The time has come. Free agency is winding down, and all attention has turned toward the 2021 NFL Draft, which means that Mock Draft 2.0 is here for your viewing pleasure. The Bucs will pick 32nd overall, the latest selection they have ever held in the draft. Their needs are few, but you can guess that running back, defensive line and offensive line will be the three most heavily-targeted positions for Tampa Bay.
Remember, this is a mock of what I think could/will happen and fits that make sense based on teams scheme and draft history – not necessarily what I would do if I were the GM of each team. Just know that before you hate everything I’ve written here. Thank you.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars – Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence
Table of Contents
The Jets have been on the clock for months. Why? Because Lawrence is going to the Jaguars. Lawrence isn’t without concern as a prospect, but there is risk in every quarterback selection, and far less risk with him than the vast majority of players at the game’s most important position.
2. New York Jets – BYU QB Zach Wilson
I wouldn’t take Wilson at No. 2, but all reports seem to indicate he’s the likely selection if the Jets stay put. I like Wilson’s tape a lot, but mental processing and decision-making are two critical boxes for a quarterback to check, and right now he leaves something to be desired in both areas. That isn’t to discredit Wilson as a prospect however, as he brings wonderful natural talent and athleticism to the position, as well as unflappable poise in the face of on-field adversity. There’s a ton for new Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur to work with.
3. Miami Dolphins – Oregon OT Penei Sewell
The Dolphins have committed to re-making themselves from the inside-out, but none of their offensive line pickups look like top-tier players just yet, and there’s a pretty good bet Sewell is going to reach that level in the NFL. There’s risk involved in Sewell, but the physical and athletic ability is there, and the high-end flashes are special. He’ll step in on the left side, while Austin Jackson slides to right tackle and Robert Hunt kicks inside to right guard. This could make the Dolphins better at three spots.
4. *TRADE* Denver Broncos – North Dakota State QB Trey Lance Broncos have traded Picks No. 9 (1st), No. 40 (2nd) and No. 153 (5th) to the Falcons for No. 4 (1st)
North Dakota State QB Trey Lance – Photo by: USA Today
I look at the Broncos roster and the resources they’ve spent in free agency to fortify their defense, and I see a team that is looking to win right now. But they can’t pin all this talent on Drew Lock making a huge leap in year three, nor should they. Picking at No. 9 with few holes on their roster, the Broncos can afford to be aggressive and move up for a quarterback they love in the Top 5.
Lance is as talented as anyone in the class, but he’s an incredibly difficult projection after just one year as a starter against low level competition and only a single game played during the 2020 season. Teams are going to have to do their due diligence on Lance as a person, find out how smart he is, what his mental makeup is like and whether he checks the leadership box at the position. As corny as it sounds, those traits are critical at quarterback, and it sounds like Lance has them. It’ll be on Pat Shurmur to help him figure out the rest.
5. Cincinnati Bengals – Florida TE Kyle Pitts
I think the Bengals need to go with Ja’Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle or Kyle Pitts with this pick, and all three would probably excel in Cincinnati. With Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd already on board in a deep wide receiver class, I like the Bengals grabbing the highly sought-after Pitts, one of the best tight end prospects we’ve ever seen at the position.
Pitts’ ability to be a mismatch threat that can move around the offense is something Cincinnati doesn’t currently have. Joe Burrow was good across the board last season, but struggled to consistently connected with any receivers on deep balls. Pitts’ massive catch radius and top-end speed for the position should help with that, as he can beat corners on the outside or linebackers and safeties in the middle of the field. The Bengals offense could be exciting if their coaching and their offensive line take it to another level in 2021.
6. *TRADE* Carolina Panthers – Ohio State QB Justin Fields Panthers trade No. 8 (1st) and No. 73 (3rd) to Eagles for No. 6 and No. 190 (6th)
Some will criticize the Panthers for jumping just two spots, but they couldn’t find any buyers in the Top 5, as the Falcons didn’t want to help out a team in their division when they had another comparable offer just one spot further down the board. The Panthers can’t sit at No. 8 and hope the quarterback board falls to them, not as desperate as they’ve been for an upgrade at the position this offseason. With the Patriots and 49ers looking at trade up options and the Lions making it clear they aren’t out on selecting a quarterback either, the Panthers need to be aggressive to go get their guy.
