Coming off a dismal 2-14 season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a lot of holes on their roster to fill and currently have eight selections in the 2015 NFL 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 desperately needs help at the quarterback position.
Most mock drafts have Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, the author of a 26-1 record, going to the Bucs, including PewterReport.com as the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner has led off our 2015 Bucs’ 7-Round Mock Draft since January. Who will block for Winston, and which skill players will he throw to in 2015? We’ll find out in less than a month, but there are other questions that need answering.
Will the Buccaneers trade quarterback Mike Glennon and/or running back Doug Martin prior to the draft or on draft day to help Tampa Bay 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. Glennon’s chances of remaining with the team are 50-50.
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. The team needs help at offensive tackle, defensive end, guard and could even use a return specialist and more depth at linebacker and nickel cornerback.
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 put Winston atop its initial Bucs’ 7-Round Mock Draft in January and he has remained there ever since. 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 Tampa Bay’s coaches and scouts were in full force attending his pro day at Florida State on March 31.
Winston has a track record of coming in and making an immediate 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 quick turnaround for their own job security, and Winston is further along in his development than Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is due to the fact that he has played in a pro-style offense under head coach Jimbo Fisher.
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 for his vertical offense. 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 in two seasons at Florida State. 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 – Pittsburgh OT T.J. Clemmings – 6-5, 309 – Senior Previous Pick: Colorado State OT Ty Sambrailo
The top of the second round was too high for Sambrailo, who will likely be drafted near the bottom of the second round or in the third round. The Bucs like Sambrailo, and he could be a target in the third round or if the team decides to trade down in the second round, but there is a strong chance that Tampa Bay will fill its need for an offensive tackle with the selection of Clemmings if he is there with the 34th overall selection.
Clemmings, a former defensive tackle at Pitt, has spent the last two seasons at right tackle where he has started 26 games. With long arms and quick feet that were on display at the NFL Scouting Combine where he posted a 4.54 in the 20-yard shuttle, Clemmings explodes into defensive linemen on running plays and drives them backwards with tenacity. His high school basketball background makes him an agile pass protector as he mirrors opposing pass rushers.
The Bucs view Clemmings, who has had a private workout with the team, as a player similar to Dallas’ Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith. His size, athleticism and quickness makes Clemmings a candidate to switch from right tackle to left tackle in the pros if Tampa Bay wants him to, or stay at right tackle for a year or two while Demar Dotson mans the left tackle position. Having three players in Dotson, Clemmings and last year’s fifth-round pick, Kevin Pamphile, that can play either tackle spot is a great option for Tampa Bay to have.
ROUND 3 – Arizona State FS Damarious Randall – 5-11, 196 – Senior Previous pick: Florida State G Tre Jackson
While it seems like there are more pressing needs than safety, such as a guard, Tampa Bay offers a surprise with the drafting of a playmaking safety like Randall. The Bucs waited until the fifth round to address guard last year with the selection of Kadeem Edwards, and there are two veteran free agent options at guard in Dan Connolly and Stefen Wisniewski, and Edwards, Josh Allen and Patrick Omameh all have another year’s worth of experience.
As for the free safety position, both veterans Chris Conte and Major Wright are stop-gap players that aren’t long-term solutions to play opposite strong safety Bradley McDougald. The Bucs are seriously concerned that there was not an interception all of last year by a safety until Week 17 when McDougald and reserve Keith Tandy each picked off New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees.
The Bucs have been visiting and working out several mid-round free safeties this offseason, and Randall is one of those ballhawks the team is interested in. With nine interceptions at Mesa Community College before a two-year stint at Arizona State where he recorded six interceptions, including two he returned for a touchdown, Randall has a total of 15 picks in college, in addition to being a productive tackler with 177 stops and four forced fumbles over the past two years as a Sun Devil.
ROUND 4 (from St. Louis) – Michigan State RB Jeremy Langford – 6-0, 208 – Senior Previous pick: Norfolk State DE Lynden Trail
While the fourth round may be the place to invest in a guard like Arizona State’s Jamil Douglas, the Bucs desperately want to upgrade their talent at running back and adding Langford, who has a great mix of tackle-breaking ability and 4.42 speed gives Tampa Bay a great complement to slashing pass-catcher Charles Sims. Pat Perles, the son of legendary Michigan State head coach George Perles, is a scout for the Bucs and offers the inside scoop on the Spartans’ leading rusher the past two years.
Langford rushed for 1,422 yards and 18 touchdowns as a junior before posting 1,522 yards and 22 scores as a senior. He had a Big 10-record 10 consecutive games with 100 yards rushing, and capped off his senior campaign with 27 carries for 162 yards and three touchdowns in a 42-41 Cotton Bowl win over Baylor. Langford had a career-long 65-yard run against the Bears.
