With the Super Bowl quickly approaching, mock draft season is in full effect. So far, thousands of drafts have been created in order to predict what will happen when the NFL draft kicks off in April. But in reality, nobody knows what will happen once the clock begins to count down.
In this first edition of the Bucs Report mock draft, I will use The Draft Network’s Mock Draft Simulator. I will select players for the team based on fit, and who I would select if I were the general manager.
A.J. Epenesa, EDGE, Iowa
HT: 6’6 WT: 280 lbs
With Javon Kinlaw and most of the offensive talent off the board, I decided to pull the trigger on A.J. Epenesa out of Iowa with the 14th pick. The 6’6″, 280 pound defense end finished his collegiate career with two dominate seasons in the Big Ten. In 2018 and 2019 combined, Epenesa recorded 22 sacks and eight forced fumbles to help lead the Iowa Hawkeyes to a 9-4 and 10-3 record respectively.
Epenesa showed exceptional strength, often using the bull-rush to knock offensive tackles off their line. His ability to hold the edge, but also pinch down on running plays, makes Epenesa a versatile defensive end. Given these strengths, Epenesa does not excel with the traditional speed rush on the outside. His bend is still something to be desired, but in Todd Bowles 3-4 scheme, I could see him anchoring one side of the defense line next to Vita Vea.
Austin Jackson, OT, USC
HT: 6’6 WT: 310
In this simulation, J.K. Dobbins and Jonathan Taylor were falling quite significantly. Given the less than pedestrian run game, I would have likely settled on either running back. But as the draft goes, both were selected three and six picks before the Buccaneers. Still, I was more than happy to land Austin Jackson, offensive tackle out of USC in round two.
Jackson is a very athletic player for his size. Weighing nearly 310 pounds, Jackson showed exceptional run blocking ability in his Junior year. He often climbs to the second level and shows potential to be a sufficient pass-blocker. He often struggled to stop speedy edge-rushers, but given that he primarily played right tackle, it is less of an issue. Jackson will likely compete with Demar Dotson for the starting job in training camp, until he hopefully carves a full time role.
Jalen Hurts, QB, Oklahoma
HT: 6’2 WT: 225 lbs
I already know some people will look at this pick and either love it, or hate it. But the fact is, Jalen Hurts fell significantly in this simulation and I just couldn’t pass him up in the third round. Now to be clear, I don’t think Hurts would supplant Jameis Winston as the starter in 2020. But if Winston struggled to protect the football like we have seen in past years, Bruce Arians might be inclined to make a switch mid-season.
I think Hurts would fit well in a Bruce Arians’ offense. His exceptional arm strength was on display last year at Oklahoma State. Hurts’ duel ability to be both a passer and runner can also add an element to the game that is being molded by Lamar Jackson in Baltimore. His maturity and character have also been praised, something Jason Licht values in his selection process.
Even with these strengths, Hurts tends to leave the pocket early and take his eyes off his receivers when pressured. Similar to Jameis Winston, his deep balls can float, resulting in an overthrow. He needs time to develop as an NFL quarterback, but that’s nothing Bruce Arians can’t handle.
To view the entire mock draft, click this link
Photo credit: San Diego Union-Tribune