The 2020 NFL Draft here and head coach Bruce Arians, general manager Jason Licht, director of player personnel John Spytek, director of college scouting Mike Biehl and director of football administration Mike Greenberg and the team’s college scouts will be working remotely during the draft due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the 2020 NFL Draft just days away it is time for PewterReport.com’s fifth and final 2020 Bucs’ 7-Round Mock Draft, presented by Edmonson Electric • AC • Security.
The Bucs are coming off a 7-9 season and entering the second year with Arians, offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles at the helm. Tampa Bay moved on from former first-round pick Jameis Winston and landed the NFL’s top offseason acquisition in six-time Super Bowl quarterback Tom Brady at the start of free agency. The Bucs also re-signed outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, in addition to using the franchise tag on outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett, the league’s leading sacker.
The Bucs lost No. 3 wide receiver Breshad Perriman in free agency, and addressing the position is now among the team’s more pressing needs. Let’s examine exactly what Tampa Bay’s needs are heading into the draft.
BUCS’ 2020 NFL DRAFT NEEDS
Table of Contents
1. OFFENSIVE LINE – Tampa Bay signed Joe Haeg, and he might replace the 34-year old Demar Dotson at right tackle, but the Bucs need a better, younger option at the position, in addition to another 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. Look for Tampa Bay to select two or three offensive linemen in this year’s draft.
2. RUNNING BACK – The Bucs let Peyton Barber sign with Washington in free agency, and Tampa Bay will need another running back to complement and challenge Ronald Jones II. The team 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. The Bucs will select one or two running backs in this year’s draft.
3. WIDE RECEIVER – 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. They’ll take advantage of this deep wide receiver draft and add one later this month.
4. DEFENSIVE TACKLE – Rakeem Nunez-Roches and Suh returned on one-year deals, but the team needs to replace backup nose tackle Beau Allen, in addition to adding some more young talent. Tampa Bay needs a younger heir-apparent to Suh, and better depth at the defensive tackle spot to pair with Vita Vea, a rising star at nose tackle, if the run defense is to continue its’ dominant play.
5. 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. Tampa Bay re-signed Andrew Adams, but the Bucs need a real play-maker at the free 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, but the Bucs like their current group – if Evans can make a comeback.
The Bucs enter the 2020 NFL Draft with seven draft selections due to trading wide receiver DeSean Jackson and its seventh-round pick to Philadelphia in exchange for the Eagles’ sixth-rounder last year, but gained a fourth-round compensatory pick for losing middle linebacker Kwon Alexander to San Francisco in free agency last year.
Despite the coronavirus pandemic, the league still plans on having the the three-day NFL Draft, beginning with the first round on Thursday, April 23. The Bucs plan on finding some more weapons and protection for Brady, so expect an offensive-oriented draft for Tampa Bay.
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We wouldn’t be surprised if that ultimately happens, but in our final mock draft, we have Jones going to Tampa Bay at No. 14.
Because there is a good chance that the top four offensive tackles – Alabama’s Jedrick Wills, Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs, Louisville’s Mekhi Becton and Georgia’s Andrew Thomas – will be gone by the time Tampa Bay is on the clock. The Bucs have done plenty of research on Jones, who allowed just 18 pressures on 1,282 passing plays in his four years as a starter at Houston, according to ProFootballFocus.com.
Jones received a 93.2 grade from PFF, which was the highest grade ever given to a tackle that was not in a Power 5 conference. His run blocking improved dramatically during his senior year, as he was given a grade of 62.8 in 2018 and then a run-blocking grade of 92.7 in 2019.
Jones will compete with Joe Haeg for the right to start at right tackle during his rookie season, and then has the ability to perhaps slide over to left tackle if the team wants to part ways with Donovan Smith after his contract expires following the 2021 season – or perhaps even after the 2020 season when Smith no longer has any remaining guaranteed money.
Jones has great size at 6-foot-5, 311 pounds and athleticism. He has plenty of experience as a four-year starter at left tackle and has the ideal footwork and wingspan to move to the right side and be successful there. 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 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.
“Where he’s at right now, I’d expect Josh Jones to be a first-rounder,” said Senior Bowl director Jim Nagy on Twitter.
“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.”
Tampa Bay running game coordinator Harold Goodwin and offensive line coach Joe Gilbert met with Jones at the Senior Bowl, and the Bucs’ brass met with Jones at the NFL Scouting Combine for a formal interview. In the last couple of weeks the coaches and scouts also had a pre-draft teleconference meeting with Jones.
Tampa Bay believes that there aren’t just four elite offensive tackles in this draft class. There are five – and Jones is one of them. If Thomas or Becton doesn’t slide to No. 14, the Bucs will select Jones and be very happy with their decision.
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