The Super Bowl LV champions Tampa Bay Buccaneers are making good on their pledge to try to re-sign as many of their own free agents as possible in March. Each free agent that comes back to Tampa Bay is one less immediate need that the Bucs have to address in the 2021 NFL Draft.
The Bucs have the 32nd overall draft pick for the first time in franchise history, and general manager Jason Licht, head coach Bruce Arians, director of player personnel John Spytek, director of college scouting Mike Biehl and Tampa Bay’s scouts and coaches are now knee deep in the process of conducting Zoom calls with draft prospects and attending pro day workouts in late March and early April.
Now it’s time to see what Tampa Bay’s personnel needs are following the Super Bowl, and who the Bucs select in PewterReport.com’s third 2021 Bucs 7-Round Mock Draft of the year, powered by Edmonson Electric • AC • Security.
The Bucs are still in pursuit of free agent defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, hoping he returns for another year at age 34. Both sides are talking and there is a chance that a deal gets done in the coming days. That’s a good thing because the 2021 DT draft class is extremely weak. Knowing this, the Bucs re-signed Rakeem “Nacho” Nunez-Roches to a two-year deal. Steve McLendon recently turned 35 and it would be no surprise to see him retire. Khalil Davis, the team’s sixth-round pick from a year ago, is a developmental, undersized tackle that was inactive for all but four games in 2020. While defensive tackle is a big need for the future as finding Suh’s heir apparent is important, this might not be the year to do it.
Licht confirmed that left tackle Donovan Smith, who is set to make $14.25 million in 2021, will be on the 2021 roster on a recent appearance on the Pewter Report Podcast. The belief is that he’ll actually be rewarded with a contract extension to help ease the team’s cap situation this year. Yet with the 2021 NFL Draft so deep at offensive tackle, the Bucs could use a young, developmental lineman to serve as a swing tackle after having veterans Josh Wells and Joe Haeg in that role in 2020.
Center Ryan Jensen turns 30 this summer and is set to make $10 million in the final year of his contract, as is right guard Alex Cappa. The Bucs would be wise to draft an interior offensive lineman that can play center and guard to serve as Jensen’s understudy and eventual replacement – or Cappa’s eventual replacement – and provide depth along the interior.
The Bucs re-signed Shaquil Barrett to a four-year contract extension, which lessens the team’s need to find an edge rusher. Yet fellow outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul is 32 and entering the final year of his contract while coming off knee surgery. Drafting a young, starting-caliber edge rusher to groom behind Barrett and Pierre-Paul makes sense.
Anthony Nelson, the team’s fourth-round pick in 2019, got more playing time in 2020, but only had one sack, and lacks the suddenness to be a quality pass rusher. Cam Gill, who recorded half a sack in the Super Bowl, played mostly on special teams as a rookie, but may be nothing more than a role player on defense as he develops.
Bucs RB Leonard Fournette – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
It looks like Leonard Fournette might return to Tampa Bay, as he may not have much of a market in free agency, and the team expects 32-year old LeSean McCoy to retire. That will create a vacancy the team will need to fill in the draft. Ronald Jones II ran for 978 yards and seven touchdowns in 2020, but lost his starting role to Fournette in the postseason. Jones is entering the final year of his contract and history shows that paying big money contracts to running backs usually backfires. Licht experienced that first hand with Doug Martin in 2016.
Ke’Shawn Vaughn, last year’s third-round pick, only rushed for 109 yards and caught five passes for 35 yards and a touchdown as a rookie, but struggled with turnovers and drops. It’s unclear whether or not Vaughn is starter material or just a role player, but the Bucs could use a starting-caliber running back to eventually replace Jones in 2022. Tampa Bay needs two runners and will likely find one in the draft.
It’s not a great year for inside linebackers in the 2021 NFL Draft, and the Bucs don’t have to draft one early to replace Lavonte David, who re-signed for two more years. But the Bucs will be looking for depth behind David, Devin White and Kevin Minter, who is 30 and only re-signed for one more year. Jack Cichy couldn’t stay healthy and Chapelle Russell, who was drafted last year in the seventh round, was cut. So look for another Day 3 linebacker for depth again in 2021.
