I've slotted Christian McCaffrey to the Buccaneers since the middle of February, but it's sounding like he won't be available to them. If not, Tampa Bay could still select another offensive weapon, such as Dalvin Cook.
I referenced Cook as the free-falling running back earlier in this mock draft. Cook's stock is plummeting because his historically bad testing numbers for a first-round back, but one thing the figures don't take into account is his excellent vision. It would be surprising if he flopped in the NFL, and I'd have to think the Buccaneers feel the same way.
*** OTHER 2017 NFL DRAFT POSSIBILITIES: ***
1. Corey Davis, WR - Davis is the receiving option over John Ross, as the Washington product would be redundant. I think Davis is the pick if Cook is off the board.
2. Obi Melifonwu, S - The Buccaneers desperately need safety help, and Melifonwu's stock has risen enough to warrant consideration at No. 19 overall.
Rd. 2, Pk. 18
Josh Jones, S, N.C. State
The Buccaneers had major problems at safety throughout the year, so they could obviously take a player at that position much earlier than this. J.J. Wilcox was signed, but for only a 2-year deal.
Rd. 3, Pk. 20
Tarell Basham, DE, Ohio
The Buccaneers could use another edge rusher, as Robert Ayers isn't a long-term solution.
Rd. 4, Pk. 18
Jalen Myrick, CB, Minnesota
The Buccaneers tried to sign a cornerback this offseason, but weren't successful. Perhaps they'll go that direction in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Rd. 5, Pk. 18
Jehu Chesson, WR, Michigan
The Buccaneers need a third receiver to play alongside Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson. Corey Davis is an option in Round 1, but this makes sense as well.
Rd. 6, Pk. 20
Jerod Evans, QB, Virginia Tech
Mike Glennon left for the Bears, so the Buccaneers will be looking for a new backup quarterback.
Rd. 7, Pk. 19
Marcus Sayles, CB, West Georgia
Marcus Sayles has the athleticism the Buccaneers like, and a second corner is needed for Tampa.
After the signing of DeSean Jackson, I think it is unlikely that John Ross is headed for Tampa Bay. I think this pick will then come down to Dalvin Cook, Christian McCaffrey, O.J. Howard or Corey Davis. Via sources, I know the Bucs like all of those players. I think Howard and one of the running backs will be gone, which usually leaves Davis and a running back to consider. Running back is a bigger need on the roster given the Doug Martin situation, and there is depth at wide receiver on Day 2 for the Bucs to land an outside No. 2 receiver to platoon with Mike Evans and Jackson. There are lots of rumors of Dalvin Cook sliding. I've reached out to teams and gotten mixed feedback on that possibility. However if he slides, I don't think the Bucs would pass on him after speaking with Tampa Bay sources.
In 2016, Cook averaged 6.0 yards per carry for 1,765 yards and 19 touchdowns. He also had 33 receptions for 488 yards. Cook (5-10, 210) is well-built and has the speed to slash through a defense; however, he has some strange ball-security issues. Cook also has some power to him, but he seems to use it selectively as he runs out of bounds often and is consistently looking to bounce runs to the outside. In the passing game, Cook is a tremendous receiver out of the backfield and will be a weapon there. He reminds me of Marshall Faulk at times.
Teams do have some off-the-field concerns about Cook. They say he isn't a bad kid, but worry about his associates. He escaped some legal issues last year, and teams say that Cook has an entourage of gang-bangers that could put Cook in the wrong place at the wrong time.
With Jameis Winston in the NFL, Cook carried the Florida State offense in 2015. He averaged 7.4 yards per carry on his way to 1,691 yards and 19 touchdowns. The sophomore also had 24 receptions for 244 yards and a score. As a true freshman in 2014, Cook averaged 5.9 yards per carry for 1,008 yards and eight touchdowns. He caught 22 passes for 203 yards, too.