Fields could easily be the best quarterback from this class, as a dynamic runner and passer, who has been successful at all three levels of the field. He’s intelligent, tough as nails and won’t be held back by any physical, athletic or mental limitations. The key for Fields will be adjusting to the speed of the NFL game and consistently making good decisions with the ball, but I really don’t see a ton of weaknesses in his tape.
7. Detroit Lions – Alabama WR Jaylen Waddle
The Lions may have selected Fields if he had fallen to them, but now we’ll never know. As it stands, the team lost Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones in free agency, and currently boasts a WR corps of Quintez Cephus, Tyrell Williams and Breshad Perriman, the latter two of which are on one-year prove-it deals.
Waddle would bring speed and game-breaking ability to a unit that sorely lacks either, especially from the slot. I think Waddle can play inside or outside, as he’s a much better route runner than he’s currently given credit for, and his ball skills have flashed when he’s been in situations to make contested catches. The Lions have a ton of holes right now, but Waddle could be the first skill player building block as the team works toward a brand new outlook on offense.
8. *TRADE* Philadelphia Eagles – Alabama CB Patrick Surtain Jr. Panthers trade No. 8 (1st) and No. 73 (3rd) to Eagles for No. 6 and No. 190 (6th)
There has been a lot of talk about the Eagles’ need for more weapons in the passing game, and it’s certainly possible they go that direction in the first round. But it’s a deep wide receiver class and the team already selected Jalen Reagor in Round 1 a year ago, plus have Travis Fulgham’s potential breakout to monitor. Their secondary, however, is a complete train wreck, with nobody at cornerback to speak of opposite Darius Slay.
Surtain’s pro day workout should put to rest concerns about his athleticism. Yes, his speed may always be tested a little bit in the NFL, but he’s a proficient press man corner with experience in a variety of different coverages against top-tier talent. The leap to the NFL won’t be too big for him, even if he has to start right away in Philadelphia.
9. Atlanta Falcons – Clemson RB Travis Etienne Broncos have traded Picks No. 9 (1st), No. 40 (2nd) and No. 153 (5th) to the Falcons for No. 4 (1st)
Clemson RB Travis Etienne – Photo by: USA Today
I’m not saying I’d recommend it, but don’t be surprised if the Falcons select a running back high in this draft. Atlanta has spent plenty of resources at wide receiver, tight end and along the offensive line, yet still doesn’t have a running back to operate new head coach Arthur Smith’s run-heavy attack. The Falcons just signed Mike Davis for depth but now need a high-end starter. Atlanta has a ton of defensive needs, but it’s a miserable defensive class at the top of the draft, and the Falcons just added an early second-rounder to give themselves No. 35 and No. 40 overall.
In Etienne Atlanta might see their own version of Alvin Kamara, especially considering how the Clemson back broke out as a receiver in 2020. He’s still a little raw for the position and there will be some growing pains, but Etienne has the ability to do it all and be a home-run threat every time he touches the ball. The Falcons offense will be elite at the skill positions if Etienne can carry the load in the run game.
10. *TRADE* New England Patriots – Alabama QB Mac Jones Patriots trade No. 15 (1st), No. 96 (3rd comp) & CB Stephon Gilmore to the Cowboys for No. 10
The Patriots finally find a suitor for Gilmore, trading the 30-year old cornerback to Dallas to move up for the best quarterback left in the draft in Mac Jones. After getting an earful of praise for Jones from good friend Nick Saban, Belichick will enter the 2021 NFL Draft working the phone lines, knowing he’ll have to be aggressive to move up for his guy. The Patriots’ spending spree in free agency will allow them part with some picks if they have to in order to land the quarterback they want in Round 1.
11. New York Giants – Penn State LB Micah Parsons
The Giants fortified their receiving corps and their secondary in free agency, putting the team in position to address other needs at No. 11. They still could take the best player available with a couple stud receivers and corners still on the board, but it would be a little bit of a surprise considering what they’ve spent on wide receiver Kenny Golladay and cornerbacks James Bradberry and Adoree Jackson over the past two offseasons.
The Giants have had a big question mark at linebacker for what feels like forever, and Parsons would be the perfect play-maker to pair with Blake Martinez in the middle. The only question will be if Parsons’ character checks out, as the Giants front office and coaching staff is not a group that is likely to put up with any B.S.
