Let’s take one final swipe at some pick predictions before the action kicks off Thursday night.
You guys don’t come here for the fluff, you come for content.
We’ve got a fresh first round mock (with some trades I feel good about!), as well as our final seven-round Bucs projection (also has some trades). Let’s get right into it!
Jacksonville Jaguars: Travon Walker, EDGE, Georgia
This would be pretty dumb, but the Jaguars – and GM Trent Baalke in particular — have perfected the art of terrible drafting.
Not to say Walker is a bad player. He’s a freaky unicorn athlete who requires a lot of projection, especially on the pass rushing end, and the Jags have shown remarkably limited ability to get the most out of these types of players. Sure seems like this is where we’re headed though, given recent buzz and betting odds.
Detroit Lions: Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan
The Lions should turn their card in approximately one second after Roger Goodell shakes Walker’s hand and holds up that bland No. 1 Jaguars jersey.
Hutchinson is the hometown kid, and he’s an elite athlete, competitor and person. He’s the kind of player who you build a culture with and lean on as a leader just as much as his on-field contributions, which optimistically should be 10-12 sacks per year.
Houston Texans: Derek Stingley, CB, Louisiana State
There’s been a lot of smoke surrounding Stingley re-asserting himself as a top 5 pick after testing strongly during his Pro Day and coming across as very polished in team interviews.
You can’t deny he put up special film during his freshman season, even though the following two years came nowhere close. It only takes one team though, and the Texans have a dire need at cornerback. They met with him privately and followed his every move at the LSU Pro Day. If the top two edges are off the board, it seems likely that it will be either Stingley, Ahmad Gardner or an offensive lineman.
New York Jets: Ickey Ekwonu, OL, North Carolina State
GM Joe Douglas has invested so heavily in the offensive line during his tenure, so it’s hard to believe he’s ready to deviate with the best talent available, the Jets still having questions there, and QB Zach Wilson requiring the best infrastructure possible to succeed.
Mekhi Becton has reportedly fallen out of favor, and the team might not be sold on George Fant’s sudden improvement at left tackle last season. Ekwonu is garnering rave reviews for his character and mean streak, is in consideration for the No. 1 pick, and has been compared favorably to Trent Williams.
New York Giants: Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
The Giants might blitz infinity billion times this season with Wink Martindale now calling the defensive plays, but they still need a competent four-man rush. Azeez Ojulari showed great promise last season, but the cupboard is pretty bare otherwise.
Thibodeaux has been unfairly bashed throughout the entire pre-draft process, but he should still be a top 10 pick. He’s a high-upside player who already has the physical traits and mentality to make an immediate impact, and he’ll only improve with increased football I.Q. and honed instincts.
Carolina Panthers: Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi St.
Ideally, the Panthers trade out of this pick to recoup some assets from their disastrous Sam Darnold deal last year. Unfortunately, this is still a rich draft position and it’s hard to find a team who might like a player so much that they’ll give up a second- or third-rounder to move up.
If the Panthers get stuck here, it won’t be for a QB with question marks. They need a left tackle, and Cross has the best traits there of any player in the class. I refuse to buy into the smoke that he’s going to fall out of the Top 10. He’s super fluid, consistent, and long enough to handle the huge array of pass rushers he’ll encounter in the league.
New York Giants: Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
The temptation for an offensive tackle is very strong here, but it’s also tough to pass up on Gardner when you consider how important corners are to Martindale’s system and that the Giants need to trade James Bradberry. Bradberry is a good player, but he’s due a cap hit of $21 million and the team desperately requires cash, so it’s widely believed he’ll be traded.
Gardner would immediately step in as the new No. 1, and he is built for it with incredible size, technique and demeanor reminiscent of Richard Sherman. Gardner is an alpha who didn’t allow a single touchdown in college, and that makes for a top 10 talent.
Atlanta Falcons: Drake London, WR, Southern California
The Falcons are terrible at hiding their draft intentions. Everyone knew Trey Lance and Kyle Pitts were their top two options last year, and it’s now being heavily reported around the league that they have a crush on London and don’t really have strong feelings for Garrett Wilson or Jameson Williams.
When you get destroyed by Mike Evans for 10 years, I guess it makes sense that you would want somebody in the same mold when the opportunity arises. London is more than a jump ball receiver, and he will immediately assume WR1 duties on this destitute roster.
Houston Texans (trade with Seattle): Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
We’ve reached the pivot point of the draft where trades seem more likely, and Seattle might love Day 2 and Day 3 picks more than any other team. I would almost certainly expect a trade here if the top 3 edge rushers and offensive tackles are gone.
