The 2016 NFL Draft is here and Bucs general manager Jason Licht, head coach Dirk Koetter, director of college scouting Mike Biehl and director of player personnel John Spytek have set Tampa Bay’s draft board and will be focused on improving the talent on the defensive side of the ball while adding a piece or two to the offense. Licht has only spent one draft pick on a defensive player over the past two years, but he was a good one in middle linebacker Kwon Alexander, who was last year’s fourth-round selection. That will change in 2016.

There are needs to be addressed along the defensive line, especially at defensive tackle and defensive end and in the secondary at cornerback and safety. Tampa Bay would also like to add another linebacker to the mix.

HOLLIDAYKARATINOSLAWFIRMSquare2016Tampa Bay has the ninth overall selection – the fourth top 10 pick in the last five years – and Licht doesn’t want to be drafting this high anymore. The Bucs landed four starters out of last year’s draft, and the goal is to replicate that in 2016, although that may be unreasonable.

PewterReport.com offers up its final Bucs’ round-by-round draft projection in 2016, focusing mostly on improving Tampa Bay’s defense. PewterReport.com’s 2016 Bucs 7-Round Mock Draft is sponsored by Holliday Karatinos Law Firm. Call attorney Jim Holliday for a free consultation at (813) 868-1887 or visit them on the web at HelpingInjuredPeople.com

ROUND 1 (9) – Louisville DT Sheldon Rankins – 6-1, 299 – Junior
Rankins stays atop PewterReport.com’s 2016 Bucs’ 7-Round Mock Draft for a fourth straight mock draft. We’ve ridden this horse this far, why change now? Drafting a defensive tackle with the ninth overall selection makes sense, even though the Bucs already have a Pro Bowler in Gerald McCoy.

Despite defensive tackle being the strongest position in this draft, the Bucs are poised to grab the best prospect in Rankins. This selection also aligns with the Bucs’ biggest need. Great three-technique defensive tackles like Rankins, who compares favorably to Pro Bowler Geno Atkins, who was coached by new defensive line coach Jay Hayes in Cincinnati, are hard to find, and typically go in the first round.

The selection of Rankins comes after assuming that players like Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey, Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa and Notre Dame offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley and Ole Miss offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil are all off the board.

Louisville DT Sheldon Rankins - Photo by: Getty Images
Louisville DT Sheldon Rankins – Photo by: Getty Images

Rankins is the top-rated 4-3, one-gap defensive tackle in the draft. Drafting Rankins gives them another disruptive interior pass rusher and insurance at the three-technique in case McCoy gets injured. New defensive coordinator Mike Smith had a pair of Pro Bowl defensive tackles in Marcus Stroud and John Henderson in Jacksonville, and St. Louis spent a first-round pick on defensive tackle Aaron Donald in 2014 just two years after drafting defensive tackle Michael Brockers in the first round in 2012. It’s not unheard of for a team to have two talented defensive tackles, and Rankins has the traits to be special.

While he’s not the athletic freak that Donald is, Rankins is nearly 15 pounds bigger and plays with more power. Rankins capped off his Louisville career with some dominant practices at the Senior Bowl where Rankins put on a clinic in one-on-one pass rush drills. Rankins performed well in Indianapolis, running a respectable 5.03 in the 40-yard dash at 299 pounds with a 1.74 10-yard split. The Cardinals star defender showed explosion at the Combine with a great 34.5-vertical leap, a 9-10 broad jump and a 7.44 three-cone drill. Rankins’ strength was also on display in Indianapolis where he benched 225 pounds 28 times, which was one of the highest totals among defensive linemen.

Yet it’s Rankins’ production at Louisville combined with his athleticism that makes him a special talent. Rankins had 133 tackles, 31.5 tackles for loss, 18 sacks, three forced fumbles, two interceptions and two fumble recoveries, including one he returned 46 yards for a touchdown against Boston College last year, in his Cardinals career. Rankins had 13.5 tackles for loss, eight sacks, two interceptions, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery as a junior, and finished his college career with 13 tackles for loss, six sacks and a fumble recovery for a score last year.

