While football may be over in Tampa Bay, the Buccaneers’ front office are now in draft season. The Senior Bowl is a huge part of the draft process for senior players to get a final chance to put some tape out there for pro scouts to evaluate. Many players have helped improve their draft stock in this game, as stud Buccaneers guard Ali Marpet can attest. Who are some players the Buccaneers should keep an eye on this weekend?
Star LSU Quarterback Joe Burrow won’t make an appearance in this event, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be talented passers playing. Oregon’s Justin Herbert is the big name participating in the game and so far he has shined in practices. Senior Bowl Director Jim Nagy spoke to NFL Network recently about Herbert and had this to say;
Fellow quarterback Jordan Love out of Utah State is also receiving a ton of first-round buzz recently. He is a talented passer but had some interception issues this past season throwing 17 to the opposite team. Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Head Coach Bruce Arians is a fan of big-armed quarterbacks and he fits the mold pretty well. Depending on how the first 13 pieces fall, Tampa Bay could yet again be picking a passer in the first round.
Players like Hebert and Love are going to be linked to the Buccaneers all draft season. At least until Tampa Bay decides to give incumbent starter Jameis Winston a contract extension. While Winston performed well statistically, he did lead the league in interceptions with 30. This might be hard for Winston truthers to hear but it very well can happen come April.
The offensive line is what I perceive to be the Buccaneers’ biggest weakness heading into the offseason. The Senior Bowl has provided the team with one cornerstone already in Ali Marpet, can they find another?
Small school talent can be hard to find in the NFL with big names coming out of the SEC half the time. Offensive tackle Alex Taylor out of South Carolina State can help buck that trend this year. At 6’9″ he is a big man outside but he also moves pretty fluidly being a former basketball player. He projects as a mid-round pick but with a good camp, he can find himself higher up just like Marpet. After dominating during the senior bowl, Marpet was picked in the second round in 2015.
Offensive Guard John Simpson, out of Clemson, will also be key to watch for Buccaneers fans. He played a key part in Clemson’s recent run and was an All-American in his final season with the team. At 6’4″ and 330 pounds, he can easily be seen as an upgrade at right guard for the Buccaneers.
Houston Left Tackle Josh Jones is widely considered the best tackle in the Senior Bowl and I think the Bucs would be wise to keep an eye on him. Already in practice, he has flashed his talent and can be the top day two prize in the draft. The young man is a 6’7″ 310 pound beast and can be the blindside protector for whoever is tossing the ball come September.
Best of the Rest
South Carolina defensive lineman Javon Kinlaw has been widely considered the best player in Mobile. The talented lineman can easily be the Buccaneers’ top pick in April. I think he would be a huge get for the team if they lose defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh in free agency. Kinlaw can be a stud next to defensive tackle Vita Vea. With linebacker Devin White in tow, the Bucs could have a top young front seven.
I listed him last as I truly believe he will be gone before Tampa Bay has the chance to draft him. He recently said he believes he will be a better player than star defensive tackle Aaron Donald. It is way too early to tell if that will be true. Tampa Bay fans can only hope a player of his caliber will be in uniform for the Buccaneers in 2020.
Just the Beginning
The Senior Bowl is only the start of a fun time for NFL fans. Draft season is always exciting and can be a glimpse into the 2020 NFL season. With players like Justin Herbert and Javon Kinlaw, the star power will be in this game. We can only hope a lot of these seniors improve their draft stock with a great showing on Saturday.
*The Senior Bowl will be Saturday, January 25th at 2:30 PM EST on the NFL Network.