Tampa Bay is looking for a physical back to replace Doug Martin, who could be traded on draft day, and Langford is one of the mid-round rushers that the team is looking at. His speed, ability to score near the goal line, catch the ball and pass protect make Langford just as attractive as South Carolina’s Mike Davis and Minnesota’s David Cobb.
ROUND 5 (from Baltimore) – Duke WR Jamison Crowder – 5-8, 185 – Senior Previous pick: Texas CB Quandre Diggs
The Bucs were tempted to draft Kansas State receiver and return specialist Tyler Lockett to play in the slot in the second or third round, but recover with drafting Crowder in the fifth. Crowder, a Senior Bowl participant, has had a private workout for the Bucs, who like his instant acceleration, which allows him to separate from defenders, and his big-play ability on offense as well as special teams.
Crowder’s 283 career receptions ties a Duke record and an ACC record, and his 3,641 career receiving yards is second in school history. He became just the third player in ACC history to post three 1,000-yard seasons. Crowder produced 19 catches of 40 yards or more, including a 99-yard touchdown against Miami in 2012, and 17 100-yard receiving games for the Blue Devils.
Although small at 5-foot-8, 185 pounds, Crowder is tough and was a big reason for Duke’s resurgence. Tampa Bay is in desperate need for a return specialist, and in addition to competing with Louis Murphy for the slot receiver duties, Crowder can return both kicks and punts. He had four punt returns for touchdowns over the past two years for the Blue Devils.
ROUND 5 (from New England) – Kansas MLB Ben Heeney – 6-0, 231 – Senior Previous pick: Montana DE Zack Wagenmann
The Bucs didn’t re-sign backup middle linebacker and core special teamer Dane Fletcher, but find a replacement in Heeney, whom the team worked out at KU in late March. Heeney is a freak athlete, running a 4.59 at the NFL Scouting Combine, which makes him one of the fastest linebackers in this draft. The Tampa 2 puts a premium on speed and the Bucs essentially want three weakside linebackers playing in their 4-3 defense.
Heeney was a physical, highly productive three-year starter for the Jayhawks where he amassed 335 tackles, including 127 in 2014 that ranked second in the Big 12. Heeney also had 35 tackles for loss, five pass breakups, 4.5 sacks, four interceptions and three forced fumbles in his KU career. He had a career-high 21 tackles against Texas Tech as a senior.
While free agent addition Bruce Carter is slated to start at Mike linebacker for the Bucs this year, he lacks experience in the middle and it’s a bit of a gamble as he may be better suited to play strongside linebacker. By drafting Heeney, Tampa Bay has a possible eventual starting middle linebacker and an immediate contributor on special teams.
ROUND 6 (from St. Louis) – Towson DE Ryan Delaire – 6-4, 256 – Senior Previous pick: West Virginia WR Mario Alford
Tampa Bay has a pressing need at defensive end, but waits until Day 3 to address it as the crop of edge rushers in this year’s draft isn’t as great as some analysts proclaim it to be. PewterReport.com believes the Bucs will target a small school pass rusher in the draft and Delaire fits Tampa Bay’s scheme perfectly.
After running a disappointing 4.97 at the NFL Scouting Combine, Delaire ran a more respectable 4.78 at his pro day at Towson, which the Bucs attended. Despite not running a blazing 40-time, his 1.67 time in the 10-yard split is on par with the likes of Missouri’s first-round pass rusher Shane Ray, and it’s that initial quickness that allowed him to record 151 tackles, 32 tackles for loss, 25 sacks and six forced fumbles over the past three years.
Delaire is coming off back-to-back seasons of 11.5 and 11 sacks and has an explosive first step, a great closing burst and the athleticism to redirect behind the line of scrimmage. With a physique and body type that resembles current Tampa Bay edge rusher Jacquies Smith, Delaire would be a great addition at either left or right defensive end and would at least be a rotational pass-rushing specialist as a rookie.
ROUND 7 – Memphis CB Bobby McCain – 5-9, 195 – Senior Previous pick: North Dakota State RB John Crockett
The Bucs could go for a late-round guard like Miami’s Jon Feliciano, but with McCain still on the board, the need for a playmaking nickel cornerback and special teams contributor is too strong to pass up. 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 and makes a return appearance in PewterReport.com’s 2015 Bucs’ 7-Round Mock Draft (he was in version 2.0 in February).
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 met with the Bucs at the East-West Shrine Game and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier attended the Memphis pro day. McCain is dangerous with the ball in his hands as a cornerback or a returner and will compete with Sterling Moore, Leonard Johnson and Isaiah Frey for the nickel cornerback job.
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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