Rankins has experience playing in a 3-4 and a 4-3 scheme at Louisville and has played all over the line from a five-technique defensive end – where he was miscast – to a three-technique to a one-technique in a 4-3 and a zero-technique nose tackle in a 3-4. It’s that versatility, his incredibly quick hands and his suddenness that makes Rankins worthy of a top 10 pick. With Clinton McDonald coming off a season-ending pectoral injury, Akeem Spence entering a contract year and Henry Melton and Tony McDaniel likely departing via free agency, defensive tackle is a big need in Tampa Bay. We’re either really right or really wrong with the Rankins pick. (Warning: the following highlight video contains profanity)
Previous Pick: Louisville DT Sheldon Rankins

ROUND 2 (39) – Oklahoma State DE Emmanuel Ogbah – 6-4, 273 – Junior
Tampa Bay may have to trade up a bit to get Ogbah, but the team gets its pass-rushing defensive end. The Bucs have done their homework on Ogbah, having him in for a pre-draft visit and having defensive line coach Jay Hayes working him out privately at Oklahoma State. He was a highly productive pass rusher for the Cowboys, but has faced with some criticism for taking some plays off and disappearing for stretches in games.

Yet Ogbah has improved every year and has worked hard to become a fringe first/second-round pick. After notching four sacks as a freshman, Ogbah burst onto the national scene in the 2014 season opening loss to Florida State, sacking Jameis Winston twice and notching six tackles, two tackles for loss and two pass breakups. He went on to record 49 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, 11 sacks and a forced fumble during his sophomore year.

As a junior, Ogbah produced 13 sacks to lead the Big XII and recorded at least half a sack in every game except for two in 2015. He also amassed 64 tackles, which shows his strength against the run, in addition to 17.5 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery for a touchdown. Ogbah’s 28 sacks over the past three years make him one of the most productive junior pass rushers in college football and he had six multiple-sack games for the Cowboys.

The athletic Ogbah isn’t the svelte, track star-style defensive end like former Bucs defensive end Simeon Rice, but he did run a fast 4.63 time in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine. Yet his game and body type are more like NFC South rivals Charles Johnson (Carolina) and Cameron Jordan (New Orleans), who each have multiple double-digit sack seasons in their respective careers. Ogbah has experience playing from both the left and right defensive end positions, and he’s also been an interior nickel rusher for Oklahoma State. He’s probably best suited to start off at right defensive end, but has the ability and flexibility to play either side.
Previous Pick: Ohio State S Vonn Bell

ROUND 3 (74) – Baylor CB Xavien Howard – 6-0, 201 – Junior
Tampa Bay gets a developmental cornerback with great physical tools in the third round with Howard, who was one of the Big XII’s best defensive backs over the last two years. During his sophomore and junior seasons Howard had 23 passes defensed and nine interceptions. He also 1.5 sacks and scored a touchdown on a fumble recovery over the past two years.

Howard’s confidence really took off in the pass-happy Big XII in 2015 as he was primarily on an island in Baylor’s man coverage defense. A big, physical cornerback, Howard has the athleticism and size to match up with some of the bigger receivers in the NFC South division like Atlanta’s Julio Jones (6-3), Carolina’s Devin Funchess (6-4) and Kelvin Benjamin (6-5).

Howard ran a 4.48 in the 40-yard dash at the Baylor pro day and has the speed to keep up with some of the bigger, faster receivers in the NFL. With veterans like Brent Grimes, Alterraun Verner and Johnthan Banks to learn from this year, Howard won’t be pressured to start right away and will benefit from the experience he’s surrounded by. Howard’s size-speed ratio will allow him to be an immediate contributor on special teams as he develops as an NFL defender.
Previous Pick: Ohio State WR Braxton Miller

ROUND 4 (108) – Middle Tennessee SS Kevin Byard – 5-11, 212 – Senior
Byard is one of the most productive safety prospects in this year’s draft, recording 312 tackles and 19 interceptions during his four-year career as a starter for the Blue Raiders, which is a school record. He returned those 19 picks 377 yards and found the end zone four times. With five forced fumbles and a fumble recovery, Byard had a hand in creating 25 takeaways at Middle Tennessee, which new Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith has to love. While he can play strong safety, he’s better suited to play free safety at the next level.

Byard is lauded for his high football I.Q. and his instincts. He’s a good tackler, but not a monster hitter. Yet his knack for being in the right place at the right time puts him in position to rack up the tackle stats. Byard is aided by 4.44 speed, which was timed at his pro day, as he was an NFL Scouting Combine snub after being invited to the Senior Bowl. Byard is quite athletic, evidenced by a 38-inch vertical jump and repping 225 pounds 22 times at his pro day.

