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So this pre-draft SR’s Fab 5 column is chock full of surprises – players you need to know about, as they could be available when the Bucs are on the clock on April 29. So here are a dozen prospects that Tampa Bay fans should be familiar with, as one could become a Buccaneer on draft day.
The fourth version of the PewterReport.com 2021 Bucs’ 7-Round Mock Draft will be published on Monday, April 12, and will feature one of these players in the first round. Which one will it be? Visit PewterReport.com on Monday to find out.
Let’s take a look at some surprise steals who might slide down the draft board to Tampa Bay at the end of Round 1.
FAB 1. A Surprise Availability For Bucs At No. 32
Penn State OLB Jayson Oweh
How does an edge rusher like Oweh that ran a blistering 4.37 in the 40-yard dash with a near 40-inch vertical at 6-5, 257 pounds slide down to No. 32 in the draft? Well, considering that Oweh had just seven sacks for the Nittany Lions, including none last year, and there is some serious cause for concern. Despite his physical and athletic gifts, Oweh played in 24 games at Penn State with just eight starts. Seven of those starts came in a sackless junior season in 2020.
Oweh is more athlete than instinctive football player right now and will take some time to mold into an elite defender. But will he ever live up to his draft status and reach a Pro Bowl level? Learning for a year or two behind Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaquil Barrett could certainly aid his development. He needs to learn to rush with a plan and get better coaching for sure. Oweh is one of the biggest boom-or-bust defenders in this year’s draft. But with no obvious needs, it might be a risk worth taking for the Bucs if he’s there at No. 32.
Clemson RB Travis Etienne
There is a real chance that Etienne and/or Alabama running back Najee Harris could be off the board by No. 32. Or, given the de-emphasis on the running back position over the last decade, one or both could be available by the time Tampa Bay is on the clock. Harris likely goes first as he has elite tackle-breaking skills and the speed-power combination to be successful at the pro level. And if Etienne gets by running back-hungry teams like Miami (No. 18), Pittsburgh (No. 24) and Buffalo (No. 30), Tampa Bay should seriously consider taking him.
Of all the backs in this year’s draft Etienne is the best fit in Arians’ offense. Not because he’s the best between-the-tackle runner. That’s Harris. But Etienne is one of the fastest, running a 4.44 at 5-foot-10, 215 pounds. That speed allowed him to total 4,952 yards and 70 rushing touchdowns while averaging a gaudy 7.2 yards per carry. He had back-to-back 1,600-yard seasons in 2018 and ’19, proving he could carry the load. Etienne also has the best hands in the draft, catching 102 passes for 1,155 yards (11.3 avg.) and eight touchdowns at Clemson. Etienne can also run routes, not just catch swing passes and screens. He would be the closest back to David Johnson Arians has had since leaving Arizona.
Oklahoma State OT Teven Jenkins
Jenkins is projected to go anywhere from No. 15 – No. 25 in this year’s draft, but teams can be finicky about offensive tackles. Last year the Bucs benefitted from teams drafting three offensive tackles ahead of Tristan Wirfs, who wound up being the best one in the draft. Oregon’s Penei Sewell, Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater and Virginia Tech’s Christian Darrisaw are considered to be the Top 3 tackles in this year’s class with Jenkins either fourth or fifth. But he doesn’t carry a Top 15 grade like Wirfs did last year, which mean he could slide to the end of the first round.
With Wirfs under contract for four more years (including his fifth-year option) and left tackle Donovan Smith extended for the next three years, does it make sense to draft a tackle like Jenkins in the first round when he may not see the field for years? Yes, because very good offensive tackles are hard to find. The 6-foot-5, 317-pound Jenkins is a nasty mauler in the run game and played some right guard at Oklahoma State. With Alex Cappa and Aaron Stinnie both in a contract year, Jenkins could start his Bucs career at right guard for a couple of years before sliding over to his more natural right tackle position in a few years to replace Wirfs, who could eventually replace Smith at left tackle. Throw in the fact that Jenkins could see the field as a rookie as an extra blocking tight end in the Joe Haeg role and he would be a heck of a value pick at No. 32.
