The 2015 NFL Scouting Combine is over, the first wave of free agency is in the books, and pro days are under way as the 2015 NFL Draft approaches. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in the process of visiting those pro day workouts, conducting personal interviews and watching more film as they set the team’s final draft board. Fresh off a 2-14 season, the Buccaneers have the number one pick in the draft and several holes to fill.
Players like quarterback Mike Glennon, running back Doug Martin and free safety Dashon Goldson could all be traded prior to the draft or on draft day to help the Bucs acquire more selections. The team does not want necessarily want to dump Glennon, and won’t give him away. However, if the right team offers up a second- or third-round pick he could be dealt.
The Bucs want to get faster at the running back position, and Martin has fallen out of favor with the organization after failing to rush for 500 yards in 2014. As for Goldson, the Bucs view him as a safety that doesn’t come close to making enough plays to justify his $8 million cap charge.
Quarterback remains the primary need in Tampa Bay with the release of Josh McCown, last year’s starter, followed by offensive line – right tackle and right guard – due to the team’s lack of activity in free agency. Tampa Bay also has a pressing need for a pass-rushing defensive end. Nickel cornerback, safety, running back and a slot receiver that could double as a return specialist round out the needs for head coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht.
With less than two months to go before to the 2015 NFL Draft, PewterReport.com offers its fourth Buccaneers’ 7-Round Mock Draft. 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 PewterReport.com has now forecasted the selection of Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston over Oregon’s Marcus Mariota for the fourth straight mock draft.
Here is PewterReport.com’s latest 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
PewterReport.com remains steadfast to its early prediction of Winston to the Buccaneers. All of the signs and the scoop we’ve received from our sources at One Buccaneer Place point in that direction. The organization had Winston in the building shortly after the NFL Scouting Combine and the buzz is that he was a huge in the building from the ownership on down.
Winston is used to coming in right away and making an impact. Just look at his redshirt freshman season at Florida State in which he completed 92 percent of his passes with five total touchdowns in his first collegiate start, won the Heisman Trophy and won a national championship. Following a disappointing 2-14 season, Licht and Smith desperately need a turnaround season and Winston is further along in his development than Mariota is due to the fact that he has played in a pro-style offense.
Winston is 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. Tabbed by ESPN’s Todd McShay as the second-best quarterback prospect to come out in the last decade behind Andrew Luck, Winston engineered five game-winning drives and he has a perfect 7-0 record in games decided by a touchdown or less, and games like that are typical in the NFL.
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’s background has been fully vetted by the team, and Bucs sources tell PewterReport.com that he’s been cleared. In addition to tremendous physical ability to throw the ball and make plays, Winston has an uncanny football I.Q. and that will allow him to hit the ground running as a rookie in Koetter’s offense. The buzz Winston will generate from the Seminoles fan base in the Tampa Bay area will drive ticket sales, which will appeal to the Glazers, and he will make the Buccaneers relevant again on the national landscape.
ROUND 2 – Colorado State OT Ty Sambrailo – 6-6, 311 – Senior Previous Pick: UCLA MLB Eric Kendricks
Tampa Bay’s signing of Bruce Carter to play middle linebacker takes away the need for the team to draft an inside linebacker like Kendricks in the second round. The Buccaneers would love to trade down, acquire an extra draft pick and get Sambrailo later in the second round. Tampa Bay might also want to trade up into the bottom of the first round to get an offensive tackle like Florida State’s Cameron Irving, LSU’s La’el Collins or Miami’s Ereck Flowers. But we’re not playing fantasy football here, and we don’t forecast any trades in PewterReport.com’s 2015 Bucs’ 7-Round Mock Draft.
So Sambrailo is the pick for Tampa Bay in the second round because of the team’s need at offensive tackle. The Bucs are considering keeping Demar Dotson at left tackle for the 2015 season, but haven’t set those plans in stone yet. Having a player like Sambrailo with experience at left tackle would give the Bucs – and Winston – peace of mind. Letting Sambrailo and Dotson duke it out at left tackle with the loser of that battle gives the Buccaneers a lot of flexibility with two players capable of playing either tackle position, in addition to reserve Kevin Pamphile.