Byrad also returned his lone punt return 76 yards for a touchdown against Old Dominion, and he also blocked a field goal as a as a junior, which shows how valuable he can be on special teams as a rookie as he develops on defense. But considering how smart Byard is and the fact that he was able to start as a freshman, don’t count him out as a surprise starter in Tampa Bay’s secondary.
Previous Pick: Grand Valley State DE Matt Judon

ROUND 5 (148) – N.C. State OL Joe Thuney – 6-5-305 – Senior
Thuney was one of the highest-graded offensive linemen in 2015 by Pro Football Focus and has been the Wolfpack’s left tackle for two out of the last three years. Although he doesn’t overwhelm opponents with his size or power, Thuney has surprising strength with 28 reps of 225 pounds at the Combine. Thuney was one of the most athletic linemen in Indianapolis, running a blazing fast 4.95 in the 40-yard dash with an impressive 1.70 split.

Thuney has short arms at 32 1/4, and that may prompt NFL teams to move inside to guard where he does have experience. In fact, Thuney has experience at all five positions and his versatility is a plus for NFL teams like Tampa Bay. Thuney is incredibly bright and graduated from N.C. State after just three years with a degree in accounting and he is pursuing Master’s degree in international studies.

He’ll need some time to hit the weight room and add some bulk, but Thuney’s size and athleticism compares favorably to a poor man’s Logan Mankins and his NFL future may ultimately be at guard or center depending on his development. Thuney’s athleticism is just a small step below that of Indiana’s Jason Spriggs, who has an outside chance of being a late first-rounder.
Previous Pick: Samford CB James Bradberry

ROUND 6 (183) – Southern Miss WR Mike Thomas – 6-1, 200 – Senior
The Buccaneers are extremely familiar with Thomas, who was coached by new wide receivers coach Todd Monken, who was the head coach at Southern Miss. Thomas had 41 catches fro 592 yards and five touchdowns in his first year for the Eagles before having a breakout season in 2015, catching 71 passes for 1,391 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Thomas’ 19.6-yard average has to excite Koetter, who likes explosive plays in the passing game. Thomas had eight 100-yard receiving games during his senior season, including a nine-catch, 190-yard, two-touchdown masterpiece in Southern Miss’ 44-31 bowl loss to Washington. Thomas had at least one touchdown in the last 10 games of his college career, which shows the level of consistency he was able to attain.

Thomas, who has 4.53 speed, has a 1.59 time in the 10-yard split, which is above-average acceleration. That combined with a 36-inch vertical, and solid hands gives him the skills necessary to succeed in the NFL. Thomas is a high-motor skill player that works hard to gain separation and win jump balls. Thomas should be able to contribute on special teams while he gains experience on offense as a developmental prospect.
Previous Pick: Georgia Southern LB Antwione Williams

ROUND 6 (197 from Washington) – Minnesota LB De’Vondre Campbell – 6-4, 235 – Senior
Campbell is a big, fast linebacker who ran a 4.58 at the NFL Scouting Combine with a 1.65 10-yard split. That speed allowed Campbell to record 206 tackles as a three-year starter, including a career-high 92 last year. Campbell also had 16 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, two interceptions, including a pick-six against Michigan, two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries in his Golden Gophers career.

With a chiseled 6-foot-4, 235-pound frame, Campbell passes the eyeball test, and he had a great showing in St. Petersburg at the East-West Shrine Game practices. He’s a very smart player that is capable of playing strongside linebacker, middle linebacker and rushing off the edge on occasion. Campbell graduated in 2014 with a degree in business and spent 2015 working on his master’s degree in Human Resource Development.

Campbell spent his entire Minnesota career playing special teams and that brings added value to Tampa Bay. Campbell blocked a field goal in college and he can spend his rookie season covering kicks and punts while learning Mike Smith’s defense and developing at strongside linebacker behind veteran newcomer Daryl Smith.
Previous Pick: Purdue CB Anthony Brown

HOLLIDAYKARATINOSLAWFIRMLeaderboard2016Tan

Jim Holliday of the Holliday Karatinos Law Firm is a huge Bucs fan and the exclusive personal injury attorney for PewterReport.com. If you have been the victim of an auto accident or a trip and fall accident, call Holliday Karatinos Law Firm for a free consultation at (813) 868-1887.

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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: sr@pewterreport.com
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jerseybucsfan

Points for originality. Love the Thuney pick. This won’t be a popular draft if it goes down this way.

