It’s was a season of disappointment for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a year they were expected to emerge as a perennial contender. While the offense finished in the top 10 of the NFL, Tampa Bay’s defense allowed a league-high 6,049 yards on defense. Finishing dead last in pass defense, Tampa Bay’s pass rush was non-existent and it allowed opposing quarterbacks all the time needed to pick them apart from the pocket. At the same time, the rushing attack was in the bottom 10 of the league since offenses simply had their way with the Buccaneers in 2017.
A tenure-defining season lies ahead for head coach Dirk Koetter and general manager Jason Licht to fix the defense and continue to evolve offensively behind former No. 1 overall pick Jameis Winston. A key component in taking a major step forward is hitting on draft picks.
Using the FanSpeak On The Clock Mock Draft Simulator, here is one realistic scenario that would make sense for the Buccaneers.
Round 1, pick 7: Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State
Among the many needs the Buccaneers have, building a pass rush is at the top of the list. Dead last in the NFL in sacks this season, Tampa Bay pass rushers didn’t sniff the quarterback.
Enter Chubb, who is coming off back-to-back double-digit sack seasons with more than 20 tackles for loss. Chubb is a refined pass rusher with exceptional hand technique and power that enables him to consistently apply heat to the quarterback.
Round 2, pick 38: Mike Hughes, CB, UCF
With Brett Grimes becoming a free agent and Vernon Hargreaves struggling to develop, Tampa Bay has a huge need at cornerback. Hughes has first-round talent and is extremely physical in coverage. He has game-changing ball skills and the long speed to remain in phase with anyone.
Round 3, pick 69: Braden Smith, G, Auburn
Smith is a versatile, mobile and powerful offensive lineman who has the plug-and-play upside to replace Kevin Pamphile at left guard. He excels as a move blocker and pass blocks like an offensive tackle.
Round 4, pick 108: Chad Thomas, DE, Miami
Thomas offers a blend of length, power, burst and flexibility that gives him considerable upside as a pass rusher outside and from the interior. While he needs technical development, Thomas’s toolbox is full and offers a high ceiling should he develop. It would behoove Tampa Bay to double-dip on pass rushers early.
Round 5, pick 144: Quin Blanding, S, Virginia
Blanding may not be the have the best range at safety, but he has outstanding processing skills and plays a physical brand of football. With Justin Evans serving as the ballhawk who can cover ground, Blanding can compete to be his counterpart as a downhill strong safety.
Round 6, pick 180: Lowell Lotulelei, DT, Utah
Lotulelei was a more highly regarded prospect entering the season but failed to take the next step as a senior. With that said, he still offers outstanding power at the point of attack and can be the early down run-stuffer that Tampa Bay needs with Chris Baker now released.
Round 6, pick 202: Justin Jackson, RB, Northwestern
With Doug Martin released and Charles Sims a free agent, Tampa Bay is primed to revamp its backfield. Jackson is a durable workhorse with impressive elusive traits who can be part of the rotation going forward.
Round 7, pick 237: Will Richardson, OT, NC State
A 6-foot-6, 322-pound four-year starter in the ACC, Richardson is a developmental offensive lineman who offers upside to become a starter in time. The Bucs need to replenish the depth of its offensive line with Kevin Pamphile, Evan Smith and Adam Gettis slated to be free agents.
Round 7, pick 255: Greg Stroman, CB, Virginia Tech
Coming from Bud Foster’s defense at Virginia Tech, Stroman has the upside to play inside or outside. He has outstanding ball skills, good route anticipation, and is willing to play physically. He is a tad undersized and lacks long speed, but Stroman has a natural feel in coverage and can provide quality depth for Tampa Bay with the upside to eventually start in the slot.