The 2018 NFL Draft is upon us! Who will the Tampa Bay Buccaneers select not only in the first round, but also in every round? PewterReport.com offers up its best guess in its fifth and final 2018 Bucs’ 7-Round Mock Draft.
But there are certainly more than seven options for the Bucs. Long-time PewterReport.com readers know that with our annual draft position previews comes our widely anticipated Bucs’ Best Bets.
What exactly are the Bucs’ Best Bets? PewterReport.com picks two Bucs’ Best Bets at each position – from positions of need, such as safety, cornerback, running back, defensive tackle, to positions where the needs may not be so obvious, such as wide receiver and quarterback.
The first pick is if Tampa Bay drafts a player at that position early – in Rounds 1-3. The second pick is if the Bucs instead select a player at that same position later – in Rounds 4-7.
PewterReport.com has a great track record of accurately forecasting Bucs’ Best Bets, from some easier selections like Vernon Hargreaves at cornerback in 2016 and wide receiver Chris Godwin last year. Other years were trickier with Bucs’ Best Bets at quarterback with Mike Glennon in 2013 and running back Charles Sims in 2014.
Occasionally lightning will strike and PewterReport.com nails both Bucs’ Best Bets, as was the case in 2009 with wide receivers Arrelious Benn (Round 2) and Mike Williams (Round 4).
Instead of sifting back through all 10 PewterReport.com position previews for the list of our Bucs’ Best Bets, we’ve got them all right here.
Bucs’ Best Bet – Rounds 1-3: Richmond QB Kyle Lauletta
Lauletta posted three 3,000-yard passing seasons in a row while his completion percentage improved from 61.6 percent in 2015 to 63 percent in 2016 to 64.9 percent last season. Additionally, his touchdown-to-interception ratio also improved. Lauletta threw 19 TDs and 15 INTs in his first full season as a starter and then jumped on NFL scouts’ radars with 24 scores and only eight picks as a junior. That margin held true as a senior when he tossed 28 TDs and 12 INTs. Lauletta, who was a team captain in his last two years with the Spiders, has developed into an accurate passer with good footwork and a better-than-average arm. It’s doubtful that the Bucs will spend a third-round pick or even a fourth-rounder on a quarterback, although the team is searching for a long-term answer at the backup QB spot, and it’s not Ryan Fitzpatrick, who turns 36, and likely not Ryan Griffin, either. Lauletta had an impressive Senior Bowl week and Bucs QBs coach Mike Bajakian attended his pro day at Richmond, so it’s a remote possibility.
Bucs’ Best Bet – Rounds 4-7: Washington State QB Luke Falk
Falk racked up some amazing stats playing in Washington State coach Mike Leach’s pass-happy offense completing 68.3 percent of his passes for 14,481 yards with 119 touchdowns and 39 interceptions as a three-year starter — Falk finished as the most prolific passer in PAC-12 history. After his sophomore and junior seasons, in which he threw for over 4,400 yards and 38 touchdowns in each season and led the Cougars to a bowl game in 2016, Falk struggled as a senior and passed for only 3,593 yards with 30 TDs and a career-high 13 INTs. Falk took a beating behind a shabby offensive line at Washington State and broke a bone in his wrist during his senior campaign. When he’s healthy and well protected, the 6-foot-4, 225-pound Falk is accurate and has an arm strong enough to hit all the throws in the NFL. From a size and arm strength standpoint, Falk checks the boxes for the Buccaneers. And in a draft that could feature as many as six quarterbacks going in the first round, Falk could slip down to fifth or sixth round where the Bucs might see value in taking him then.
Bucs’ Best Bet – Rounds 1-3: N.C. State RB Nyheim Hines
If Penn State running back Saquon Barkley somehow slips to No. 7 look for the Bucs to pounce on him. But if he’s not there, Tampa Bay will look for a running back later in the draft. Hines is built like former Bucs running back Warrick Dunn and has a similar running style in that he’s tougher than expected between the tackles and has the speed to rip off big runs. Tampa Bay head coach Dirk Koetter would like to add more explosive players to his offense, and that term describes Hines. He rushed for 1,113 yards and 12 touchdowns on 197 carries (5.6 avg.) last year. Another term that would describe him is “ultra-competitive,” which appeals to the Bucs. Hines could also be used as a receiver out of the backfield the way Charles Sims was. Hines had 89 catches for 933 yards (10.5 avg.) and one touchdown in his Wolfpack career. Tampa Bay currently doesn’t have a third-round pick, and appears likely to draft a cornerback in the second round. But watch general manager Jason Licht manufacture a third-round pick by making a trade during the draft. He could then use that pick on Hines, who can also provide a spark to Tampa Bay’s dormant kick return game. Hines returned two kickoffs 100 yards for touchdowns.
Bucs’ Best Bet – Rounds 4-7: Fordham RB Chase Edmonds
Edmonds was a workhorse back at Fordham, rushing for 5,862 yards and 67 touchdowns on 938 carries (6.2 avg.). Edmonds rushed for 1,838 yards and 23 TDs as a freshman, 1,648 yards and a sophomore with 20 scores, and 1,799 yards and 19 TDs as a junior. His senior season was shortened due to an ankle injury and he ran for just 577 yards and five touchdowns. Had he been healthy, Edmonds would have broken the all-time FCS rushing record with his good combination of elusiveness, burst and ability to slip tackles. Where he has appeal to the Bucs is that he can play on all three downs. Edmonds has great hands and caught 86 passes for 905 yards and seven touchdowns with an impressive 10.5-yard average. Edmonds’ ankle injury lingered into the offseason where it flared up at the East-West Shrine Game and slowed him down a bit at the NFL Scouting Combine. That dampened his draft stock, but he could prove to be a late-round steal for Tampa Bay.
