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NFL Mock Draft Monday: A lesson from the Buccaneers’ 1995 draft

If Tampa Bay plays this right, it could build the foundation of a future contender.
The Bucs drafted Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks in the first round of the 1995 draft. The duo became the core of the 2002 Super Bowl champions. [Times (1995)]
Published Feb. 11
Updated Feb. 11

Thank Matt Bryant.

Because of his last-second game-winning field goal against Tampa Bay in Week 17, the Bucs landed the fifth pick in April’s draft. Had he missed it and the Falcons lost, the Bucs would have settled for the ninth pick.

So what? It’s not where you pick; it’s who you pick. Right?

“Who” will matter eventually, but today draft position matters.

The difference between the fifth pick and the ninth pick is like the difference between $100 and $120. Which would you rather have? Would you turn down the $120 and say, “It’s not how much money you have; it’s how you spend it”?

As we inch closer to the NFL draft (73 days away, not that I’m counting), the advantages of holding the No. 5 pick are becoming clearer. Last year, Tampa Bay held the No. 7 pick and had to hope that a blue-chip prospect would slide. That never happened, so general manager Jason Licht traded down and acquired more picks in the process.

This year, the worst-case scenario for the Bucs is that a quarterback-needy team pulls off a trade and jumps in front of them, forcing a plug-and-play prospect to slip to No. 5. The best-case scenario is that a team falls in love with a player (Kyler Murray?) over the next couple of months, calls the Bucs on draft day and makes them an offer they can’t refuse. If things fall right, the additional picks could be the foundation of a future contender.

It has happened before. Flash back to the 1995 draft. Tampa Bay held the No. 7 pick. Philadelphia held the No. 12 pick, and it was desperate for pass rush help. The Eagles were so impressed by Mike Mamula’s monster performance at the scouting combine that they traded their pick plus two second-round picks to the Bucs. Tampa Bay used that package to select two future Super Bowl champions and Hall of Famers — Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks.

It’s difficult to say before the combine and free agency how likely it is that the Bucs will trade down, but you can be sure that they will be taking offers.

What are the mock drafters predicting will happen in the first round? If they’re right, Tampa Bay will land someone who played in this past season’s national championship game between Alabama and Clemson. Here’s a roundup, starting with the OG, Mel Kiper:

Mel Kiper, ESPN: Jonah Williams, offensive tackle/guard, Alabama

“Upgrading the offensive line should be a priority and Williams has Pro Bowl potential at both guard and tackle. Williams made 43 straight starts at tackle for the Crimson Tide, but he has the frame (6-foot-5, 301 pounds) to easily move inside.”

Todd McShay, ESPN: Jonah Williams

“He can handle speed rushes off the edge with quick feet and would help buy some time for Jameis Winston. However, I'd look for Tampa Bay to trade back and simply take the best offensive lineman available, with the likes of Jacksonville and Miami looking to move up to grab a QB.”

Chad Reuter, NFL.com: Josh Jacobs, running back, Alabama

“I expect the Bucs to move down from this spot, eventually picking Bruce Arians' new David Johnson.”

Lance Zierlein, NFL.com: Quinnen Williams, defensive lineman, Alabama

“With all the help Todd Bowles needs on defense, the Bucs will be able to go “best available” on that side of the ball here. Tampa adds an interior rusher to go along with Vita Vea and Gerald McCoy rather than reaching for an edge rusher.”

Bucky Brooks, NFL.com: Devin White, linebacker, LSU

“White’s speed, athleticism and playmaking ability would add a dimension to a Bucs defense that struggled to defend the run and pass over the middle.”

Daniel Jeremiah, NFL.com: Josh Jacobs

“The Bucs didn't see any return on their investment in Ronald Jones, a second-round pick last year. Jacobs is a dynamic player with ideal toughness.”

Will Brinson, CBS Sports: Jonah Williams

“The Bucs are all in on Jameis Winston and while they still need defensive help, they could also use some protection for Winston if they don't manage to bring back Donovan Smith.”

Chris Trapasso, CBS Sports: Greedy Williams, cornerback, LSU

“No nonsense pick here for Tampa. Williams has the height, length, ball skills and athleticism to be the top cornerback for the Buccaneers immediately.”

Ryan Wilson, CBS Sports: Quinnen Williams

“Quinnen Williams could end up being the best player in this draft class. He was dominant last season for Alabama after sitting behind Da’Ron Payne (a Washington first-rounder last spring) in 2017. The Bucs could be moving on from Gerald McCoy and Williams would be an obvious choice to replace him in the lineup.”

Mike Renner, Pro Football Focus: Clelin Ferrell, defensive end, Clemson

“The offseason prescription for the Bucs calls for defense, defense and more defense. Any position will do. Ferrell has the size and traits teams covet on the edge in the top 10.”

Luke Easterling, USA Today’s Draft Wire: Brian Burns, defensive end, Florida State

(Easterling projects the Bucs will be active in the first round, trading down twice and trading up once to ultimately settle at No. 32.) “The Pats love to trade down, and with an explosive pass rusher like Burns still on the board, it wouldn’t be hard for them to find a trade partner. In this scenario, it’s Tampa Bay, which added some additional picks with earlier trades, and can use some of that ammo to grab a perfect fit for Todd Bowles’ aggressive scheme.”

Walter Cherepinsky, walterfootball.com: Jawaan Taylor, offensive tackle, Florida

“Jawaan Taylor has some great feet for his size (6-5, 340) and could emerge as the first tackle off the board.”

Contact Thomas Bassinger at tbassinger@tampabay.com. Follow @tometrics.

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