The Super Bowl LV champions Tampa Bay Buccaneers have all 22 of their starters back in 2021. That means that Tampa Bay has very few needs to address in the 2021 NFL Draft, all of which we will try to cover in our final 7-round Bucs Mock draft.
The Bucs have the 32nd overall draft pick for the first time in franchise history. Now 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 have finished Zoom calls and have set their draft board.
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 final 2021 Bucs 7-Round Mock Draft of the year, powered by Edmonson Electric • AC • Security.
The Bucs re-signed 34-year old defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and 35-year old Steve McLendon to one-year deals. The team also signed Rakeem “Nacho” Nunez-Roches to a two-year deal. But more talent and youth is needed along the defensive line. Defensive end Will Gholston is 30 and in a contract year. Khalil Davis, last year’s sixth-round pick, is a developmental tackle that was inactive for all but four games in 2020. Finding Suh’s heir apparent is important, this might not be the year to do it with a weak defensive tackle class.
Left tackle Donovan Smith signed a two-year extension this offseason. That was a big win for the organization, as was re-signing backup tackle Josh Wells. Yet center Ryan Jensen turns 30 this summer and is set to make $10 million in the final year of his contract. Right guard Alex Cappa and Aaron Stinnie are also entering a contract year. 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 Giovani Bernard – Photo by: USA Today
Leonard Fournette returned on a one-year deal, and 32-year old LeSean McCoy will likely retire. Giovani Bernard was signed to be the third-down back. 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. He also struggled with turnovers and drops. It’s unclear whether or not Vaughn is starter material or just a role player. The Bucs could use a starting-caliber back to eventually replace Jones and Fournette in 2022.
Lavonte David, 31, was 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. Chapelle Russell, who was drafted last year in the seventh round, was cut. So look for another linebacker to be drafted for special teams and to possibly replace David in the future.
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2021 BUCS 7-ROUND MOCK DRAFT FINAL
ROUND 1 – Washington OLB Joe Tryon
6-5, 260 • Junior
The Bucs could use another athletic edge rusher with Jason Pierre-Paul set to turn 32 next January and coming off back-to-back offseasons with knee surgery. Tryon was the second-round pick in PewterReport.com’s second Bucs 7-Round Mock Draft this year, but his stock is rising after an impressive pro day that saw him run a 4.65 40-yard dash and posted a 41-inch vertical.
Tryon opted out of the 2020 football season due to COVID-19, so there is even less tape to evaluate. He only played two years for the Huskies and wasn’t a full-time starter until 2019 when he recorded most of his statistics, including eight of his nine career sacks.
Tryon is far from a finished product, but has a very big upside due to his long, 6-foot-5, 262-pound frame, big-time hustle and play speed. According to Pro Football Focus, Tryon recorded 29 of his pressures in the final seven games of the 2019 season after notching only 12 in the first six games.
Tryon’s sack production also came alive during the second half of that season, as he recorded three two-sack games against Utah, Oregon State and Washington State. That’s six sacks in his final seven games at Washington.
Tryon is comfortable rushing from both sides of the defensive line and knows how to effectively come underneath on stunts, which were commonly called at Washington. Tryon has experience playing in a 3-4 scheme, as well as rushing in a four-man front, so his transition to Tampa Bay’s defense should go rather smoothly.
Drafting this physical, high-energy player at the end of the second round and having him learn for a year behind the likes of Barrett and Pierre-Paul would be ideal for Tampa Bay’s pass rush long term. Tryon could be the eventual replacement for Pierre-Paul, and having him split time during his rookie season could help extend the shelf life of JPP.
The Bucs will be looking for players who love football and play the game with a passion. No one may be more passionate about football than Dickerson, who was the Bucs’ first-round pick in our last mock draft. Given his medical report, Dickerson is more likely to be a second-rounder.