Rd. 2, Pk. 2
Jordan Willis, DE/3-4OLB/OLB, Kansas State
Tampa Bay could target some more edge rush. Here's a player who can rush from the outside and give the Bucs a young tandem with Noah Spence.
Willis caused a lot of disruption and negative plays for his defense in an impressive senior year. In 2016, he totaled 11.5 sacks, 52 tackles, 17.5 tackles for a loss, three passes batted and three forced fumbles. The 6-foot-3, 255-pounder had a respectable week at the Senior Bowl that confirmed his second-day potential for the 2017 NFL Draft.
Willis has good strength to set the edge in rush defense and pass-rushing skills off the edge. He could be a defensive end in a 4-3 or an outside linebacker in a 3-4.
Rd. 3, Pk. 3
Shelton Gibson, WR, West Virginia
The Bucs grab a speed receiver to team with Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson.
Gibson notched 43 receptions for 951 yards and eight touchdowns in 2016. Sources say that Gibson has some real speed to him, but isn't the biggest of receivers and needs to improve his route-running. That latter point was an issue for the Bears' 2015 first-round pick, Kevin White, coming out West Virginia because of the Mountaineers' spread offense. Some sources think Gibson (5-11, 191) should've returned for his senior year to improve on that before going pro.
Rd. 4, Pk. 4
Lorenzo Jerome, S, St Francis (PA)
The Bucs could use some more safety talent.
Jerome (5-10, 202) is an intriguing player who has created a buzz in scouting circles. He was a productive player with a tremendous display of ball skills in college. Jerome had interception totals of six, three, three and six over the past four seasons with pass breakup totals of five, seven, 13 and four. He also had 59 tackles as a senior. Jerome impressed at the East-West Shrine and at the Senior Bowl. He could be a find from the mid-rounds of the 2017 NFL Draft.
Rd. 5, Pk. 5
Adam Bisnowaty, OT, Pittsburgh
The Bucs could use more offensive line depth and competition.
Rd. 6, Pk. 6
Joe Williams, RB, Utah
The Bucs grab a backup speed running back.
Rd. 7, Pk. 7
Jerod Evans, QB, Virginia Tech
The Bucs could use a backup quarterback, and Evans has a good skill set to develop. Perhaps they could turn him into a commodity they could trade for draft picks.
2016 First Round Pick: Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida (11)
2016 Offense Rankings: Total (18) Pass (16) Rush (24)
2016 Defense Rankings: Total (23) Pass (22) Rush (22)
2017 Projected Salary Cap Space: $69,495,239
Needs: (1) S, (2) RB, (3) WR, (4) 43DT, (5) CB
GM: Jason Licht Head Coach: Dirk Koetter
Offensive Coordinator: Todd Monken Defensive Coordinator: Mike Smith
Offensive Scheme: Erhardt-Perkins Defensive Scheme: 4-3
NFL.com Grade: 6.54 ESPN Grade: 92 NFL Comparison: Edgerrin James
Florida State has had a slew of talented running backs over the past 30 years, but Cook was the first to break the 1,000-yard barrier in his first season with the team. The next two seasons have only gotten better, ranking in the top 10 by breaking 1,600 yards (1,691 in 2015 ranked sixth in the FBS, 1,765 in 2016 ranked fifth), scoring 19 times as a rusher, and earning first-team All-ACC accolades each year. The speedy and shifty back was also named 2016 first-team All-American by the Associated Press and Walter Camp Foundation, among others. NFL teams will be interested in his medical checks, though, because of the hamstring issues he had throughout the 2015 season and the three shoulder surgeries he's had since high school. Cook tore his rotator cuff in high school, then tore the front part of his labrum in 2014, and the back part of the labrum in 2016. He's also had run-ins with the law, starting in high school (robbery in 2009, charges dropped; firing and possessing a weapon on school property in 2010, charges drooped) and then again in 2015, where he was charged with misdemeanor battery outside a bar (found not guilty).
