Having just returned from Mobile, Ala. to scout the 2015 Reese’s Senior Bowl, PewterReport.com serves up its second 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.
For the second straight mock draft, the Buccaneers select Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston over Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, and due to the chatter and conversations PewterReport.com had with NFL scouts, coaches and talent evaluators at both the East-West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl, Winston is clearly the best and most NFL-ready quarterback in the 2015 NFL Draft.
After Winston, there are shake-ups at six out of the next seven spots in PewterReport.com’s 2015 Bucs’ 7-Round Mock Draft. Here is the 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 Previous pick: Florida State QB Jameis Winston
The need for a franchise quarterback with the “It” factor and ability 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 tops the list in Tampa Bay. 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 has some off-field issues that have been investigated by the Buccaneers and will continue to be investigated by head coach Lovie Smith, general manager Jason Licht and the team’s scouts. The Bucs’ brass 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 – Utah DE Nate Orchard – 6-4, 255 – Senior Previous Pick: Florida State OT Cameron Erving
If the Buccaneers didn’t have a desperate need for a franchise quarterback the team would take Nebraska defensive end Randy Gregory because of the need for an edge pass rusher. Erving was the pick in the second round of the first mock draft, but he’s likely to be a first-rounder now that Pittsburgh offensive tackle T.J. Clemmings stock is falling after a bad week at the Senior Bowl. The Bucs will have their choice of offensive linemen, such as Clemmings, Florida State guard Tre Jackson and Colorado State tackle Ty Sambrailo, but the draft is deep with offensive linemen and a little lighter on defensive ends, so Orchard is the pick.
Orchard finished the 2014 season as the second-leading sacker in the FBS with a school-record 18.5 sacks, and has brought down the likes of USC’s Cody Kessler, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, Colorado State’s Garrett Grayson, Oregon State’s Sean Mannion, Stanford’s Kevin Hogan (three times) and UCLA’s Brett Hundley (four times). The 6-foot-4, 255-pounder has beaten the likes of Sambrailo, Arizona State’s Jamil Douglas and Stanford’s highly regarded tackle Andrus Peat – posting five sacks over the last two years against the Cardinal.
In addition to his 25 career sacks, Orchard finished his Utah career with 186 tackles, 38.5 tackles for loss, 10 pass breakups, eight forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries, including one for a touchdown against USC. Orchard dominated at the Senior Bowl and played a large part in making Clemmings look bad in practice. Tampa Bay needs a pass rusher capable of reaching double-digit sacks and the athletic Orchard, who was a former wide receiver, fills that need in the second round – if he slips past Tennessee, which has the 33rd overall pick and coached him in the Senior Bowl.
ROUND 3 – Kansas State WR Tyler Lockett – 5-10, 181 – Senior Previous pick: Kansas State WR Tyler Lockett
Lockett brings tremendous value to Tampa Bay in the third round as a slot receiver and a return specialist capable of returning kicks and punts. The Bucs would be getting a speedy, playmaking, four-down player in the third round. 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 tremendous 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.
Lockett could play the role that Atlanta’s Harry Douglas played in the slot in Dirk Koetter’s four-wide receiver set in Atlanta. The 5-foot-10, 181-pound Lockett is a similarly built quick 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 starred during Senior Bowl week, 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 return touchdowns (two punt, one kickoff) 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.
ROUND 4 (from St. Louis) – Penn State OT Donovan Smith –6-5, 341 – Junior Previous pick: Arizona State G Jamil Douglas
Because of the higher need for tackle as opposed to guard, the Bucs opt for Smith over Douglas in the fourth round. Smith surprised NFL scouts by leaving Penn State early and foregoing his senior season, but he graduated with a degree in criminology after just three and a half years. With 31 career starts at left tackle, Smith has plenty of experience, but has had bouts of inconsistency during his years with the Nittany Lions that make scouts think he would have been better off staying in school for one more year, especially in a draft deep with offensive tackles.
The 6-foot-5, 341-pound Smith has lapses in technique at times, but his inconsistency isn’t due to a lack of ability. The Owings Mill, Md. native didn’t even make the honorable mention list for the Big 10, but that speaks more about the talented offensive tackles in the conference than it does about any deficiencies in Smith’s game, and it doesn’t mean he won’t have a productive career in the NFL.
Smith opened plenty of eyes in the NFL at the Senior Bowl, and should be applauded for playing in the game as a graduated underclassman. He carries his weight well and is nimble-footed in both pass protection and in the run game. Smith has a nasty disposition on the field and loves to finish his opponents with pancake blocks. He is a highly competitive, aggressive lineman that has the size and skill set to play either left tackle or right tackle, which gives the Bucs a tremendous amount of versatility.