The Texans reportedly might be surprisingly aggressive given the extra capital they’ve wrestled from the Browns in the Deshaun Watson trade. Here, they decide to jump the Jets and acquire a receiver to equip Davis Mills as the team tries to evaluate what they have in the latter. The Athletic’s Dane Brugler and SI’s Albert Breer have both connected Wilson to Houston, who has excellent potential as a dynamic, three-level threat.
New York Jets: Jermaine Johnson, EDGE, Florida State
The focus on the trenches continues for New York as their braintrust pivots quickly from Wilson to an edge rusher for Robert Saleh’s defense. The word is that the Jets would like to address both sides of the ball with these picks anyway, and Johnson is a classic example of a player whose best football is ahead of him.
He’s long, relentlessly competitive, and equipped with the tools to immediately bolster the edge rotation that already includes a returning Carl Lawson, John Franklin-Meyers, and Jacob Martin.
Washington Commanders: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
There’s a reason you see this pick everywhere: because it makes perfect sense.
The Commanders (still getting used to this awful name, phew) need to replace Landon Collins, and Hamilton is a more athletic, versatile version. He’s instinctive and rangy with superior size and ball skills, slow 40 times be damned – it doesn’t stand out glaringly on film. I have a hard time imagining Ron Rivera and Co. passing on a top 5 talent here.
New Orleans Saints (trade with Minnesota): Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
The Saints get exactly what they want with one top offensive tackle dropping out of the top 10, and it’s the big, versatile Evan Neal.
The Saints give up assets on days 2 and 3 to move up four spots and take their heir-apparent to Terron Armstead. Neal also has experience at guard and right tackle, so they can deploy him in any spot they’d like to get the best starting 5 on the field from Day 1.
Seattle Seahawks (trade with Houston): Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa
I wouldn’t rule the Seahawks trading back again if the right offer presents itself, but for now we’ll have them settle in at No. 13 overall and pick a big, nasty mauler to hopefully improve their perpetually porous offensive line.
Our friends over at Field Gulls made a compelling case why Penning should be the team’s pick during the SB Nation mock draft. He checks a lot of boxes for what the front office usually looks for, and he would step in immediately at either tackle spot.
Baltimore Ravens: Jordan Davis, DL, Georgia
This is another pick that feels like a match made in heaven. The Ravens love huge, monstrously athletic defensive tackles a la Haloti Ngata and Brandon Williams.
They currently lack that presence in the trenches. Michael Pierce is back but will soon be 30 and has played just 22 games in the last three years. Davis made his name universally known as one of the freakiest athletes in Scouting Combine lore after putting up historic testing numbers.
He was a very good two-down nose tackle at Georgia, but he has the capability to be much more.
Philadelphia Eagles: Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
Three years in a row with a receiver in the first round? It’s apparently a very real possibility, per multiple sources, so might as well seek out that consistent speed threat they desperately needed last year. Olave reportedly vibed well with the coaching staff, which is evidenced by his positive report of his top 30 visit.
Olave is not just an electric speedster, however. He might be the best route runner in the class — a buttery smooth operator who can deploy all around the field. He and DeVonta Smith could give the NFC East massive headaches for years to come.
Minnesota Vikings (trade with New Orleans): Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington
The Vikings are reloading their roster under an entirely new regime, so trading back and still landing a quality starter would be good work by first-year GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah.
McDuffie is small, but it’s hard to find someone more well-rounded in the draft. Standing at just about 5-foot-11, he doesn’t play like it. He’s a fearless, intelligent player in man and zone coverage, as well as run support.
The Vikings have invested heavily in the position in recent years, but it’d be hard to ignore this kind of talent when your best corner is 32-year-old Patrick Peterson, who is well past his prime.
Los Angeles Chargers: Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
The Chargers went all in on buffing up their defense by acquiring All-Pro quality talents like Khalil Mack and J.C. Jackson, so now it’s time to give Justin Herbert a home run hitter on offense.
As long as the medicals check out, Williams offers tantalizing speed for the deep balls that Herbert is quickly becoming known for. Williams also has shown the promise to be more versatile with time, so this is a good investment.
Pittsburgh Steelers (trade with Philly): Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
Our first quarterback is off the board! It’s truly a crapshoot to determine when this will happen and who it will involve, but what does seem like a good bet is Pittsburgh doing whatever is necessary to land a QB of the future. Another team that doesn’t hide its intentions well, they’ve met with and worked out Willis privately, and the whole decision-making contingent traveled to his Pro Day.