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macabee

Mock Draft Final – Jason Cole B/R reports that many GMs think the Titans will trade back into the top ten for an OT preferably Jack Conklin! The Bucs could be that trade partner and ask for a 2nd round pick and get it. The Titans have 3 2nd round picks. Bucs pick at 15. QB Mike Glennon will be traded for a 3rd round pick (I hope)! – RD1 DT Andrew Billings/Baylor 6-1, 311, 5.00 RD2 DE/OLB Noah Spence/Eastern Kentucky 6-2, 251, 4.79 RD2 CB Xavien Howard/Baylor 6-0, 201, 4.55 RD3 FS DeAndre Houston-Carson/Wm&Mary 6-1, 201, 4.50 RD3 SS… Read more »

magoobee

Somehow a deal involving Jets Wilkerson for Glennon makes sense. Seems like the Jets and Bucs are playing the same wait and see game, while overvaluing their position. Problem is after the draft, teams attitudes change based on their picks, meaning less trading partners until injuries set in.

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EastEndBoy

The issue I have with this sort of draft @mac (and PR for that matter too in the article) is that it provides us a lot of depth, but I see no clear upgrade in the starting lineup. I would much rather come out of this draft with 1 starting caliber upgrade, than 3 new depth players. If Jax is really looking to trade out of 5 but not of the top-10 (and apparently the price could be as little as our 3rd and 4th rounders on top of the 9th), we’d be crazy not to jump up the 4… Read more »

georgehicks

I agree with some of your Logic: I would trade with Tenn for#15 and a 3rd and a 4th selection. looked at the points for each pick. @#15-I would stay at Dt Shelton Rankins from Louisville. I would go after De Noah Spence from E Ky, in the lower 1st.Give up their #2(39)Then trade Mike Glennon to NYJ in Rd-2 for jets #2rd pick Then get best Cb available. Then with 2 no#3 picks I would get the best players available The same with Rd-4.Etc. Then that what I called a great draft.Maybe draft one of b/u qb for a… Read more »

gatrbuc17

You hit it on the friggin head mac. I couldn’t think of a better draft however I am intrigued by Moritz Boehringer in the 4th or 5th

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76Buc

mac I don’t necessarily agree with all of your picks, but I love the additional 2nd & 3 rd round picks. Great stuff! Well thought out.

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macabee

76Buc

I don’t agree with all of my picks. lol. Just hoping I get one right!Trying to pick against the pundits because we know they’re wrong! Hope you get some of the guys you like.

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knight

Mac, I like & hope your thought process is prophetic with trading down for and extra 2 & trading Glennon for a 3! IF the BUCS are going to build through the draft they need more picks to turn this team quickly into a winner. In Licht we Trust!

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nitey

I really like this draft. Hits all our needs with good prospects. I, for one, would be very happy if the draft fell this way.

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magoobee

Thank god Braxton Miller is off the draft list. I would like to see the 4th round pick be Keyarris Garrett, WR, Tulsa (6’3″ 4.40 40 time in workouts – 4.53 at combine). Looks like a decent replacement for VJAX and can learn from him this year.

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Horse

I can only stay with the facts right now; we don’t have any trading agreement for Glennon, nor trading up and down in the draft is an automatic. Based on the present knowledge I leave it to the masterminds at OBP to select some quality players. Go bucs!

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jme0151

I am with you on this. To much speculation here. We stay at 9, no trade partner and Glennon is not that hot a commodity until QB’s start getting hurt in camps.

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FLBoyInDallas

PR, you wrote the following: “Before we address the reason why the Bucs would draft Rankins, let’s explore why they wouldn’t draft Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves, Eastern Kentucky defensive end Noah Spence or Clemson defensive end Shaq Lawson.” – But after writing that you never mentioned Hargreaves, Spence or Lawson again. Where is the promised reasoning as to why none of those three guys could be the pick? You completely skipped over that and went straight to building the case for Rankins instead. – Personally I think Lawson has top ten talent and would be a multiple Pro Bowler at… Read more »

pinkstob

I would be fine with this draft if Ogbah makes it to the 2nd round and Howard makes it to the 3rd, but I don’ think they will. My preference if we stayed at #9 would be to take Conklin, but Rankins doesn’t seem like a bad pick either so that’s why I say I’m fine with it. I never got a chance to watch more of Louisville’s full games like I intended to this spring to get a better feel for Rankins. It’s just been an extremely busy year for me so far. Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00… Read more »