After tearing his ACL in the SEC Championship Game against Georgia, Dickerson still dressed for the National Championship Game and begged head coach Nick Saban to snap the ball at the end of the end of the game. After that happened and the Crimson Tide won, Dickerson hoisted Saban into the air – doing so with a surgically-repaired knee.
Injuries are the only thing keeping Dickerson from being a Top 20 pick. He is easily the best interior line prospect in the draft when healthy. The problem for Dickerson is that he tore one ACL as a freshman at Florida State in 2016. Ankle injuries limited him to just six total starts from 2017-18 at FSU before he transferred.
Once at Alabama, Dickerson started 24 straight games (20 at center) before his latest ACL tear. Surgery went well and he could be available by the start of the season. The good news for the Bucs is that they don’t have to count on Dickerson for the 2021 campaign at all. He could come in and get healthy while learning behind center Ryan Jensen and right guard Alex Cappa as a rookie.
There is a good chance that either Jensen or Cappa or both may not return in 2022 due to salary cap concerns. That means Dickerson, who won the Jacobs Trophy (top SEC blocker) and the Rimington Award (nation’s best center), could take over at center or right guard – where he had 11 collegiate starts – next year.
Dickerson is a massive man at nearly 6-foot-6, 333 pounds. This is what draft expert Dane Brugler had to say about the first-team All-American.
“Old-school, nasty competitor and is always looking for a warm body to bury (NFL scout: ‘He’s a foxhole type, the kind of guy you hate to play against, but love to play with.’)”
Dickerson has an infectious personality and is a great leader. He’s a tone-setter up front and would be a great heir apparent to the center position in Tampa Bay. Bucs general manager Jason Licht believes in building a team through the trenches and will have a hard time passing up on Dickerson if he’s there at No. 32.
ROUND 3 – Tennessee G Trey Smith
6-5, 321 • Senior
The Bucs continue to bolster their interior offensive line with the selection of Smith. The Tennessee guard battled blood clots in his lungs that caused him to miss the final five games of his sophomore season. Smith’s resiliency and his love for the game are evident as he battled back to play in the next 23 games.
With a big frame and heavy hands, Smith is a mauler in the run game that would be a great fit in Tampa Bay’s power run scheme. His strength is apparent, evidenced by benching 32 reps. Smith is a nasty finisher. He still needs work in pass protection as he gets caught lunging at times and his technique is not consistent from play to play.
Smith brings plenty of experience, playing in 42 games with 41 starts. He also brings versatility to Tampa Bay. He’s got 23 starts at left guard, 10 starts at left tackle and eight starts at right guard. Not only could Smith come in and challenge Alex Cappa and Aaron Stinnie at right guard. He could also be a key reserve at right tackle at the next level.
ROUND 4 – Minnesota CB Benjamin St. Juste
6-3, 202 • Junior
The Bucs have had success with Minnesota products, drafting safety Antoine Winfield, Jr. and receiver Tyler Johnson last year. Tampa Bay adds some depth at cornerback with St. Juste, who played with Winfield in the Golden Gophers backfield. He is the type of press-man cornerback the Bucs like. With great height and 32.5-inch arms, St. Juste is hard to complete passes against due to his length.
While he didn’t record an interception at Minnesota, St. Juste did lead the team with 10 pass breakups during his sophomore season. St. Juste’s ball skills need some work but they can be developed with good coaching at the next level.
After the 2020 season he received an invitation to play in the Senior Bowl where he shined. St. Juste broke up several passes and showed good range in pass coverage.
ST. JUSTE’S MINNESOTA CAREER DEFENSIVE STATS 2019: 45 tackles, 1.5 TFLs, 10 PBUs 2020: 14 tackles, 1 PBU
St. Juste is a very good athlete, running a 4.52 at his pro day. He also had 4.01 time in the short shuttle and had a 6.63 time in the three-cone drill. Both were elite times given his long legs. The rangy Golden Gophers defender is similar player to Tampa Bay’s own Carlton Davis III. The Bucs sure could use another Davis-type defensive back.