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The Buccaneers could use help at running back with their first pick, especially if Clemson’s Travis Etienne, Alabama’s Najee Harris or North Carolina’s Javonte Williams is still on the board at No. 32. Yet general manager Jason Licht has said that without many holes to fill in the draft this year that the Bucs could afford some luxury picks. Because of their situation, selecting a talented edge rusher with tools like Ossai makes a lot of sense at No. 32.
Jason Pierre-Paul is entering a contract year and neither Anthony Nelson nor Cam Gill has proven that they have the talent or the pass-rushing ability to be anything more than a reserve. So the Bucs draft Ossai and use him as a situational pass rusher as a rookie while he learns how to play the position from JPP and Shaquil Barrett. In a year or two he’s ready to step in and replace Pierre-Paul, who will be 33 next January.
Ossai hails from Nigeria and grew up playing soccer. He didn’t discover football until he was in high school after migrating to Houston, so he’s a late bloomer. Ossai weighed 256 pounds and has the frame to carry another 5-10 pounds at the next level. But where he wins as a pass rusher is with his motor and his athleticism, which were on display at the Texas pro day when he put up 19 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press, had a 10-11 broad jump, a 41.5-inch vertical leap and ran a 4.63 in the 40-yard dash.
That athleticism shows up on tape as Ossai began his Longhorns career as an off-the-ball linebacker before switching to defensive end as a junior in 2020. Ossai recorded 13.5 tackles for loss, five sacks, two interceptions and a forced fumble in 13 games during his sophomore season before becoming more of a full-time pass rusher. Ossai had 15.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks and three forced fumbles in nine games in 2020.
The Texas standout has flashed the ability to dominate with a pair of three-sack games against Utah and Oklahoma State in his career, notching the game-clinching sack against the Cowboys in 2020. Due to his linebacker background, Ossai also has the ability to drop in coverage, as Bucs defensive coordinator Todd Bowles will have his outside linebackers do on occasion in zone blitz situations.
Ossai is far from a finished product. He’s not ready to come in as a full-time starter and dominate at the NFL. But he’s an ideal developmental pass rusher that has plenty of upside and tools to work with. It usually takes defensive linemen or edge rushers a year or two to get adjusted to the speed of the game in the NFL, in addition to the size and the talent level of the offensive linemen at the pro level. Why not start that process now with Ossai without the pressure of him having to come in and start right away in Tampa Bay?
Meinerz makes a return appearance in the PewterReport.com 2021 Bucs 7-Round Mock Draft as we had him going to Tampa Bay in the third round of our first mock draft back in February. After killing it at his pro day with a 4.9 time in the 40-yard dash, a 32-inch vertical and a 9-3 in his broad jump, Meinerz jumps up to the late second round where the Bucs draft him to compete at right guard and perhaps eventually replace Ryan Jensen at center. Keep in mind that Jensen, Alex Cappa, Aaron Stinnie are all in contract years.
The 6-foot-3, 320-pound Meinerz (pronounced “minors”) starred in the Senior Bowl at center after playing left guard for Wisconsin-Whitewater, where he was named a first-team All-American in his first season as a full-time starter in 2019. Because of COVID-19, all Division III football was canceled for the 2020 season, so the first football game Meinerz played in over a year was the Senior Bowl.
Not only did Meinerz shine in Mobile, Ala. during practice and the game, he did so playing center for the first time, which was quite a feat. Meinerz showed the ability to compete with FBS athletes right away and displayed toughness, tenacity and competitiveness.
A quick look at Meinerz’s Twitter page shows him not only dunking a basketball, but a highlight clip of another small school prospect who excelled at the Senior Bowl in Bucs left guard Ali Marpet, in addition to some posts about Jensen, who played left tackle at Northern Colorado. It’s obvious that Meinerz has been studying Jensen, as their style of play is very similar. Meinerz would be an ideal heir apparent at center after spending his rookie season learning behind Jensen.