WIDE RECEIVER-TIGHT END
Bucs’ Best Bet – Rounds 1-3: Washington WR Dante Pettis
Pettis could help the Bucs in several ways. He has experience in the slot and outside as an accomplished receiver with 2,256 yards and 24 touchdowns on 163 catches for the Huskies. At 6-foot, 186 pounds, Pettis isn’t the biggest receiver, but he’s plenty smooth and does an outstanding job of making adjustments on deep balls. Aside from being a receiver, Pettis used his 4.48 speed to become the best punt returner in NCAA history with a record nine career touchdowns, including four last year. With such a huge salary cap number ($10 million) in 2019, this might be DeSean Jackson’s last season in Tampa Bay, and the Bucs could draft the speedy Pettis as his eventual replacement. The Bucs wouldn’t draft a receiver earlier than the third round, but that’s right around where Pettis’ draft grade is.
Bucs’ Best Bet – Rounds 4-7: Penn WR Justin Watson
Tampa Bay likes Watson enough to bring him in for a Top 30 visit to One Buccaneer Place, which says a lot. At 6-foot-3, 215 pounds and running a 4.39 in the 40-yard dash, Watson has been compared to Minnesota wide receiver Adam Thielen. Watson is a sure-handed receiver that is faster in a straight line than he is quick, and he used that speed to post three 1,000-yard seasons for the Quakers, leaving the school as Penn’s all-time leader in receiving TDs (33), receptions (286), receiving yards (3,777) and all-purpose yards (4,116). Penn would bring some needed size to Tampa Bay where there is only one receiver over 6-foot-2, and that’s 6-foot-5 Mike Evans. Watson has the blue-collar work ethic needed to play on special teams, and asked the special teams coordinator at the East-West Shrine Game if he could play on every unit. Watson has the tools to make it as a fourth or fifth wide receiver, and potentially develop into a No. 3 wideout in time.
Bucs’ Best Bet – Rounds 1-3: Notre Dame OT Mike McGlinchey
The recent knee surgery to right tackle Demar Dotson has put a spotlight on the team needing an offensive tackle for the future – whether that is drafting a right tackle or moving left tackle Donovan Smith to right tackle and drafting a left tackle. Dotson will be 33 in October and the team views Caleb Benenoch, who replaced Dotson last year at right tackle as a future guard. This year’s draft doesn’t feature much quality and quantity at the offensive tackle position, and may only have one first-rounder, which would be the athletic, 6-foot-7, 291-pound McGlinchey. Although the Bucs have more pressing needs than offensive tackle, general manager Jason Licht doesn’t expect to be picking in the top 10 again anytime soon, and that’s where franchise-caliber tackles are drafted. McGlinchey is a sensational run-blocker and has enough length and athleticism to be effective as a pass blocker. It’s doubtful the Bucs would select an offensive tackle early in the draft, but if they did it would be McGlinchey in the first round.
Bucs’ Best Bet – Rounds 4-7: Humboldt State OT Alex Cappa
Cappa was impressive at the FCS level and proved he was quite formidable at the Senior Bowl where he took snaps at left tackle, left guard and right guard. The Bucs love versatile offensive linemen, and a player like the 6-foot-7, 305-pound Cappa would bring great value to Tampa Bay. Cappa is a nasty, street-fighting lineman with a great mix of technique and sheer brute force. The Humboldt State product finishes through the whistle and treats pass pro reps like run-blocking reps, always wanting to pancake his opponent. That type of tough-guy mentality is always welcome on a Tampa Bay offensive line that just received an upgrade in the nastiness department with the addition of center Ryan Jensen. Cappa might need a year or two to get adjusted to a higher level of competition, but he could develop into a starter at right tackle or guard for the Bucs.
Bucs’ Best Bet – Rounds 1-3: Notre Dame G Quenton Nelson
If one of the big three draft targets – North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb, Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson and Penn State running back Saquon Barkley – falls to Tampa Bay at No. 7 it very well could be Nelson. If that’s the case, it’s hard to imagine Bucs general manager Jason Licht not drafting one of the most sure-fire players in the draft in Nelson, an absolute road-grading guard. Nelson could replace J.R. Sweezy at right guard and solidify the Bucs’ interior offensive line, which now consists of center Ryan Jensen, a free agent import from Baltimore, and Ali Marpet, who will move back to guard and play on the left side next to left tackle Donovan Smith. Many draft experts believe that Nelson is a better pro prospect than former Notre Dame offensive lineman Zack Martin was when he became an All-Pro left guard in Dallas a rookie.
Bucs’ Best Bet – Rounds 4-7: Virginia Tech G Wyatt Teller
The Bucs don’t absolutely need to draft a guard, as the plan was to have Caleb Benenoch challenge J.R. Sweezy at right guard while Ali Marpet moves from center to left guard to replace Kevin Pamphile and make way for Ryan Jensen in the middle. But if the right player meeting the right criteria is available in the right round for Tampa Bay in terms of value, the Bucs just may add another guard to the mix. Teller is a player to keep an eye on for two reasons. First, because he’s a rough-and-tumble offensive lineman, and second because he has great hair. He would fit in nicely with long-haired Tampa Bay linemen like Marpet and Jensen. More importantly, Teller is a very strong, solid force up front at 6-foot-4, 314 pounds. He had tremendous tape in 2016, but his play tailed off for some reason during his senior year at left guard. Teller rebounded well at the Senior Bowl, which salvaged his draft stock. Teller would be a nice addition to the Bucs’ offensive line in the fourth round.