Bucs Postseason 2023 Mock Draft Roundup8 min read
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By: Bailey Adams
The Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs will go on this weekend, and it’ll do so without the Bucs for the first time since the 2019-20 season. After its 31-14 home loss to Dallas in the Wild Card Round and the subsequent firing of offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich and several other assistants, Tampa Bay is in full-on offseason mode.
With that in mind, it’s also NFL Draft season. Pewter Report published midseason and college football bowl season mock draft roundups, so it’s time to go ahead with a postseason edition. But before we can dive right into the mocks, let’s get an understanding of where the Bucs are as a franchise now that the 2023 offseason has arrived.
Is The Bill Coming Due For The Bucs This Offseason?
The 2022 offseason was, in a word, chaotic. Seven-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Tom Brady retired. Pro Bowl left guard Ali Marpet retired. Brady unretired. Super Bowl-winning head coach Bruce Arians then retired and handed the team over to his hand-picked successor, Super Bowl-winning defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. Then, future Hall of Fame tight end Rob Gronkowski eventually retired.
That turbulent offseason gave way to what ended up being a disappointing debut season for Bowles as a head coach in Tampa. Yes, the Bucs managed to repeat as NFC South champions, but they did so with an 8-9 record thanks to a down year for the division.
It didn’t help that the “playoffs are a clean slate” narrative that the team adopted late in the regular season fell flat on Monday Night Football, allowing the Cowboys to win their first road playoff game since Jan. 17, 1993, three days before Bill Clinton began his first presidential term.
So, what’s next for the Bucs? Going all in for the 2020 and 2021 seasons was bound to catch back up with them eventually, and some of that begins this offseason. The team is in an unfriendly cap situation, but the path it takes in 2023 ultimately depends on Brady’s future. If he retires or leaves to play his 24th NFL season elsewhere, Tampa Bay will likely be forced into a rebuild, even if Bowles insists that you “never rebuild, you always reload.”
Assessing Tampa Bay’s Needs Heading Into The 2023 Offseason
Again, the Bucs’ plan of action this offseason will likely depend on Brady, so the biggest “need” lies at quarterback. If the G.O.A.T. returns for a fourth year in red and pewter, Tampa Bay would be able to scratch that off its list, move some more cap around and get to work on building a winning roster the best way it can to capitalize on its window. Then again, if Brady’s 24th season is played elsewhere (or if he retires), quarterback becomes the biggest need on the roster. Kyle Trask, a 2021 second-round pick, is the only quarterback signed to the roster for next year as of right now.
The Bucs need plenty of help elsewhere. Left tackle appears to be a bigger need than it was heading into 2022, as Donovan Smith had a terrible year. If the team moves on from him this offseason, that’s a significant hole on the offensive line. Plus, who knows if the team’s decision-makers are happy with the left guard position? Rookie Luke Goedeke struggled mightily and while Nick Leverett filled in admirably, might the team want to upgrade there, too?
Tight end remains a question mark for the Bucs. Although 2022 fourth-round pick Cade Otton is blossoming into a reliable man for the position, fellow rookie Ko Kieft is more of a fullback, Cameron Brate is getting up there in age and Kyle Rudolph didn’t pan out this year. And finally, rounding out the offensive side of things, the Bucs need help at receiver. Neither Russell Gage nor Julio Jones replaced what the offense lost when Antonio Brown peace-signed his way out of town, and a No. 3 receiver of the future behind Mike Evans and Chris Godwin appears to be another big need.
There are needs at every level of the defense as well. Vita Vea needs some help on the interior of the defensive line, while the pass rush needs a complete rebuild. Shaquil Barrett will be back, but he’s going to be 30 and coming off of an Achilles injury. Tampa Bay would be wise to bring in some quality depth, including someone to push Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, who will need to take a big step in year three. Lavonte David is set to become a free agent, and his future in Tampa is uncertain as of now.
And in the secondary, the needs depend on who returns. Cornerback Jamel Dean is due for a big payday, which he is probably more likely to see elsewhere. Fellow corner Sean Murphy-Bunting is another impending free agent, while safeties Mike Edwards, Logan Ryan and Keanu Neal are all set to hit free agency as well. Just to top things off, it would be surprising if the Bucs don’t make a change in their kicking game, with veteran Ryan Succop proving unreliable from long range in 2023.
So, how can the Bucs address these needs in the NFL Draft? Free agency comes first, which of course will define the remaining needs heading into the last weekend in April. But now, let’s take a look at some of the latest mock drafts from around the football world. The Bucs currently hold the No. 19 pick in the first round.
Pro Football Focus’ Mike Renner
With his first mock of 2023, Renner has the Bucs upgrading their pass rush:
Round 1, Pick 19: EDGE, Nolan Smith (Georgia)
“The Bucs are likely to hit the reset button this offseason, so why not go for a big swing with their first-round pick? Smith is a high-end athlete who could learn a lot from Shaq Barrett about how to get the job done in the NFL as an undersized rusher.”
