It’s April 23 – the 2020 NFL Draft is here! Here is a look at what may happen in the first round for the Buccaneers, in addition to a revised PewterReport.com 2020 Bucs’ 7-Round Draft that reflects the team’s draft picks following the trade for star tight end Rob Gronkowski with the Patriots.

Be sure to visit PewterReport.com on Friday morning for my SR’s Bucs Draft Insider: Day 2 column, which will replace my usual SR’s Fab 5 column this week.

Will The Bucs Trade Howard?

The acquisition of Gronkowski – a five-time Pro Bowler, a four-time All-Pro, and a three-time Super Bowl champion – makes tight end O.J. Howard expendable. While general manager Jason Licht might want to pull the trigger and trade Howard during the 2020 NFL Draft he doesn’t have to.

Howard is on the final year of his rookie deal and a tight end room of Gronkowski, Howard, Cameron Brate and Antony Auclair is easily the most talented quartet at the position in the NFL. Gronkowski turns 31 in May and hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2011. He missed eight games in 2016, two games in 2017 and three games in 2018, which was his last year in the NFL before retiring for the 2019 campaign.

Bucs TE O.J. Howard
Bucs TE O.J. Howard – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

But Howard, the Bucs’ former first-round pick in 2017, does have some trade value that Licht might want to take advantage of in the 2020 NFL Draft. There were reports of New England attempting to acquire Howard before the trading deadline last year, but the Patriots didn’t offer the second-rounder that Licht was seeking so no deal was made. Licht might be willing to accept a little less this year – perhaps a third-round pick and a Day 3 pick.

The Falcons set a bit of a precedent when they acquired tight end Hayden Hurst from the Ravens this offseason. Baltimore traded Hurst and a fourth-round pick to Atlanta in exchange for the Falcons’ second and fifth-round picks.

Howard has been way more productive in his three years with the Bucs (94 catches for 1,456 yards (15.5 avg.) and 12 TDs) than Hurst was in his two years with the Ravens (43 catches for 512 yards (11.9 avg.) and three TDs).

The problem is that if a team just doesn’t want to surrender a second and fifth-rounder to Licht during the draft, then he won’t get it.

Yet I don’t think Tampa Bay will trade Howard outright for a draft pick or picks. Instead I could see Licht using Howard and another draft pick to move up in a round to target a specific player. Which player(s) might Licht have his sights set on? Let’s explore two options.

Potential Trading Partners For The Bucs

The latest draft buzz is that Arizona is looking to trade down from the No. 8 spot and acquire more draft picks. Licht won’t want to surrender any draft picks because he views them as precious capital, but would be willing to use Howard as a chip in a trade deal.

The Cardinals are weak at tight end, and could use some star power at the position for second-year quarterback Kyler Murray. It helps that Howard had four catches for 47 yards and his lone touchdown in the 2020 season in Tampa Bay’s 30-27 win over Arizona, in addition to the fact that Licht and head coach Bruce Arians and Cardinals general manager Steve Keim are all friends.

Louisville OT Mekhi Becton
Louisville OT Mekhi Becton – Photo courtesy of Louisville

So the Bucs could trade Howard and the No. 14 overall pick to move up to No. 8 for an offensive tackle like Louisville’s Mekhi Becton. Cleveland and the New York Jets, which pick 10th and 11th overall, are two tackle-needy teams that Licht might want to leap over to ensure that the Bucs grab a premier player to replace Demar Dotson.

I wouldn’t rule out a Bucs trade with the Browns at No. 10, either. Rumor has it that Cleveland prefers Boise State offensive tackle Ezra Cleveland, but it’s too high to take him with the 10th overall pick. The only problem is that the Browns already have two quality tight ends in recently-signed Austin Hooper and fourth-year pass catcher David Njoku, so they likely won’t be interested in acquiring Howard.

So what other scenario could happen involving Howard in a trade? Let’s assume the Bucs come away with their right tackle at No. 14 – whether it’s Becton, Georgia’s Andrew Thomas or Houston’s Josh Jones. Licht might not want to wait until the 45th overall pick in the draft to get a premier running back, as they might be gone by the time Tampa Bay is on the clock in the second round.

Licht could package the Bucs’ second-round pick and perhaps a fifth-rounder in addition to Howard to trade back into the first round with New England at No. 23. That would put Tampa Bay ahead of some teams that could be targeting a running back, such as Miami at No. 26, Seattle at No. 27 and Kansas City at No. 32.

The Bucs might have the opportunity to grab the first running back off the board by trading with the Patriots, and Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor or LSU’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire could be the target. The benefit to trading back up into the first round to select a running back is that Tampa Bay would have another player – in addition to the offensive tackle earlier in the first round – that would have a fifth-year option on their rookie contract.