The 6-foot-6, 311-pound Sambrailo was a three-year starter at Colorado State and has experience playing at the guard spot, too. The Bucs like that versatility and his quick feet. Sambrailo’s 7.54 time in the three-cone drill at the NFL Scouting Combine was one of the better times for offensive linemen. While he has above average athleticism, Sambrailo does need to hit the weight room hard in the NFL and add more size and functional strength that will help him anchor against grown men at the pro level.
ROUND 3 – Florida State G Tre Jackson – 6-4, 330 – Senior Previous pick: Kansas State WR Tyler Lockett
The fact that Tampa Bay was unable to land a starting-caliber offensive guard in free agency means that the position is a priority in the 2015 NFL Draft. Drafting a slot receiver and a return specialist – like Lockett, our previous third-round pick – will have to wait until later in the draft.
With Winston in the fold, the Bucs continue to bolster their offensive line with a player that spent the past two years blocking for him in Jackson. Some NFL scouts believe that Jackson had a better junior season than he did during his senior year, but he only allowed 1.5 sacks and wasn’t flagged for holding during the 2014 campaign.
The 6-foot-4, 330-pound Jackson is a road-grader as a run blocker both at the line of scrimmage and also on the perimeter as a pulling guard and on screen passes. Jackson has the experience and size to start right away in the NFL, as he was a three-year starter at right guard at Florida State. Jackson needs to work on his conditioning at the next level, as he appeared flabby in the midsection at the Senior Bowl and the NFL Scouting Combine where he ran a 5.52 in the 40-yard dash, which was one of the slowest times in Indianapolis.
ROUND 4 (from St. Louis) – Norfolk State DE Lynden Trail – 6-7, 270 – Senior Previous pick: Penn State OT Donovan Smith
The release of defensive end Michael Johnson creates a huge hole at defensive end in Tampa Bay, but one that can be filled with the addition of the 6-foot-7, 270-pound Trail, who was a fifth-round pick in the first edition of PewterReport.com’s 2015 Bucs’ 7-Round Mock Draft back in January. 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 35-inch arms, Trail’s huge wingspan, size and build resemble that of former Miami Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor. With freakish athleticism and better speed than he showed at the Combine (4.91), 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, who is still very raw with his technique, 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. He didn’t fare well as an outside linebacker at the Senior Bowl and even lined up at tight end where he displayed good hands catching the ball in the red zone. But Trail needs to play with his hand in the dirt in a 4-3, one-gap penetrating scheme like the Tampa 2 to have the most success at the next level.
ROUND 5 – Texas CB Quandre Diggs – 5-9, 195 – Senior Previous pick: Texas CB Quandre Diggs
Tampa Bay needs a starting-caliber nickel cornerback as both Leonard Johnson and Isaiah Frey disappointed in that role in 2014, combining for just one interception. Diggs is a feisty, aggressive cornerback that has experience playing in the slot and on the perimeter, and stays in the fifth round of PewterReport.com’s latest mock draft. The Bucs also like the fact that he can return punts, evidenced by his 11.2-yard average at Texas.
Diggs is an aggressive defender in run support and a hard hitter that racked up 214 tackles, 14 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles for the Longhorns defense. But he’s even better against pass, finishing his Longhorns career with 11 interceptions, including four each during his first two seasons at Texas in 2011 and ’12. Diggs also had an interception at the Senior Bowl where he capped off a great week of practice in front of NFL scouts.
For a team like Tampa Bay that hasn’t had a great nickel cornerback since Ronde Barber left years ago, Diggs has some Barber-like qualities about him. He’s covered some of the best receivers in college football over the past few years, including West Virginia’s Kevin White and K-State’s Tyler Lockett. The fact that he has four years of starting experience could help him start as a rookie for the Bucs. If Tampa Bay can procure a defensive starter in the fifth round that is quite an accomplishment.
