Before we get to the latest PewterReport.com mock draft for the Buccaneers, here are some thoughts on the teams selecting ahead of Tampa Bay in the 2014 NFL Draft.
• Houston will either take South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney or a quarterback.
• Assuming they keep they keep the second overall pick, St. Louis will either take Clowney or an offensive tackle.
• The Jaguars and Browns will likely take quarterbacks, and the Raiders, who pick fifth overall, will take one of the top three quarterbacks if there is one left over, or Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins.
• Atlanta will probably take a pass rusher like Buffalo’s Khalil Mack with the sixth overall pick as defensive end Kroy Biermann is coming off a torn Achilles tendon, and the Falcons’ lone pass rushing threat last year was defensive end Osi Umenyiora.
While it’s difficult to accurately forecast what the Buccaneers will do in the 2014 draft prior to free agency, here’s PewterReport.com’s latest projections for the Tampa Bay’s five picks.ROUND 1 – Clemson WR Sammy Watkins (junior)
Previous selection: Fresno State QB Derek Carr
The Buccaneers seem willing to give second-year quarterback Mike Glennon the 2014 season to prove that he can be the team’s long-term answer at quarterback, so that takes away the need to draft Fresno State’s Derek Carr in the first round. Instead, the Buccaneers need to add a big-play wideout as the receiver position underwhelmed last year outside of Vincent Jackson, who caught a career-high 78 passes for 1,224 yards and eight touchdowns. Tampa Bay ranked dead last in yards after catch in 2013.
At 6-foot-1, 205, Watkins plays bigger than his size due to his long arms and big hands. He had a record-setting season as a junior in 2013, catching 101 passes for 1,464 yards (14.5 avg.) and 12 touchdowns, due to a Clemson and Orange Bowl-record 16 catches for 227 yards and two touchdowns in a 40-35 victory over Ohio State. Watkins is a rare talent as he is a big receiver that possesses small receiver speed. Expected to run in the 4.4-range at the Combine, Watkins had touchdown catches of 91 and 96 yards in 2013 and had 12 offensive plays of 50 yards or more in his three years with the Tigers.
Watkins burst onto the scene as a freshman, catching 82 passes for 1,219 yards and 12 touchdowns. His numbers fell in 2012 as injuries and an early season suspension for an offseason marijuana arrest that caused him to lose focus. But Watkins regained that focus in 2013 and has positioned himself as a top 10 pick and the top-rated receiver in the 2014 draft.
The Bucs need a complete receiver with leaping ability to be a viable red zone target and the deep speed to be a yards-after-catch threat. Watkins brings added value as a kick returner, as he returned 60 kickoffs for 1,376 yards (22.9 avg.) and one touchdown at Clemson. With Jackson turning 31 in January and some possible questions about Mike Williams’ work ethic and recent misdemeanor charges, Watkins would be an ideal fit in Jeff Tedford’s offense for the long haul and it would be hard for the Buccaneers to bypass him if he’s still available with the seventh overall pick.
Here’s a highlight video of Watkins’ big-play ability at Clemson.ROUND 2 – Stanford DE Trent Murphy (senior)
Previous selection: Pittsburgh DT Aaron Donald
Donald’s stock has risen to the bottom of the first round due to a tremendous week in Mobile, Ala. at the Senior Bowl, so he’s out of play for Tampa Bay in the second round. There is also a chance the Buccaneers could sign Bears free agent Henry Melton in free agency to shore up the defensive tackle position, so head coach Lovie Smith can address the defensive end position in the draft and get an edge rusher that the defense desperately needs. With defensive ends Adrian Clayborn and Da’Quan Bowers entering a contract year, the Bucs need to find a pass-rushing defensive end for the future.
Murphy is one of the most prolific pass rushers over the past three seasons, notching 36 sacks, 11 pass breakups, three forced fumbles and also picking off two passes near the line of scrimmage and returning them for touchdowns. Playing outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, and also defensive end in a 4-3 defense, Murphy also recorded 160 tackles and 42.5 tackles for loss in his Cardinal career. Two of Murphy’s sacks came against Tedford’s Cal teams in 2011 and 2012.
The 6-foot-6, 261-pound Stanford defender lived in opposing backfields in 2013 with 23.5 tackles for loss and 15 sacks, which led the nation, in addition to 62 tackles. He also broke up six passes, recorded two forced fumbles and had a pick-six. That earned Murphy All-American and first-team All-Pac 12 accolades.