The Buccaneers spend their third round pick on a potential successor to Tom Brady by selecting Mond at the end of Day 2. Mond becomes the second quarterback Jimbo Fisher sends to Tampa Bay, as the Bucs spent the first overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft on Jameis Winston when the two were together at Florida State. Mond is Texas A&M’s all-time leading passer with 9,661 passing yards, 71 touchdowns and 27 interceptions.
He showed improvement in each of his four seasons as a starter in terms of completion percentage, and he averaged 22 touchdowns per season in each of the last three years along with an average of just seven interceptions. In fact, Mond threw just three picks in 10 games as a senior in 2020.
Mond raised his draft profile at the Senior Bowl where he was named the game’s MVP after completing 13-of-25 passes for 173 yards with two touchdowns and a pair of two-point conversions to lead the American squad back from a 13-0 deficit to take a 16-13 lead in the third quarter. He had a good week in Mobile, Ala. and likely boosted his stock to the third or fourth round.
MOND’S TEXAS A&M CAREER PASSING STATS
2017: 117-of-227 (51.5 percent) for 1,375 yards, 8 TDs, 6 INTs
2018: 238-of-415 (57.3 percent) for 3,107 yards, 24 TDs, 9 INTs
2019: 258-of-419 (61.6 percent) for 2,897 yards, 20 TDs, 9 INTs 2020: 188-of-297 (63.3 percent) for 2,282 yards, 19 TDs, 3 INTs
MOND’S TEXAS A&M CAREER RUSHING STATS
2017: 89 carries for 340 yards (3.8 avg.), 3 TDs
2018: 149 carries for 474 yards (3.2 avg.), 7 TDs
2019: 126 carries for 501 yards (4.0 avg.), 8 TDs 2020: 74 carries for 294 yards (4.0 avg.), 4 TDs
While Mond has good athleticism and sneaky speed, he doesn’t take off and run with the ball that often, preferring to stay in the pocket and make plays with his arm instead. Mond has a live arm, which is necessary to push the ball down the field in Bruce Arians’ offense. Yet Mond is significantly faster than Brady and can scramble for first downs and touchdowns when necessary, evidenced by 22 rushing touchdowns and 1,609 rushing yards and a 3.7-yard rushing average at Texas A&M.
Assuming Blaine Gabbert returns as Brady’s backup, Mond would replace Ryan Griffin as the Bucs’ No. 3 quarterback and learn how to play the position from the G.O.A.T. behind the scenes for the next two years. He’ll also need to hit the weight room and add 10 pounds of muscle to his lanky frame to be able to withstand taking hits at the NFL level.
The Bucs address the running back position by selecting Felton in the fourth round. He fills the role of the pass-catching runner out of the backfield that has been missing in Tampa Bay. Felton began his UCLA career playing wide receiver and then moving to running back as a senior in 2020. This athletic, jack-of-all-trades can help the Bucs in more ways than one.
Felton had 99 career catches for 958 yards (9.7 avg.) and eight touchdowns for the Bruins, while carrying the ball 233 times for 1,101 yards (4.7 avg.) and scoring seven times on the ground. Felton had three consecutive 100-yard rushing games in UCLA’s six-game season in 2020, including 167 yards and two touchdowns on 34 carries against Oregon and 206 yards and one TD on 32 carries against Arizona. While he would never been a 20-touch per game guy in the NFL, Felton did show the toughness and durability to occasionally tote the rock on a full-time basis as a feature back at UCLA.
FELTON’S UCLA CAREER RUSHING STATS 2017: 10 carries for 75 yards (7.5 avg.), TD
2018: 5 carries for 27 yards (5.4 avg.)