Pro Football Network’s Joe Broback
In his mock published on Thursday of this week, Broback goes the same route as Renner:
Round 1, Pick 19: EDGE, Nolan Smith (Georgia)
“Whether or not Nolan Smith goes in the first round remains to be seen, but the potential is there. He’s a long, explosive player on the edge, giving the Bucs another weapon on defense. If Tom Brady hangs up his cleats, there’s a chance Tampa Bay trades up for a quarterback. If he comes back, that opens the draft board up to other positions. Smith, despite his injury, gives this defense an exciting playmaker.”
NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah
In his Mock Draft 1.0, which was published on Friday, Jeremiah links the Bucs to another SEC cornerback:
Round 1, Pick 19: CB, Emmanuel Forbes (Mississippi State)
“Forbes (6-0, 180) is a slender, playmaking cornerback prospect who notched three pick-sixes this past fall. He reminds me of a player I was around in Baltimore: Samari Rolle.”
CBS Sports’ Josh Edwards
In his mock from Thursday, Edwards has Tampa Bay finding its replacement for longtime defensive captain Lavonte David:
Round 1, Pick 19: LB, Trenton Simpson (Clemson)
“Lavonte David has nothing but void years left on his contract with Tampa Bay. As he exits, the door is open for Simpson to walk through. Devin White and Simpson are an athletic tandem as the franchise considers its future.”
CBS Sports Panel
On Friday, CBS Sports released a mock put together by three draft analysts and a former NFL general manager, and they chose an interesting offensive upgrade for the Bucs:
Round 1, Pick 19: TE, Michael Mayer (Notre Dame)
“He’s a high-floor player, great receiver, can get open, very explosive in his routes, doesn’t drop a lot of footballs, decent three-down player. The Buccaneers, if they don’t have Tom Brady, just need to keep adding talent, and Michael Mayer, to me, is the best tight end in the draft.” -CBS Sports draft analyst Chris Trapasso
DraftWire’s Luke Easterling
Easterling published a two-round mock on Thursday, and he has the Bucs first trading down with the Chiefs for picks No. 30 and 62. With those two picks, he went defense, and for the pick in between, he beefed up Tampa Bay’s offensive line:
Round 1, Pick 30 (From KC): LB, Trenton Simson (Clemson)
“Lavonte David is headed for free agency, and even if he returns, he’ll be 33 next season. The Bucs also [have] Devin White coming up for a long-term extension, so linebacker could quickly become a huge need. Simpson is a versatile defender with incredible athleticism and instincts who can line up all over the field and make big plays on every down.”
Round 2, Pick 50: OL, Cody Mauch (North Dakota State)
Round 2, Pick 62 (From KC): EDGE, Isaiah Foskey (Notre Dame)
The Draft Network’s Keith Sanchez
In a Mock Draft 5.0 from Wednesday, Sanchez has the Bucs making one defensive pick and one offensive selection:
Round 1, Pick 19: EDGE, Lukas Van Ness (Iowa)
“This Buccaneers roster has become old fast. And with the rumors of Tom Brady looking for a new team, I believe Tampa Bay needs to get back to the basics and start to rebuild its roster through the trenches. Lukas Van Ness is a late riser, but he is rising quickly. The Buccaneers draft him to help bolster a defensive line that has struggled against the run and needs to be more consistent rushing the passer too.”
Round 2, Pick 51: OT, Jaelyn Duncan (Maryland)
“The Buccaneers’ offensive issues have been well-documented this year, so they decide to address one of those issues and select an offensive tackle that appears to have the ability to move inside to guard as well.”
In Walter Football’s latest three-round mock, the Bucs go cornerback, quarterback, edge rusher:
Round 1, Pick 19: CB Christian Gonzalez (Oregon)
“Jamel Dean will be a free agent soon, and the Buccaneers need the proper personnel to defend superior passing attacks. Christian Gonzalez is a tall cornerback who is fast and athletic.”
Round 2, Pick 50: QB, Tanner McKee (Stanford)
“The Buccaneers need a replacement for Tom Brady, as Kyle Trask has not shown any signs of being a franchise quarterback. Tanner McKee has a strong arm. He excited some evaluators with his play this year.”
Round 3, Pick 82: DE/OLB, B.J. Ojulari (LSU)
“The Buccaneers could stand to add another pass rusher, as they need depth in case Shaq Barrett gets hurt again. B.J. Ojulari did a great job of taking over for the injured Ali Gaye in 2021.”
The post Bucs Postseason 2023 Mock Draft Roundup appeared first on Pewter Report.
Originally posted on Pewter Report