Tampa Bay’s 2020 offseason is revved up with general manager Jason Licht, director of player personnel John Spytek and director of college scouting Mike Biehl attending both the East-West Shrine Bowl practices in St. Petersburg, Fla. and traveling to Mobile, Ala. for the Senior Bowl to scout some of the top prospects for the 2020 NFL Draft.
Up next is the NFL Scouting Combine in late February, which means it’s time for PewterReport.com’s second 2020 Bucs’ 7-Round Mock Draft, presented by Edmonson Electric • AC • Security.
Bucs GM Jason Licht and scouts – Photo by: PewterReport.com
The Bucs are coming off a 7-9 season and entering the second year with head coach Bruce Arians, offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles at the helm.
Tampa Bay has several pressing needs, chief among them is re-signing some of the team’s 19 unrestricted free agents, including outside linebackers Shaquil Barrett – the league’s sack leader with 19.5 in 2019 – and Jason Pierre-Paul, in addition to defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who recovered four fumbles, including two for defensive touchdowns. Arians said re-signing all three defenders are among the Bucs’ top priorities this offseason.
Of course determining what to do with quarterback Jameis Winston, who led the NFL with a franchise-record 5,109 passing yards along with 33 touchdowns and 30 interceptions, is the biggest offseason question mark in Tampa Bay. PewterReport.com’s initial mock draft assumes the following scenarios:
• Winston is re-signed, given the franchise tag or the Bucs pursue another veteran QB.
• Tampa Bay re-signs starting outside linebackers Barrett and Pierre-Paul, and also squeezes Suh under the salary cap.
• The Bucs either re-sign starting right tackle Demar Dotson to a cheap, one-year deal or decide to move on and find a replacement in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Making those assumptions, PewterReport.com has determined that the Bucs’ most pressing needs are as follows:
BUCS’ 2020 NFL DRAFT NEEDS
Table of Contents
1. OFFENSIVE LINE – Whether the 34-year old Dotson returns or not, the Bucs need a better, younger option at right tackle, and a guard to challenge Alex Cappa. Tampa Bay’s offensive line isn’t bad, but it isn’t great, either – especially at run blocking. The Bucs also have little quality depth at offensive tackle or inside at guard.
2. RUNNING BACK – Free agent Peyton Barber may not return, and the Bucs will need another running back to complement and challenge Ronald Jones II. Tampa Bay could use a pass-catching running back that could also challenge Dare Ogunbowale for the role of third-down back. Tampa Bay had the 24th-ranked rushing attack in 2019, averaging just 95.1 yards per game.
Bucs FS Justin Evans – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
3. SAFETY – Justin Evans may or may not return to form in 2020 following surgery on both of his feet/ankles last year, and Mike Edwards didn’t show enough as a rookie to be penciled in as a starter. The Bucs need a real play-maker at the safety spot and there isn’t one on the current roster unless Evans comes back healthy and ready to go after missing 2019. Tampa Bay had just two interceptions from the safety position last year.
4. DEFENSIVE TACKLE – Beau Allen and Rakeem Nunez-Roches will be free agents and may or may not return, and Suh just turned 33 and also could head towards free agency. Tampa Bay needs a younger heir apparent to eventually replace Suh, and better depth at the defensive tackle spot to pair with Vita Vea, a rising star as nose tackle, if the team wants to continue to dominate in run defense.
5. WIDE RECEIVER – Breshad Perriman may or may not be back in free agency, depending on his price tag, and the Bucs got a glimpse at what life is like with Chris Godwin and Mike Evans injured and out of the lineup in the final two weeks of the season. Scotty Miller and Justin Watson may be better suited as No. 4 receivers, so the Bucs need to add competition here to find a solid No. 3.
if Winston isn’t re-signed, drafting a quarterback becomes the top priority – even if the Bucs find an older veteran quarterback in free agency. And if Tampa Bay can’t bring back both Barrett and JPP, finding an edge rusher also becomes a big priority.
That means the Bucs should have seven draft picks this April, and the final draft order will be determined in late February when the league announces its compensatory draft picks for the 2020 NFL Draft. The three-day NFL Draft begins on Thursday, April 23 in Las Vegas, the new home of the Las Vegas Raiders.
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ROUND 1: Houston OT Josh Jones 6-5, 311 – Senior
PREVIOUS PICK: South Carolina DT Javon Kinlaw
In PewterReport.com’s previous mock draft, Jones was our second-round selection for Tampa Bay, filling the Bucs’ biggest need this offseason, which is at right tackle. Even if the team re-signs 34-year old Demar Dotson for one year to compete for the job the Bucs will need an heir apparent.
That could be Jones, who has great size at 6-foot-5, 311 pounds and athleticism. Jones was a four-year starter at Houston at left tackle and has the ideal footwork and wingspan to move to the right side and be successful there.
PewterReport.com had South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw in the first round of our initial mock draft, and he’s still in consideration for Tampa Bay. But we’re operating from the premise that Kinlaw’s stock is on the rise after a very good showing at the Senior Bowl, and the fact that four offensive tackles – Georgia’s Andrew Thomas, Alabama’s Jedrick Wills, Louisville’s Mekhi Becton and Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs – could all be off the board by the time Tampa Bay selects.
Kinlaw wasn’t the only player at the Senior Bowl that saw his stock rise. Jones got a Senior Bowl bump too, and is now considered a first-round prospect. The intel PewterReport.com gathered in Mobile, Ala. suggested that some NFL teams already had a first-round grade on Jones and that his stock now has risen to the middle of the first round.
Right around No. 14 – when the Bucs are on the clock.
Jones was dominant at the Senior Bowl and was the highest-graded offensive tackle during the week of practice, winning the award for the top North squad offensive lineman for the practice week. High grades are nothing new for Jones, who was given a 93.2 grade by Pro Football Focus, which was the second-best grade for any offensive tackle in 2019, and the best grade ever given to a tackle outside the Power Five conferences.
“Where he’s at right now, I’d expect Josh Jones to be a first-rounder,” said Senior Bowl director Jim Nagy on Twitter.
Jones allowed just 18 pressures in 1,282 pass-blocking reps in his time at Houston where he was a four-year starter. Jones is regarded as a better pass protector than run blocker at this stage of his development, but made great strides in the running game during his senior year.
“I just get the job done,” Jones said at the Senior Bowl. “This year I let up four pressures – and a half a sack. I’m dominant at it. I take pride in it. If I give up a pressure, if I’m even close to (surrendering) a sack, I’m kicking myself in the butt. It’s just pride – I feel like every O-lineman has that pride.”
Jones’ quick feet and athleticism stems from playing basketball while growing up, and that not only benefits him in his kick slide, but also gives him the ability to pull on run blocking assignments. Jones said he was open to moving to right tackle if necessary at the NFL level, but at the same time, he could be an option at left tackle if Tampa Bay deems him to be better than Donovan Smith and wishes to move Smith to the right side of the line.
Watch Smith, who wears No. 74, in this highlight video against Oklahoma.
Here is a montage of some of Jones’ highlight clips throughout his senior season.
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