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FAB 1. 7 First-Round Prospects The Bucs Would Love
It’s Valentine’s Day, and love is in the air at One Buccaneer Place where Tampa Bay’s front office, scouts and coaches are doing the prep work for the 337 draft prospects invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, which starts in less than 10 days.
Right now the Bucs’ brass is falling in love with dozens of players – six or seven of whom will be in Tampa Bay in late April. In the spirit of Valentine’s Day – February 14 – I’ve got 14 draft prospects that the Bucs would love to have the chance to select at No. 14. I’ll profile the first seven as potential first-rounders in Fab 1, followed by the second seven as potential second-rounders in Fab 2.
I’ve tried to make this list as plausible as possible, removing the likes of Alabama offensive tackle Jedrick Wills, Clemson defender Isaiah Simmons, Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown, Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert and other players that are expected to be drafted in the first dozen selections on April 23, the first day of the 2020 NFL Draft.
Tampa Bay currently has the 14th overall pick, so let’s take a look at the best seven options that could be available to the Bucs in the first round.
Louisville OT Mekhi Becton – Junior
The Bucs have a need at right tackle to replace 34-year old Demar Dotson, and Becton, a 6-foot-7, 369-pound behemoth that has been called a more athletic version of Orlando Brown, Jr., who plays right tackle for Baltimore. Becton played left tackle at Louisville, but is better suited on the right side. He’s a people-mover in the running game, and his massive wingspan makes him effective as a pass protector. Tampa Bay thinks very highly of this rare talent, and if Becton is there at No. 14, he’s likely wearing red and pewter in 2020 and beyond.
South Carolina DT Javon Kinlaw – Senior
Kinlaw appeared in PewterReport.com’s initial 2020 Bucs’ 7-Round Mock Draft back in January, and opinions are mixed when it comes to where the first-round defensive tackle will go. Is he a Top 10-caliber talent, or is he more likely a Top 20 prospect? At 6-foot-5, 315 pounds, Kinlaw is a rare, athletic freak with long arms that can affect both the running and the passing game of his opponents. Still raw in some areas, Kinlaw can rush the passer with an effective bull rush, and would be a great eventual replacement for either Ndamukong Suh at the three-technique defensive tackle spot or Will Gholston at defensive end in Tampa Bay’s 3-4 scheme.
Iowa OT Tristan Wirfs – Junior
At 6-foot-5, 322 pounds, Wirfs is a big man that packs a punch in the running game. While some NFL Draft analysts and scouts think he is better suited to play guard because his struggles tend to occur with deep pass sets, Wirfs has enough length and determination to fend off most outside edge attacks. Wirfs also has the footwork and quickness to get downfield on pulling plays and screens and doesn’t miss his target that often. With plenty of right tackle experience, Wirfs could be a starter in Tampa Bay in his first game as a rookie if the Bucs take him off the board at No. 14.
Georgia OT Andrew Thomas – Junior
Once thought of as the top offensive tackle in the 2020 NFL Draft, Thomas’ stock has dipped a bit, and he might be available at No. 14 for the Bucs as Alabama’s Jedrick Wills is now considered to be the best tackle prospect in this year’s draft and a lock for the Top 10. Thomas’ strength is in the running game, which is an area the Bucs are looking to improve, and while he could be moved to right tackle, Thomas has the athleticism necessary to play left tackle at the NFL level – just like he did at Georgia – and thrive. That could appeal to the Bucs as Donovan Smith has one more year of guaranteed salary remaining on his contract extension.
Houston OT Josh Jones – Senior
Jones was originally a second-round pick in PewterReport.com’s initial Bucs mock draft, but after a strong showing at the Senior Bowl, he has earned a first-round grade. There are plenty of NFL mock drafts that have Jones in the bottom of the first round, but if Wills, Becton, Wirfs and Thomas are gone by No. 14 – which is a possibility – Jones could be a legit option for the Bucs. Jones is a good athlete with four years of starting experience at left tackle. He could move to the right side in Tampa Bay during his rookie year.
Alabama S Xavier McKinney – Junior
Why McKinney over LSU’s Grant Delpit? Just watch the film. McKinney is a physical monster that can hit, tackle, blitz and cover. While Delpit gets all the publicity, McKinney is simply the best safety in this draft after being the best safety in the SEC last year. Todd Bowles loves physical safeties (see New York’s Pro Bowler Jamal Adams), and the Bucs could use a sure-fire starter to help make more plays in the secondary. If Kinlaw and all of the top-ranked offensive tackles are off the board, don’t be surprised to see Tampa Bay pull the trigger on McKinney.
Utah State QB Jordan Love – Junior
Yeah, the Bucs like Love, and have liked him dating back to his sophomore year at Utah State, which was a better season than the one he had as a junior in 2019. But do they love Love? He certainly has the big arm and pocket presence Arians likes in a quarterback, but a high number of interceptions (17) compared to touchdowns (20) makes it seem like he could be a Jameis Winston clone. Love becomes an option for the Bucs in the first quarter if Winston gets the one-year franchise tag or Tampa Bay signs an aging veteran like Philip Rivers on a short, two-year deal. CBSSports.com even has the Bucs trading back up into the bottom of the first round to get Love after selecting Wirfs.
If the Bucs did indeed trade up to get Love in the first round they wouldn’t have a second-round pick. But let’s take a look at seven draft prospects Tampa Bay would love to get if they stayed put in the second round with the No. 45 overall selection in Fab 2.