Bucs’ Best Bet – Rounds 1-3: Ohio State DE Tyquan Lewis
Tampa Bay’s defensive end position was in dire straits last year, but has undergone a complete overhaul this offseason. The Bucs traded for defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul and signed Vinny Curry and Mitch Unrein. Getting Noah Spence back healthy this year, and Will Gholston to have a rebound year would be an added bonus. With all of this activity, do the Bucs even need to address the defensive end spot in the draft? No, and it’s not a great crop of edge rushers to begin with. But there are a few players the Bucs like and Lewis, a team captain at Ohio State, is one of them. Lewis totaled 112 tackles, 37 tackles for loss, 23.5 sacks and five forced fumbles in his time with the Buckeyes, including three straight years with at least seven sacks. Lewis is a good athlete with plus size at 6-foot-4, 265 pounds, and has great character on and off the field. Lewis is a better pass rusher than Gholston and could eventually supplant him as the starter at strongside defensive end if drafted by Tampa Bay in the middle rounds.
Bucs’ Best Bet – Rounds 4-7: SMU DE Justin Lawler
The Bucs spent a Top 30 visit on Lawler, which means there is likely some significant interest in acquiring the big, 6-foot-4, 265-pound defensive end. While Lawler isn’t one of the most athletic defensive linemen in this year’s draft class, he did have very good production at SMU, recording 226 tackles, 40.5 tackles for loss and 20.5 sacks with four forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. Lawler’s production improved in each of the three years he was a starter on the Mustangs defense, culminating in a senior campaign that saw him record 74 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and two passes defensed. Lawler gets by on physical play and a high motor and had a good week of practice at the East-West Shrine Game. He’s a late-round pick or a potential undrafted free agent, and Lawler has the size the Bucs like, in addition to the toughness that the team seeks in the trenches.