Miami DL Gregory Rousseau
Rousseau is frequently mocked between 15-25, but he could slide all the way to Tampa Bay at No. 32. Why? Despite his massive, 6-foot-6, 266-pound frame, Rousseau recorded most of his 15.5 sacks as an interior rusher – not on the edge. Rousseau is not an overly twitchy athlete and turned in a disappointing time in the three-cone drill (7.5) that illustrates his struggles with bending around the arc when rushing the passer from the outside. Because of his long, lanky frame, Rousseau doesn’t have the power to be an every down interior lineman without adding another 15-20 pounds, so he has to play on the edge. But with only one year of playing college football in 2019 his edge game is so unrefined that he’s a work in progress and doesn’t project as a first-year starter.
Yet if he falls to Tampa Bay, the Bucs could take a chance and draft him, as he’ll have a year or two to develop behind Pierre-Paul and Barrett. As a rookie, Rousseau could be an interior nickel rusher as a part-time player in Todd Bowles’ defense. Should he put 20 pounds over the next couple of seasons and develop his functional strength he could even be a replacement for defensive end Will Gholston if he falls short of being a capable edge rusher.
Miami OLB Jaelan Phillips
Phillips is the best and most talented edge rusher in this year’s draft class. Most mock drafts have him being selected between picks 15-25. So why would he be around at pick No. 32? Two words: medicals and passion. Phillips suffered multiple concussions at UCLA and was told to retire by doctors, which he did in 2019. Throw in the fact that he had wrist surgery in 2018 and there are some medical concerns. There is also some buzz in the scouting world that Phillips loves music and likes football.
Yet Phillips was healthy in his lone season in Miami last year and recorded eight sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss in 10 games. The 6-foot-5, 260-pound Phillips has tremendous size, a big wingspan and 4.57 speed. If he’s healthy and focused, Phillips is a Top 20 prospect. If somehow he falls to No. 32 and the rest of the league is gun shy, the Bucs might want to roll the dice and take a chance. Phillips has the talent to step into a pass rushing rotation right away with Barrett and Pierre-Paul and help Tampa Bay as a rookie. If the Bucs were lucky enough to draft Phillips in the first round that would be a heck of a start to draft weekend.
Now that we’ve looked at some surprises that might slide to Tampa Bay at the end of the first round, let’s examine some players who the Bucs might take that would be considered a surprise reach.
FAB 2. A Surprise Reach For Bucs At No. 32
It’s tricky picking No. 32 because the player the Bucs select could be a falling first-rounder or a second-round reach. Yet if Tampa Bay can’t trade back – or doesn’t want it – there’s no harm in taking a player a little early to insure the team gets the player it wants.
The first-round picks in PewterReport.com’s first three 2021 Bucs 7-Round Mock Drafts could be considered slight reaches. They all make this list. Let’s take a look at those players, plus another ascending second-rounder, who was actually in the second round of our second mock draft.
North Carolina RB Javonte Williams
The Bucs could use a running back for the future with both Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones II in a contract year. There is a school of thought that Clemson’s Travis Etienne and Alabama’s Najee Harris could be gone by the time Tampa Bay is on the clock. That could put Williams into the picture because there are really only three elite running backs in this year’s draft class. Williams was PewterReport.com’s initial first-round pick in our first mock draft. Because it’s smarter to draft running backs than sign them, having a feature back on the roster for five years with the fifth-year option has some merit to it.
The 5-foot-10, 212-pounder is the best tackle-breaker in the draft, playing with a great mix of strength and speed. Williams rushed for 1,140 yards and 19 touchdowns last year while averaging 7.3 yards per carry during his junior season. He also has the receiving ability that the Bucs need on offense, catching 50 career passes for 539 yards (10.8 avg.) and four scores. Williams has the talent to steal carries away from Fournette and Jones as a rookie and take over as a starter in 2022. He’s actually not that much of a reach at No. 32. Williams is quite good.