ROUND 5 (from Patriots) – Montana DE Zack Wagenmann – 6-3, 247– Senior Previous pick: Montana DE Zack Wagenmann
The Bucs continue to address the defensive end position with some more pass rushing help from Wagenmann, who had 38 consecutive starts dating back to his sophomore year. He finished his impressive Montana career with 37.5 sacks, including a career-high 17.5 this year, which was the third-most in college football. In his final game for the Grizzlies, Wagenmann tied his career high with three sacks in the team’s 37-20 loss at Eastern Washington in the second round of the playoffs.
Wagenmann also had 74 tackles, 22.5 tackles for loss and six forced fumbles, which was tied for the nation’s lead in both FBS and FCS. In his Montana career, Wagenmann has 201 tackles, 52 tackles for loss, 11 forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. Yet outside of his two sacks in a 17-12 loss at Wyoming to start the season, Wagenmann has not faced elite competition, which is why is draft stock is parked on the third day rather than in the first three rounds.
The epitome of consistency, Wagenmann burst onto the scene with a team-high 11.5 sacks as a sophomore and then had 8.5 last year before erupting for 17.5 this season. He gets the most of his sacks from his relentless motor, but needs to get stronger, evidenced by Wagenmann’s 14 reps of 225 pounds at the NFL Scouting Combine, which were the lowest of all defensive linemen.
ROUND 6 (from St. Louis) – West Virginia WR-KR Mario Alford – 5-8, 180 – Senior Previous pick: Miami G Jon Feliciano
The Bucs had to address the offensive line in the third round, so they missed out on a player they like in Lockett, a productive receiver and an All-American kick returner. But the Bucs find another speedster that can be a weapon on offense and special teams in Alford in the sixth round. The player nicknamed “Super Mario” caught 92 passes for 1,497 yards (16.2 avg.) and 13 touchdowns in two years at West Virginia.
Playing alongside Kevin White, Alford had a breakthrough season in 2014, catching 65 passes for 945 yards and 11 touchdowns. He burst onto the scene in 2013 with a 72-yard touchdown at Texas, and followed that up with an eight-catch, 215-yard day against Iowa State that included a 76-yard TD. Alford posted three 100-yard days in 2014, including a seven-catch, 136-yard effort at Oklahoma State that included a 79-yard touchdown.
Alford has tremendous speed, running a remarkable 4.28 at his pro day after running a 4.43 at the NFL Scouting Combine. That speed lets him to take the top off the defense on deep routes and slants on offense, and allowed Alford to return two kickoffs for touchdowns and average 28.6 yards per kick return last year. Bucs wide receiver Robert Herron struggled with drops as a rookie last year and doesn’t return kicks or punts, which is why they’ll draft a player like Alford that can play in the slot and help as a return specialist.
ROUND 7 – North Dakota State RB John Crockett – 6-0, 217– Senior Previous pick: North Dakota State RB John Crockett
The Bucs pick up another running back that can help on special teams in Crockett, who was a huge success at North Dakota State after burst onto the scene as a sophomore. In 2012, Crockett rushed for 1,038 yards and nine touchdowns while averaging 5.4 yards per carry. Splitting carries as the Bisons’ number two running back, Crockett rushed for 1,277 yards and 11 touchdowns, while averaging 6.7 yards per carry. He also flourished as the team’s kick returner, averaging 26.2 yards on 11 returns with a career-long of 52 yards against Illinois State.
As a senior, Crockett took over the full-time duties at running back and rushed for 1,994 yards and 21 touchdowns on 368 carries (5.4 avg.) and produced 11 100-yard games in 2014. He finished with 20 100-yard games in his NDSU career. Crockett started off the season rushing for 139 yards and three touchdowns, including a career-long 80-yarder, in a 34-14 road upset at FBS school Iowa State.
After rushing for 152 yards and two scores in a win against South Dakota State, Crockett had a career day in a 39-32 playoff win against Coastal Carolina in which he dashed for a career-high 227 yards and two scores, including a 70-yarder, on 26 carries. His 45-yard game-winning touchdown jaunt in the fourth quarter allowed him to set the record for the most rushing yards in a single season in Bison history. Crockett is a very good receiver out of the backfield and has experience in pass protection, which makes him a viable weapon on all three downs.
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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