“Call them the Tampa Bay Seminoles,” a Times columnist wrote before the NFL draft in 2017.
The Buccaneers had a Florida State quarterback (Jameis Winston). They had a Florida State kicker (Roberto Aguayo). And, rumor had it, they were interested in a Florida State running back (Dalvin Cook).
To the chagrin of Buccanole fans, Tampa Bay ultimately passed on Cook. The Bucs weren’t expecting Alabama tight end O.J. Howard to fall to them when it was their turn to pick at No. 19.
Last year, safety Derwin James was the hot Florida State prospect. The Bucs had the chance to take him, too. They passed again, choosing Washington defensive tackle Vita Vea instead.
This year, there hasn’t been much buzz about the Bucs, who are scheduled to pick fifth, taking an FSU player.
But maybe there should be.
Because maybe Brian Burns should be the guy.
The defensive end recorded 23 sacks and 38.5 tackles for loss in three seasons at Florida State. Most draft analysts peg him as a mid-to-late first-round pick, after prospects such as Nick Bosa, Josh Allen, Montez Sweat and Rashan Gary.
Football Outsiders’ projections, though, suggest Burns is underrated. The website’s SackSEER model, which is based on a series of factors that are historically correlated to NFL success (college production and scores in predraft workouts, for example), forecasts that he will record more sacks (26.6) through his first five seasons than the other top edge rushers in his class.
“The greatest knock on Burns is that he played light at Florida State — he weighed in at only 235 pounds,” the website says. “However, Burns bulked up to 249 for the combine and obviously did not lose much of his athleticism. Burns might have to play as an outside rush linebacker in the NFL, but he has a great chance to excel in that role.”
Burns’ edge over Allen is slight. SackSEER projects the edge rusher out of Kentucky will record 26.3 sacks through five seasons.
“The upside to Allen’s SackSEER is that his numbers are all-around good and he has no glaring weaknesses (at least from a statistical standpoint). In that regard, Allen is similar to (Ryan) Kerrigan, who was also unusual in his uniformly good but not quite great SackSEER numbers.”
Sweat ranks third in the model’s projections (25.7 sacks), Bosa fourth (22.1) and Gary fifth (22.1).
One prospect raised red flags: Clemson’s Clelin Ferrell, whom the model found to be a “thoroughly average draft prospect who probably does not belong in the first two rounds.”
If the Bucs see as little difference between Burns, Bosa, Allen, Sweat and Gary as SackSEER does, they would be wise to trade down in the first round and collect more picks. They could trade down five to 10 spots and likely still nab Burns. Washington, at No. 15, also could be interested in him, as could the Panthers at No. 16, the Giants at No. 17, the Titans at No. 19 and the Seahawks at No. 21.
And if the Bucs stay put? Most mock drafters have them taking either Allen or Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, if they fall. If they don’t, LSU linebacker Devin White is the favorite. Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver also is a possibility, especially if Tampa Bay trades or releases Gerald McCoy before the draft.
Here’s a sampling of the latest predictions:
Charley Casserly, NFL.com: White
“He's an instinctive football player who can make plays from sideline to sideline.”
“Oliver was a highly productive defensive lineman for Houston, recording a ridiculous 22.5 TFLs as a freshman. He was a monster this past season before getting hurt. He once projected to be a top-five pick in the 2019 NFL draft, but should still be a top-10 selection, especially in the wake of his excellent pro day.”
Jared Dubin, CBS Sports: Allen
“Allen’s somewhat unexpected drop to No. 5 leads to the Bucs running to the podium to hand in his name.”
Dan Kadar, SBNation: White
“There has been a lot of talk connecting the Buccaneers to Oliver. While he’s a very good player, it’s hard to see the value while Tampa Bay still has McCoy on the roster. White is an excellent player in his own right, and he could star on the team’s defense for years.”
“I think Todd Bowles would pound the table for a 10-year defensive signal caller who, according to SIS stats, was on the field for significantly more passing downs (450) than run snaps (344) in 2018, but still created QB pressure on almost 25 percent of his straight rushes. He is a player you can build a unit around. If Alvin Kamara and Christian McCaffrey are in your division, you arm yourself appropriately.”
Chris Trapasso, CBS Sports: Williams
“While he’s best as a penetrator, Williams’ experience two-gapping inside would be music to the ears of Bowles. Awesome pairing with Williams and Vea inside.”
Mock draft tracker
Will Brinson, CBS Sports: Devin White, linebacker, LSU (last update: April 8)
Bucky Brooks, NFL.com: Devin White (March 25)
Charley Casserly, NFL.com: Devin White (April 15)
Walter Cherepinsky, walterfootball.com: Ed Oliver, defensive tackle, Houston (April 15)
Charles Davis, NFL.com: Devin White (April 8)
Nate Davis, USA Today: Montez Sweat (March 25)
Jared Dubin, CBS Sports: Josh Allen, outside linebacker, Kentucky (April 15)
Luke Easterling, USA Today’s The Draft Wire: Ed Oliver (April 8)
Doug Farrar, USA Today’s Touchdown Wire: Devin White (April 2)
Cynthia Frelund, NFL.com: Devin White (April 8)
Vinny Iyer, Sporting News: Montez Sweat (April 8)
Daniel Jeremiah, NFL.com: Montez Sweat (March 11)
Dan Kadar, SBNation: Devin White (April 15)
Kalyn Kahler, Sports Illustrated: Quinnen Williams, defensive tackle, Alabama (April 8)
Brad Kelly, the Draft Network: Devin White (April 2)
Danny Kelly, the Ringer: Montez Sweat (April 8)
Mel Kiper, ESPN: Devin White (April 8)
Robert Klemko, Sports Illustrated: Quinnen Williams (April 8)
Todd McShay, ESPN: Devin White (April 8)
Matt Miller, Bleacher Report: Quinnen Williams (March 25)
Conor Orr, Sports Illustrated: Devin White (April 15)
Steve Palazzolo, Pro Football Focus: Jonah Williams, offensive guard/tackle, Alabama (April 8)
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: Devin White (April 8)
Chad Reuter, NFL.com: Josh Allen (April 2)
Peter Schrager, Good Morning Football host: Devin White (April 2)
Benjamin Solak, The Draft Network: Devin White (March 18)
Mike Tanier, Bleacher Report: Devin White (March 3)
Chris Trapasso, CBS Sports: Quinnen Williams (April 15)
Ryan Wilson, CBS Sports: Devin Bush, linebacker, Michigan (April 8)
Lance Zierlein, NFL.com: Devin White (March 25)
Past Mock Draft Mondays
Contact Thomas Bassinger at [email protected]. Follow @tometrics.