Akers Is High On Bucs’ Draft Board

If Tampa Bay has to sit and wait to draft a running back in the second round there is a good chance that Taylor, Edwards-Helaire, Georgia’s D’Andre Swift and Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins could all be off the draft board by then. Don’t be surprised if Licht pulls the trigger on Florida State’s Cam Akers in the second round if that is the case.

Florida State RB Cam Akers
Florida State RB Cam Akers – Photo by: Getty Images

There is a wide range of opinions on Akers in the scouting community with teams that have him going between the second and the fourth rounds. Akers is a tremendous talent whose production was stymied by playing behind one of college football’s worst offensive lines at FSU.

Drafting a running back is a high priority for the Bucs this year, as they want to be more balanced on offense with Tom Brady under center. Acquiring a pass-catching running back is also important, and like Edwards-Helaire and Swift, Akers has great hands as a receiver out of the backfield.

Flood The Position?

Last year we saw Bucs general manager Jason Licht flood the secondary with three draft picks on Day 2 – cornerbacks Sean Murphy-Bunting and Jamel Dean, in addition to safety Mike Edwards. Which position(s) might Licht flood this year?

Bucs DBs Sean Murphy-Bunting, Jamel Dean and Mike Edwards
Bucs DBs Sean Murphy-Bunting, Jamel Dean and Mike Edwards – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

This is a very deep draft at offensive line and running back, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Licht come away with multiple players at those positions. The Bucs need a right tackle and some competition at guard and center. Look for Licht to draft at least two offensive linemen – maybe even three.

Tampa Bay needs a running back to replace Peyton Barber and compete with Ronald Jones II for carries. The Bucs could also use another player to compete for the third down back role with Dare Ogunbowale. Licht will draft a running back by the third round, and may even select another one on Day 3 if the right player is there at the right pick giving the team the right value.

A Howard-Williams Trade With Washington?

ESPN reported that the Bucs had previous discussions with the Redskins back in February about trading Howard to Washington in exchange for disgruntled left tackle Trent Williams, but talks broke down and the deal never happened. That deal won’t happen now with the Bucs trading for Gronkowski because he has one year left on his deal that will pay him a $9 million base salary in 2020.

Bucs TE Rob Gronkowski - Photo by: Getty Images
Bucs TE Rob Gronkowski – Photo by: Getty Images

Tampa Bay has less than $5 million in salary cap room left after trading for Gronkowski and Licht and director of football administration Mike Greenberg, who is the team’s capologist, will need to restructure a deal – perhaps extending Gronkowski’s deal and adding a few years to it – in order to sign all of the team’s draft picks later this summer. The Bucs will need more than $5 million to get all of their rookies signed this year.

Bucs Have Not Picked Up Howard’s Fifth-Year Option

Last year, PewterReport.com broke the story that the Bucs had picked up the fifth-year option on cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, the team’s first-round pick in 2016. That happened a week before the 2019 NFL Draft on April 24.

As of April 23, Tampa Bay has not picked up the fifth-year option on O.J. Howard. That doesn’t mean that it won’t happen. If Howard isn’t traded during the 2020 NFL Draft and Tampa Bay ends up keeping him, it could very well happen next week. The Bucs have until the first week of May to pick up his option.

Revised Bucs’ 7-Round Mock Draft

Now the moment you’ve all been waiting for – PewterReport.com’s revised 2020 Bucs’ 7-Round Mock Draft. I decided to make some adjustments in our final mock draft after the Bucs traded away their second fourth-round pick – No. 139 overall, which was the team’s compensatory pick – to New England for Gronkowski and the Patriots’ final seventh-round pick (No. 242).

Louisville OT Mekhi Becton
Louisville OT Mekhi Becton – Photo by: PewterReport.com

Maybe I’m optimistic, but I think there is a chance that Louisville offensive tackle Mekhi Becton, whom I believe the Bucs covet, just might slide to Tampa Bay at No. 14.

Becton reportedly failed a drug test at the NFL Scouting Combine, although he didn’t fail one at Louisville. That combined with some weight issues – he played as high as 388 pounds, but weighed in at the Combine at 364 – and a reported 15 score on the Wonderlic, could give some teams some real pause about selecting Becton in the Top 10. That would work in Tampa Bay’s favor.

The Bucs signed Joe Haeg as a placeholder at right tackle, and could always re-sign Demar Dotson after the draft as an insurance policy – even if they take a chance on Becton. Dotson could be a tremendous mentor for Becton, and having legendary quarterback Tom Brady around would only increase the accountability level in the offensive huddle that would prompt Becton to keep growing and become a pro’s pro.

Round 1 – No. 14 – Louisville OT Mekhi Becton
Round 2 – No. 45 – LSU RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire
Round 3 – No. 76 – LSU G Damien Lewis
Round 4 – No. 117 – Memphis WR-RB Antonio Gibson
Round 5 – No. 162 – Arkansas DT McTelvin Agim
Round 6 – No. 195 – Iowa QB Nate Stanley
Round 7 – No. 242 – Tulane WR Darnell Mooney

I kept the other picks the same from the previous PewterReport.com Final 2020 Bucs’ 7-Round Mock Draft except for swapping out LSU defensive tackle Rashard Lawrence, whom I had the Bucs taking with their fourth-round compensatory pick, for Agim in the fifth round. I moved Stanley down from the fifth round to the sixth round, and moved Mooney down from the sixth round to the seventh round.

Let me know your thoughts in the article comments below, and make sure you watch PewterReport.com’s LIVE Bucs Draft Videocast, starting tonight!

PewterReport.com’s LIVE Draft Videocast Starts At 7:00 PM ET

Watch Pewter Reporters Scott Reynolds and Jon Ledyard, PewterReport.com’s newest draft expert and Bucs beat writer, live on-air beginning on Day 1 of the 2020 NFL Draft on Thursday, April 23 at 7:00 p.m. ET.

The Draft Videocast, which is sponsored by Edmonson Electric • AC • Security, will be available for viewing on PewterReport.com, so watch from your phone, tablet or laptop for over 15 hours of Bucs draft coverage from April 23-25.

The PewterReport.com Draft Videocast is the only place to turn for immediate expert analysis on each Tampa Bay draft pick, while keeping viewers informed on players the Bucs are targeting with their next pick, plus instant reaction from the PR staff as they conduct interviews with recently drafted players via conference calls as well as conference calls with Jason Licht and Bruce Arians following the draft selections.

The PewterReport.com staff will also be able to take questions submitted by Bucs fans and NFL fans throughout the 3-day NFL Draft on the @PewterReport Twitter account using the hashtag #PRDraftQ – so it’s a great way to interact with Ledyard and Reynolds.

Here is PewterReport.com’s Draft Videocast schedule:

Thursday, April 23
7:00 pm ET: Draft Videocast coverage begins
8:00 pm ET: Day 1 of the NFL Draft begins – Round 1

Friday, April 24

6:00 pm ET: Draft Videocast coverage begins
7:00 pm ET: Day 2 of the NFL Draft begins – Rounds 2-3

Saturday, April 25

11:00 am ET: Draft Videocast coverage begins
12:00 pm ET: Day 3 of the NFL Draft begins – Rounds 4-7

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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 protected]
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awwdembucs

IMO MORGAN has more upside than Stanley. I really like Gibson’s versatility, he can play WR and RB. I really like Helair but if he is gone Akers would be fine.

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jrwilson85

All the people at Morgan Stanley say that !!! LOL !!

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magoobee

That is not really a fair comparison because Morgan will probably go 2 rounds ahead of Stanley. And I am not a Stanley fan.

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twspin

Great picks here Scott. Just hope one and 2 pan out. I’m not at all high on getting Gronk. He has not completed an entire season since 2011. He’s good for 8 or 9 games. That’s a waste of money at 10 mil. I guess we are paying for his antics though. We should have just stuck with Howard and figured how to utilize him better. Bucs are wagering and betting on this 2 yr window thing. An aging QB who can go down at anytime without a reliable Backup. I hope it does not blow up in our face.… Read more »

Buc for Life

I see the real benefit of Gronk being immediate chemistry. With the lack of off-season, Gronk will help early in the season while the other receivers get on the same sheet with Brady. Assuming the Bucs are right and we make the playoffs, he will be huge again with his postseason experience with Brady.

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magoobee

I like Gronk but not at $10M

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jrwilson85

Scott why don’t you just hint the Bucs are desperate to trade Howard and they can be had. If they accept anything less than a 2nd, they are wusses.

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magoobee

The Bucs wanted to trade Howard last year for a 2nd and got no takers. Now he has one less year on this rookie contract which makes him less attractive. They should be happy if they get GB’s 3rd pick. Only thing going for the Bucs is that this is a weak TE draft crop.

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Buc for Life

Love the draft overall. I would prefer Coulter from RI in the 7th if he is still available. Mooney is too similar to Scotty Miller for me. Also, I say trade Howard for a 3rd and select Elliott or Lawrence, then select Sneed in RD 5. That provides depth and development at CB and DT also (keeping the future in mind).

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fanofdabucs

Solid mock Scott.

I seriously doubt they draft 2 WRs. With Evans, Godwin, Brate, maybe Howard, a RB who can catch, Miller who I believe they think will be much better this year, I just dont see the room or need for 2 more WRs.

I also think they will draft more than I defensive player.

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ScottC543

Lets get this party started!