Washington DT Levi Onwuzurike
Onwuzurike was the Bucs’ first-round pick in PewterReport.com’s second mock draft. Unlike Williams, he would be a bigger reach at No. 32 for Tampa Bay. If the Bucs wanted the Huskies defensive tackle trading back into the second round and drafting Onwuzurike would be ideal, especially in a weak D-tackle draft class. While he has decent size at 6-foot-3, 290 pounds and a quick burst off the line, there are some questions about him. After opting out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19, Onwuzurike accepted an invite to the Senior Bowl where he got hurt on the first day and withdrew from practice. Then he pulled him hamstring running the 40-yard dash and didn’t finish his pro day.
Onwuzurike has the twitch and tools to be a good pro as a three-technique tackle. He was miscast as a nose tackle during the 2019 season, which hampered his pass rush production. Onwuzurike finished his Huskies career with just seven sacks and no more than three in any season. The Bucs do love Washington defensive linemen as they have Vita Vea and Benning Potoa’e on their roster right now. Onwuzurike does have the versatility to play up and down the line in Todd Bowles’ defense as a result, which is a plus, although he would be best suited as a three-tech.
Texas OLB Joseph Ossai
Ossai was Tampa Bay’s first-rounder in PewterReport.com’s third mock draft.The 6-4, 256-pound Ossai was Nigerian born and immigrated to Houston as a teenager where he took up football for the first time in college. Ossai’s overall understanding of the game is still developing, as is his pass rush. After playing off-the-ball linebacker for his first two years at Texas, Ossai was moved to defensive end as a junior where he recorded five sacks and 16 tackles for loss in 10 games. Ossai notched five sacks as a blitzing linebacker in 2019, in addition to two interceptions.
The Longhorns star gives great effort and has a high motor that doesn’t quit. He has 4.62 speed in the 40-yard dash and that burst and quickness shows up on tape. Ossai is a great athlete with a 41-inch vertical that is just scratching the surface as an edge rusher. With a frame that is in between Shaq Barrett’s and Jason Pierre-Paul, Ossai would be an ideal pick that could learn behind those stars and develop behind the scenes while contributing as a situational rusher as a rookie. The fact that he knows how to drop in coverage makes him a perfect fit as an outside linebacker in Bowles’ defense. Ossai forced five fumbles at Texas, including three as a junior, due to his developing awareness.
Washington OLB Joe Tryon
Tryon was the Bucs’ second-round pick in PewterReport.com’s second mock draft of the year. But the reality is that he likely won’t last until the No. 64 pick and will go closer to the top of the second round. Tryon is a serious football player that loves the game and is a fierce competitor. Always playing at full speed and hustling, the Huskies standout only started 14 games at Washington, including all 12 in 2019, which was his last season before opting out due to COVID-19 last year. In his lone season as a starter, Tryon recorded eight sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss. He came on at the end of the 2019 campaign, posting three games with multiple sacks.
Tryon needs a rush plan and continued coaching to reach his high ceiling. But with a 6-foot-5, 260-pound frame that resembles Pierre-Paul’s, Tryon has a lot of tools to work with. He ran a fast 4.65 time and had a respectable 7.18 time in the three-cone drill at his pro day. Tryon has experience dropping into coverage, which makes him even more of a fit in Bowles’ defense. Tryon’s best football is clearly ahead of him. The Bucs have been fond of Washington head coach Jimmy Lake’s defensive prospects over the years, and Tryon may be the next one to come to Tampa.
The Bucs drafting a running back, a defensive tackle or an edge rusher with the No. 32 overall pick wouldn’t be a surprise – regardless of the player. Now let’s take a look at some surprise positions Tampa Bay might draft at No. 32 in the team’s stated goal of taking the best player available in the first round.
