The first week of the 2019 NFL free-agency period is in the books.
The most notable losses for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers: linebacker Kwon Alexander and receiver Adam Humphries. The Bucs have enough receiving depth and upside that they should field a productive offense again even without Humphries. They’re thinner at linebacker, however, with Lavonte David, Deone Bucannon and Shaquil Barrett in line to get the bulk of the snaps.
You’d think that after Alexander’s departure to the 49ers, we’d see a flood of mock drafts projecting LSU linebacker Devin White to land in Tampa Bay. Though a couple of analysts — Chris Trapasso of CBS Sports and Benjamin Solak of The Draft Network, for example — have White holding up a Bucs jersey April 25, most expect the team to focus on upgrading its middling pass rush.
Plugging White in Alexander’s place makes sense. Like Alexander, White is a tone-setter who enjoys delivering big hits. He has the speed to cover a lot of ground quickly and the explosiveness to be an effective interior blitzer. He’ll be a three-down starter from Day 1 and, according to draftniks, has the potential to be a star.
But as enticing as White might be, you wonder how Tampa Bay could pass on the opportunity to lock in a franchise-type edge rusher for the next four or five seasons. Say Kyler Murray goes to the Cardinals at No. 1 and Nick Bosa goes to the 49ers at No. 2. Assuming the Jets and Raiders don’t trade out of their spots, Quinnen Williams and Josh Allen seem like good bets to go at No. 3 and No. 4, respectively. Defensive ends Montez Sweat and Rashan Gary will be there for the Bucs at No. 5.
If you’re general manager Jason Licht and you’ve drafted only one defensive end in your previous five drafts, how do you say no? If you’re defensive coordinator Todd Bowles and you’re inheriting a roster that generated pressure at the second-lowest rate, how do you say no?
And even if you don’t take an edge rusher, how do you not address arguably an even greater need — cornerback — by taking LSU’s Greedy Williams or Georgia’s Deandre Baker? Last season, the Bucs pass defense allowed a passer rating of 110.9, the second-highest rating of all time. At this moment, Tampa Bay’s secondary looks the same, minus Brent Grimes and Chris Conte.
Five weeks out from the draft, the guess here is that the Bucs go edge rusher or cornerback at No. 5 — or they they trade down, add picks and get both.
To the predictions!
Charles Davis, NFL.com: Montez Sweat, defensive end, Mississippi State
“A leader at ILB (like LSU’s Devin White) makes sense here, but head coach Bruce Arians and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles believe that speed and pressure drive a defense. Sweat provides both (his 4.41 40-yard dash at the combine was a modern record for a defensive lineman).”
Kalyn Kahler, Sports Illustrated: Josh Allen, defensive end/linebacker, Kentucky
“The Buccaneers are badly in need of some defensive playmakers, especially in the pass rush. Allen improved more than any prospect during the 2018 college football season, and has the ability to step in and make an impact right away for new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. (But one thing to keep in mind: Despite Bruce Arians’s public support for Jameis Winston, one scout told me that if he had to pick a surprise team to take a quarterback in the first round, it would be Tampa Bay.)”
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Danny Kelly, The Ringer: D.K. Metcalf, receiver, Ole Miss
“Metcalf is a dangerous deep threat with elite size and speed, and he’s tailor made for Bruce Arians’s aggressive “no risk it, no-biscuit” deep passing offense. With DeSean Jackson traded away to the Eagles, the Buccaneers need another deep threat to line up opposite Mike Evans. Adding Metcalf into a group that already includes Evans, Chris Godwin, and O.J. Howard would give Tampa Bay one of the most dangerous pass-catching units in the NFL.”
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: Montez Sweat
“They have to improve their outside rush. Landing the combine star would do that.”
Benjamin Solak, The Draft Network: Devin White, linebacker, LSU
“I still think the Bucs and Todd Bowles would love to take a swing at Josh Allen if he falls, but as it is, White is the easy prediction. (He reminds) me of a young Kwon Alexander, and could enjoy a similar career arc — so the plug and replace role in Tampa makes sense.”
Chris Trapasso, CBS Sports: Devin White
“With Kwon Alexander gone, the Buccaneers have to get more athletic in their linebacker group. With White, they get a supremely gifted athlete.”
Ryan Wilson, CBS Sports: Quinnen Williams, defensive tackle, Alabama
“Williams is a monster. He dominated just about every snap during the 2018 season and he came to the combine and dominated there too. He blazed a 4.83 40-yard dash, which only confirms what we already knew: His physical abilities are off the charts, and he’s not only a legit top-5 talent, he has an argument as the top-overall pick. Yes, the Buccaneers drafted Vita Vea a year ago but Gerald McCoy is 31 years old and will count roughly $13 million against the cap in each of the next three years.”
Mock draft tracker
Will Brinson, CBS Sports: Greedy Williams, defensive back, LSU (last update: March 11)
Bucky Brooks, NFL.com: Devin White, linebacker, LSU (March 3)
Charley Casserly, NFL.com: Clelin Ferrell, defensive end, Clemson (Feb. 25)
Walter Cherepinsky, walterfootball.com: Josh Allen, defensive end/linebacker, Kentucky (March 11)
Charles Davis, NFL.com: Montez Sweat, defensive end, Mississippi State (March 18)
Nate Davis, USA Today: Ed Oliver, defensive tackle, Houston (March 11)
Luke Easterling, USA Today’s Draft Wire: Quinnen Williams, defensive tackle, Alabama (March 18)
Doug Farrar, USA Today’s Touchdown Wire: Devin White (March 11)
Daniel Jeremiah, NFL.com: Montez Sweat (March 11)
Kalyn Kahler, Sports Illustrated: Josh Allen (March 18)
Danny Kelly, The Ringer: D.K. Metcalf, receiver, Ole Miss (March 18)
Mel Kiper, ESPN: Montez Sweat (Feb. 18)
Todd McShay, ESPN: Montez Sweat (March 11)
Matt Miller, Bleacher Report: Rashan Gary, defensive end, Michigan (March 11)
Steve Palazzolo, Pro Football Focus: Deandre Baker, cornerback, Georgia (March 18)
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: Montez Sweat (Feb. 25)
Rob Rang, NFL Draft Scout: Deionte Thompson, safety, Florida State (Feb. 25)
Chad Reuter, NFL.com: Josh Jacobs, running back, Alabama (March 3)
Peter Schrager, Good Morning Football host: Jawaan Taylor, offensive tackle, Florida (March 3)
Benjamin Solak, The Draft Network: Devin White (March 18)
Mike Tanier, Bleacher Report: Devin White (March 3)
Chris Trapasso, CBS Sports: Devin White (March 18)
Ryan Wilson, CBS Sports: Jawaan Taylor (March 11)
Lance Zierlein, NFL.com: Quinnen Williams (Feb. 11)
Past Mock Draft Mondays
Feb. 11: A lesson from the Bucs’ 1995 draft
Feb. 18: How the Kyler Murray decision and the Joe Flacco trade shake up the first round
Feb. 25: How does Gerald McCoy’s return affect the Bucs’ draft plans?
March 4: The hidden reason why the Bucs always have a top 10 pick
March 11: Why the Bucs No. 1 priority should be cornerback
Contact Thomas Bassinger at email@example.com. Follow @tometrics.