We’ve reached the point in the calendar year where the contenders can look forward to the playoffs while the other teams go through the motions and switch to the NFL Draft season.
Right now, the Bucs are in a weird middle ground. They lead the NFC South, so they are currently in position for a playoff home game. But at the same time, they are 6-7 and only lead the division by one game heading into Week 15. It wouldn’t surprise anyone if this team misses out on the playoffs given how this season has turned out, right?
And with college football’s bowl season kicking off and running through January, there will be plenty of prospects worth keeping an eye on all the time.
So it doesn’t hurt to keep an eye on the home leg of the Bucs’ regular season while also taking a look at what (and who) is in store for the Tampa Bay offseason. With that in mind, let’s take a look at our roundup of the latest mock drafts
Assessing the Bucs needs with a quarter left in the season
When we did our latest mock draft roundup mid-season, Tampa Bay’s needs weren’t so clear. That’s because the future of the team’s quarterback position is undecided, and what happens there will create a ripple effect in terms of needs in the rest of the roster.
If Tom Brady chooses to retire or play elsewhere in 2023, perhaps the Bucs will look to the draft to fill their void under center. When he’s back for his fourth year in Tampa, the team may seem to be getting some help for the quarterback in his 46-year season.
But aside from the quarterback situation, Tampa Bay could have plenty of holes to fill. Depending on Jamel Dean’s future in free agency, there may be a need for a cornerback, and the defensive line will need to be reloaded soon with Akiem Hicks and Will Gholston coming of age. Pass rushing outside linebackers are also always a need.
The duo of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin will continue to lead the wide receiver room, and Russell Gage will no doubt remain the No. 3 given his $12,166,666 salary cap in 2023. If the Bucs think he’s a bust, they can release him. and saving $2,833,332, but the team would take a cap of $9,333,334 if he is released before June 1. So Tampa Bay will probably let him stay another year to see if a healthier Gage is a better one.
Still, the Bucs will presumably need a new No. 4 receiver next year. Scotty Miller and Breshad Perriman will be free agents and it is certain that neither will be detained.
In addition, the team may need to resolve at left tackle if that is the case can’t trust Donovan Smith heading into next season. Whether that’s kicking Tristan Wirfs right to left and filling the gap on the right or simply trading Smith for another left tackle, who knows? Both options can be on the table.
In simpler terms, here are the Bucs’ potential needs heading into the 2023 off-season: QB, WR, OT, DL, OLB, CB. Now let’s get into those mocks.
Arif Hasan of Pro Football Network
Hasan has one mock design on thursday, and it featured a surprising choice for Tampa Bay:
Round 1, Pick 19: RB, Bijan Robinson (Texas)
“Most analysts have Bijan Robinson as a top-eight talent, and many place him in the top five. As a pure talent, that could be true, but most teams above the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have come up with the running back position. The Buccaneers, in a way, are doing it too, with Leonard Fournette still under contract and Rachaad White flashing. But without a quarterback on the board—unless they want to massively target Hendon Hooker—they take a dynamic playmaker who can be deadly as a receiver and deadly as a runner.”
James Fragoza of Pro Football Network
Fragoza’s latest mock for Pro Football Network came on Tuesday of this week, with the Bucs adding a pass rusher from a schedule they’re pretty familiar with.
Round 1, Pick 19: EDGE, BJ Ojulari (LSU)
“With Tom Brady finally losing the battle against Father Time, the Buccaneers may have a shot at a QB in the middle of Round 1. However, I’m not a fan of Will Levis or Anthony Richardson, and BJ Ojulari is staring straight at me. Giants EDGE younger brother Azeez Ojulari, BJ wins with speed and sends tackles flying in the air as he sprints to the QB.
Danny Kelly from The Ringer
Kelly released a mock version on Thursday, and he also has Tampa Bay adding a pass rusher.