FAB 3. A Surprise Position For Bucs At No. 32
Would the Bucs actually draft a center, guard or inside linebacker in the first round? Maybe, maybe, maybe. Here are three top candidates at those positions, and the reasons why Tampa Bay would be interested in drafting one at No. 32.
Alabama C Landon Dickerson
Drafting a center in the first round? How in the world does that make sense? Well, keep in mind that the Bucs will actually be drafting a player with a second-round value at No. 32. No draft has 32 players that carry a true first-round grade. Most drafts have between 15-25 players that are graded that high. Yet if he wasn’t coming off ACL surgery Dickerson would be a Top 20 pick. The 6-foot-5, 333-pound All-American is an absolute brawler with plenty of brains. Dickerson is full of charisma, leadership ability and stellar play. His ACL should be healed by training camp – not that the Bucs will need him this year.
But considering Ryan Jensen is 30 and in the last year of his contract, drafting his eventual replacement makes sense. Especially when getting a future Pro Bowler like Dickerson. The fact that Dickerson has started a game at every O-line position between his days at Florida State and Alabama could also make him a factor at right guard with Cappa and Stinnie entering contract years, too. Like Jenkins, the Bucs could also use him as a big blocking tight end in Jumbo packages like they did with Haeg last year to ease Dickerson into the NFL. Dickerson’s ACL injury might cause him to slide in this year’s draft. I wouldn’t fault the Bucs at all for taking him at No. 32.
Kentucky ILB Jamin Davis
Davis is a fast-rising linebacker with great size (6-3, 234) and off-the-charts athleticism. He blazed a 4.47 time in the 40-yard dash and posted a 42-inch vertical and an 11-foot broad jump. More importantly, Davis has the production to match his physical traits. He totaled 102 tackles, four tackles for loss, five pass breakups, three interceptions, 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble as a junior in 2020. He took one of those INTs back for an 85-yard pick-six against Tennessee, which showed off his speed.
Davis is projected to be drafted in the late first round or early second round, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if he’s there at No. 32. Yet it would be a surprise for the Bucs to draft a linebacker in the first round that wouldn’t become a starter for at least two years given Lavonte David’s recent contract extension. The Bucs will need an eventual replacement for the 31-year old David, and Davis would be an ideal fit. Given the fact that Kevin Minter is 32 and only signed to a one-year deal, Davis could be the primary backup for both David and Devin White by next year while starring on special teams, and then take over for David in 2023.
Ohio State G Wyatt Davis
Davis is a well-built, 6-foot-4, 315-pound guard who was a two-time All-American for the Buckeyes. He’s considered to be the second-best true guard in the draft behind USC’s Alijah Vera-Tucker and carries a high second-round grade. Davis was named a team captain in 2020 and fought through several injuries to start the last 24 games of his career at Ohio State. Davis hurt his knee late in the 2020 season and reinjured it in the National Championship Game, which forced him to opt out of his pro day as he recovers.
Davis has the size, tools and physicality to start right away in the NFL. He could be drafted to be the eventual replacement for Alex Cappa, who is in a contract year, while serving as an extra blocker in the Joe Haeg role as a rookie. Davis has strong hands and a powerful upper body that allows him to snatch and torque defenders out of the way to open up holes in the running game. He needs to get his lower body more involved in blocking so he doesn’t lunge and lurch so much, but that’s correctable at the next level. The last time the Bucs drafted a guard in the first round was Davin Joseph in 2005. That worked out well, as he became a Pro Bowler before a devastating knee injury in the preseason shortened his career. Davis’ game resembles Joseph’s.
Ledyard’s four surprise first-round draft options for the Bucs featured Notre Dame safety-linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, who would be an outstanding fit in Todd Bowles’ defense, as well as Northwestern cornerback Greg Newsome II. I don’t think Owusu-Koramoah will be there at No. 32, but there’s a chance Newsome might. He would definitely be on my list if he wasn’t on Ledyard’s list first. Newsome is tall, rangy cornerback with plenty of speed, aggression and physicality. He would be a great fit in Tampa Bay, so keep him in mind, too.
