A lot has changed since Pewter Report’s last 2022 Bucs 7-Round Mock Draft. Tampa Bay was blessed with Tom Brady’s sudden unretirement on the eve of free agency. That changes everything for the Bucs this year, making the team a contender for another Super Bowl run this year. Brady has been instrumental in helping Tampa Bay re-sign its best players this offseason, in addition to helping the Bucs acquire some more talent.
Bucs GM Jason Licht and QB Tom Brady – Photo by: USA Today
Not only did Bucs general manager Jason Licht and vice president of business administration Mike Greenberg re-sign franchise player Chris Godwin, they also added Atlanta’s Russell Gage as the team’s No. 3 receiver. Gage signed a three-year, $30 million deal, which makes drafting a receiver less of a priority this year.
The Bucs lost right guard Alex Cappa and strong safety Jordan Whitehead in free agency, but Licht traded for Patriots guard Shaq Mason to fill one of those spots. Tampa Bay also re-signed Pro Bowl center Ryan Jensen, cornerback Carlton Davis III, running back Leonard Fournette and defensive lineman Will Gholston. So most of the team’s talent core returns intact.
With the NFL Scouting Combine over and pro days in full effect, Licht, head coach Bruce Arians, director of college scouting Mike Biehl and vice president of player personnel John Spytek are setting the Bucs’ 2022 draft board. Tampa Bay traded away a fifth-round pick for Mason and didn’t have a sixth-rounder this year, but picked up a seventh-round compensatory pick.
Let’s take a look at Tampa Bay’s personnel needs following the season, and who the Bucs select in Pewter Report’s third 2022 Bucs 7-Round Mock Draft of the year. With the offense reloaded this offseason, this could be a defensive-laden draft for the Bucs, especially in the early rounds.
Bucs Personnel Needs
Table of Contents
Interior Defensive Line
The Bucs re-signed Gholston, but have yet to re-sign Ndamukong Suh. He has indicated he wants to play another season. After back-to-back years with six sacks, Tampa Bay would welcome the 35-year old back with open arms. This year’s crop of defensive tackles in free agency and the NFL Draft is weak, so getting Suh back would be a coup. The Bucs could use some more youth at the position, especially if 36-year old reserve Steve McLendon retires or doesn’t come back. Finding the right defensive tackle will be tricky, and will probably have to be done early.
Bucs Ss Jordan Whitehead and Antoine Winfield, Jr. – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
The Bucs have one of the best young safeties in the game in Antoine Winfield, Jr., who mostly plays free safety. Finding a replacement for Jordan Whitehead, who was signed in free agency by the Jets, is a priority. Mike Edwards is the logical candidate to move into that vacancy, but he’s never played strong safety full time. And he is not as physical as Whitehead. Edwards is also in a contract year, so Tampa Bay will have to draft a safety for depth regardless. The Bucs have told long-time reserve Andrew Adams that they are moving on from him. The Bucs signed Ryan to a one-year deal to add some veteran depth. He can play safety in addition to nickel cornerback and will bring experience and leadership to the room.
The Bucs have yet to re-sign Rob Gronkowski, although his return seems inevitable due to the fact that Tom Brady is back. Cam Brate will stick around after a pay cut, and the Bucs have Codey McElroy back from the practice squad. But Tampa Bay could use some new blood at the position. Finding a tight end that can block and catch is a must. The good news is that this year’s draft is fairly deep at the position.
Tampa Bay re-signed Leonard Fournette to a three-year contract worth $7 million per season. That ensures that he’s the starter and takes less pressure off drafting a running back. With Ke’Shawn Vaughn, a former third-round pick, and Kenjon Barner on the roster, the Bucs will need to add two more backs for depth and competition. Look for the Bucs to draft one and sign one in free agency. Whoever Tampa Bay drafts, that back must be a factor in the passing game as a receiver and a protector.