The Eagles drop back a couple spots to secure more 2023 draft capital, which they might use for a QB move of their own a year from now.
Willis is clearly raw, but his awesome athleticism and throwing talent is first-round caliber. He should have a year to sit and learn while Mitchell Trubisky starts, so this is an ideal scenario.
New Orleans Saints: Daxton Hill, DB, Michigan
Failing to come away with one of the top 4 receivers isn’t preferable for New Orleans, but it runs that risk if the preference is indeed a tackle. That said, a dynamic chess piece in the secondary seems like a great alternate choice.
The Saints lost Marcus Williams, which was a big blow, and they still have P.J. Williams slated for significant snaps at corner, who is better served as depth. They’ve shown serious interest in Tyrann Mathieu, so it’s clear they don’t want to be done adding.
This secondary has been among the league’s best, and they keep it that way with Hill. The Michigan product can play slot corner or free safety, and having that mix-and-match flexibility will be dangerous.
Philadelphia Eagles (trade with Pittsburgh): Devonte Wyatt, DL, Georgia
The Eagles live and die by the trenches, so I find it hard to believe they would forgo both sides of the line with their first-rounders. Their offensive line still seems to be in good shape, but the defensive line appears to be in transition with Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox poised to move on sooner rather than later. Javon Hargrave is also on the final year of his deal.
Wyatt profiles as that gap-shooting 3-technique, but he has the potential to play in a multiple front scheme like defensive coordinator Johnathan Gannon runs. The production wasn’t always there, but the flashes of dominance will swoon some team in the first.
New England Patriots: Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
The Patriots are widely reported to be in the hunt for a young linebacker, and Lloyd fits all of their typical benchmarks for size, production, and on-field mentality.
Lloyd has top 15 potential, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see him go higher. If he’s unavailable, Bill Belichick might explore another linebacker like Quay Walker. Cornerback or offensive guard are also possible.
Green Bay Packers: George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue
The Packers don’t draft receivers in the first round. I’m not sure how many times we have to go over this, but here we are talking about the same thing.
Instead, I would think it much more likely that Green Bay addresses edge rusher first to compensate for the loss of Z’Darius Smith and insulate against the potential departure of Rashan Gary, who is playing on his fifth year option. Karlaftis is exactly the kind of player Green Bay likes, young with an elite athletic profile, and it seems like his sweet spot is between 15 and 25.
Arizona Cardinals: Zion Johnson, OG, Boston College
If the Cardinals would like to keep their franchise QB happy, other than giving him a butt load of money, they should invest in receiver or offensive line. They signed Will Hernandez, but he’s failed to be anything more than mediocre since his promising rookie season.
Zion Johnson should step in immediately at either left or right guard to solidify an interior that will face constant duress from the Aaron Donalds and Arik Armsteads of the NFC West.
Dallas Cowboys: Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
Cowboys are cash strapped, and losing Amari Cooper and Cedrick Wilson is going to hurt the offensive balance badly unless the franchise can get another target into the mix.
Burks’s size, hands, and ability to create after the catch will surely titillate Jerry Jones, who would be selecting someone from his alma mater for only the second time since he purchased the team in 1989.
Buffalo Bills: Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
Elam to the Bills is a scenario I’ve been bullish on since the onset. They’ve met with him privately, and they let corner No. 2 Levi Wallace walk in free agency so it seems likely they want to seek an alternative.
In the supercharged AFC, you need secondary depth if you want to compete. Elam is a little handsy, but his excellent tools and size (6-foot-2) are first-round worthy. He’s also only 20 years old, which will undoubtedly appeal to several teams in a draft unusually full of older prospects.
Tennessee Titans: Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati
Got a little bit of a shocker here on the surface, but is it really? Ryan Tannehill will be 34 in July, he’s got a big contract that the team can reasonably get out from underneath next season, and he looked more like his old self last year than the 2020 version.
The Titans have done their due diligence on all of the top QBs, attended Ridder’s Pro Day, and head coach Mike Vrabel is best friends with Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell. That last one is more hearsay, but it’s still worth noting.
In terms of being the most pro ready, Ridder definitely fits the bill. He’s smart, confident, fluid and a good athlete to boot. He has some wild misses, and that elongation in his delivery concerns me, but favorable comparisons to peak Alex Smith aren’t far off at all.
Kansas City Chiefs (trade with Tampa): George Pickens, WR, Georgia
Sorry, Bucs Nation, you’ll have to wait just a bit longer. If the board falls this way, I find it hard to believe that Tampa will stay put at its current spot. They have only four picks in the top 150, and it would behoove them to stockpile another asset.