Very talented runner with outstanding balance, footwork and burst. Cook lacks the power that you may find with some running backs in this year's draft, but he is a homerun hitter with a resume featuring monster games against his most highly regarded opponents. Cook creates for himself with elusiveness and speed, but his value could be diminished by injuries, character and issues in pass protection. If everything checks out, he could become a rookie of the year candidate right away.
The Buccaneers' safeties are terrible and must be upgraded. The organization passed on Vonn Bell for Roberto Aguayo in the 2016 NFL Draft, and that gives further proof to why teams shouldn't draft kickers on the first two days of the draft. The woes of Tampa Bay's safety play can't be blamed on Lovie Smith and his kids this year. <br> <br>
Peppers is having a good season for Michigan with 59 tackles, 14 for a loss, four sacks, zero interceptions, zero pass breakups and one forced fumble. He has been electric on special teams and especially been phenomenal on punt returns, taking one for a touchdown. The 6-foot-1, 205-pounder was excellent as a sophomore in 2015, recording 45 tackles with 10 passes broken up and zero interceptions. <br> <br>
Sources say they see Peppers as a hybrid safety/linebacker in the NFL. He has the athletic skill set to play pass coverage, but often can be caught flat-footed. His ball skills aren't special either, as he has zero interceptions in his collegiate career. Thus, some sources think Peppers would fit best as a safety in the middle of the field. That would allow him to make plays off his instincts, and he could be a weapon in pass coverage on tight ends, blitzing quarterbacks, playing zone, and defending the run. There is no doubt that Peppers has a ton of athletic upside. He could play safety and dime linebacker, similar to Deone Bucannon. Peppers should also be used on special teams as he is a dangerous weapon there. <br> <br>
<u> <i> Pick change; previously Jamal Adams, S </i> </u>
After the signing of DeSean Jackson, I think it is unlikely that John Ross is headed for Tampa Bay. I think this pick will then come down to McCaffrey, O.J. Howard and Corey Davis. Via sources, I know the Bucs like all of those players. I don't believe Howard will get to this pick, though he does in this verison, which usually leaves Davis and McCaffrey. Running back is a bigger need on the roster given the Doug Martin situation, and there is depth at wide receiver on Day 2 for the Bucs to land an outside No. 2 receiver to platoon with Mike Evans and Jackson. Thus, I'm sticking with McCaffrey. McCaffrey's great football character with an outstanding work ethic and pushing his teammates to be better is a perfect fit for Jameis Winston. <br> <br>
In 2016, McCaffrey averaged 6.3 yards per carry for 1,603 yards and 13 touchdowns. He totaled 37 receptions for 310 yards and three touchdowns through the air, too. McCaffrey also was a dangerous punt returner. <br> <br>
In my opinion, McCaffrey should have won the 2015 Heisman Trophy because he carried Stanford all season. McCaffrey was a home-run hitter and a threat to rip off a huge gain every time he touched the ball. McCaffrey has a tremendous burst to break into the open field with vision, cutting ability and elusiveness. In 2015, he averaged six yards per carry for 2,019 yards with eight touchdowns. As a receiver, he had 45 catches for 645 yards and five scores. <br> <br>
McCaffrey (5-11, 202) looks undersized, but he still should be a first or second-rounder. Teams love his work ethic and pushing his teammates to be better.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers surprised quite a few people in 2016, finishing with a 9-7 record under first-year head coach Dirk Koetter. Jameis Winston has shown he has taken the next steps to become an elite quarterback in the NFL, while Mike Evans has certainly solidified his status as one of the league's best wide receivers. The Buccaneers are clearly trending upwards, and if Tampa Bay has any hopes of returning to the postseason for the first time in a decade, finding a viable running mate for Evans must be a top priority. Vincent Jackson never quite lived up to his $55 million contract, and promising tight end Austin Sefarian-Jenkins off-the-field antics punched his one-way ticket out of Tampa Bay. At a towering 6’6 and nearly 250 pounds, Alabama's O.J. Howard is the cream of the crop in a loaded tight end class. Surprisingly agile and athletic for his size, Howard is a mismatch nightmare for just about any defender. While Alabama's run-heavy offense took a little shine off Howard, the Alabama native is certainly capable of being the focal point on offense. It's never a bad thing when you draw comparisons to Jimmy Graham out of college. With Howard entering the fray, there's plenty of reason to believe the Bucs will be in the thick of the playoff hunt in 2017.