drdneast

I liked your picks and if the draft falls this way, it would appear on the surface, to be another bumper crop of draft picks. One thing none of us knows is how much is going on inside the young mans heart they draft. It would appear Licht has found a way to crack the code on this unmeasurable hidden variable. Winston’s heart for the game was easy to see. But Smith, Marpet and Alexander was a different matter. Many pundits thought Smith was lazy but he didn’t look that way last year. On many plays he was looking for… Read more »

cgmaster27

Yeah , last year was pretty unique in the group we got and if Kenny Bell had played, I do expect him to have a really good year this year, that would be an all time draft. As for Ali, he is probably my second favorite player on this team ,behind Jameis of course, but I love his attitude on the field.

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macabee

Now be aware PR mock drafters, almost 60% of mocks pick VHIII to the Bucs at 9 – 58.8% to be exact. Woody Cummings is out with a mock that also picks Hargreaves. Waiting on Greg Auman to see who he picks. – On NFL.com mock central 6 out of 6 panelist picked VHIII. It is the only unanimous consensus pick on the board. Informed opinion or group think? I have no idea! The same people on NFL Live mock picked Joey Bosa at 9 for the Bucs. – As you can see, VHIII is not my first choice, but… Read more »

e

I enjoy your exactness, Mac. I’m on the VHIII bandwagon, even though VHIII could be mistaken for “Women and children first,” which is a great album for sure. I’m also hoping for Vonn Bell in the second. One things for sure with all of this talent on display; everybody wants some!!

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EastEndBoy

It was an interest Mock @mac…not out of the realm of possibility (any one pick in isolation they made could sound perfectly reasonable), but all together it’s several stretching picks (San Diego taking Buckner – not sure; Dallas taking EzE – not sure; SanFran taking Stanley – not sure; Jax – Jack now with his knee being questioned). If it unfolded like that – and we got Bosa, that would be great…I give it about 0.1% chance 🙂 As for VHIII…it may not be the most exciting pick, but at least he would be a clear upgrade at a starting… Read more »

macabee

EEB, I too am skeptical of the chance Bosa fall to the Bucs. If Joey Bosa falls to the Bucs that would be good, but I don’t know how he gets past the Cowboys given their situation at DE now. I’ve read that Jerry Jones absolutely loves RB Ezekiel Elliott and but for some rumors about Myles Jack’s knee, he would take either one of them. – But the Cowboys are not going to re-sign Greg Hardy, they have lost DE Randy Gregory for 4 games over weed, and they have just lost DE DeMarcus Lawrence for 4 games over… Read more »

DCGoth

I still don’t like Rankins @ 9. I really hope this is a miss.

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cgmaster27

This will be one heck of a draft. I like the Rankins pick and am warming up to it, but I still just don’t like it at 9. I really like picks for round 2 and 3. Most of the others are an unknown to me. But with this draft even more so than usual, you just don’t know. NFL network did a mock last night that had Ramsey making it all the way to Cleveland at 8. The trades just shook everything up and some of these other guys are going even hire than I expected. Can’t wait for… Read more »

Morgan

Is there anything more pointless, fruitless than a mock draft, not just one, but six tries at a mock…..talk about a complete waste of time.

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jongruden

Without climbing aboard the “bobble head train” and like any pick PR has us taking or anyone else for that matter, I for one watch a lot of tape and watch a lot of football games including senior bowl practices and beyond. If it were up to me I would trade down with someone as I’m sure someone will want one of the Lt’s or Paxton Lynch and select William Jackson III who I believe is the best all around corner in this draft. second pick I would like Carl Nassib is a prototypical DE who was very productive at… Read more »

scubog

jonnyG: Like you, this year I’d be inclined to trade down. I just don’t see a top ten player that will likely be there for the taking at the 9 spot. I wish I felt better about Hargreaves. Would take Ramsey, Tunsil or Jack but doubt one of them falls to us. I’ll predict one thing; there will be a surprise selection that conflicts with the media “experts”.

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Horse

I see us drafting a DE as it truely is our biggest need; then a CB which is our next need; then a Safety. I know I have said over and over BAP, but my instincts is saying there’s not much difference between players at Spot 9 so why not pick a DE which is a serious need. I know there is hype we have done enough in Free Agency and our 2015 guys will be fine, but I don’t believe it. As far as I’m concerned, I would draft DE’s in rounds 1 & 2. It all starts at… Read more »