the fifth round but it's almost certain we'd have to use a second or third-round pick to get either one.

Also, consider this to be one regular mock draft with another parallel-universe draft running beside it. With the 'straight' picks, we'll consider our previous picks in each successive round; so, for instance, if Carmen takes a wide receiver in the second round I probably won't take another one in the third round. With the 'challenge' picks, that's just a round-by-round exercise without previous picks or trades impacting later selections.

So, without further ado, here is our full Buccaneers 2020 Draft Projection, Challenge Style:

Round One, Pick #14

Challenge: Carmen, I challenge you to pick a player at any position except offensive line.

Scott's Pick: T Andrew Thomas, Georgia

Carmen and I have combined to give the Buccaneers an offensive tackle in four of our five previous mock drafts, including the last three. I just don't see a reason to deviate from this very logical line of thinking, although my challenge will force Carmen to do so. The only issue is whether or not Thomas will make it to the 14th pick. Some recent mock drafts suggest the Bucs will have to trade up if they want to get one of the four tackles commonly considered to be the top tier of prospects at the position.

As for now, I still believe that the Buccaneers can stay put and land one of those four, in this case the nimble Thomas who can step right in at right tackle as a rookie. He manned left tackle for the Bulldogs the last two seasons but started at right tackle as a freshman and scouts believe he could handle either job in the NFL. That gives the Buccaneers some flexibility down the line, even though he would currently be needed on the right side.

Thomas stands 6-5 and 315 pounds and measured in with a wingspan of 83 and a half inches at the NFL Scouting Combine. The 2019 first-team All-American is competitive, smart and a hustler and should be an immediate force in the run game while he adjusts to the NFL and its bevy of talented edge rushers.

Carmen's Pick: DT Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina

So you tell me I can't pick an offensive lineman (which I've done every time I've picked for the Bucs in our mocks) and then you go ahead and do it? Cool, cool, cool. I see how this is going to go. Consider this my contingency plan if all of the 'Big Four' tackles are gone and the Bucs have no opportunity to trade up, I suppose.

In that case, let's address the other side of the trenches. I think it's unlikely Auburn's Derrick Brown is there at No. 14. Heck, Kinlaw could feasibly be gone, too. But for this challenge I'm assuming the impressive defensive tackle prospect from South Carolina is still available. Kinlaw enters the draft as a presumed year one starter given how athletic and powerful he is. I got to see him and his bull rush firsthand at the Senior Bowl back in January. He looked like a man among boys during practice, and not just because of his 6-5, 325-pound size. He didn't play in the actual game in Mobile and didn't run drills at the NFL Combine a month later, but he didn't need to. His collegiate tape speaks for itself.

I know the Bucs re-signed Ndamukong Suh, who more than held up his end of the bargain alongside Vita Vea on the interior of a front seven that was the best at stopping the run last year. But in a scheme as fluid and flexible as the Bucs' defense, you need to have a rotation up on the line. Not to mention, you could use some more quarterback pressure itself from the interior, which is one of the things Kinlaw does best. He had 6.0 sacks last year for the Gamecocks and tallied 18.0 tackles for loss over his three-year career, reinforcing his ability to get into the backfield. He'd make one of the strongest units on the roster downright unstoppable.

Round 2, Pick #45

Challenge: Scott, I challenge you to choose a player on the opposite side of the ball from your first pick.

Carmen's Pick: RB Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin

I'm following my own challenge by default, but either way I think the Bucs look hard at a running back in the second round given the talents available. Jonathan Taylor is my ideal choice and there's a chance he'll be available here, though a lot of mocks have him going late in the first. I wouldn't be opposed to the Bucs trading up to get him if that were the case, either. I think he's that good and he's that kind of pass-catching back Head Coach Bruce Arians has said they're looking at.

Taylor scored five receiving touchdowns last season on top of his 21 on the ground. He also posted back-to-back 2,000-yard rushing seasons his last two years at Wisconsin, winning the Doak Walker Award both years. He was also a unanimous first-team All-American in 2019 and won the Big Ten running back of the year. He then lit up the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, posting a 4.39 second 40-yard dash and showed off his fluid hands and versatility in on-field drills.

Taylor would compete immediately with the Bucs' current crop of running backs, fighting to be the feature back against guys like Ronald Jones and fellow former Badger Dare Ogunbowale. He'd also be a welcome weapon for newly minted quarterback Tom Brady, who's used to having pass-catching running backs at his disposal.

View more photos of the Buccaneers' new uniforms for the 2020 season.

Scott's Pick: EDGE Terrell Lewis, Alabama

Yeah, and now I challenge you to wipe the smile off my face if the Bucs get a top offensive tackle in Round One and Taylor in Round Two. If, in the universe you've created, Taylor is still available at the 45th pick, I would sprint (virtually) to the podium with that pick.

But alas, your challenge will not allow me to do so. I think there will be some decent safety depth here but I think another piece for the Bucs' edge-rushing rotation is more important here. If Wisconsin's Zack Baun is still there, I'm taking him, but he seems more likely to come off the board around the turn of Round One to Round Two. Lewis, in contrast, seems to be available around the middle of the second round in a lot of mock drafts I've seen.

