If the Bucs use their top draft pick to address other needs besides running back, recent years have shown that quality backs can be found in later rounds.
Last year's Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year, Saints running back Alvin Kamara, was drafted in the third round, and another finalist, the Chiefs' Kareem Hunt, also went in the third. Two years ago, Chicago's Jordan Howard finished second in the NFL in rushing as a rookie after being drafted in the fifth round.
Who might be this year's later-round gems? Here are a few options if the Bucs want to wait until the second day of the draft, or even the third to find a new back.
RASHAAD PENNY, San Diego State: Led the NCAA in rushing with 2,248 yards, getting 7.8 yards per carry and scoring 23 touchdowns, but he still should be available when the Bucs pick at No. 38 overall in the second round. He's unlikely to be there in the third round, when the Bucs pick at No. 69 overall.
NICK CHUBB, Georgia: The consensus is that former teammate Sony Michel will be the first Bulldogs running back taken, perhaps in the late first round. The question is a 2015 knee injury — he's returned healthy for the last two season, but not at the same level he was before the injury.
Waiting until the third day — the draft's final four rounds — can often be waiting too long. Last year, the Bucs took Boise State's Jeremy McNichols in the fifth round, but he wasn't even good enough to make the final roster cuts.
KALEN BALLAGE, Arizona State: Much like Kamara, his college stats don't jump out — never so much as 700 rushing yards in a season. But he's shown flashes — he scored eight touchdowns in one 2016 game against Texas Tech. His pass-catching is a plus, having caught 44 passes as a junior, and he should still be around in the fifth or sixth round.
DARREL WILLIAMS, LSU: It's easy to get overlooked playing behind Leonard Fournette — a top-five pick last year — and Derrius Guice, who could crack the first round this year. He rushed for 820 yards this season and can help himself with good measurables this week in Indy.
Contact Greg Auman at [email protected] and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.