A year ago at this time, there was some cautious optimism as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers approached the 2020 NFL Draft. By now, they had a new quarterback whose resume was second to none but was going to be 43 at the start of the season so the outcome was no guarantee. However, they were in a good position to get one of the best tackles available as well as improve their team with some favorable draft position moving forward.
The Bucs hit home runs with their first two picks in tackle Tristan Wirfs and safety Antoine Winfield Jr. Both players played crucial roles the entire season and look to be foundational pieces moving forward. Fast forward to the end of the season and the Bucs are Super Bowl Champions and have somehow managed to bring back all of their free agents as they try to make another run at winning a Super Bowl. This time with a 44-year-old quarterback.
This time around at the NFL Draft, the Bucs are in the envious position of not having any glaring weakness on their roster which gives Tampa plenty of options. Last season, we hit on Winfield Jr. in our first mock. Will a future Buccaneer be in our first 2021 mock draft?
1st round – 32nd Overall – Levi Onwuzurike IDL, Washington
The Bucs re-signed Ndamukong Suh to a one-year deal to return for a second season with the team. He will likely be tasked with a similar role as the one he had in 2020 in Todd Bowles’ defense, however, the Bucs could look for someone to spell him and eventually, take over after the season. Enter Levi Onwuzurike. Onwuzurike is an excellent run defender who could use some time to polish his overall game making a fit with the Bucs, and more specifically with Bowles’ defense. Given time to develop, he could be ready for a much bigger role in 2022. Fortunately for the Bucs, they have Suh to hold down the fort.
2nd Round – 64th Overall – Joe Tryon EDGE, Washington
One of the biggest surprises of the offseason was the Bucs re-signing Shaq Barrett to a new, four-year deal to continue to man the edge opposite of Jason Pierre-Paul. With the duo returning in 2021, the Bucs should see more of the same from their stout defensive line however, JPP is 32 and will be a free agent in 2022 so looking towards the future while improving the team in 2021 should be the way to go. In this scenario, the Bucs head back to the Pacific Northwest and Washington to select Joe Tryon. Teammate of the Bucs’ first-round pick, Tryon is touted for his versatility and athleticism. In two seasons at Washington (2018, 2019), Tryon racked up 61 total tackles (12.5 for a loss) and nine sacks in 23 games. Much like Onwuzurike, a bit of polishing under Bowles and behind a veteran, Tryon could earn a larger role in 2022.
3rd Round – 95th Overall – Michael Carter RB, North Carolina
The Bucs return to the running back well with their third-round pick after selecting Keshawn Vaughn last season. This year, the Bucs go with North Carolina Tar Heel, Michael Carter. Vaughn played a limited role in 2020 as Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette carried the load. Both will be back next season and despite their success, there were limitations and struggles in the passing game for both Fournette and Jones. Carter spent four years at North Carolina, rushing 514 times for 3,404 yards, good for 6.6 yards per carry. He averaged eight yards a carry in 2020 when he rushed for 1,245 yards and nine touchdowns on 156 carries. In addition, he added 267 yards and another two touchdowns on 25 receptions. Carter would be able to spell both Jones and Fournette in the rushing attack and hopefully give them a spark in the passing game.
4th Round – 137th Overall – Walter Little OT, Stanford
In addition to drafting arguably the best lineman last year in Tristan Wirfs, left tackle Donovan Smith had a solid season and earned himself a big extension. However, that won’t the Bucs from drafting another tackle. This time, it is Stanford tackle, Walter Little. Little hasn’t played since suffering an injury in 2019 and opting out of the 2020 season, however, the 6-foot-7, 307-pound tackle touted as an excellent pass blocker and has the athleticism needed to play on the edge in the NFL.
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5th Round, 176th Overall – Dazz Newsome WR, North Carolina
Antonio Brown remains the only unsigned free agent for the Bucs but, regardless of whether or not he returns, the Bucs will likely look at the receiver class at some point in the draft. In this mock, Tampa goes with its second North Carolina skill player in wide receiver Dazz Newsome. Newsome played four years at North Carolina and is projected as a slot receiver who can attack every level of the field. In his final two seasons with the Tar Heels, Newsome had 126 receptions for 1,702 yards and 16 touchdowns. In addition, Newsome has plenty of experience returning punts as he averaged 9.9 yards on 17 returns in 2020.
6th Round, 217th Overall – Marco Wilson CB, Florida
A physical corner who excels at blitzing, Marco Wilson has the ability to play in all areas of the secondary. Given Bowles’ penchant for aggressiveness and blitzing, he may be the perfect coach to tap Wilson’s full potential.
7th Round, 251st Overall – Paul Grattan IOL, UCLA
It’s never a bad thing to draft a lineman and with their final pick, the Bucs go with interior offensive lineman, Paul Grattan. The 6-foot-4, 300-pound Bruin can play both the center and guard position at a high level and can offer the Bucs even more depth at a premium position.