12. San Francisco 49ers – South Carolina CB Jaycee Horn
This is early for Horn in the eyes of some, but I think he could be selected in this range if he runs a strong 40 during Wednesday’s pro day. An ultra-physical press man defender who plays the game with a maniacal edge, Horn is the perfect replacement for Richard Sherman, capable of playing even more man coverage under new defensive coordinator Demeco Ryans. Horn and Jason Verrett with Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt at safety is a pretty good foursome that just gets better if K’Waun Williams comes back to play nickel in 2021.
13. Los Angeles Chargers – LSU WR Ja’Marr Chase
The Chargers entered the 2021 NFL Draft solely focused on drafting a franchise left tackle, but can’t believe their eyes when Chase is still on the board at No. 13 overall. They have two stud wide receivers in Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, but Williams is playing on his fifth year option and hasn’t exactly produced like a second contract player. Adding Chase to begin his career with Justin Herbert would give the Chargers a terrifying receiving corps and the perfect power complement to Allen’s more finesse game.
The hole at left tackle remains, but this is a very deep tackle class in the 2021 draft and the Chargers have plenty of picks to make a move up from No. 47 if they want. It’s also still very possible that they add a veteran before the draft, lessening that need heading into Round 1.
14. Minnesota Vikings – Northwestern OT Rashawn Slater
The Vikings can’t believe their good fortune, as Slater slips down the board to them at No. 14. For some teams Slater is likely listed as a guard prospect, but for Minnesota I could see him sliding in at left tackle as a rookie. He’s one of the best zone scheme run blockers I’ve studied on tape, with the ability to make nasty cut-offs blocks and second level reaches from the backside. Slater needs to improve some things in pass protection, but the Vikings’ play-action heavy scheme shouldn’t put too much stress on him early in his career.
15. *TRADE* Dallas Cowboys – Michigan EDGE Kwity Paye Patriots trade No. 15 (1st), No. 96 (3rd comp) & CB Stephon Gilmore to the Cowboys for No. 10
I’m amazed that Dallas hasn’t done more to flood the interior defensive line position group this offseason, as they’ve largely stood pat with an incredible group of underachieving players. This could be where Christian Barmore comes off the board, or even Iowa’s Daviyon Nixon if the Cowboys decide to get really crazy, but right now I don’t believe either player is selected this high.
The Cowboys have Randy Gregory and Demarcus Lawrence on the edge, but they’ve always tried to have a deep rotation on the edge, and Gregory has yet to prove he’s an every-down player. Paye is raw and was misused by Michigan, making his evaluation a very difficult one off of 2019 and 2020 tape. Still, you can’t teach Paye’s level of burst and bend. If he figures out a pass rush plan, the results could be deadly.
16. *TRADE* Miami Dolphins – Alabama WR Devonta Smith Dolphins trade No. 18 (1st), No. 123 (4th) and a 2022 4th to Cardinals for No. 16 (1st)
Some will scoff at Smith falling this far, but he’s absolutely going to be a question mark on the boards of many NFL teams. Right or wrong, Smith’s combination of well-below-standard size (he recently said he’s 170 pounds, which I believe is heavier than what he played at) and unknown testing (he’s opted out of all testing so far) will bother teams that rely on analytics for their most valuable picks. Despite really good tape, Smith could fall into the teens of the first round.
But a team like Miami, in desperate need of play-makers, might be one that can’t pass up the opportunity to nab Smith. There is no question that Smith succeeding at his size (and likely without elite athleticism) would be a significant outlier at the position, but there is also no denying that on tape he has done everything that is asked of him. Beaten press coverage, made plays down the field, made plays after the catch, made contested catches, won against top competition … it’s all on tape for Smith, the question now is how much of it will translate to the NFL, where man coverage is a lot more difficult to shake.
17. Las Vegas Raiders – Oklahoma State OT Teven Jenkins
Oklahoma State OT Teven Jenkins – Photo by: USA Today
The Raiders have a big hole at right tackle after trading away Trent Brown, and Jenkins is one of the most pro-ready players in the draft class. He’s improved every year at Oklahoma State, and will bring an immediate mentality to the Raiders offensive line that should mesh very well with the philosophy they once instilled with Rodney Hudson, Richie Incognito and Gabe Jackson. If Jenkins struggles at tackle, he could have an elite ceiling as a guard in the NFL.
