As we creep closer and closer to the beginning of the 2021 league year, it's time to focus on how the reigning Super Bowl-champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers can improve their roster.
AllBucs has covered the team's large list of looming free agents rather extensively, so we're going to begin adding more NFL Draft content as well. Although Tampa Bay is striving for another championship and will opt for veteran talent to contribute in the most meaningful capacity, we saw in 2020 just how important a handful of impressive rookies can be.
Therefore, we're prepared to present our first seven-round mock draft of the 2021 offseason. Below, we've addressed numerous team needs as they stand prior to free agency, and added several value picks at positions of lesser need as well.
We used The Draft Network's mock draft simulator to complete this exercise. The draft order has not been updated to include compensatory picks just yet.
1st round (No. 32): Christian Barmore, DL, Alabama
Even if the Buccaneers are able to retain starting defensive end Ndamukong Suh this offseason, adding a younger lineman to the unit should be a priority. A first-round defensive line projection could waver if Buccaneers edge rusher Shaq Barrett hits the free agent market, however.
Barmore, 6-foot-5, 311 pounds, is an explosive, athletic defensive tackle prospect for his size and was a key member of the Crimson Tide's defense this past season, his first as a starter. It took Barmore some time to get comfortable in a bigger role, but that can be attributed to a fall camp knee injury that kept him off the field in week one.
Once Barmore settled in, he quickly made a name for himself. The overpowering pass rusher tallied six sacks and 24 quarterback pressures (per Pro Football Focus) in Alabama's final six games, finishing the season with eight sacks, 39 pressures, 37 total tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, three fumbles forced, and three defended passes in 12 games.
Barmore brings size and strength to the table that can continue to be refined, particularly to strengthen his skills as a run defender, although he is solid there. However, Barmore offers immediate impact ability as an explosive pass rusher off of the line with quality hand usage and the strength required to take on interior linemen, both on solo and double-team blocks. Once he beats his block, Barmore is quick in pursuit to chase and bring down ball-carriers.
Tampa Bay could afford to provide Barmore ample time to develop, especially if Suh elects to return. He turned 34 years old this past January and fellow starting defensive end William Gholston will be 30 in July, so finding at least one long-term heir on the defensive line is a necessity at this point.
Barmore is widely projected to be a mid-to-late first-round pick and was available in the mock draft simulator. His pro day results project strongly, which could increase his stock drastically.
2nd round (No. 64): Richie Grant, S, UCF
This may not be the most popular selection among Buccaneers fans should Tampa Bay make it come draft night, but it would provide defensive coordinator Todd Bowles with plenty of coverage flexibility and a playmaker that could certainly benefit Tampa Bay's defense.
The Buccaneers have spent four draft picks on defensive backs in the first three rounds of the past two drafts, and seven selections on defensive backs in the previous three drafts as a whole. On top of that, the Bucs' secondary was impressive throughout the postseason, particularly against the normally high-powered Kansas City Chiefs' passing offense.
However, it was evident throughout the regular season that help could be used in deep coverage, which would allow the cornerbacks to press more often. Carlton Davis III is a strong press corner in particular, but didn't get to show those skills off consistently due to a lack of dependable assistance over the top.
Grant might not be available by the 64th pick if scouts are impressed by his pro day results, following a dominant showing at the Senior Bowl and a four-year UCF career in which he tallied ten interceptions and 17 defended passes. He added 290 tackles, a sack, 11.5 tackles for loss, and five forced fumbles along the way.
However, Grant was available in our draft simulation and presented too much value to pass up. Jordan Whitehead established himself as a strong underneath ad box safety in the playoffs, which could leave Grant in an ideal third and passing down role next to impressive, rising second-year safety Antoine Winfield Jr. to begin his career should it be in Tampa.
3rd round (No. 96): Spencer Brown, OT, Northern Iowa
Despite a large cap hit next season that presented himself as a potential cut candidate, left tackle Donovan Smith played himself into another season as the Buccaneers starting left tackle down the stretch in 2020.
Offensive tackle was a popular midseason mock selection for the Bucs, but after Smith's performance paired with right tackle Tristan Wirfs earning All-Rookie honors, the position has fallen down the list of needs a bit.
Still, Tampa Bay could benefit from adding depth in the trenches this offseason as a whole, and an insurance policy for Smith as he's been a bit inconsistent in pass protection throughout his career would be wise. Ideally, the Buccaneers could target a swing tackle prospect who could develop into a spot-starter on both ends of the line.
Brown could present such an option. Considered one of if not the best FCS tackle prospect in the draft, Brown offers an intriguing frame at 6-foot-8 and 1/2 inch, 314 pounds, with solid arm length at 34 inches.
