With the draft less than three weeks away, it’s time for another mock draft. Pro Days are finishing up and medical testing in Indy is done. Next will be meeting after meeting for these prospects, for staffs to gather last minute information, any medical updates and address character questions. Teams will now be putting the finishing touches on their big boards as draft night approaches.
Unlike my prior mocks, I have the Buccaneers staying put with all of their picks. The theme remains the same: add depth and developmental players that can help in Year One, but can also grow into starting roles.
Round 1, Pick No. 32: RB Travis Etienne, Clemson Tigers
Considered by many to be the best running back in the draft, Etienne is also arguably the best pass-catching back as well. The Buccaneers missed this last season. With a league-high 20 drops among the running back group, look for the team to draft a guy with sure hands. Etienne had a productive career for the Tigers, finishing with 4,952 rushing yards and 70 rushing touchdowns. But his 102 receptions, 1,155 receiving yards, and eight receiving scores are what will make him a Buc. He needs to work on pass protection, but would be a dangerous weapon in an already stocked backfield. With Leonard Fournette only signed to a one-year deal and Ronald Jones in a contact year, addressing the future of the running back position could be both a luxury and priority in 2021.
Round 2, Pick No. 64: EDGE Payton Turner, Houston Cougars
The Buccaneers love for their edge rushers to be versatile and Turner brings just that to his game. Whether it’s lining up inside, outside, hand in the dirt, stand up rusher – Turner has done it all. Still a bit raw, he has tremendous room for growth. He checks off all the boxes though with size (6-foot-5, 35″ arms), strength (23 bench press reps), and athleticism (4.33 in the 20-yard shuttle which was .19 seconds slower than WR Marquez Stevenson).
Turner has a great first step off the line and he combines that with powerful hand-combatting moves and a strong initial first punch. He uses a wide array of pass-rush moves to knock his defenders off-balance, using excellent pad level to win with leverage. He lacks the explosive speed to chase down runners, but does the dirty work when setting the edge against the run. In only four games out of a five-game schedule, Turner had 25 tackles, 5.0 sacks, and one forced fumble. Turner could see the field as a rookie in obvious passing downs and as a rotational player while learning from two of the best in the NFL in Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul. Turner has also had multiple meetings with members of the coaching staff.
Round 3, Pick No. 95: QB Kyle Trask, Florida Gators
And boom goes the dynamite! The Buccaneers draft the potential heir apparent to Tom Brady here in the third round. The team has spoken with the Florida QB several times throughout the pre-draft process, including most recently at his Pro Day.
Trask fits the mold of what Bruce Arians looks for in a QB. Big body, good arm, quick processor and release. Not a guy that can extended a lot of plays with his legs, but a stout enough runner to make short-down conversions. Everything seemed to click in his final season with the Gators. Trask finished with a 180.0 passer rating, and completed 552 of 813 passes for a 67.9 completion percentage with 4,283 yards and 43 passing touchdowns. He did have eight interceptions, but the more jarring number was the 20 sacks he took. A true pocket passer, Trask would benefit greatly from learning behind Brady.
Round 4, Pick No. 137: DL Cam Sample, Tulane Green Waves
With William Gholston and Ndamukong Suh are in the final year of their contracts, the Buccaneers will need depth and guys who will be ready to step in should they leave via free agency. Sample is versatile enough to play 5-tech and also kick inside during sub packages. Already a stout run defender, Sample also shows great athleticism and power with an array of pass rush moves in his arsenal. In his final season at Tulane Sample turned in 52 tackles, 7.5 TFL, and 5.0 sacks. At the Senior Bowl, Sample consistently dominated in one-on-one drills and would go on to win the defensive MVP in the game even though he went up against some of the draft’s best offensive tackles.
Sample can be a rotational piece that can help in sub-packages and offers protection against injury, while learning and developing behind Suh and Gholston. He’s also another guy that the Buccaneers have spoken with on multiple occasions.