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Dave

All I know is if we traded our 2nd, a 5th, and Howard to trade back into the 1st to get a RB when there should be multiple solid RB’s available at 45 would be an awful move. Would love the Trent Williams for Howard trade. But I know it’s unlikely. Along with Arizona, I heard Carolina Is also looking to trade back. And keep hearing Miami doesn’t want Tua, and want to trade up to 3 to get a tackle. Which could hurt our chances of getting one of the top 4 tackles Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00… Read more »

Naplesfan

For all the talk wasted here in this analysis on trading OJ Howard, it actually makes far greater sense to trade Brate instead. Brate can’t block worth a damn compared to Howard, which is why he played barely half as many snaps last season as Howard. Blocking is even more important this season than last season, with an aged GOAT under center, with the need not only for great pass protection but also improved run blocking. Brate is a non-contributor on blocking, while Howard is one of our best blockers. Brate also costs more than twice as much on the… Read more »

Pete Wood

Two wide receivers and only one rb? I just don’t see it. Bucs are busting at the seams with good receivers, especially if you include our tight ends. We need two running backs in this draft minimum.

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magoobee

Gibson is really more of a RB than WR. Think James White.

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magoobee

I really do not understand this Pewter Report love of Stanley. Luton will be there and he has a lot more upside. I would even go with Montez over Stanley and he will probably be around at 241.

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LVBUC2

If thre 10 swings at the draft, I like this draft the best Scott

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magoobee

If the Bucs got your top 5 picks, they should be over the moon.

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Dman

I wouldn’t move from #14. Trading Howard to get a RB in RD2 works for me, then put emphasis on the trenches again. No interest in a QB in this draft and hope you’re not working from inside scoop on that Scott. I do like Antonio Gibson in later rounds, but then would not draft a WR as he’s a hybrid RB/WR. WR’s can always be found as undrafted FA’s – Adam Humphries, Brate. Can’t wait for the draft, Go Bucs!

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Dman

And just hearing Becton failed a drug test and bombed on the Wonderlic. PASS! I’d take Josh Jones over a guy not smart enough to pass a drug test – AT THE NFL COMBINE!!! Are you kidding me!!!!

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Dave

Trust the talent, not the failed drug test for probably weed, which half the country does These days. Sapp fell because of a failed drug test, Tunsil fell because of the bong mask video. Moss fell because of off the field concerns. If Becton is there at 14, I think we have to take him. The upside is too high to pass on.

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Dman

I got that, but going into the combine????

Look, if the guy can block and the other three of the Top Four are gone, take him. But good lord.

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scubog

Sapp did not fail a drug test. It was just a rumor that I’ve always contended was started by Richie McKay.

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British buc

I agree, the stupidity knowing you’re probably going to be tested at the combine, it always baffles me how players can do it, and the argument it might only be weed is irrelevant. I’m hoping for Wills but really can’t see it happening

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danielob

Becton doesn’t know how he failed the drug test at the combine, he stayed up all night studying for it! 15 on the Wonderlic doesn’t sound too good, but if he can play at the position and lose 20-30 lbs he might be alright.

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danielob

Forgot to add, I think Gronk will hold up this year, he doesn’t need to be the man, the main target that the opposing D have to key on. Good 3rd down option, might not play that many snap during the course of the season once TB gets comfortable with all his weapons.

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Dave

Agree on Gronk. If he only plays on 3rd downs, power runs or short yardage runs, and in the red zone, he’s absolutely worth the trade. Keep him fresh for the playoffs

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DT25

I feel seen with that mock draft. Adding a solid rotational DT in Agim, a solid OG to compete with Cappa/depth, a jack of all trades weapon in Gibson, a pass catching RB in CEH, and a cornerstone OT in the 1st. Given everything that’s come from Licht and Arians the past few months, that sure seems like the type of draft we’re looking for. Good work SR.

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BucWonder

Bucs need only about $2.6 million in net cap space to sign the rookies. The 7 draftees will displace the lowest 7 current roster players who make a combined $4.7 million. I rarely see that pointed out correctly. Greg Auman is the only local guy I’ve read who understands this.

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mgchat76

I would be ecstatic with this draft, but have my doubts it will unfold this way. If Becton isn’t on the clock, I’d like to see the team trade back. Supposedly Philly wants to trade up for a WR. Josh Jones looks like a much better pick if it nets an extra 2nd rd pick we could use for a safety.

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fl0nase

I feel like trading up in Rnd 1 for a tackle doesn’t seem necessary. I think one of the 4 will be there at 14 based on the mocks and if not, Jones tape looked good to me. Becton’s 15 on the wonderlic is a concern to me. I still remember Gaines Adams’ was horrible and that situation couldn’t have worked out worse. It would be hard for me to resist trading up in the second for THE RB highest on my board. If Howard can help us do that, I think having a lights out tandem would be great… Read more »

@Train40

Happy Birthday Scott……hope you get your present(s) tonight

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