On the eve of the East-West Shrine Game practices in St. Petersburg, Fla. PewterReport.com’s Scott Reynolds offers up his first Buccaneers’ 7-Round Mock Draft of 2015. For the first time since 1987 when the Bucs took Miami quarterback Vinny Testaverde, Tampa Bay has the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft and desperately needs help at the quarterback position.
Will Tampa Bay draft Oregon’s Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Marcus Mariota, Florida State QB Jameis Winston or trade down in the first round for a bounty of draft picks in 2015 and future selections? We’ll find out on April 30, but in the meantime, he is PewterReport.com’s first round-by-round draft projection that focuses mostly on improving Tampa Bay’s offense.
ROUND 1 – Florida State QB Jameis Winston – 6-4, 230 – Redshirt Sophomore
The Buccaneers desperately need a franchise quarterback with the “It” factor to go toe-to-toe with the likes of New Orleans’ Drew Brees, Carolina’s Cam Newton and Atlanta’s Matt Ryan twice a year in the NFC South division. Winston is that type of quarterback and has a track record of being a winner, evidenced by a 26-1 record at Florida State, winning the Heisman Trophy and the National Championship as a redshirt freshman.
Winston is widely regarded as the best pocket passer in the draft and would be an ideal fit for new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, whose system relies on strong QB play from the pocket. Winston is one of the most clutch quarterbacks in college football, engineering five game-winning drives and he has a perfect 7-0 record in games decided by a touchdown or less, which is the typical NFL game. That type of play, and his pocket prowess, should make Winston the number one overall pick over
The Bessemer, Ala. native has completed over 65 percent of his passes for 7,964 yards with 65 touchdowns and 28 interceptions. Winston set an FBS freshman record with 40 touchdown passes in 2013 against just 10 picks. He has the intangibles, arm strength, mobility, ability to read defenses and go through progressions and a track record of having success early in his career that could make his transition to the NFL a quick and smooth one.
Winston does have some off-field issues that need to be investigated by the Buccaneers and head coach Lovie Smith, general manager Jason Licht and the Glazers must agree that he has matured enough to lead the franchise and will continue to mature once given the millions of dollars that come with an NFL contract. Winston’s star power and the Seminoles fan base in the Tampa Bay area could give the Buccaneers’ ticket office the shot in the arm the team needs, which has to be appealing to the Glazers.
ROUND 2 – Florida State OL Cameron Erving – 6-5, 320 – Senior
The Buccaneers are considering moving their best offensive tackle, Demar Dotson, from the right side to the left side in 2015 with the expected departure of Anthony Collins, a free agent bust from a year ago. However, the drafting of Erving, a franchise-caliber left tackle, could negate those plans and keep Dotson on the right side.
Erving, a two-year starter on the offensive line, was a first-team All-American tackle over the past two seasons, and had the unique distinction of being a first-team All-ACC left tackle and a second-team All-ACC center after he switched positions for the final four games of the 2014 campaign when the Seminoles needed help protecting the middle of the line. The Moultrie, Ga. native’s versatility is a huge asset, as NFL scouts believe he can be a starter at left tackle, center or even guard at the next level.
The 6-foot-5, 320-pounder began his collegiate career as a defensive lineman and plays with an intense, nasty demeanor. Erving can help the Bucs right away by competing at multiple positions as a rookie. If Tampa Bay decides to draft Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, coming back and drafting Erving at the top of the second round – or even trading back into the late first-round – makes a lot of sense. For two years Erving has protected Winston’s blind side and even snapped to him this season. Keeping that continuity going between those two could greatly benefit the Bucs offense.
ROUND 3 – Kansas State WR Tyler Lockett – 5-11, 175 – Senior
Dirk Koetter’s offense could use more speed and playmaking ability at the wide receiver position, and Lockett finished his Kansas State career as the school’s all-time leading receiver with 249 catches for 3,710 yards and 29 touchdowns thanks to a massive senior campaign in which he caught 106 passes for 1,515 yards and 11 scores. Lockett’s father, Kevin, and uncle, Aaron, a Bucs’ seventh-round draft pick in 2002, starred at K-State as receivers, so he comes from great bloodlines.
With Atlanta’s Harry Douglas having success in the slot in Koetter’s four-wide receiver set, Lockett is a similarly built quick-type receiver that can play both inside and outside. His big-play skill set is reminiscent of that of Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown as Lockett, who will be at the Senior Bowl, had 17 100-yard games for the Wildcats, and had 16 receptions of 40 yards or more. No game was bigger than Lockett’s 12-catch, school-record 278-yard, three-touchdown performance against Oklahoma cornerback Aaron Colvin, who was projected to be a first-round pick before tearing his ACL last year at the Senior Bowl.
Lockett, who uses his tremendous route-running ability to create separation, can also help Tampa Bay’s special teams as a return specialist. He left Kansas State with six touchdowns in the return game, including four on kickoffs – including a pair of 100-yarders – and two on punts. His 19.1-yard punt return average led the FBS this year and he had three additional punt return touchdowns that were negated due to penalties. The Bucs could use more speed in the return game and on offense and Lockett, who is expected to run in the 4.4-range, can help Tampa Bay on all four downs.