2019: 86 carries for 331 yards (3.8 avg.), TD 2020: 132 carries for 668 yards (5.1 avg.), 5 TDs
FELTON’S UCLA CAREER RECEIVING STATS 2017: 2 catches for minus-2 yards
2018: 20 catches for 207 yards (10.4 avg.), 1 TDs 2019: 55 catches for 594 yards (10.8 avg.), 4 TDs
2020: 22 catches for 159 yards (7.2 avg.), 3 TDs
FELTON’S UCLA CAREER KICK RETURN STATS 2018: 5 returns for 105 yards (21 avg.)
2019: 13 returns for 338 yards (26 avg.), TD
2020: 8 returns for 168 yards (21 avg.)
But it’s the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield in the flat, on screens and on angle routes that excites Tampa Bay. The Bucs have already met with Felton following his eye-opening week at the Senior Bowl where he caught two passes for 26 yards and scored the game’s first touchdown. Felton primarily played wide receiver in Mobile, Ala. and the Bucs could use his quickness and burst there on bubble screens and smoke routes.
Felton is a sturdy built back who resembles former Buccaneer Warrick Dunn, who rushed for nearly 11,000 yards in his NFL career at 5-foot-9, 187 pounds. UCLA hasn’t had its pro day yet, and Felton isn’t expected to run lower than a 4.5, as he’s more quick than fast. A pedestrian 40-yard dash time and his smallish frame should push Felton to Day 3 where Tampa Bay would be happy to scoop him up in the fourth round.
Aside from being a versatile weapon on offense, Felton could also help Tampa Bay’s woeful return game. Felton had a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Washington State in 2019, also catching seven passes for 154 yards and a pair of scores against the Cougars. Compactly built, the muscle-bound Felton has a good stiff arm and the ability to bounce off some tackles, in addition to making defenders miss. Yet another weapon for Brady and the Bucs offense.
After three straight selections on offense, the Bucs return to the defensive side of the ball by drafting Golston on Day 3. After drafting outside linebacker Anthony Nelson in 2019 and right tackle Tristan Wirfs in 2020, Tampa Bay turns to Iowa for the third straight year to grab Golston, who will eventually replace William Gholston at defensive end.
Golston is a versatile defender who spent some time lined up on the edge as a 4-3 defensive end, but also saw plenty of action inside rushing as a defensive tackle in nickel situations. That’s the type of versatility Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Todd Bowles loves, and Golston has the size and physicality to hold up well as five-tech defensive end in Bowles’ 3-4 scheme. Combine his great physical traits, including 35-inch arms and an 84-inch wingspan, along with a 36-inch vertical and a 4.86 time in the 40-yard dash with a 4.65 20-yard shuttle, and Golston’s hustle and versatility are why he’s a quality addition to Tampa Bay’s D-line room.
An emerging pass rusher, Golston had 5.5 sacks in eight games for the Hawkeyes last year, in addition to recording 8.5 tackles for loss and forcing a fumble. What the Bucs will love is his awareness at the line of scrimmage, evidenced by seven career pass deflections and three interceptions, which is rare for a defensive lineman.
Golston impressed at the Senior Bowl during the week of practice and had six tackles in the game and a pass deflection. While this is not a great year for drafting defensive tackles, Golston is a versatile interior lineman worth selecting on Day 3. With Gholston entering a contract year at age 30, drafting his eventual replacement with the selection of Golston would be a wise move and add to Tampa Bay’s defensive line depth.
ROUND 6 – Arkansas State WR Jonathan Adams, Jr.
6-2, 210 • Senior
The Buccaneers use their compensatory pick in the sixth round to do something that they’re familiar with – drafting wide receivers in the sixth round. Tampa Bay used its sixth-rounder in 2018 to select Justin Watson, and followed suit the next year with the drafting of Scotty Miller. This year it’s Adams, who is drafted to compete for a roster spot with Watson, who has failed to emerge as a viable wide receiver and is only serving the team as a special teams player.
Adams is a high-flying wide receiver with great leaping ability and tremendous hand-eye coordination. The Arkansas State star has the ability to track the deep ball as well as anyone in college football and produced 21 touchdowns for the Red Wolves, including a career-high 12 scores last year. After a breakout year in 2019 with 62 receptions for 851 yards and five TDs in 13 games, Adams caught 79 passes for 1,111 yards in only 10 games in 2020.