18. *TRADE* Arizona Cardinals – Virginia Tech CB Caleb Farley Dolphins trade No. 18 (1st), No. 123 (4th) and a 2022 4th to Cardinals for No. 16 (1st)
Injury concerns with Farley could push him down the board even further than Arizona’s pick, but the Cardinals are desperate for help at cornerback. Farley is an excellent talent at the position, and if he can develop technically this pick could look like a home run in a few years. The Cardinals might need Farley to start right away however, as their cornerback outlook is bleak outside of (maybe) Byron Murphy.
19. Washington Football Team – USC OL Alijah Vera-Tucker
Washington has quietly filled a lot of needs in free agency, and should be improved on both sides of the ball next season. Their offensive line is still a question mark however, especially at left tackle and left guard. Ron Rivera has always built from the inside-out in the trenches, so I would expect Vera-Tucker to slot in at guard for The Football Team. One of the more pro-ready players in the draft, Vera-Tucker’s experience at left tackle will give Washington flexibility to use him in a variety of ways as needed.
20. Chicago Bears – Florida WR Kadarius Toney
The Bears just haven’t gotten the production from slot receiver Anthony Miller that they hoped to receiver, and jack-of-all-trades Cordarrelle Patterson is a free agent. Toney could bring that joker role back to the offense, while also have the traits to play in the slot and be highly productive in the Bears offense. I think Bears head coach Matt Nagy will see some Tyreek Hill in Toney’s game and want that for his own offense, even if the Florida receiver might not be a finished product just yet.
21. Indianapolis Colts – Virginia Tech OT Christian Darrisaw
Darrisaw is a monster talent whose stock took off this season, but there are questions about his consistency and technique. The Colts can fix all that, as they’ve done a wonderful job developing trench players under the current regime. The thing that is worrisome with Darrisaw is the lack of consistent intensity in his game. When he’s on, few tackles that big and powerful can move like he can. When he’s not, he could get beat up pretty good by more experienced rushers.
The Titans suddenly have crying needs at cornerback and right tackle, but the wide receiver room may need the most tending to. In desperate need of help for A.J. Brown, the Titans could target Bateman, who is pro ready and can play inside or outside depending on the match-up. A big, skilled receiver who did it all in college, the big question for Bateman is whether he has a trump card or not as a prospect. In Tennessee he won’t need to be a No. 1 WR, which I think is the perfect role for him.
23. New York Jets – Northwestern CB Greg Newsome
Newsome played six outstanding games during the shortened 2020 season, and that was enough to vault him into the Round 1 conversation. New Jets head coach Robert Salah needs smart, instinctive corners, and Newsome certainly proved those traits at Northwestern, with ten pass breakups and a pick this season. The Jets desperately need some ball skills like that at the cornerback position.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers – Alabama RB Najee Harris
Alabama RB Najee Harris – Photo by: USA Today
I think it’s silly for the Steelers, with as many holes as they have, to select a running back in Round 1, but Harris really is the exact type of player they’d look for at the position. If Pittsburgh wants to get back to being able to run the football more effectively this offseason, Harris is a bell cow-type of back who can be on the field all three downs. What he lacks is burst and speed, which is typically low on the list of traits the Steelers value. His outstanding receiving skills will be another reason to move him up their board.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars – TCU S Trevon Moehrig
The Jaguars have shockingly few holes on their roster, especially after bringing back the left side of their offensive line. But safety is a huge concern, especially considering how improved the Jaguars are at cornerback. Moehrig is a complete player with plenty of experience in the slot and as a deep-half cover man. You might not want him as a single high safety, but he’ll do everything else at a high level, which is really what Jacksonville needs on the back end.
26. Cleveland Browns – Tulsa LB Zaven Collins
The Browns are another team with very few roster holes, but linebacker is definitely an area they can stand to improve. We’ll see what becomes of youngsters Mack Wilson, Jacob Phillips and Sione Takitaki, but as of now none of them have proven to be every-down studs at the position. Collins is a hulking linebacker with reportedly elite athleticism coming off a monster year in coverage. And he can rush the passer. He sounds like a key missing link to a Browns defense that looks like a problem all of a sudden.
