Underclassmen entries help bolster NFL Draft class, and the 2020 NFL Draft is no different. Friday, January 17 was the final day for underclassmen to forego their college football eligibility and declare for the NFL Draft.
With needs at right tackle, running back and quarterback, PewterReport.com identifies 10 underclassmen draft prospects on offense that the Bucs could target in the 2020 NFL Draft.
DAY 1 UNDERCLASSMEN OPTIONS FOR BUCS
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Iowa RT Tristan Wirfs – 6-4, 322 – Junior
Picking at No. 14, the Bucs won’t be in position to land either of the top two offensive tackles in this draft – Georgia’s Andrew Thomas or Alabama’s Jedrick Wills, but Wirfs may slide down to the middle of the first round. Wirfs has been battle-tested in practice at Iowa, going up against A.J. Apenesa and former Hawkeye, Anthony Nelson, who was Tampa Bay’s fourth-round pick last year. Wirfs has good size and strength, and is a tenacious run blocker and an emerging pass protector. The Bucs need a replacement for Demar Dotson at right tackle and Wirfs could be a day one starter.
Utah State QB Jordan Love – 6-4, 225 – Junior
The Bucs loved love coming into the 2019 season after throwing for 3,567 yards with 32 touchdowns and just six INTs as a sophomore. But after losing some of his top weapons to graduation and the NFL Draft, Love struggled as a junior, throwing for 3,402 yards, but also tossing a career-high 17 interceptions to go along with 20 touchdowns. Despite his draft stock taking a bit of a hit, Love opted to enter the 2020 NFL Draft, and because he has his degree, he will take part in the Senior Bowl. Love has a strong arm, but the rise in interceptions has NFL scouts concerned. The Bucs could use another quarterback if the team decides to part ways with Jameis Winston or even decides to use the franchise tag on him and hedge their bets. Joe Burrow seems destined to be the top overall pick, and Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert may not be available at No. 14, but Love, who is a good fit in Bruce Arians’ offense, might be.
Georgia RB D’Andre Swift – 5-9, 215 – Junior
Swift began his career at Georgia as the third-down back behind Nick Chubb and Sony Michel before rushing for 1,049 yards with 10 touchdowns as the lead back as a sophomore after their departure to the NFL. Swift rushed for 1,218 yards and seven TDs as a junior, while averaging 6.2 yards per carry. What makes Swift so enticing – and perhaps the best runner in this draft class – is his vision, contact balance, quick burst and his hands. Swift has 73 career catches for 666 yards and five touchdowns. Swift figures to be a mid- to late first-round pick, and the Bucs could be interested if he’s the best player available on their draft board when the team is on the clock.
Louisville OT Mekhi Becton – 6-7, 369 – Junior
Becton is a mammoth offensive tackle prospect that reminds some NFL scouts of Baltimore’s Orlando Brown, Jr., who is 6-foot-8, 344 pounds. While Becton played left tackle for the Cardinals, he does have the ability to play either left or right tackle in the NFL, which intrigues the Buccaneers. Becton has had some issues with his weight in college, but he’s so massive that his size and long arms makes him nearly impossible to get around in pass protection, and makes him a devastating run blocker. Becton’s stock is on the rise, and don’t be surprised if the Bucs take him at No. 14. Watch No. 73 in the Louisville highlight tape below.
DAY 2 UNDERCLASSMEN OPTIONS FOR BUCS
Ohio State RB J.K. Dobbins – 5-10, 217 – Junior
There is a chance that Dobbins doesn’t make it out of the first round, but if he does, he is definitely on the Bucs’ radar in the second round. Dobbins has been one of the most productive running backs in college football over the past three seasons with three straight years of 1,000 yards rushing or more. Dobbins had a monster year as a junior, rushing for 2,003 yards and scoring 21 touchdowns, while averaging 6.7 yards per carry. Dobbins is a physical, hard-nosed runner with breakaway speed, and is also great catching the ball out of the backfield. He has 71 career receptions for 645 yards and five scores. The Bucs need another running back to pair with and compete with Ronald Jones II, and Dobbins would be an ideal fit in Tampa Bay.
LSU RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire – 5-8, 209 – Junior
Edwards-Helaire split time with Nick Brossette at LSU during his sophomore year, rushing for 658 yards and seven touchdowns, but had a breakout junior campaign with an SEC-leading 1,414 yards and 16 touchdowns, while averaging 6.6 yards per carry for the national champion Tigers. Edwards-Helaire is a small, shifty running back with great contact balance and tackle-breaking ability. He has the best hands of any running back in the draft, evidenced by his 55 catches for 453 yards and one touchdown. His size may keep him out of the first round, but he would be a terrific fit in Arians’ offense in the second round.
Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor – 5-11, 219 – Junior
Taylor is one of the most prolific running backs in college football history, as he was just 23 yards away from rushing for 2,000 yards as a freshman before rushing for 2,000 yards in back-to-back seasons as a sophomore and junior. Taylor has a career average of 6.7 yards per carry and scored 50 touchdowns for the Badgers, including 21 in his junior campaign. Taylor worked on his receiving ability in 2019 after catching just 16 passes in his first two years, and finished with 26 receptions for 252 yards and five touchdowns as a junior. Taylor is in the mix with Swift, Dobbins and Edwards-Helaire to be the first running back taken in the 2020 NFL Draft. His skill set makes him a good fit in Tampa Bay’s offense.
Washington QB Jacob Eason – 6-6, 227 – Junior
Eason began his college career at Georgia before losing the competition to be the starter to Jake Fromm. He transferred back to his home state of Washington and had a good year for the Huskies, completing 64.2 percent of his passes for 3,132 yards with 23 touchdowns and eight interceptions. In his three-year college career, Eason has passed for 5,590 yards with 39 TDs and 16 INTs. Most NFL scouts think he could have used one more year at Washington to polish his game the way Oregon’s Justin Herbert did last year. If the Bucs feel they need a QB to replace or challenge Winston, Eason has the strong arm and pocket presence Arians is looking for, and could be a great option in Round 2.
USC OT Austin Jackson – 6-6, 310 – Junior
At 310 pounds, Jackson isn’t as big as some of the other offensive tackles in this draft class, but he does have good length and a nice kick-slide in pass protection. Jackson is a very quick, athletic offensive tackle that has a ways to go as a run blocker, which may make him strictly a left tackle at the next level where he can battle more finesse pass rushers than big, strong bull rushers or run defenders. Still, the talent and ability are there to develop, and the Bucs do have a need for a tackle this year. If Jackson is their man in the second round, perhaps Tampa Bay considers moving the more massive Donovan Smith to right tackle. Watch Jackson, who wears No. 73, battle against Iowa’s A.J. Epenesa.
Florida State RB Cam Akers – 5-11, 212 – Junior
Akers was one of the top prospects in the nation coming out of high school to replace Dalvin Cook at Florida State. He found success as a freshman, rushing for 1,025 yards with seven touchdowns, before a production dip as a sophomore where he ran for only 706 yards and six scores. Akers has had to run behind a woeful offensive line at FSU, but rebounded last year with 1,144 yards and 14 TDs, while averaging 5.0 yards per carry. Akers is an accomplished receiver out of the backfield with 69 career catches for 486 yards and seven touchdowns, but struggles in pass protection. Akers has ability to play in Arians’ offense because he can run and catch, and could be an interesting option early in the third round if he’s still on the board.
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
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