Brown was a zero-star tight end prospect coming out of high school and Northern Iowa was his lone scholarship offer, but once he was developed, he turned into an intriguing prospect. After adding weight, Brown would earn considerable playing time as a redshirt sophomore and emerged as a starter during the 2019 season, allowing just two sacks and 19 quarterback pressures that year (PFF).
After UNI canceled its spring practice amid the coronavirus pandemic, Brown declared for the 2021 NFL Draft and opted out of his redshirt senior season. Playing for the first time in over a year, Brown had a strong showing in the 2021 Senior Bowl.
As an FCS talent, Brown will need time to become acclimated to facing NFL-caliber defensive linemen, making him an even more appealing long-term developmental project for Tampa Bay should he be available at the right pick.
4th round (No. 128): Kylin Hill, RB, Mississippi State
"Playoff Lenny" Leonard Fournette is set to become a free agent next month, and after scoring seven touchdowns from Week 15 through the Super Bowl, he has an opportunity to cash in.
One that the Bucs probably can't afford at a high price, especially to split carries with Ronald Jones II. On top of that, it would be unwise to overspend on a free agent running back - particularly when strapped for cash. Therefore, Tampa Bay might have to look to the draft for Fournette's replacement.
Hill was a productive rusher from 2018-19 at Mississippi State, posting 2,084 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground. New head coach Mike Leach installed the Air Raid offense in 2020, which led Hill with just 15 carries in three games before he'd opt-out and declare for the draft.
What the Air Raid showed us, however, was Hill's abilities as a three-down back. He caught 23 passes for 237 yards and a touchdown in those three games, those receptions and yards ending in single-season career highs. He's also a dependable pass blocker, which the Buccaneers could greatly utilize on third downs.
5th round (No. 160): Patrick Johnson, EDGE, Tulane
If Barrett doesn't return to Tampa Bay, instead signing a large contract elsewhere, the Buccaneers will have to prioritize finding a starting-caliber edge rusher. Even if Barrett does re-sign with the Buccaneers, though, it wouldn't hurt to add another pass rusher to the team's arsenal.
Johnson was productive over the past three seasons as a starter in the Green Wave's defense, accumulating 21 sacks, 104 quarterback pressures, and 34 tackles for loss in 34 games, adding 120 tackles, six forced fumbles, and eleven pass breakups.
He isn't an overly threatening athlete, but Johnson offers impressive agility to bounce off of blockers with a consistently effective spin move and inside counter step. Johnson is strong at the point of attack, and although he isn't overly lengthy, he can lock out offensive tackles before ripping off of blocks and chasing the ball carrier.
A potential late-round value pick, Johnson or another edge rusher could provide Barrett and fellow outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul a breather on some downs and be infused into Tampa Bay's pass-rushing sub-packages. Pierre-Paul recently turned 32, so addressing the long-term on the Bucs' edge is important here as well.
7th round (No. 216): Camryn Bynum, CB, California
Another defensive back, sorry!
Tampa Bay could utilize depth on the outside though, and perhaps some competition for starter Jamel Dean on the opposite side of Davis. Bynum wouldn't be expected to provide the latter, at least early in his career, but is an attractive off and zone coverage cornerback prospect with the agility to make plays underneath.
Bynum had a knack for playing the ball at California, tallying six interceptions and 28 defended passes in four seasons as a starter. Pro Football Focus credits Bynum with giving up a completion percentage in coverage of 55.4% across 193 career targets.
Herb Miller is often called up from the Buccaneers practice squad when the team is in a pinch at cornerback. Miller has flashed, tallying a late-season interception this past season, but more depth options at cornerback could be of service.
7th round (No. 224): Feleipe Franks, QB, Arkansas
Backup quarterbacks Blaine Gabbert and Ryan Griffin are set to become free agents in March. Licht expressed confidence in Gabbert as a capable long-term option at the position following the Super Bowl, so it would come as no surprise to see him re-sign.
However, even though both backups shouldn't be expensive, the Bucs could save cap space by drafting someone to serve as depth to Tom Brady at QB. Franks, who transferred to Arkansas in 2020 after a four-year career at Florida, would be a fascinating option, even this late in the draft.
Franks has struggled with processing defenses beyond his first read at the college level which has led to a fair share of turnovers, but he has a cannon for an arm, a large frame at 6-foot-6 and 3/8 inches, 234 pounds, and impressive mobility for his size. Franks fits the mold as a long-term project quarterback in a vertical passing offense, which Tampa Bay runs under head coach Bruce Arians and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich.