So close, yet so far away. What will 2017 hold for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?
This is a team on the move and there is no reason why this franchise couldn’t be the Atlanta Falcons of this season. Presently, the Buccaneers have a talented passing game and a growing defense. They were nearly a playoff team in Jameis Winston’s second season.
Look for the Buccaneers to draft for speed and depth on the defense, but could also bolster its offensive with a three-down running back. Tampa Bay signed DeSean Jackson in the offseason to compliment Mike Evans on the outside.
This team is close reaching the postseason, they just need a few more puzzle pieces to fit into place.
Here’s a look at how the Tampa Bay Buccaneers mock draft could pan out.
Round 1, Pick 19 – Dalvin Cook, Running Back, FSU
The key to this pick is whether Cook, who would look great in the Buccaneers backfield, gets past the Indianapolis Colts at No. 15.
FSU’s all-time leading rusher could be this generation’s answer to Marshall Faulk. At one point, he was considered a potential pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars at No. 4. At 5-foot-10 and 210 pounds, he looks bigger than he really is. Cook has an explosive lower body and coordinated feet to start, stop and redirect quickly.
Round 2, Pick 50 – Budda Baker, Free Safety, Washington
Speed, speed, and more speed. Baker flashed his ability in the Pac-12 and at the Combine. Also, his athleticism will be a huge help playing against New Orleans, Atlanta and Carolina six times a year.
Baker is instinctive and quick to click-and-close on plays in front of him. Similarly, he has a secondary burst to recover in coverage or chase down ballcarriers. As a matter of fact, he plays with a “my ball” mentality, always looking for the turnover.
Round 3, Pick 84 – Derek Rivers, Defensive End, Youngstown State
A small school find who is a tweener at 6-foot-4 and 248 pounds. Therefore, he could play on the edge and at the outside linebacker spot.
Rivers is a flexible athlete with natural bend to dip around the corner. Furthermore, he has a quick first step and an easy burst off the edge. In fact, he could find a spot in obvious passing downs for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense. At any rate, his only knock is his size and lack of ideal speed.
Round 4, Pick 125 – Alex Anzalone, Linebacker, Florida
You may not find a harder worker and tougher player in this draft. Anzalone uses his ability and instincts as well as anyone in this draft. Consequently, injury concerns may arise for him as he was hurt for part of his final season in Gainesville.
A sure tackler and a solid run stuffer. Moreover, at 6-foot-3 and 241 pounds, I think he could become a Paul Posluszny-type player in the middle for the Buccaneers.
Round 5, Pick 162 – Travis Rudolph, Wide Receiver, FSU
The talented Rudolph will immediately upgrade the Buccaneers’ return game. He will make it in the NFL based on special teams but has great speed and decent size (6-foot, 189 pounds). He will be compared to Rashad Green with more athletic ability.
Rudolph was a big part of the Seminoles offense, but will not be a primary target in the NFL. However, he could be a nice possession receiver.
Round 6, Pick 204 – Bryan Cox, Defensive End, Florida
I wish Cox had the same kind of ability as his father, Bryan Cox, who played in Miami and with the New York Jets.
Cox will play in the NFL because he can rush the passer. Also, at 6-foot-3 and 265 pounds, he could see time at outside linebacker as well. He was able to get by many offensive linemen in college with his speed but may have some issues getting around bigger, stronger tackles on the pro level.
Round 7, Pick 237 – Hardy Nickerson, Linebacker, Illinois
A sentimental pick as Nickerson had a stellar career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Nickerson is small at 6-foot and 232 pounds, but he has a chance to make the team as a special teams player.
He has great speed and quickness off the ball. Meanwhile, he is instinctual and will make up for his lack of ability with game smarts.
Nickerson is a productive player, accumulating 100+ tackles each of the past two seasons.