Round 5, Pick No. 176: DT Bobby Brown III, Texas A&M Aggies
Brown is a mountain of a man at 6-foot-3, 325-pounds. A near immovable object and a force in the running game, Brown also shows the ability to get to the quarterback. Brown explodes off the snap using his strength and power to shed blockers and is also able to quickly diagnose plays. More of a pocket pusher than pure rusher, Brown opens things up for everyone around him. His shear size alone commands multiple blockers in the run game, gobbling up space to let linebackers make plays. His pass rush can become more consistent by developing other moves, because he often stalls out in pursuit when his first move doesn’t work. There are also some concerns with his motor.
However as one of the youngest players in the draft, there is plenty of room for Brown to grow into a force in the NFL. Brown is a great fit in Todd Bowles’ system and should be able to contribute in a rotational role. Another player who has spoken with the Buccaneers personal and coaches multiple times.
Round 6, Pick No. 217: C Trey Hill, Georgia Bulldogs
Teams are usually looking for developmental depth in the later rounds and one position on the roster that could definitely use said depth is center.
The Buccaneers do not have a true center on the roster behind Ryan Jensen. And while they could turn to a veteran like they did last year, plug in Ali Marpet a la 2017, or draft one higher than this, it seems unlikey that the Bucs will come out of the draft without a center prospect. Especially with Jensen headed into the final year of his deal.
Hill is a mauler in the run game and uses his quickness off the block to get consistent leverage on his opponents. He has a strong punch and often wins with physicality. Hill plays the game with sound fundamental technique and demonstrates solid footwork to block laterally and in motion. Though not the quickest, he has enough mobility to carry out short pulls in the run game. However, there is a need to work on his pass blocking. He can get beaten on bull rushes, but also shows the ability to reset with a strong anchor. Hill does do a good job with presnap reads and adjustments, identifying the blitz, and not overreacting when it does come.
Whether he develops into a starting center or a good interior back up, it is a position the Buccaneers need to address in 2021.
Round 7, Pick No. 251: LB Isaiah McDuffie, Boston College Eagles
Kevin Minter re-upped with team, but Jack Cichy remains unsigned, and Chapelle Russell is now on the Jaguars. This leaves an open spot on the team at fourth inside linebacker.
Cichy could be re-signed or they could bring in outside help, but the Buccaneers have spoken with a handful of inside linebackers. Guess what? McDuffie is one of them.
McDuffie is a sideline-to-sideline, high volume tackler. He uses his athleticism to stay with running backs in coverage and has enough strength to shed blocks. However, he often plays too fast and can overreact, which puts him out of position. He can also get taken out of plays by climbing blockers and has a difficult time turning his head around in coverage, which can lead to incidental contact downfield. He can also be a bit undisciplined after the whistle.
All said, McDuffie projects a solid back up at the next level who will really make his mark on special teams, where he was a steady force with the Eagles. McDuffie should make the roster out of camp and slide right into that fourth linebacker spot.
Round 7, Pick No. 259: CB Avery Williams, Boise State Broncos
It wouldn’t be a Jason Licht draft without a secondary player being taken, right?
Besides his first two drafts, Licht has taken at least one secondary player in each draft, often times selecting multiple players. There is still a need for depth at cornerback, even if the starting lineups are set. Their special teams ace, Ryan Smith, left in free agency and Ross Cockrell remains unsigned. Herb Miller is on the roster, but this is the NFL, where competition is always welcome.
Williams, while only 5-foot-8, plays bigger than he is. To put it in his words: His FBI is unmatched. A student of the game, he was voted team captain in 2021 and his leadership and attitude stands out among teammates and coaches. As for his play, he started 44 games for the Broncos over his career at cornerback. But he also spent time at safety due to injuries and is even seen as potentially playing running back in the league. That versatility will go a long way to helping him make a roster.
A Special Teams Force
His size limits him to more of a slot/subpackage or replacement cornerback at the next level, but he displays great read-and-react time and is a willing tackler in the run game. Where he really shines is special teams. During his time in Boise, he recorded nine touchdowns on returns, five on punts, and three on kickoffs. He added five blocked kicks and a forced fumble, as well. Comparing himself to a blend of Devin Hester and Matthew Slater, Williams would be a welcomed addition to the special teams room. If Williams can make good on that proclamation, then the 2021 edition of Mr. Irrelevant could be anything but with the Buccaneers. Williams has also had several conversations with Buccaneers staff including special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong.