ESPN NFL Draft analyst Todd McShay released his latest 3-round mock draft on Tuesday and has a different idea in mind for Tampa Bay this April.
While popular belief has the Bucs addressing defense early and often, McShay projects Michigan State offensive lineman Jack Conklin in the first round, No. 9 overall, and wide receiver Chris Moore out of Cincinnati in the second, at pick No. 39 overall. It’s not until the third round that McShay forecasts a defensive player going to Tampa Bay, with another Spartan, this time defensive end Shalique Calhoun at No. 74.
Making this prediction even more curious, particularly in the first round, are the players he has the Bucs passing up on. While Conklin, a 6-foot-5, 308-pound lineman, has certainly risen up the boards and made a name for himself as a versatile tackle who could move inside to guard, it’s not often that you see his name before Notre Dame tackle Ronnie Stanley, such as the case in McShay’s edition. In the rare cases prior where mock drafts have aligned Tampa Bay with an offensive player at No. 9 overall, it had typically been Stanley.
In McShay’s eyes, though, Conklin’s size and versatility make him a better option for a team looking to shore up the tackle position while also bolstering the Power O game.
“For a team that wants to run the ball and needs a right tackle, Conklin is a better fit for Tampa Bay than Stanley,” McShay wrote. “The Michigan State product is a natural fit on the right side as a plug-and-play starter. He has the long arms (35 inches) and agility to protect the QB and would be a welcome sight for second-year QB Jameis Winston.”
As far as his second-round pick, most would probably understand if the Bucs took a wide receiver early, given that they felt the player could eventually assume Vincent Jackson’s role and provide a legitimate No. 2 option for Jameis Winston. Which McShay believes Moore, a 6-foot-1 Tampa native, could do in short time.
“Vincent Jackson had just 33 catches in 10 games last season, as he struggled to stay healthy,” McShay wrote. “Moore has underrated playmaking ability and the potential to develop into a solid No. 2 WR. He would give Winston a good underneath option to complement Mike Evans.”
Moore, who ran a 4.53 40-yard dash at the Combine, caught 39 passes for 823 yards and seven touchdowns during his senior year at Cincinnati, missing just one game. His average of 21.1 yards per catch ranked eighth nationally, but he seems to be more of a possession receiver, like Jackson, than a speed threat the Bucs are presumably looking for.
Again, taking a wide receiver this early would likely be a sign that the Bucs had a high grade on the prospect and he slipped, becoming too good of a value to pass on in the second round. As it stands currently, head coach Dirk Koetter seems pretty confident in their depth at the position. It would have to be a pick to succeed Jackson in the near future.
Finally, McShay has Tampa Bay selecting the position that most think is its biggest need heading into the draft: defensive end. Shalique Calhoun, an edge rusher who stands 6-foot-2, 251-pounds, had by far his best season in 2015. The Michigan State product recorded 10.5 sacks and 15 tackles for loss, en route to All-American honors for a second time. McShay writes that Calhoun needs to get “stronger against the run,” but he adds an “impact edge-rusher if developed properly.”
In all, most Bucs fans would probably disagree with this 3-round mock draft. His first-round prediction would not only mean passing on Stanley, but Vernon Hargreaves III, Sheldon Rankins and Shaq Lawson as well. While no one knows what Jason Licht will do come April 28, it’s hard to imagine at this point that Tampa Bay won’t address the defensive side of the ball before the third round.
Zach is entering his 3rd year covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a writer for PewterReport.com. Since 2014, he's handled a large part of the beat reporting responsibilities at PR, attending all media gatherings and publishing and promoting content daily. Zach is a native of Sarasota, FL, and a graduate of the University of Tampa. He has also covered high school football for the Tampa Tribune and the NFL for Pro Player Insiders.
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