Murphy is a long, angular pass rusher with a mean streak and underrated athleticism. He has the intelligence and strength to properly set the edge on defense. Murphy has the high motor, work ethic and quick hands that new Bucs defensive line coach Joe Cullen craves, in addition to the skill set to develop into a Jared Allen-type player.
Here are some highlights of Murphy’s junior year
and his senior year.ROUND 3 – Traded to NY Jets for CB Darrelle RevisROUND 4 – Oregon State CB Rashaad Reynolds (junior)
Previous selection: North Carolina DE Kareem Martin
The Buccaneers need a playmaking nickel back to team with cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Johnthan Banks. The criteria include fluid hips to cover slot receivers, a nose for the football and good tackling ability to stop the run. The 5-foot-10, 191-pound Reynolds would be an ideal fit in Lovie Smith and Leslie Frazier’s Cover 2.
Reynolds has great ball skills, evidenced by six interceptions and four pass breakups in 2013, including a pick of Oregon’s Marcus Mariota. In his Beavers career, Reynolds amassed 170 tackles, 25 pass breakups, 10 interceptions, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
Both of Reynolds’ fumble recoveries went for touchdowns and proved to be the difference against Boise State in Oregon State’s 38-23 win in the Hawaii Bowl. In a 52-24 win over bowl-bound Washington State last year, Reynolds dominated with six tackles, two interceptions, two forced fumbles and a pass breakup.
Cornerbacks in the Tampa 2 scheme have to be great tacklers and not afraid of contact. Reynolds has a strong, compact build and relishes big hits. He has the skills to press at the line of scrimmage and re-route receivers, as well as playing off in zone coverage. Reynolds could have upped his stock by staying for his senior year, but will instead be a mid-round steal for the Buccaneers if he lasts until the fourth round, which is possible because taller corners are the rage right now in the NFL.
Here is a highlight video of Reynolds from the 2012 season.ROUND 5 – California DT DeAndre Coleman (senior)
Previous selection: Fresno State TE Marcel Jensen
The Buccaneers could use more depth at the defensive tackle position and more pass rush from the nose tackle spot. While Coleman won’t make any Tampa Bay fan forget Brad Culpepper or Booger McFarland, the 6-foot-5, 315-pound Coleman does provide a good interior push and is a more accomplished pass rusher than Akeem Spence, who had just 3.5 sacks in three years at Illinois and only one sack in 16 games as a rookie.
Coleman entered his senior season with 45 tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss, five sacks and two pass breakups, and posted 40 tackles, nine tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and a safety, including one of UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley in 2013. Coleman played for Tedford at Cal for three years so the Buccaneers should be able to get some serious insight into his former player.
Coleman is viewed as a player with tremendous upside due to his size and physical ability, and perhaps Tedford’s presence in Tampa Bay can help coax more out of the athletic tackle. Coleman flashed his skill set at the Senior Bowl and likely upped his stock to that of a fifth-rounder.
Here is a highlight video of Coleman against Washington last year
in which he had four tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack and a pass breakup.ROUND 6 – Traded to Chicago for OT Gabe CarimiROUND 7 – California TE Richard Rodgers (junior)
Previous selection: Baylor WR Tevin Reese
The Buccaneers need another tight end to team with Tim Wright and Tom Crabtree, preferably one that is well rounded and has the ability to be a receiver and blocker. Tampa Bay has the chance to get a familiar face for Tedford in one of his former players, Rodgers, who left school after his junior season.
After recruiting him to Cal, Tedford said Rodgers could become the best tight end in the nation, but he never quite lived up to that potential after Tedford was fired after the 2012 season. Although he’s young, Rodgers has an NFL body at 6-foot-4, 255 pounds and could grow into a starter over time with coaching by position coach Jon Embree and Tedford.
Rodgers had 39 receptions for 608 yards and one touchdown in 2013 and finished his career with 59 receptions for 896 yards two touchdowns. He had three 100-yard games at Cal, including one against Stanford, and finished his career with six catches of 30 yards or more, including four receptions of 50 yards or more. Rodgers is developing his blocking skills and is already a very good cut blocker at the line of scrimmage. If he slips to the seventh round, Rodgers would be a steal for the Buccaneers.
Here is a highlight video of Rodgers against Stanford last year
in which he had five catches for 125 yards.
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