continues its daily feature previewing the upcoming NFL Draft with position-by-position analysis.’s Mark Cook analyzes what the Bucs have currently on their roster at each position and Trevor Sikkema provides a comprehensive overall ranking of the top players at that position going into the draft. Scott Reynolds makes his projections for Tampa Bay with’s Bucs’ Best Bets – one early round pick, and one from the later rounds.

The series began with quarterbacks, followed by running backs, wide receiverstight endsoffensive tackles, offensive guards and centers, and now defensive ends.

The Bucs have built themselves a strong core of player along the defensive line. Noah Spence, last year’s second-round pick, showed good flashes of production as a rookie and should take on an increased role this coming season. He had 5.5 sacks and three forced fumbles and was named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month in November. Jacquies Smith should also be considered another addition since he missed almost the entire season in 2016 to a torn ACL. He’s a player who has had six and seven-season sacks in back-to-back years when healthy.

Bucs DE Will Gholston – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR

Strongside defensive end William Gholston back with a contract extension and that means the Buccaneers should still be solid against the run. When you throw in Robert Ayers, Jr. as a hybrid defensive tackle/defensive end, Tampa Bay is not only solid but also versatile on the edge. This is a unit that may not be known nationally, but is well above average in terms of what they are capable of.

George Johnson, Ryan Russell and Channing Ward all return for depth and competition in training camp.

Depending on what the team decides to do with Ayers in his mixed role, and also depending on how Smith has recovered from his injury, the Bucs could still stand to add a pass rusher off the edge as high as the first round. Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht has said many times that you can never have too many pass rushers. If a top pass rushing defensive end falls to 19, they could pull the trigger.

Click the next page to see the Top 15 projected defensive ends in this class.

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About the Author: Trevor Sikkema

Trevor Sikkema is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat reporter and NFL Draft analyst for Sikkema, an alumnus of the University of Florida, has covered both college and professional football for much of his career. As a native of the Sunshine State, when he's not buried in social media, Sikkema can be found out and active, attempting to be the best athlete he never was. Sikkema can be reached at:
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David DeLeon
4 years ago

If we he’s available in 3rd or 4th round, I would love to see DeMarcus Walker a Buc!! I love his motor and determination. Most likely DT, but I think he could help on a rotation basis.

My 2¢ 😎😎

Reply to  David DeLeon
4 years ago

Agreed David, he is so underrated right now because of his size. He literally took over games last year. And the production is there to match the motor. If you could get him in the 3rd, that would be a steal. But what do I know, I’m a “homer” noles fan.

4 years ago

Willis certainly looks like a good pick for 19 … a tad undersized … maybe he could double as a DE and OLB?

Crazy Legs
4 years ago

I would LOVE DWalker in the 3rd! What a steal.

Buc 1976
4 years ago

Tray H. has alot of upside not sure what rd. In a year or so with good coaching he may very well be a 7-10′ sacks a year guy.

4 years ago

Mark. I am ok with you being a Florida State fan but i think its better not to wear their gear when at one buc place . I want to trust your opinion on players etc. but fear u push your school and may not be objective in you views.I know i am in a minority on this.

Reply to  sunshineben
4 years ago

The Bucs aren’t making draft choices based off of Mark Cooks attire I assure you.

Reply to  bEubanks11
4 years ago

As Mark has mentioned many times, he’s just more comfortable giving his approval to players he’s more familiar with. Take the info for what it is. Info.

4 years ago

Gee Trevor, looks like sunshineben and bEubanks didn’t notice that you as a Gator, not a ‘Nole posted this piece.