The Roundtable features the opinions of the PR staff as it tackles a topic each week that involves the Bucs. This week’s topic: Who Is Your Bucs Draft Crush This Year?

Scott Reynolds: I Have So Many, But Barnes Is My Current Fave

A Bucs draft crush is defined as a draft prospect that I really love that I would want to see the Bucs draft – regardless of the round. The problem is that I have so many draft crushes this year! How can I pick just one? I love all top three running backs – Clemson’s Travis Etienne, Alabama’s Najee Harris and North Carolina’s Javonte Williams. I’m also quite fond of some middle-round running backs like North Carolina’s Michael Carter and Memphis’ Kenneth Gainwell. I even like a couple of offensive linemen in Alabama’s Landon Dickerson and Wisconsin-Whitewater’s Quinn Meinerz. Of course I like Florida weapon Kyle Pitts, but I won’t pick him because he’s a Top 10 prospect. The Bucs have no shot at drafting him without trading their entire draft to move up like Mike Ditka did for running back Ricky Williams in New Orleans in 1999.

Purdue LB Derrick Barnes

Purdue LB Derrick Barnes – Photo by: USA Today

Being a defensive-minded guy, I naturally have some crushes on that side of the ball. I’m fond of Texas outside linebacker Joseph Ossai, Northern Iowa outside linebacker Elerson Smith and Iowa defensive lineman Chauncey Golston. But my current Bucs draft crush is Purdue linebacker Derrick Barnes. This guy is a heat-seeking missile on defense. Whether it’s rushing the passer as an undersized edge rusher or playing off-the-ball linebacker, Barnes is an absolute stud. He’s passionate about football. Just watch his highlight reel and fall in love with Barnes yourself.

Despite being just over 6-foot and weighing 240 pounds, Barnes proved to be a very effective pass rusher with 11 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks and a forced fumble as a junior due to his 81-inch wingspan and 33-inch arms. He reminds me of a poor man’s Khalil Mack coming out of Buffalo. But his fit in the NFL will be as an off-the-ball linebacker and an occasional blitzer. In that manner Barnes reminds me a bit of Devin White. He’s not as fast, but he’s an explosive playmaker and big-time hitter. I’d love to see the Bucs draft Barnes, who I wrote about in my SR’s Fab 5 this week, in the middle rounds. He would be an ideal eventual replacement for Lavonte David in a couple of years.

Mark Cook: Surprise, Surprise – My Choice Is A Former Nole

Yes, I wanted the Buccaneers to draft Jameis Winston, Dalvin Cook and Derwin James. People assume it was only because they wore the garnet and gold in college. But the truth is, I believed they would be great pros. The jury is still out on Winston. Cook is a bonafide stud. James, when healthy, is one of the best young defensive talents in the AFC. But there have been plenty of former Florida State players I didn’t want the Bucs to touch. Anyone remember a certain kicker? And my pick this year was only a Florida State player for a couple of seasons. But he couldn’t stay healthy in Tallahassee and made the wise decision to transfer to Alabama. Center Landon Dickerson would be the perfect pick for the Bucs at the end of the first round. He’s this year’s Bucs draft crush for me.

Alabama C Landon Dickerson

Alabama C Landon Dickerson – Photo by: USA Today

Let’s face it. Football games are still won in the trenches. Yes, Tom Brady was terrific as the catalyst for the Bucs offense last year. But even the best quarterbacks don’t win if they aren’t protected, and if there isn’t at least a semblance of a running game. The Bucs beat the Chiefs in the Super Bowl, not because Brady threw for 450 yards, but because Tampa Bay’s offensive and defensive lines dominated. Dickerson would be the perfect fit to come in and while recovering from an ACL injury. He could sit and learn from Ryan Jensen, who is in the last year of his contract, and then take over full time in 2022.

Dickerson is a throwback ball player whose love and enthusiasm for the game is infectious. Ask any of his Crimson Tide teammates and coaches and they will tell you how much how meant to the program’s success over the last two years. Dickerson has had an injury history dating back to being a true freshmen at FSU. But having a year off to let his body rest and recover might be a blessing in disguise. The Buccaneers are in a terrific spot where they can take a bit of a gamble on a player with some injury concerns, and also the luxury of not needing him to start right out of the gate.

Jon Ledyard: Keep Loading Up Key Positions

Many don’t see cornerback as a huge need for the Bucs, and maybe it isn’t. But Sean Murphy-Bunting and Jamel Dean are far from sure things despite their improved play in the postseason. And Carlton Davis III is entering a contract year. If he’s still available at No. 32, Northwestern CB Greg Newsome fits exactly what defensive coordinator Todd Bowles wants in his secondary.

