ESPN's Mel Kiper dropped his second mock for the 2021 NFL Draft on Thursday and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are expected to add youth to the defensive end position.
Kiper has the Bucs selecting Georgia outside linebacker/defensive end Azeez Ojulari with the final pick of the first round.
Ojulari earned All-SEC Second Team honors by the league's 14 head coaches and the Associated Press after recording 31 total tackles, a conference-best 12.5 tackles for loss, and 8.5 sacks, which also topped the SEC. He led the Bulldogs with 35 quarterback pressures, 11 more than any other teammate this past season.
Kiper explains that with Washington outside linebacker/defensive end Joe Tryon being drafted a few picks prior by the Green Bay Packers, who hold the No. 29 overall spot in April's draft, Ojulari will fall in the hands of Tampa Bay. Here's part of Kiper's explanation:
"Ojulari is the next pass-rusher in my rankings," Kiper writes in his mock draft. "And with the uncertainty around whether free-agent defensive end Shaq Barrett will return, it makes sense for the Bucs to get younger on the edge. Ojulari had 8.5 sacks last season, including three in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl win. He has some versatility to move around the defense, but he's one of the top pure pass-rushers in this class."
Kiper brings up a good point regarding Barrett, who may sign elsewhere once NFL free agency begins in March. Barrett was a crucial member of the Bucs' Super Bowl LV run but may ask for more money than the Bucs are hoping to spend.
Including the playoffs, Barrett recorded 66 total tackles, 12 sacks, 15 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, and three defended passes this past season. Whether or not Barrett intends to leave Tampa Bay in free agency or re-join the team to defend their title, drafting Ojulari is not a bad move at all for the Bucs.
In Georgia's Peach Bowl win over the Cincinnati Bearcats, Ojulari recorded four solo tackle, three of which were sacks. He was named Defensive MVP of the Peach Bowl and earned a spot on the named to the AP All-Bowl Team.
But that's not all that Kiper wrote in his mock draft for the Bucs' selection. Kiper mentions another direction the franchise might go in on draft night in the first round.
"Wide receiver is a position to watch for Tampa, particularly if it doesn't bring back Chris Godwin, who is a free agent," Kiper writes.
Tampa Bay is expected to use its franchise tag on Godwin but he doesn't like that idea, he might want more money and leave as a free agent. Godwin has been a mainstay since he arrived in Tampa Bay and he's well-deserving of a payday.
In 2020, Godwin caught 81 passes for over 1,000-receiving yards while hauling in eight touchdowns. The Bucs do have options around the league should Godwin leave, but the NFL Draft is certainly a route to go to help fill the space left if that happens.
Kiper doesn't provide a name at wide receiver that the Bucs could possibly select, but it's something to monitor in his third mock draft depending on Godwin's looming free agency decision.