Adams destroyed Kansas State with a career-high three touchdowns as part of a six-catch, 98-yard day, and his third score came with less than a minute left to upset the Big 12 school on the road. The stud receiver finished his Red Wolves career with six 100-yard games with three more games with 90+ receiving yards, and he had six games with multiple touchdowns.
ADAMS’ ARKANSAS STATE CAREER RECEIVING STATS 2017: 8 catches for 77 yards (9.6 avg.), TD
2018: 17 catches for 267 yards (15.7 avg.), 3 TDs
2019: 62 catches for 851 yards (13.7 avg.), 5 TDs
2020: 79 catches for 1,111 yards (14.1 avg.), 12 TDs
Because he ran a solid 4.45 in the 40-yard dash and did most of his damage against lesser competition in the Sun Belt Conference, Adams likely won’t get drafted before Day 3. Yet he might not make it to the sixth round when the Bucs are on the clock, either. One of the reasons is that he is a devastating downfield blocker in the running game (just watch the end of his highlights below), and that will likely make Adams shine on special teams as he learns to play at the NFL level. The Bucs found out in 2019 that they can never have enough good wide receivers, and adding Adams in the sixth round makes plenty of sense.
ROUND 7 – BYU DT Khyiris Tonga
6-4, 320 • Senior
Tonga makes a return to the PewterReport.com 2021 Bucs 7-Round Mock Draft after appearing as a fourth-round pick in our initial mock draft. The sixth or seventh round is probably more appropriate for this big defensive tackle with good athleticism and power. Tonga, who was a three-year starter at BYU and a team captain, doesn’t have the elite size and athleticism that starting nose tackle Vita Vea does, but he’s built in the same mold. A relentless run stuffer with the initial quickness to be effective against the pass, too, Tonga might be best served as a rotational player in the NFL.
Tonga recorded 130 tackles in his Cougars career with 16 tackles for loss, 12 pass break-ups, 6.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. Licht always likes defensive linemen who have a high number of pass break-ups as it shows good pass-rushing awareness.
Like Vea, Tonga has seen some action on offense at BYU as a blocking fullback near the goal line. He even scored a 3-yard rushing touchdown from the fullback position in 2019 due to his rugby background.
Licht has drafted two types of defensive tackles in Tampa Bay – big guys like Vea and Stevie Tu’ikolovatu, a 6-foot-1, 330-pounder seventh-rounder in 2017, and lighter guys like Khalil Davis, a 6-1, 308-pounder in the sixth-round last year, and Terry Beckner, a 6-foot-4, 296-pounder in 2019. With Tonga, Licht goes back to the big, beefier defensive tackle, as the Bucs saw what life was like without Vea for most of the 2020 season due to his fractured ankle.
ROUND 7 – Boston College ILB Isaiah McDuffie
6-1, 224 • Senior
The Bucs conclude the 2021 NFL Draft by selecting McDuffie in the seventh round to help the team’s depth at inside linebacker and also on special teams. McDuffie will run for NFL scouts at the Boston College pro day on March 26, and he’s believed to be one of the fastest linebackers in this year’s draft class. After spending a seventh-round pick on linebacker Chapelle Russell in last year’s Bucs draft and that selection not working out, McDuffie joins the team as a developmental ‘backer behind Lavonte David, Devin White and Kevin Minter.
McDuffie was a three-year starter for the Eagles where he racked up 230 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks in his career. McDuffie was limited to just eight games as a junior, but returned for his senior year with a vengeance, recording 107 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, an interception and a fumble recovery.
McDuffie is a fast, aggressive linebacker that excels in short-area coverage as well as blitzing, which makes him a good scheme fit in Tampa Bay. His physical traits and athleticism will help him earn a roster spot as a rookie by starring on special teams, as the Bucs will carry four inside linebackers on their 53-man roster.
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: email@example.com
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