By Daniel Schmelzer @D_Schmelzer on April 27, 2014
After an awful 4-12 record last season, the Tampa Buccaneers have made some necessary changes this offseason. They were the most active team in free agency, landing DE Michael Johnson, CB Alterraun Verner, QB Josh McCown and many others. New head coach Lovie Smith will have an almost completely rebuilt roster to work with, and that includes finding players who will fit his system in the draft. Who will they take in the 2014 NFL Draft?
Mike Evans is a big, physical and athletic wide receiver who has star potential in the NFL. Quarterback is certainly an option here, and Khalil Mack would be a perfect fit for Smith's defense if he were to fall, but I think Evans will be the guy. He has a similar skill set as current Bucs' WR Vincent Jackson, but besides Jackson, the Bucs have very little at the position. Evans has a ton of talent, and fills an obvious position of need.
It seems likely that the Bucs will allow Smith to find his QB of the future in the draft. If they decide to pass in the first like they did in this mock, I think Jimmy Garoppolo will be a key target with their second round pick. Garoppolo does not have a huge arm, but he is incredibly accurate, a great leader, and has impressive poise in the pocket. The Bucs could allow Garoppolo to learn under McCown, but he would be the guy in the near future.
As a defensive-minded coach, I am sure Smith would like to add to that side of the ball in the draft. That said, the offense seems to need much more work, and I think they will add to the offense early in the draft.
Tampa Bay had one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL last season. Jack Mewhort is a solid and experienced prospect who has a ton of versatility. I think Mewhort could help at many positions on the line, and do so right away.
Finally, Smith is able to draft a defensive player. Josh Mauro is a talented prospect with a never give up attitude. He is an extremely hard worker, who is relentless in the pass rush and against the run. Mauro is a very football intelligent player, who does a nice job of reading the offense. He is a bit of a tweener prospect, but I think he could play all across the line in a four man front, giving the Bucs plenty of options.
With Mason Foster and Lavonte David, two of the three linebacker spots are locked down for the Bucs. That said, they could use somebody to battle Jonathan Casillas at the SAM LB position. Yawin Smallwood is a long and fast linebacker who does many things well. He is good in coverage, his toughness makes him great against the run, and he can really get after the QB on the pass rush. Smallwood could compete for a starting job right away.
Defensive back is not a huge position of need for the Bucs, but they could use some depth, especially at corner. Jemea Thomas is a versatile player who had great success in college, playing safety and slot corner. Thomas is a quick and physical player who does a nice job in press coverage, and has impressive tackling skills. He also has a ton of special teams experience, which is always a huge plus. Thomas would bring great depth to the Bucs.
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