Bucs CB Carlton Davis III – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
The return of Carlton Davis III was huge because he is Tampa Bay’s top cover corner. It also means the team’s top three cornerbacks will be back for another season. Jamel Dean had his best year, although he fought through injuries. Sean Murphy-Bunting missed half the season due to injury and was unspectacular when he returned. Injuries hit the cornerback position hard. With Dean and Murphy-Bunting in a contract year, it only makes sense that the Bucs add a young, developmental cornerback to the group for depth and competition. There are several tall, long cornerbacks that fit the Bucs’ mold in this draft, which is a good sign for Tampa Bay.
The Bucs lost Pro Bowl guard Ali Marpet to retirement and Alex Cappa in free agency. Tampa Bay traded for New England’s Shaq Mason to replace Cappa, but still needs to find a replacement for Marpet. Over the past few years the Bucs have stockpiled the guard position. Top reserve Aaron Stinnie returns on a one-year, prove-it deal. He will compete with young reserve Nick Leverett, whom the team is high on. Last year’s third-round pick Robert Hainsey, a backup center, could join the fray to compete for the left guard job. Sadarius Hutcherson and John Molchon are also options to compete. So drafting a guard is not a necessity with Mason’s arrival. However, if one of the top guards like Boston College’s Zion Johnson, Texas A&M’s Kenyon Green or Memphis’ Dylan Parham are available and the top option on the Bucs’ draft board the team could pull the trigger.
2022 Bucs 7-Round Mock Draft 3.0
ROUND 1 – Georgia S Lewis Cine
6-2, 199 • Junior
The Bucs lost strong safety Jordan Whitehead in free agency, but Cine is a tremendous replacement. He’s one of the most physical defensive backs in this year’s draft and is coming off a national championship at Georgia. Cine (pronounced seen) was the MVP of the Bulldogs’ win over Alabama. He had seven tackles, including a tackle for loss and a pass breakup against the Crimson Tide.
Georgia S Lewis Cine – Photo by: USA Today
At 6-foot-2, 199 pounds, Cine has good size to match up with tight ends in coverage. Todd Bowles deployed Whitehead in that capacity and Cine is four inches taller and has longer arms. He broke up 14 passes in three seasons at Georgia, including nine last year. Cine was a first-team All-SEC performer last year and was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award. He was a third-team All-American.
On a talented Bulldogs defense, Cine finished as the leading tackler with 73 stops. According to Pro Football Focus, he only missed 11 tackles in his career on 159 attempts. That’s excellent.
One of his hits was a massive collision with Florida tight end Kyle Pitts that resulted in him being ejected. Since then, Cine has done a much better job of tackling under control.
While in high school, Cine moved from Massachusetts to Texas and was coached by Deion Sanders for his senior season. While not as fast as Sanders was when he played, Cine blazed a 4.37 time at the NFL Scouting Combine. He has the range to play deep, where he lined up for 534 reps last year. But Cine, who was a team captain, also has the versatility to play in the box (155 snaps) and in the slot (118 snaps).
Cine is a chess piece that Bowles could move around the defense, finding ideal matchups for. He even has a similar business-like demeanor that is reminiscent of Bowles. The Bucs didn’t re-sign Anthony Adams, so there is room at the safety position for another body or two. Cine steps in and starts as a rookie, or at the very least, rotates in with Mike Edwards.
ROUND 2 – Sam Houston State CB Zyon McCollum
6-2, 199 • Senior
The Bucs were decimated with injuries at the cornerback position last year. Sean Murphy-Bunting missed eight games. Carlton Davis III missed seven games. Jamel Dean missed two games and parts of two others.
With Dean and Murphy-Bunting both entering a contract year, the Bucs would be wise to bolster the cornerback position with a young, talented player. At 6-foot-2, 199 pounds McCollum has the size defensive coordinator Todd Bowles craves on the outside. Due to injuries, the Bucs had to start reserves Dee Delaney and Ross Cockrell, in addition to signing Richard Sherman and Pierre Desir, who also started a couple of games apiece.