27. Baltimore Ravens – Purdue WR Rondale Moore
Willie Sneed is currently a free agent, and the Ravens still need more weapons to put around Lamar Jackson in 2021. Many are trying to give Jackson a big play-maker on the outside, but I don’t know if that is a great fit for Jackson’s game. I think the Ravens need to prioritize athletes who can make plays with the ball in their hands, and that definitely describes Moore’s game. He didn’t do it much in college, but as a freshman Moore showed the ability to stretch the field too, which could be an expansion of his game in Baltimore.
28. New Orleans Saints – Alabama DT Christian Barmore
Alabama DT Christian Barmore – Photo by: USA Today
The Saints lost Malcom Brown, Sheldon Rankins and, from a pass rush perspective, Trey Hendrickson from their 2020 defensive line. Replacing those losses won’t be easy, but Barmore is a good first step. The Alabama defensive tackle is still very young, but erupted back into the first-round conversation with a dominant College Football Playoff performance against Notre Dame and Ohio State. Barmore’s technique and mental processing needs some work, but he might be able to contribute as a rusher early in his career while he develops a more complete game.
29. Green Bay Packers – Notre Dame SS Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah
The Packers have to get better in the slot this offseason. In both of their match-ups against the Bucs last season, it was a position that consistently got exploited for them. They are just too weak in the middle of the field. Enter Owusu-Koramoah, who is one of the better slot defenders in the draft. Listed as a linebacker, Owusu-Koramoah rarely played as a stacked linebacker at Notre Dame, instead adding onto the line of scrimmage or playing over No. 2 more often than not. His ability to match up in man coverage underneath, carry receivers vertically, pass off routes in zone, rally to the ball as a tackler and make an impact as a blitzer are exactly what teams should be looking for in a strong safety.
30. Buffalo Bills – Florida State CB Asante Samuel
The Bills don’t have many holes on their roster, but I could see them improving their offensive or defensive lines through the draft. If they pass on the edge defender class in the first round of the draft, Samuel makes a ton of sense as a late Round 1 addition. It would finally give the team the quality bookend cornerback that they need across from Tre White, and Samuel also offers the competitive edge that Buffalo loves in their defensive players. This could be a great fit if the Bills front office is willing to look past Samuel’s smaller stature this early in the draft.
31. Kansas City Chiefs – Georgia EDGE Azeez Ojulari
The Chiefs suddenly have a lot of needs, but I still think finding more talent up front in this draft is critical. Chris Jones is an elite player, but Frank Clark has been a massive disappointment and Kansas City doesn’t have anyone to bookend him on their defensive line. Ojulari is an excellent speed/bend rusher whose testing may knock him down the board some. I still think he can be Yannick Ngakoue in the NFL, and maybe more due to his elite effort as a run defender.
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – North Carolina RB Javonte Williams
North Carolina RB Javonte Williams – Photo by: USA Today
Yes, Miami EDGE players Jaelan Phillips and Gregory Rousseau are still on the board in this mock draft, and Phillips is unquestionably the best edge rusher in the draft on tape. But Phillips has some off-field concerns in his past, including three concussions that forced him to medically retire for about a year. Will teams be comfortable enough with his past to select him in Round 1? Maybe. It’s hard for me to know from the outside looking in.
I don’t love selecting a running back in Round 1, but it’s hard to get comfortable with most of the top defensive prospects in this draft class, especially along the defensive line. I think Tampa Bay is going to see Williams as the three-down back that the team has searched for over the past few years. Even if Leonard Fournette returns on a one-year deal, he and Ronald Jones II will both be free agents next offseason, and I doubt Ke’Shawn Vaughn will be capable of manning a full-time role.
In Williams, the Bucs are getting one of the elite tackle-breaking backs of the past 20 years, as the North Carolina rusher shredded defenses for over 1,000 yards last season. Williams is a good receiver too, although most of his big plays in the passing game last season came against busted coverages, as luck would have it. Where he really stands out is in pass protection however, as Williams consistently destroyed opponents in a fashion you just do not see at the college level. It might not be the most valuable position, but he’s a great fit in Tampa Bay, which has to find a way to improve its running back room through the draft before next season.
Jon Ledyard is PewterReport.com's newest Bucs beat writer and has experience covering the Pittsburgh Steelers as a beat writer and analyzing the NFL Draft for several draft websites, including The Draft Network. Follow Ledyard on Twitter at @LedyardNFLDraft
PewterReport.com prides itself on being the most complete, comprehensive news source covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and delivering inside scoop on the team found nowhere else.