ROUND 4 (from St. Louis) – Arizona State G Jamil Douglas – 6-4, 301 – Senior
Douglas spent his senior season playing left tackle after beginning his collegiate career at left guard. He was an All-Pac-12 performer at both positions over the past two seasons. While he might get a look at the tackle position during the Senior Bowl, Douglas’ NFL future is at guard due to his frame.
The Buccaneers have a huge need at the guard spot, but this position isn’t particularly deep in the 2015 NFL Draft. Getting a talented road-grader like Douglas in the fourth round would be a wise investment as he has shown he can battle against the likes of USC’s Leonard Williams and fared well.
Douglas is a very strong lineman with heavy hands that typically knock defenders backwards or to the ground. The tenacious Sun Devil is a freak in the weight room where he has power cleaned 390 pounds, benched 430 pounds and squatted 585 pounds. He excels as a pulling guard and has good mobility and power in space. Arizona State’s most veteran offensive lineman has the NFL size and ability to contend for a starting job right away, which would make him attractive to Tampa Bay.
ROUND 5 – Norfolk State DE Lynden Trail – 6-6, 260 – Senior
A former prized Florida recruit, Trail transferred to Norfolk State, an FCS school, where he has dominated over the past two years. During that span, Trail racked up 185 tackles, 13.5 sacks, 12 pass breakups, seven forced fumbles, two interceptions and a fumble recovery for a touchdown as an outside linebacker in the Spartans’ 3-4 defensive scheme.
With a 6-foot-6, 260-pound frame and a huge wingspan, Trail’s size and build resemble that of former Miami Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor. With freakish athleticism and speed, Trail will be sought after by 3-4 teams as an outside linebacker and by 4-3 teams as a defensive end as pass rushing is what he does best.
Trail would be a tremendous Day 3 acquisition for a Tampa Bay team that is looking for more athletes to get after the quarterback at the defensive end position. His NFL Draft stock is rising quickly, though, as he was once an invite to the East-West Shrine Game before spurning that event for the more prestigious Senior Bowl. With a good showing in Mobile, Ala., the Bucs may have to spend a fourth-round pick on Trail if they want him and his stock continues to climb.
ROUND 5 (from Patriots) – USC CB Josh Shaw – 6-1, 200 – Senior
Shaw is a big-framed defensive back with NFL-ready size. In playing at both Florida and Southern California, Shaw has experience at both free safety and cornerback, and that versatility makes him attractive to teams that need help in the secondary like Tampa Bay.
In his first three years on the field at both schools, Shaw combined for 119 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 14 pass deflections, six interceptions and one touchdown. His best season came in 2013 when he had career highs in tackles (67), pass breakups (seven) and interceptions (four). Shaw is known as a big, physical defender with good instincts and above average athleticism and hands.
The Bucs and other NFL teams will have to thoroughly inquire about Shaw’s lying to USC coaches about how he sustained ankle injuries in August that prompted him to be suspended for all but the final three games of the Trojans 2014 season. Shaw ultimately came clean about his fabricated story and apologized, but this character concern – and the fact he played in just three games during his senior season – will lead to his draft stock falling in May. That could benefit the Buccaneers.
ROUND 6 (from St. Louis) – South Dakota State RB Zach Zenner – 6-0, 220 – Senior
The 6-foot, 220-pound Zenner is an incredibly productive running back for the Jackrabbits program, rushing for over 2,000 yards in each of the last three seasons and totaling 6,548 yards and 61 touchdowns on the ground during his collegiate career. A big, fast and physical runner, Zenner always gives maximum effort on every run and is considered to be a Day 3 sleeper at the halfback position.
With a blue-collar running style that resembles a faster, sleeker Mike Alstott, Zenner has five runs of 75 yards or more, including two over 90 in his career, Zenner is just as capable of running away from would-be tacklers as he is running them over. He’s had games with over 100 yards against the likes of Bucs general manager Jason Licht’s Nebraska (202 yards, three touchdowns) and Missouri (103 yards, two touchdowns) and will get to prove himself against a higher level of competition again at the East-West Shrine Game in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Zenner is also an accomplished receiver, catching 49 passes for 602 yards and six touchdowns over the past two seasons alone, and has eight receiving scores in his SDSU career. This all-around rusher with great character would be a fantastic addition to Tampa Bay’s running back stable and would also be a willing contributor on special teams as a rookie, too.
ROUND 7 – Michigan State MLB Taiwan Jones – 6-3, 253 – Senior
Jones was a defensive leader for Michigan State over the past two years as he has led the Spartans to a top 10 finish in each season. A three-year starter at weakside linebacker, Jones was asked to move to the middle linebacker position where he flourished, racking up 60 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, two fumble recoveries, two pass breakups and one interception in 2014.
Jones, a fiery, intense thumper of a middle linebacker, recorded 10 tackles and three tackles for loss against Bucs general manager Jason Licht’s Cornhuskers this year. He finished his Spartans career with 183 tackles, 25.5 tackles for loss, six pass breakups, 5.5 sacks, two fumble recoveries and one interception.
Jones, who was a running back in high school, will display his wares for NFL scouts and talent evaluators at the East-West Shrine Game in St. Petersburg, Fla. With Mason Foster entering a contract year in 2015, the Buccaneers could use some depth and playmaking ability at the middle linebacker spot, and Jones would be a nice developmental prospect at the position.
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th 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 line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: email@example.com
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