Some may speculate that John Ross is not good enough to be drafted in the first round and I somewhat agree with that. However, I know the Buccaneers could have use a skilled Wide Receiver that Winston can throw to other than Mike Evans. So I am pretty confident here that the Buccaneers will draft a Receiver in the 1st round.
The Bucs have struggled the last few years and it's not because of Jameis Winston, I like Winston and I feel like he can be an All-Pro Quarterback if he had some more support on offense.
Elite athletic traits with effortless speed and instant acceleration. Sudden release off the snap to get defenders off balance from the start -- no wasted steps, each move has a purpose. Explosive start/stop plant-and-burst, not having to gear down in his movements. Polished route runner with the savvy to set up defenders and the body control to snap out of his breaks. Deadly on double-moves with secondary burst downfield to create late separation -- often out-runs his quarterback as well, having to slow down on deep patterns to catch the ball in stride. Nose for the end zone with 17 receiving touchdowns in 2016, which ranked third in the FBS.
Show/Hide Other Mocks with John Ross Going to Buccaneers
Rd. 1, Pk. 19
O.J. Howard, TE
I thought the Buccaneers would select Dalvin Cook, but I never would've imagined that O.J. Howard would still be on the board. With that in mind, this is a no-brainer. The Buccaneers are getting a prospect many thought would be chosen either fourth or sixth overall, making this a crazy value pick. Howard was the best player available, and he'll fill a need for Tampa. Cameron Brate played well last year, but he's limited athletically. Howard will provide Jameis Winston with a matchup nightmare weapon, and Winston will improve because of Howard's presence. This is an easy A+.
Rd. 2, Pk. 18
Justin Evans, S
See what I mean about talented safeties being available. Both Justin Evans and Obi Melifonwu make a ton of sense for the Buccaneers, who desperately needed to fill a hole at safety. Both are also extremely athletic, which fits what Tampa looks for. Evans makes sense in this range, and this appears to be a solid pick.
Rd. 3, Pk. 20
Chris Godwin, WR
The Buccaneers are having a terrific draft thus far. They've added a second offensive weapon (O.J. Howard) to go along with Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson, and Chris Godwin certainly was needed. The Buccaneers had to acquire a third receiver, and Godwin provides very good value, as he could've been chosen in the second round. Godwin was one of the top testers at the combine, and he has the production to match it, so I don't know how he lasted until the middle of the third round.
Rd. 3, Pk. 43
Kendell Beckwith, ILB
Had the Buccaneers just made the pick here, I would've given it a "B." However, the Buccaneers traded up to take Kendell Beckwith. I doubt many teams were dying to select him around this range, given that he's coming off a torn ACL and may not be able to play until 2018. I don't know why a team would trade up for someone like that, but Beckwith could be a decent contributor for Tampa in 2018 and beyond.
Rd. 5, Pk. 18
Jeremy McNichols, RB
Doug Martin really struggled last year, so the Buccaneers had to find a new running back. There was speculation that they'd choose Dalvin Cook, but Jeremy McNichols makes sense on Day 3. McNichols is a strong receiver and thrives in pass protection. His injury concerns are the only issue.
Rd. 7, Pk. 5
Stevie Tu'ikolovatu, DT
The downside with Steve Tu'ikolovatu is that he turns 26 soon, and he's also extremely unathletic. However, the latter part isn't very important because his role, if he makes the pros, will be to stuff the run, which is the only thing he's very good at doing. The seventh round is the time to select specific specialists like that, even if they're going to need adult diapers in the near future.