ROUND 5 – Northern Iowa RB David Johnson – 6-1, 224 – Senior Previous pick: Norfolk State DE Lynden Trail
After an impressive week in Mobile, Ala., Trail will likely be gone by the fifth round, so the Bucs draft the best player available, which is Johnson. If Johnson had gone to an FBS school, he would be ranked as a second-round prospect. But after a great week at the Reese’s Senior Bowl, the UNI star rusher has seen his stock climb to the fifth round – and perhaps even higher. At 6-foot-1, 224 pounds, Johnson is a muscle-bound, three-down player with the capability to run through and run away from would-be tacklers, as well as the hands and receiving ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.
After rushing for 1,286 yards and 10 touchdowns as a junior, Johnson rushed for a career-high 1,553 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2014. The big, bruising running back amassed 15 100-yard games over the past two years and he’s done it against some FBS level teams. In a season-opening 28-20 upset over Iowa State in 2013, Johnson rushed for 199 yards and three touchdowns, including an 80-yarder. In this year’s 31-23 season-opening loss at Iowa, Johnson was held to 34 yards on 13 carries, but he did catch five passes for 203 yards, including a 53-yarder, a 60-yarder and a 70-yard touchdown.
Johnson, who is an excellent receiver with 76 catches for 929 yards and six touchdowns over the past two years, is extremely fast for a big back and has four career runs over 50 yards, including two over 70. Johnson had a nifty 19-yard touchdown run in the Reese’s Senior Bowl and was awarded as the best running back during the week of practice. His physical presence would be a great complement to Charles Sims in Tampa Bay’s backfield.
ROUND 5 (from Patriots) – USC LB Hayes Pullard – 6-0, 236 – Senior Previous pick: USC CB Josh Shaw
Shaw has had a great postseason, impressing scouts at both the East-West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl. That has elevated his stock past the fifth round. The Buccaneers are looking for a middle linebacker with great coverage skills and Pullard is a perfect fit, as he would often drop on defense in the pass-happy Pac-12 conference. Pullard appears to be slightly faster and played more in coverage than Clemson’s Stephone Anthony, so he gets the nod in the fifth round. Both inside linebackers had a great week at the Senior Bowl.
Pullard, a four-year starter with 51 career starts, led the Trojans in tackles in two out of the last three years. After starting his career as a weakside linebacker, Pullard was moved to the middle of the defense as a junior and thrived there over the past two seasons. He finished his USC career with 377 tackles, which ranks sixth in school history, along with 25.5 tackles for loss, 17 pass breakups, six sacks, three forced fumbles, three interceptions, including one for a touchdown and one fumble recovery.
Pullard is a very smart player and has tremendous leadership ability. Despite average size at 6-foot, 236 pounds, Pullard is capable of delivering some vicious hits and is a physical tackler. While he is a very good athlete, he’s more of a steady, consistent player than a flashy player, which means he would be a steal for the Buccaneers in the fifth round – especially if he starts during his rookie year. Pullard also brings great special teams value to Tampa Bay.
ROUND 6 (from St. Louis) – Memphis CB Bobby McCain – 5-10, 192 – Senior Previous pick: South Dakota State RB Zach Zenner
McCain is a four-down player that can help Tampa Bay’s defense as well as its special teams as a gunner on punt coverage, in addition to kick coverage and kick return. With good size, toughness, intellect and quickness, McCain has the ideal skill set to play nickel corner in Tampa Bay and compete for the starting job as a rookie.
McCain was a fiery leader for Memphis and has great enthusiasm for football. As a four-year starter for the Tigers defense, McCain recorded 136 tackles, 15 pass breakups, 12 interceptions, including four for touchdowns, 6.5 tackles for loss, three fumble recoveries and a forced fumble. Eleven of McCain’s 12 career picks came over the last two seasons.
The first-team American Athletic Conference selection averaged 25.3 yards per kickoff and had a 95-yard return against Duke in 2012. McCain had a great week of practice at the East-West Shrine Game and is dangerous with the ball in his hands as a cornerback or a returner. The Bucs could find their starting nickel cornerback in the sixth round with the underrated McCain, which would be quite a coup.
ROUND 7 – Miami G Jon Feliciano – 6-4, 335– Senior Previous pick: Michigan State MLB Taiwan Jones
The Buccaneers get some more help along the offensive line with Feliciano, a three-year starter for the Hurricanes. Feliciano primarily started at left guard, but had two starts at right tackle and also saw some time at right tackle during his senior season. At 6-foot-5, 323 pounds, the Davie, Fla. native is a big, physical lineman and a nasty finisher.
Feliciano gets great push off the line in run blocking and is adept at pass protection, too. While he doesn’t look overly athletic, he can get to the ground with ease and take out the legs of defenders with chop blocks at the line of scrimmage or downfield on screen passes. Feliciano has the ability to develop as a starter in the NFL and could compete right away with Kadeem Edwards, a late-round pick last year, for playing time for the Buccaneers.
Feliciano, who had a very good week at the East-West Shrine Game in St. Petersburg, Fla., is very bright football player that graduated last May. He’s used to playing in the Florida heat and is well conditioned, which is important for linemen playing for Tampa Bay. Watch for Feliciano (No. 70) throwing blocks in these Duke Johnson highlights at left guard and right tackle.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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