The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are currently slotted to pick 14th overall in the first round of the 2020 NFL draft. While they're likely to miss out on the elite talents in this year's draft class, the Bucs should still be able to land an impact player at a position of need.
Here's how I would rank Tampa Bay's realistic first-round options:
1. South Carolina DL Javon Kinlaw
While Tampa Bay's biggest need may be at offensive tackle, free agency could end up leaving them short-handed along the defensive trenches. All of Tampa Bay's starting front four have expiring contracts, as does key role player Carl Nassib. Ndamukong Suh could end up being too expensive to retain, and if that happens, a gaping hole could open up in the Bucs' league-leading rush defense.
Enter Kinlaw, who followed up a strong career for the Gamecocks with a dominant performance during Senior Bowl practices. At 6-5, 315 pounds, Kinlaw's combination of size, athleticism and power make him one of this year's most intriguing defensive prospects. His versatility would be a perfect fit in Todd Bowles' defense, and he's expected to come off the board around the time the Bucs pick. If he's on the board, he's a no-brainer.
2. Louisville OT Mekhi Becton
If Kinlaw is off the board, or the Bucs are able to retain all of their impending free agents along the defensive line, they could opt to address their need at offensive tackle at No. 14 instead. While it's likely that three of the top tackle prospects in this class will be off the board before the Bucs pick, the fourth would still be worthy of selection here. Georgia's Andrew Thomas, Alabama's Jedrick Wills and Iowa's Tristan Wirfs would also be fantastic picks here.
That said, don't be surprised if it's Becton who slips through the cracks to Tampa Bay. Once considered more of a Day 2 prospect, a deeper dive into Becton's film reveals a skill set that should make him a top-15 lock on draft weekend. A massive mauler with a huge frame and impressive length, Becton is a rare athlete for his size, and has the power you'd expect from someone that big.
3. Iowa EDGE/DL A.J. Epenesa
It's possible the Bucs could still go the defensive line route even if Kinlaw is off the board. If they do, versatility will still be at the top of their list of wants in a prospect, and Epenesa would be a perfect candidate.
His size and skill set make him an effective defender no matter where he lines up, thanks to a well-rounded arsenal of pass-rush weapons, and the power to anchor against the run. That kind of versatility would be put to good use by Bowles, who loves to use multiple fronts and move guys around in the trenches.
4. LSU EDGE K'Lavon Chaisson
The Bucs would love to bring back both Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul, but if for some reason one of them doesn't return in 2020, Chaisson could be the dark-horse target for this pick. While Epenesa is a more well-rounded defender who could slide inside when necessary, Chaisson is more of the explosive edge rusher who could replace what Barrett does best.
Obviously, the Bucs would prefer to have a rookie pass rusher learning and developing behind the likes of Barrett and Pierre-Paul next season. But if they're not able to do that, Chaisson is the kind of high-ceiling player who could quickly become a valuable addition to one of the league's most fast-improving defenses.
5. Alabama S Xavier McKinney
After the amount of early picks the Bucs have invested in defensive backs in recent years, I'm sure fans wouldn't be terribly thrilled to see a safety here. But while Tampa Bay's young corners have shown promise, head coach Bruce Arians admitted after the season that he would still like to add another impact player on the back end, thanks in part to the amount of injuries that have plagued the safety group.
If the Bucs go that route at No. 14 overall, LSU's Grant Delpit is the name most would assume to be the target there. But injuries and inconsistency kept Delpit from living up to his lofty preseason expectations in 2019, and McKinney is the kind of complete player who could easily leapfrog him to be the first safety off the board. He's smart, versatile, athletic and physical, which would make him a perfect fit for Bowles and company.