The much anticipated 2014 NFL Draft is nearly upon us. The national and local media outlets have been churning out mock drafts for months now, but most of those have been rendered irrelevant as the draft draws closer. With so much happening in such a short time frame, it has really become overwhelming to try to digest all of the “inside information” out there.
This is the most unpredictable draft that I can recall. I have been paying close attention to the process for probably a decade now, and I’ve never felt quite as clueless. I think the reason for this is that there’s so much high-end talent in the draft pool this year. When you combine elite athletes like Jadaveon Clowney, Khalil Mack and Sammy Watkins with a bunch of imperfect/high-upside quarterback prospects and teams with needs at that position, it’s not surprising that there’s been a million different scenarios discussed.
The Bucs are one of the teams that have been hardest to predict throughout the draft process. It’s very hard to predict what direction Lovie Smith, Jason Licht, and Jeff Tedford will go in the first round because they don’t have a track record. Just off the top of my head I have seen four quarterbacks, three wide receivers, three offensive lineman and two defensive lineman mocked to the Bucs at the 7th pick by people who are actually paid to predict the draft. That’s a very wide range of players to be considered with one top 10 pick. With all that said, I may as well throw my name in the hat with the professionals and see if little old WTB? can hang with the big guys in predicting the Buccaneers draft. I included the teams that pick before the Bucs so that my scenario adds up; after that we’ll go over Buccaneers picks only for the remainder of the picks.
1st overall: Houston Texans
Jadeveon Clowney, Defensive End, South Carolina
At this point, just about everyone agrees that the Texans will nab Clowney with the top pick if they can’t trade back. Clowney has some work ethic concerns, but he has the potential to be the next Derrick Thomas. If the quarterback class was not so deep, the Texans would be tempted to reach for a signal caller here but, because of the depth, they can afford to pass on Johnny Manziel and Blake Bortles.
2nd overall: St. Louis Rams
Jake Matthews, Offensive Tackle, Auburn
The Rams will likely try like heck to trade out of this pick, but if they can’t, I believe they will stand pat and take their guy. Although many view Greg Robinson as the top tackle prospect, Matthews was always the top guy until the pre-draft process got rolling. There is a contingent that believes the Rams prefer Matthews. The reason the Rams are so desperate to trade back is that they feel they can get Matthews a little later and under this scenario, they can’t pull off a deal.
3rd overall: Jacksonville Jaguars
Khalil Mack, Outside Linebacker, Buffalo
Mack is a perfect fit for Gus Bradley’s defense. Many teams are gearing their efforts towards building a dominant defense like the Seahawks and 49ers, and opting to try to find a good scheme quarterback later on. The Jaguars are happy to get their guy at 3.
4th overall: Cleveland Browns
Sammy Watkins, Wide Receiver, Clemson
The Browns are the wildcard here. It seems like no one has any clue what Cleveland wishes to do with this pick. They’ve been tied to just about every quarterback, but because they have a later second round pick, they’re able to roll the dice and wait on the position. The Browns can’t pass on an elite talent like Watkins here, and picking him means that whoever becomes their quarterback will have one of the most dangerous receiving duos in the NFL to help him succeed.
5th overall: Oakland Raiders
Derek Carr, Quarterback, Fresno State
The Raiders are one of many teams who are apparently content with passing on a quarterback early in this draft. There are so many quarterback-needy teams picking early between Houston, Jacksonville, Cleveland and Oakland that somebody has to be full of it. The ideology dates back the farthest with the Raiders, which tells me they may have been attempting to build a smokescreen to block out their quarterback interest for some time now. Many people feel that Carr is the best pure passer in this draft, and for that reason the Raiders decide to shock the world and make him the first quarterback selected.
6th overall: Atlanta Falcons
Greg Robinson, Offensive Tackle, Auburn
The Falcons will be thrilled to sit tight at number 6 and select the player who many believe to be the best offensive line prospect in this draft. If they can’t move up to get Clowney or Mack, there’s an extremely good chance that whoever is still available between Robinson and Jake Matthews will be the selection here. The Falcons have to protect Matt Ryan.
7th overall: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Odell Beckham Jr., Wide Receiver, LSU
The pick you’ve all been waiting for! Was it everything you imagined? That’s right, with Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles and Mike Evans still on the board, the Bucs surprise everyone and take Beckham. The “Manziel to the Bucs” rumors have been so loud for so long that it just reeks of smoke to me. If they really wanted Manziel as bad as the media is making it sound, I find it really hard to believe that two guys who play it as close to the vest as Lovie and Licht would have allowed that theory to gain so much steam. I don’t doubt that the staff loves Manziel as a competitor, but he’s small and erratic. I have a hard time believing that Lovie would be so enamored with a player who’s going to take a lot of hits, probably get hurt and probably throw a lot of interceptions early in his career. Manziel will be too undisciplined to make the Bucs contenders early on and the pressure from the stands to play him early will be deafening.
Bortles could also easily be the pick here. However, I’m thinking that Bortles may not have the quick release and great accuracy that Tedford covets. Due to the great depth at quarterback in this draft, the Bucs can afford to pass on him. As for Mike Evans, I’ve never seen the connection. Yes, he looks like a Vincent Jackson clone, and the staff is probably perfectly happy to have Jackson as their star wideout, but Evans lacks pure speed to create separation. This is exactly the same as Vincent Jackson’s downfall. Jackson’s fantasy owners know all too well about his inconsistent production. He is the classic boom or bust player because he isn’t fast enough to create separation. He’s a dangerous receiving threat, but without players that can get open in space, any team will have trouble developing a consistent passing game. Evans is just not a good fit for what the Bucs are looking for.
Many people will probably feel that Beckham is a reach here, but there has been a lot of quiet momentum building that he could be pushed into the top 10. Maybe the most glaring rumor in relation to Beckham is that the 49ers could try to move up all the way from pick 30 into the the early teens or even top 10 to snag the speedy playmaker. Ideally, the Bucs would like to trade back and make this pick, but because of the increased interest in Beckham, and the fact that the top two tackles are off the board, they opt not to make a deal. Many feel that this draft is deep enough that the Bucs could wait to fill their biggest need, but if it’s pure game speed the team is seeking, then Sammy Watkins, Odell Beckham, and Brandin Cooks are clearly in a league of their own among this class. It would not surprise me at all to see the team try to trade back and target Beckham a little later or even Cooks, but in this scenario I just can’t find a suitor to move up.
Beckham is a dangerous, speedy wideout who is absolutely lethal with the ball in his hands. At 5’11” he isn’t the tallest guy, but he has a good build for his size. Pairing his 4.43 speed with his smooth route running skills makes him one of the best receivers at creating space and using that space to create big plays after the catch. Only Sammy Watkins has a clear advantage in this regard. The Bucs would have been thrilled to get Watkins at 7, but Beckham is a comparable player and the team was not willing to spend the ammunition to trade up into range to get Watkins. Beckham reminds me very much of Percy Harvin. When you think of Harvin, you can’t help but think of versatility. Therefore, it is no coincidence that Beckham was awarded the 2013 Paul Hornung award, which goes the the most versatile player in college football. Beckham caught 59 passes for 1,152 yards (19.5 yards per catch) and 8 touchdowns in 2013 for an LSU offense that wasn’t nearly as pass happy as many NCAA offenses. He is also a very dangerous return man. In his career at LSU, he had 3 return touchdowns, including 2 punt returns and a 109-yard missed field goal return. I believe that Beckham is exactly what the Bucs need to begin rebuilding their new offense.
Bucs remaining draft picks:
Round 2 – Pick 38 0verall
Jimmy Garoppolo, Quarterback, Eastern Illinois
BOOM! Congratulations, Tampa Bay, you have your new franchise quarterback. I know this pick is not as sexy as Johnny Manziel, or Blake Bortles, or even Teddy Bridgewater or Derek Carr, but it makes a lot of sense to me. We know that the Bucs have met privately with Garoppolo both at One Buc Place and during the East-West Shrine Game practices. Yes, he is a small school product, but it’s worth mentioning that he shattered Tony Romo’s records at Eastern Illinois. He will certainly need some work to adapt to life at the next level, but that’s why the Bucs went out and got Josh McCown so they wouldn’t have to rush a rookie quarterback into the fold.
Despite his low level of competition, Garoppolo and his coaching staff found a way to turn him into one of the most fundamentally sound quarterbacks in a draft class that is loaded at the position. He has great footwork and probably the quickest release in the class. He throws with great anticipation and with great touch. One NFL scout allegedly said that Garoppolo throws the best fade pass he’s ever seen. He is touted as an intelligent, hard-working, natural leader. When you consider the chemistry he showed with his receivers, as well as his advanced mechanics for a small school kid, it becomes obvious that Garoppolo is committed to his craft. The biggest concerns regarding Garoppolo are obviously his low level of competition in college and the fact that he played exclusively out of the shotgun at Eastern Illinois, so it will take him some time to adapt to playing under center.
Most people around the country probably hadn’t heard of Jimmy Garoppolo until the pre-draft process began a few months ago. However, there is one person that I am very confident knew plenty about him… the recently-fired head coach of the Chicago Bears who spent his season off watching college football in his basement just 2 hours north of where Garoppolo played his home games. Lovie Smith was probably the only current NFL coach besides Marc Trestman who could pick up his local newspaper on Sunday mornings and read about the local small school kid putting up massive numbers on his way to a record-breaking season where he amassed over 5,000 yards passing and 53 touchdowns. I would be at least a little surprised if Garoppolo was not a topic of discussion between Smith and Jeff Tedford as they devised their evil plot of how they could bring a quick-hitting, high-flying offense to the Tampa Bay area. Garoppolo has enough athleticism to do the things that Tedford wants in his offense. He’s not a dual-threat quarterback, but he’s mobile enough to pick up a crucial first down or sneak into the endzone when he needs to. With his quick release, good footwork, and his almost identical 6’2″ – 220 pound build, Garoppolo reminds me very much of a player he most closely compares himself to – Aaron Rodgers, Jeff Tedford’s star pupil.
Round 3 – Pick 69 overall
Trai Turner, Offensive Guard, LSU
I think the Bucs could very well use their 3rd round pick to address their biggest need and add their 2nd Louisiana State product in the draft’s first 2 days. There is a gaping hole at right guard since Davin Joseph was sent packing. Carl Nicks’ uncertain future makes it very obvious that the Bucs need to address the interior offensive line early in the draft. Luckily, starting quality guard prospects can be had regularly on day 2 of most drafts, and Turner, a player that the Bucs staff visited with at his pro day, is ripe for the taking early in round 3.
Turner was a very strong run blocker at LSU and highly regarded running back prospect, Jeremy Hill, found a lot of success running behind him. He needs work on his pass blocking at the next level, but it’s not very often you can have your cake and eat it too when drafting offensive lineman on day 2. Turner measures in at 6’3″ and 310 pounds. He surprised a lot of people with a 4.93 second forty yard dash at the combine, which is a very good time for a guard. Turner’s athleticism means that he should be able to develop into a good pull blocker in the NFL.
Round 5 – Pick 143 overall
Kelcy Quarles, Defensive Tackle, South Carolina
It does not seem like the new coaching staff is convinced by Akeem Spence’s pass rushing ability. Spence could develop into a solid player, but Lovie Smith expects all of his defensive lineman to rush the passer. Clinton McDonald was added in free agency and will likely play alongside Gerald McCoy in a high percentage of plays, but it seems likely that the Bucs will add another high upside player as depth at the defensive tackle position.
Quarles was a productive pass rusher for the Gamecocks in 2013, producing 9.5 sacks before deciding to declare for the NFL Draft after his junior season. Many people believe that Quarles production was inflated because of Jadeveon Clowney’s presence at defensive end. That said, he still possesses promising physical tools and has good quickness for a 300 pound man. He seems like an interesting developmental player to add depth to the defensive line.
Round 6 – Pick 185 overall
Kevin Norwood, Wide Receiver, Alabama
It would not be surprising to see the Buccaneers double dip at the wide receiver position in this draft. Besides Vincent Jackson, nobody on the roster has proven anything in the NFL outside of Louis Murphy’s promising start to his career before fading into obscurity. Norwood was not the #1 receiver for the Crimson Tide, but he did lead the team with 7 seven receiving touchdowns and seemed to be a trusted outlet for AJ McCarron. He is a good route runner and does a good job of getting open. Norwood has good size at 6’2″ – 198 pounds and pairs that with decent (4.48) speed. Norwood obviously knows a thing or two about winning championships and it has become clear that the new staff wants to add players who have been there and have developed a winning attitude.
Round 7 – Pick 221 overall
Garrett Scott, Offensive Tackle, Marshall
I am not of the opinion that the Bucs will consider an offensive tackle with their first pick in the draft. They have good starters with Anthony Collins and Demar Dotson, but they absolutely need to add depth at the position. Scott has prototypical size at 6’5″ – 307 pounds and has good athleticism for the position. The Bucs have visited with Scott during the pre-draft process, as well as many other late-round offensive line prospects.
Well, there you have it, folks. Now that you know the 6 players who will become new Tampa Bay Buccaneers over the next few days, there’s no reason to waste three days of your time in front of the television watching it all unfold.
In all seriousness, this is the most unpredictable draft that I have ever followed, especially for the Bucs. There are literally 10 players that I could see them drafting in the first round alone. This is my best guess, and a bit of an attempt at originality. I’ll admit that I have taken the approach to believe very little of what is being floated around in the media and have opted to use my best instincts to try to predict what the new regime will be looking for in this draft. After all, if Lovie Smith and Jason Licht really want to get their players, why would they let the whole world know about it? I hope you enjoyed my mock draft and I can’t wait to discuss whoever the new regime decides to add to the family. At the end of the day, they will be Buccaneers and that is all that matters.