McCollum is a small school prospect, who was an absolute ballhawk for the Bearkats. He recorded 54 pass breakups and 13 interceptions in five seasons at Sam Houston State. McCollum was a steady, regular playmaker who recorded three interceptions in four of those five seasons.
McCollum is best suited to play outside cornerback, evidenced by his 594 snaps outside. He played 50 snaps in the slot and 62 in the box, so he has some versatility. But primarily, McCollum would be backing up Davis and Dean. He could possibly replacing Dean if he doesn’t get a contract extension.
As a rookie, McCollum can help the Bucs on special teams. He was an outstanding gunner in college.
Whether or not Ndamukong Suh returns, the Bucs could really use another young defensive tackle to pair with nose tackle Vita Vea. The problem is that this is not a great draft for defensive tackles. In fact, it’s an awful draft for defensive tackles. It’s the second year in a row where good defensive tackles are scarce.
After Georgia’s defensive tackles Devonte Wyatt and Jordan Davis and UConn’s Travis Jones, Uwazurike might be the next best option. He’s a late bloomer who helped Iowa State rise to a Top 20 team during his five years there.
Uwazurike emerged as a starter in 2018 and wound up playing five seasons with the Cyclones. He has the size and athletic ability to play all over the defensive line. Uwazurike played 241 snaps outside tackle, 210 snaps in the A gap, 104 over tackle and 98 snaps in the B gap.
Uwakurike is a solid run stuffer and an emerging pass rusher. He totaled 15 sacks at Iowa State, including a team-high nine last year. That made Uwazurike a first-team All-Big 12 player. He’s also a very smart player, making the second team Academic All-Big 12 team.
Uwazurike is a highly competitive, high-energy player who is physical against the run. He has a nice swim move that helps him knife through gaps to get to the quarterback. Uwazurike plays a little high, but he can improve his pad level. Tampa Bay would benefit from a player that could eventually replace either Suh or defensive end Will Gholston.
The Bucs not only re-signed Chris Godwin this year, but also added Russell Gage in free agency. The former Falcons receiver signed a three-year, $30 million deal to be the No. 3 wide receiver in Tampa Bay. But the reality is that the Bucs need at least four receivers for their receiver-driven offense. The case in point is that in the playoffs last year, Godwin was out injured and Antonio Brown was gone. Having Mike Evans and Tyler Johnson wasn’t enough.
Drafting Pierce would give the Bucs another big receiver closer to Evans than to Godwin or Gage, who is just 6-foot. Pierce made a living at Cincinnati making contested catches for quarterback Desmond Ridder. He wound up catching 106 passes for 1,851 yards and 13 touchdowns.
The Bucs have to like Pierce’s ability to make plays downfield. Tampa Bay’s vertical passing game could use another deep threat, and Pierce averaged 17.5 yards per catch. He ran a 4.41 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine and had a 40.5-inch vertical jump.
Pierce, who had a formal interview with the Bucs at the NFL Scouting Combine, can high point passes and box out defensive backs with his bigger frame. That frame can also make him a dangerous red zone threat, in addition to a solid downfield blocker. Will Pierce be the receiver the Bucs hoped Justin Watson and Tyler Johnson would be? Time will tell.
ROUND 7 – Washington State RB Max Borghi
5-9, 210 • Senior
The Bucs have Leonard Fournette as their lead back after signing him to a three-year deal worth $21 million. Right or wrong, the team has confidence in Ke’Shawn Vaughn as a capable No. 2 back despite the small sample size. With Vaughn being a former third-round pick, Tampa Bay might be inclined to wait until Day 3 to add more depth and competition to the backfield. The Bucs can always sign another veteran pass-catching back like the Chiefs’ Darrel Williams or Jerick McKinnon. Or Tampa Bay can re-sign Giovani Bernard for that role.