The 6-5 Lewis is long and lean but might still be able to add to his 262-pound frame. If he hadn't run into some injury misfortune at Alabama, he might have snuck into the first round because edge rushers with a real potential to make an impact are hard to find. Of course, that injury history has to be taken into account, so there is some risk to this pick but it's worth the gamble for the Buccaneers. He's got all the tools and can play both the speed and power games. His 6.0 sacks last year could be just the starting point for a player with a lot of upside here in the middle of the second round.

The Buccaneers have a new look in 2020 - take a look at pictures of their new uniforms!

Round 3, Pick #76

Challenge: Carmen, in my draft, I will still pick at number 76, but in yours that pick has been packaged with the first of the Bucs' two fourth-round selections (#117) to move up to the last pick of Round Two (#64). I challenge you to pick a player at that new spot and explain why the Bucs felt they had to trade up to get him. (And yes, the trade works perfectly on the draft value chart.)

Scott's Pick: WR K.J. Hamler, Penn State

If you take our first three non-challenge picks combined – Andrew Thomas, Jonathan Taylor and now Hamler – it feels a little bit like wish fulfillment. That said, it's absolutely possible Hamler is available in the third round because this year's class of receivers is so incredibly deep.

Hamler could be an immediate playmaker out of the slot for Tom Brady, who certainly knows how to make the most out of that type of offensive weapon. I know that Chris Godwin logged a lot of time in the slot last year (close to half of his snaps) and was very productive there, but the addition of Hamler would give the Bucs even more options. He's not big, which is probably why he is still here in the third round, but he's very fast and explosive and he should be able to create quick separation in the middle of the field. The Bucs could also use him on end-arounds and other gadget plays, but mostly I want to see what he can do with Brady getting him the ball in space and letting him rack up the YAC.

View behind the scenes pictures of Lavonte David, Chris Godwin and Devin White from the Buccaneers' new uniform reveal video.

Carmen's Pick: WR Brandon Aiyuk, ASU

News surfaced this week of a core muscle procedure Aiyuk had done and because of the uncertainty surrounding it – Aiyuk dropped. He was touted as high as a first-round pick, but now that he's slid to the bottom of the second round, the Bucs take the opportunity to go up and make him WR3. He'll have time to recover. And after all, Brady was used to throwing to a former Sun Devil in New England last year in N'Keal Harry.

I'm also a former Sun Devil. Such a coincidence.

Round 4, Picks #117 & #139

Challenge: Scott, you have to pick both of your fourth-round selections from the Pac-12. I would have said Big Ten but that would be too easy, since we both have a soft spot for the conference given our Northwestern connection. I'm going to make you show some love to the conference I spent undergrad in.

Carmen's Picks:

117 – OL Ben Bartch, St. John's

Something about small school offensive linemen and the Bucs, who have had success with such prospects. Just look at the entire interior of the current O-line: center Ryan Jensen from Colorado State – Pueblo, left guard Ali Marpet from Hobart and right guard Alex Cappa from Humboldt State.

The Bucs could get some much needed depth with Bartch as a swing tackle and Bartch could benefit from being given a year to develop before being thrust into any sort of starting role, given his small school experience.

139 – S Terrell Burgess, Utah

I got in on the Pac-12 action, after all. Utah had a deceivingly good defense last year and Burgess could feasibly be available this late in the third round. I like his ball skills and tackling ability. Burgess registered 75 tackles, 6.0 for loss, last season. He seems to have that anticipation you need to find the ball and has the potential to be successful at the nickel position, too.

He had a good week of practice in Mobile at the Senior Bowl, which I think put him on a lot of people's radar. The Bucs could benefit from him in the safety rotation, given his versatility.

Scott's Picks:

117 – C Nick Harris, Washington

That's fine. We already got our Big Ten fix with Jonathan Taylor and K.J. Hamler. And, unfortunately, there wasn't a single Northwestern player at the Combine, so we probably wouldn't have found a fourth-round Wildcat anyway. So I'll head to the West Coast, as directed, and start this double-dip of a round with a interior lineman the Buccaneers won't be asking to start right away. Harris started 40 games for the Huskies at both guard and center, but at 6-1 he's probably ticketed for center in the NFL. The Bucs could use a young player at that position to develop and provide depth in 2020. Harris is athletic and technically sound and it's not unreasonable to think he could eventually develop into a starter.

139 – NT Leki Fotu, Utah

No, Fotu probably won't be a big-time pass-rusher in the NFL, but that's why he's still on the board here in Round Four. Fotu has the potential to be a good nose tackle, however, thanks to his size (6-6, 335 pounds) and power. The Bucs brought back Ndamukong Suh to keep their entire line intact, but Beau Allen has moved on and the team could use another player for that interior rotation. Fotu is very good against the run and would only make Tampa Bay's excellent run defense even better.

View pictures of the Buccaneers' new red uniforms.

Round 5, Pick #161

Challenge: Carmen, remember at the Combine when General Manager Jason Licht said this:

"We would love to draft a quarterback at some point in the draft. I do every year, but then we haven't, except one at one-overall. It'd be great. I know Bruce feels the same way."