ROUND 5 – Virginia Tech RB Khalil Herbert
5-8, 210 • Senior
The Bucs address the running back position in the fifth round with Herbert, who played last year at Bruce Arians’ alma mater. With Leonard Fournette, Ronald Jones II and Giovani Bernard all free agents in 2022, Tampa Bay grabs a versatile running back with a good mix of speed (4.49) and tackle-breaking ability.
After four years at Kansas, including a redshirt season, Herbert transferred to Virginia Tech where he had a breakout season in 2020. Herbert had nine 100-yard games in his career, including six in 11 games with the Hokies. He had a 208-yard, two-touchdown game against Duke last year. Yet his best game came at Kansas during his sophomore year, rushing for 291 yards and two touchdowns on 36 carries (8.1 avg.) in a loss to West Virginia.
HERBERT’S KANSAS CAREER RUSHING STATS 2016: 44 carries for 189 yards (4.3 avg.), 3 TDs 2017: 120 carries for 663 yards (5.5 avg.), 4 TDs 2018: 113 carries for 499 yards (4.4 avg.), 5 TDs 2019: 43 carries for 384 yards (8.9 avg.), 2 TDs
HERBERT’S VIRGINIA TECH CAREER RUSHING STATS 2020: 155 carries for 1,183 yards (7.6 avg.), 8 TDs
Herbert has good hands, but wasn’t much of a factor in the passing game. He totaled just 34 catches for 297 yards and one touchdown during his collegiate career. Herbert caught 10 passes for 179 yards (17.9 avg.) and his lone TD last year with the Hokies.
He had a decent week of practice in Mobile at the Senior Bowl, but didn’t stand out in the game. Herbert is likely a Day 3 selection as a result of just one 1,000-yard season in college. But he also adds value as a kick returner as he averaged 26.9 yards per return last year at Virginia Tech.
ROUND 6 – Boston College ILB Isaiah McDuffie
6-1, 224 • Senior
The Bucs select McDuffie in the sixth round to help the team’s depth at inside linebacker and also on special teams. McDuffie, who was a seventh-round pick in a previous Bucs 7-Round Mock Draft, is one of the faster linebackers in this year’s draft class. He ran a 4.58 at his pro day. 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.
ROUND 7 – Boise State TE John Bates
6-5, 250 • Senior
The Bucs draft a developmental tight end in Bates with their first seventh-round pick. Bates is a classic “Y” tight end, who is capable of blocking and being used as a receiver. He’s got good size at 6-foot-5, 250 pounds and ran a decent 4.82 in the 40.
While Tampa Bay has plenty of good tight ends in Rob Gronkowski, O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate and Tanner Hudson, only Brate is under contract in 2022. And he’ll be 31 and making over $6 million next season. So adding another young tight end to the mix to compete with Hudson would be wise.
BATES’ BOISE STATE CAREER RECEIVING STATS 2017: 3 catches for 34 yards (11.3 avg.) 2018: 10 catches for 155 yards (15.5 avg.), 1 TD 2019: 22 catches for 273 yards (12.4 avg.), 1 TD 2020: 12 catches for 117 yards (9.8 avg.)
Bates will get drafted for his blocking prowess and ability to seal the edge as an inline tight end. He also has enough position flexibility to be move tight end or even line up in the backfield as a fullback.
Bates brings value as a special teams player, which is what the Bucs need on Day 3. He played in 525 snaps on special teams at Boise State.
ROUND 7 – Boise State CB Avery Williams 5-8, 187 • Senior
The Bucs typically don’t draft cornerbacks under 6-foot anymore. Yet Williams is an exception because he’s an exceptional special teamer. In addition to recording six punt return touchdowns and three kick return TDs, Williams also blocked five punts for the Broncos.
Williams is actually a pretty good cornerback, too. While he lacks ideal height, he does have 4.4 speed and could play in the slot in Tampa Bay. He recorded 26 pass breakups, four interceptions and five forced fumbles on defense at Boise State as a four-year starter.
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
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