Northwestern CB Greg Newsome

Northwestern CB Greg Newsome – Photo by: USA Today

For six games during the 2020 campaign, Newsome dominated Big Ten competition. He broke up seven passes and intercepted another. His versatility will be attractive to Tampa Bay. Newsome is more well-suited for the zone-heavy defense Bowles’ ran during the regular season than any of the Bucs’ current corners. The junior also impressed in press man, especially down the field, where he found and defended the ball well on go routes. That’s a critical part of playing corner in today’s NFL. 

Newsome isn’t even 21 years old yet, and could be eased into NFL playing time due to the Bucs’ depth at the position. He would instantly man the CB4 role for Tampa Bay, before transitioning to a starting role when the team eventually decided not to re-sign one of their current Top 3 corners. Although he has rarely played there, Newsome could be an ideal slot corner option with the versatility to stay outside as well. He’s a good tackler who competes at a high level against the run and loves the game of football. Those are all qualities the Bucs love about Murphy-Bunting in the slot. But Newsome has more coverage polish than SMB. That makes him a more desirable fit for the slot, while still possessing the ability to play outside at a high level. If Newsome is there at No. 32, the Bucs should pull the trigger.

Matt Matera: Felton Gives The Bucs’ Offense More Variety

It’s great when a team hits a home run with a pick that works out in the first two rounds. But it’s even better when that happens with a later pick. If you don’t believe me, look no further than the excitement that comes every time former sixth-round pick Scotty Miller makes a big play. UCLA’s Demetric Felton has that explosiveness that teams have to account for anytime he has the ball in his hands. And the fact that he plays running back, receiver and returns kicks makes him the right fit for on the Bucs roster.

UCLA WR-RB Demetric Felton

UCLA WR-RB Demetric Felton – Photo by: USA Today

The Bucs have already had a virtual meeting with him back in March, so he’s at least on their radar. I love the idea of utilizing Felton in many roles, particularly as a third-down back and on special teams. With the kick return game uncertain at the moment, Felton can step right in and use his speed to be an instant threat to score if the ball is kicked to him. With Leonard Fournette re-signed and Ronald Jones II in a contract year, the Bucs don’t have an immediate need at running back. But Felton could be a huge factor on third downs as a receiving back that Tom Brady would look to quite often. He can also play in the slot as a receiver. He caught 99 passes at UCLA so he’s ready for that job.

Felton is essentially the definition of what a gadget player is. Are the Bucs ever going to run a wildcat type of package on offense while Brady is quarterback? No. However, Tampa Bay has entertained the idea of versatile players before. And that doesn’t mean they don’t like to run trick plays or those that you would consider outside the box. Remember, they ran a flea-flicker during the regular season and also attempted a pass to offensive lineman Joe Haeg in Super Bowl LV. They’ve had the John Franklin III on the practice squad before along with Travis Jonsen, who Jason Licht is a big fan of. They even signed undrafted quarterback Nick Fitzgerald in 2019 out of Mississippi State with the hopes that he’d be a Taysom Hill-type player. There are many roles that Felton could fill for the defending champs in 2021.

Taylor Jenkins: Going Against All That I Stand For, The Bucs Should Draft Harris

This is definitely a weird one for me. I’ve long been an opponent of large investments placed in running backs. That generally includes not spending high-round draft capital to select one. Even going as far as drafting one at some point in nearly every draft to create a self-sustaining position that never forces a team to give a running back a lucrative, second contract. The position is simply too easy to replace production in comparison to other positions. But this year, my Bucs draft crush is easily Alabama’s Najee Harris with the No. 32 pick.

Alabama RB Najee Harris

Alabama RB Najee Harris – Photo by: USA Today

A four-year player at Alabama, Harris was insanely productive with the Crimson Tide. Over his last two seasons alone, running for over 1,200 yards in each, Harris totaled 2,690 rushing yards on just under six yards per carry, 729 receiving yards on 70 receptions and 50 touchdowns. You read that right. He found the end zone 50 times in those two years. His skill set also helps the Bucs twofold. He’s a more than capable runner between the tackles or to the outside. And Harris is a natural pass-catcher who could immediately step in and prove himself as the best third-down back on the Bucs’ roster.

The presence of Ronald Jones II and Leonard Fournette would allow Harris to avoid being thrust into a full workload as a rookie. Yet both Jones and Fournette are set to hit free agency next offseason. Harris would then be in prime position to be the Bucs’ feature back in 2022. Add in the fact that he’s just a downright likeable guy. Whether it’s driving nine hours to an Alabama pro day that he wasn’t even participating in due to his cancelled flight, or saying that Todd McShay can “kiss my ass” over his analysis, Harris is unquestionably my Bucs draft crush this year.

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