And then Bruce Arians confirmed that by saying:

"If it's the right guy at the right time. I don't think we want one that's going to be sitting on the bench for three years, but if he is he's got to come at the right time in the draft. And I think there are some guys like that, with big upsides."

Okay, it's the right time, find us the right guy. That's your challenge in Round Five: Find a developmental quarterback who will be available and attractive to the Buccaneers. Meanwhile…

Scott's Pick: LB Francis Bernard, Utah

I'm just going to keep hanging out on the PAC-12 for a while. The fifth round seems like a good place for the Bucs to add a linebacker who can provide depth and contribute immediately on special teams. I'm glad that Kevin Minter is back but the Bucs might want to develop a young inside linebacker to play behind Lavonte David and Devin White. There are a number of linebackers who could be available in this range, including Miami's Shaquille Quarterman and Fresno State's Mykal Walker but I'm going with Bernard in the hopes that he has more coverage potential than those other prospects. He did pick off two passes last season.

Carmen's Pick: QB Anthony Gordon, Washington State

Provided there isn't a rise in later-round quarterbacks, I think earlier in the fifth round could be realistic for Gordon. He really impressed at the Senior Bowl with his arm strength in practice. In the game, he almost stole the show from fellow former Pac-12 quarterback Justin Herbert (though Herbert still ended up taking home MVP honors).

At WSU under gem-of-a-head-coach Mike Leach, Gordon passed for a whopping 5,579 yards and 48 (!!) touchdowns in his redshirt senior season in 2019. He only had 16 interceptions, too. Gordon was a JuCo transfer, which explains his late start. He was also waiting behind Gardner Minshew, who's had some success for the Jags this past season and at the very least has become marketing gold with "Minshew Mania." I think Gordon would be right up the alley of the Bucs' offense – plus, he'd get to learn from the G.O.A.T.

Round 6, Pick #194

Challenge: Being drafted in the last couple of rounds doesn't guarantee you making the final roster. It worked out for sixth-round pick Scotty Miller last season – but he had to prove himself in camp. My challenge to you, Scott, is to select a player that you think could not only make the team, but be a starter come the regular season.

Carmen's Pick: OL Michael Onwenu, Michigan

I'm going for depth and because I think this will be a heavily offensive draft. The kind where a lot of players on offense are picked – not the kind that are off-putting, that is. Onwenu stood out at the Shrine Bowl this year held in St. Petersburg. He was hard to miss to begin with at 6-3, 350 pounds but he also stood out for his physicality, mauling defenders and standing his ground. Plus, he would get a chance to protect fellow former Wolverine, Tom Brady.

Scott's Pick: RB Eno Benjamin, Arizona State

Sooooooooo, I have to find a potential rookie starter in the sixth round? You know like, the Bucs did as recently as…almost never? I mean a couple sixth-rounders have gotten a start here or there, but almost always due to injuries. Miller, for instance, got two starts late last season. Running back Mike James got three starts in 2013 after injuries to Doug Martin and Bobby Rainey. And so on.

You know how many sixth-round picks have started double-digit games as a rookie in franchise history? Two. Quarterback Bruce Gradkowski in 2006 (which, again, was the result of multiple injuries) and defensive end Chidi Ahanotu in 1993. Basically, you're asking me to land a Tom Brady (don't know if you've ever heard this before but Brady was a sixth-round pick), and I'm no Jason Licht.

Oh wait, Tom Brady doesn't even count. The greatest sixth-round pick of all time started zero games as a rookie.

But, hey, I kinda like this Benjamin guy, and Carmen will probably forgive me for my complaining above if I take a Sun Devil. Benjamin caught 77 passes over the past two seasons at ASU, he's got decent speed and I've seen him projected everywhere from the third to the sixth round. So I'm hoping to get lucky here and land a late-round running back who might be able to serve as a pass-catching change of pace, something Bruce Arians has said he wants to add to the Bucs' offense. I don't think he would take the starting job away from Ronald Jones, but he might end up with a couple spot starts like James did in 2013 and if that were to happen I would consider that a successful fulfillment of the challenge.

'Straight' Draft Results:

1-14-14: T Andrew Thomas, Georgia (Scott's pick)

2-13-45: RB Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin (Carmen's pick)

3-12-76: WR K.J. Hamler, Penn State (Scott)

4-11-117: OL Ben Bartch, St. John's (Carmen)

4-33-139: S Terrell Burgess, Utah (Carmen)

5-15-161: LB Francis Bernard, Utah (Scott)

6-15-194: OL Michael Onwenu, Michigan (Carmen)

'Challenge' Draft Results:

1-14-14: DT Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina (Carmen)

2-13-45: EDGE Terrell Lewis, Alabama (Scott)

2-32-64: WR Brandon Aiyuk (Carmen)

4-11-117: C Nick Harris, Washington (Scott)

4-33-139: NT Leki Fotu, Utah (Scott)

5-15-161: QB Anthony Gordon, Washington State (Carmen)

6-15-194: RB Eno Benjamin, Arizona State (Scott)

Related Content