Round 1, Pick 19: EDGE, Jared Verse (Florida State)
“With defensive linemen Akeim Hicks, Shaq Barrett and William Gholston all on the wrong side of 30, the Buccaneers add some youth to the trenches here by grabbing Verse. Transferring to Florida State in 2022 via Albany, Verse combines size, athleticism and edge power. He has tallied 7.5 sacks and 14.5 TFLs in 11 games this year for the Seminoles.”
The latest mock of Walter Football fell on Wednesday, and it had the Bucs addressing their secondary with their first-round pick before grabbing a quarterback in the second round.
Round 1, Pick 19: CB, Cam Smith (South Carolina)
Jamel Dean will soon be a free agent and the Buccaneers need the right personnel to defend superior passing offenses. Cam Smith is a fast cornerback with long arms.”
Round 2, Pick 50: QB, Anthony Richardson (Florida)
“The Buccaneers need a future replacement for Tom Brady as Kyle Trask has shown no signs of being a franchise quarterback. Anthony Richardson is raw, but has a huge arm and great athleticism. He had a great debut in 2022, but struggled against Kentucky the following week. He’s been inconsistent ever since.”
Josh Edwards of CBS Sports
Edwards’ spot from Thursday this week Tampa Bay also had a cornerback:
Round 1, Pick 19: CB, Joey Porter Jr. (Pen State)
“The future of Tampa Bay is the hardest to predict. Will the Bucs reverse it with Tom Brady or is that window closed? Are they rebuilding or trying to extend their battle period?
The Dane Brugler of The Athletic
Brugler’s Mock Draft 1.0 is a few weeks old at this point, but it’s still worth mentioning. He’s got the Bucs going at cornerback, and our first repeat pick of this roundup:
Round 1, Pick 19: CB, Cam Smith (South Carolina)
Sean Murphy-Bunting and Jamel Dean are both free agents after this season, making a cornerback a potential need for Tampa Bay. With his light feet, height, and physicality, Cam Smith resembles his former teammate, Jaycee Horn, in several ways. needing to improve his route anticipation and early contact, Smith’s playing personality and skills match what the Buccaneers are aiming for the position.
33rd Team has been released Fake design 1.0 on Wednesday, project a large weapon to land with the Bucs:
Round 1, Pick 19: WR, Jaxon Smith-Njigba (Ohio State)
“Tampa is adding a reliable slot receiver for anyone playing quarterback next year. Smith-Njigba retired from the Buckeyes’ CFP semifinals and barely played this year, but he was a stellar producer last season, recording 95 receptions for 1,606 yards and nine touchdowns as he battled for goals with Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson .
Luke Easterling of DraftWire
Easterling’s latest mock is defense-heavy for the Bucs through the first two rounds:
Round 1, Pick 19: CB, Christian Gonzalez (Oregon)
“Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting are both on their way to free agency, so the Bucs could use another starting caliber corner to pair with Carlton Davis III. Gonzalez has the size and height that Todd Bowles loves in position, along with the athleticism and ball skills to be an instant playmaker.”
Round 2, Pick 50: DL, Derick Hall (Auburn)
Keith Sanchez of The Draft Network
Sanchez’ spot from Wednesday has perhaps the most curious pick on this list in the first round, then a pass rusher to kick off day two:
Round 1, Pick 19: TE, Michael Mayer (Notre Dame)
“The Buccaneers have a lot of different ways to go with this pick as their team becomes an older squad that needs an injection of youth in multiple positions. If Tom Brady stays, they need to add a TE that can handle those tight windows in zone coverage. work and Michael Mayer is a high IQ player and could jump right in and play.
Round 2, Pick 50: EDGE, Jared Verse (Florida State)
“Many positions have been disappointing for the Buccaneers this season, including the defensive end. Since the departure of Jason Pierre-Paul, this passing rush has been on a downward trend and it’s time to do something about it. Jared Verse is an edge rusher with great benefit.”
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