FAB 4. Bucs Should Draft Barnes To Help At Linebacker
The Bucs re-signed all of their free agents who were starters in the Super Bowl. That means all 22 starters that helped Tampa Bay win Super Bowl LV will return as the team’s looks to repeat as world champions. Bucs general manager Jason Licht and head coach Bruce Arians have already acknowledged that the team will have the luxury of taking the best player available in each round, drafting for immediate depth and looking for players that can develop into future starters.
One position that the Bucs have to draft this year is inside linebacker. While the team extended Lavonte David’s contract by two years and re-signed veteran reserve Kevin Minter to a one-year deal, Tampa Bay only has three inside linebackers on the current roster.
The Bucs drafted Chapelle Russell in the seventh round last year, but he was released midseason. With Tampa Bay parting ways with Deone Bucannon and the oft-injured Jack Cichy, the team must draft another inside linebacker to contribute on special teams and fill out the roster. The Bucs always keep at least four inside linebackers on the 53-man roster during the season.
One player the Bucs are considering – and should draft – is Purdue’s Derrick Barnes. The 6-foot, 238-pound Barnes is an absolute stud and a perfect fit in Todd Bowles’ defense. With a 4.57 time in the 40-yard dash, a 37-inch vertical and a nearly 10-foot broad jump, Barnes has the speed and athleticism Bowles is looking for.
Add in extreme physicality, a love for football and tremendous production and Barnes is a player the Bucs need to seriously consider in the middle rounds. Not only could Barners be an immediate headhunter on special teams, he would be an ideal replacement for David in two years.
Barnes was a three-year starter at Purdue and recorded 92 tackles, eight tackles for loss and three sacks as a linebacker during his sophomore season in 2018. Because the Boilermakers lacked pass rushers, Barnes was asked to be a full-time, undersized defensive end as a junior. He notched 63 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks and forced a fumble thanks to his 81-inch wingspan and 33-inch arms, which are the longest of linebacker in this draft class.
Being a team player, Purdue needed him to command the defense and play middle linebacker as a senior. He finished with 54 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, two pass breakups and an interception in just six games. That earned him a spot at the Senior Bowl where he played well and helped his draft stock.
“Speaking with all 32 teams at the Senior Bowl, some of them see me as an inside linebacker and others see me as an outside linebacker,” Barnes told The Draft Network. “If I had the freedom to choose, I would say inside linebacker because of my physicality. I have the potential to reach the ball-carrier and to drop in coverage. I’m one of those guys that can go sideline-to-sideline and make plays in the backfield.
“Coming into my senior year, I held the inside linebacker role. I had to be a vocal leader on the field. I studied extra film. I always put in extra work. It was on me to bring the defense together. I helped bring the young guys along.”
It’s rare that any draft prospect’s career highlight reel has 35 plays on it, but Barnes’ does. Like Michael Jackson’s Thriller or Def Leppard’s Pyromania, Barnes’ highlight reel is all hits – and no filler.
Barnes, who grew up idolizing Hall of Famer Ray Lewis, is everything the Bucs want in any defensive player. He’s fast, he’s physical and he loves football. Tampa Bay needs another inside linebacker and Barnes would be an ideal fit.
FAB. 5 SR’s Buc Shots
• BARNES OPENING SOME EYES IN DRAFT SEASON: Purdue linebacker Derrick Barnes got some love from Senior Bowl executive Jim Nagy, who tweeted out his pro day numbers. Barnes had a great week in Mobile, Ala. and finished with three tackles for the National team.
Talented junior WR Rondale Moore stealing the headlines but LB Derrick Barnes also showing out at Purdue pro-day. Barnes is the best least talked about LB in 2021 draft.