The Bucs interviewed Borghi at the NFL Scouting Combine and he fits the mold of what they’re looking for in a complementary back. Borghi has skills reminiscent of Christian McCaffrey and a similar running style, too. In his first season at Washington State, Borghi rushed for 366 yards and eight touchdowns, but had 53 catches for 374 yards and four more TDs.
The next season, Borghi ran for 817 yards and 11 TDs while averaging 6.4 yards per carry. He also hauled in 86 catches for 597 yards (6.9 avg.) and five more scores. That made him one of the best all-purpose backs in the country.
BORGHI’S WASHINGTON STATE RUSHING STATS 2018: 72 carries for 366 yards (5.1 avg.), 8 TDs 2019: 127 carries for 817 yards (6.4 avg.), 11 TDs 2020: 10 carries for 95 yards (9.5 avg.), TD 2021: 160 carries for 880 yards (5.5 avg.), 12 TDs
BORGHI’S WASHINGTON STATE RECEIVING STATS 2018: 53 catches for 374 yards (7.1 avg.), 4 TDs 2019: 86 catches for 597 yards (6.9 avg.), 5 TDs 2020: 1 catch for 7 yards (7.0 avg.) 2021: 16 catches for 156 yards (9.8 avg.)
Washington State only played four games in a COVID-shortened season in 2020. A back injury limited Borghi to playing in just one of those games. After showing off his ability to catch the ball earlier in his career, Borghi wanted to focus on proving himself as a runner. He did just that in 2021, rushing for a career-high 880 yards and 12 touchdowns while averaging 5.5 yards per carry.
Because of Borghi’s proficiency in the passing game, being able to run wheel routes and angle routes rather than just catch swing passes, he’s a great fit in Tampa Bay. What will push Borghi down in the draft is his short arms and lack of height, and the fact that he’s more quick than fast. Yet when Tom Brady looks at the scouting report and Borghi’s film, he’ll see another version of Rex Burkhead and be thrilled.
ROUND 7 – Nebraska TE Austin Allen
6-8, 253 • Senior
The Bucs are expected to re-sign Rob Gronkowski and have veteran reserve Cam Brate and Codey McElroy on the roster. But the team needs more depth and competition to fill O.J. Howard’s roster spot. This year’s draft at tight end is deep with quantity, but lacks high-end quality. So Tampa Bay can afford to wait until Day 3 to snatch a tight end if necessary.
Allen is a blue collar tight end that does the dirty work in the running game as a blocker. While he’s not the best blocking tight end in the draft, he has enough size, length, grit and ability to get the job done. Tight ends in Tampa Bay have to be able to block and catch to have a place in Bruce Arians’ offense.
Allen was a team captain in 2021 and is lauded for his leadership ability. Not only was he Nebraska’s Offensive MVP in 2021, he was also the Big Ten Tight End of the Year. Allen beat out Ohio State’s Jeremy Ruckert and Wisconsin’s Jake Ferguson for that honor. And he was a first-team, All-Big Ten tight end as a result.
ALLEN’S NEBRASKA RECEIVING STATS 2018: 2 catches for 54 yards (27 avg.) 2019: 7 catches for 83 yards (11.3 avg.) 2020: 18 catches for 236 yards (13.1 avg.), TD 2021: 38 catches for 602 yards (15.8 avg.), 2 TDs
Allen really came on in the last year as a receiver. After catching 18 passes for 236 yards (13.1 avg.) and a touchdown as a junior, he hauled in 38 passes for 602 yards (15.8 avg.) and two TDs last season. His 15-yard average has to be appealing to Arians, who likes deep threats.
Allen is not the fastest tight end and won’t get much yards after his catch. But due to his 6-foot-8 frame and long arms, he can high point the ball and come down with most contested catches. He has a huge catch radius that means he’s open even when he’s covered. Allen needs to work on keeping proper pad level as a blocker, but he would be a great addition in Tampa Bay and be able to contribute on special teams.
Scott Reynolds is in his 27th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive coordinator/defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]
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.