The Bucs receive picks 29 and 103 (a compensatory 3rd rounder) as the Chiefs get antsy to secure one of the top remaining receivers in Pickens. Pickens is more projection than proven product, but that hasn’t stopped Andy Reid and Co. before. Pairing his multifaceted game with Marquez Valdes-Scantling’s speed on the outside and Juju Smith-Schuster in the slot suddenly makes this Chiefs offense more balanced.
Green Bay Packers: Kenyon Green, OL, Texas A&M
The Packers may or may not bemoan missing out on Pickens, I guess we’ll see, but a quick pivot to the best available lineman should help quell some concerns.
The offensive line failed this team during the playoffs two years in a row, and it has just lost two stalwarts in Lucas Patrick and Billy Turner to free agency. Aaron Rodgers getting constantly harassed is a big no-no, so Green can step in immediately at either guard spot or right tackle. The Packers will love his versatility and his mean streak in the run game.
Tampa Bay Bucs (trade with Kansas City): Lewis Cine, S, Georgia
This is a bit of a late pivot for me, but I’m just reading the tea leaves here and, consequently, acquiescing to some groupthink.
Several Bucs insiders and national pundits have posited this as a potential pick in the last week, around the same time that Cine has picked up steam as a “surprise” first rounder. Todd Bowles personally attended Georgia’s Pro Day and was said to pay attention to the defensive backs specifically. The team has hosted Cine for a visit and met with him other times as well.
Bowles clearly places a strong emphasis on the safety position, and Jason Licht is not afraid to accommodate that philosophy (see Justin Evans, M.J. Stewart, Mike Edwards and Antoine Winfield Jr.). Keanu Neal and Logan Ryan are proven veteran options, but they are just short-term fixes on one-year deals. And with Neal’s injury history, there’s no guarantee he’s available for 17 games (just 23 starts in the last 4 years).
#Georgia S Lewis Cine was incredible during the National Championship Game.
He made so many big tackles and plays for them. pic.twitter.com/7Z6xCjR5gB
— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) April 18, 2022
I still feel like Logan Hall will get a lot of consideration here, but Cine is definitely not a bad pick. He’s got prototypical length and speed (ran a 4.37 at the combine), and he makes use of both consistently on film. He’s also a fluid mover and vicious attacker with great instincts in deep coverage and around the box. Georgia coach Kirby Smart went out of his way to compliment Cine as a student of the game.
Whoever drafts @GeorgiaFootball safety @LewisCine is getting a DAWG.
: 2022 #NFLDraft— April 28-30 on NFLN/ESPN/ABC pic.twitter.com/3LGkTzpNvR
— NFL (@NFL) April 9, 2022
On top of it all, he’s just 22 years old, which fits Tampa’s preference of younger players in the first round. This feels like a real solid bet.
Kansas City Chiefs: Jalen Pitre, DB, Baylor
Kansas City’s defense operates at another level with a versatile chess piece in the secondary, and Pitre fits that bill very well as a slot corner or situational safety. His physical tools don’t pop, but he plays with a fierce mentality, top-tier instincts and amazing football I.Q.
The Chiefs need to invest in more defensive back talent after they lost Tyrann Mathieu and Charvarius Ward, seeing how stacked the AFC West has become.
Cincinnati Bengals: Tyler Linderbaum, OC, Iowa
Man, this is the steal of steals right here. Linderbaum is freaking awesome, probably the most complete center prospect to come out in years. He has smaller-than-desirable measurements though, and that always gets evaluators in a tizzy.
Well I’m willing to bet he’ll thrive in Cincinnati’s zone-oriented offense as their franchise center for the next 10 years.
Detroit Lions: Quay Walker, LB, Georgia
Walker might go even higher than this, but I’m going to stick toward the lower end of his range.
He’s got tantalizing potential despite limited starting experience, and he’s a perfect fit for a Lions defense in desperate need of a young interior presence on the front seven.
Can’t rule out a quarterback or safety here either.
And now the rest of Tampa’s picks…
Round 2, Pick 47 (trade with Washington): Trey McBride, TE, Colorado State
I think the Bucs are very interested in Trey McBride, who they’ve met with several times already (Senior Bowl, combine, and Top 30 visit). He’s the consensus top tight end, and Licht will need to be aggressive to go get him. His sweet spot seems to be in the 40-50 range, so the Bucs use the hypothetical pick they got from Kansas City and a future sixth to swing a trade with Washington, which currently has only 3 picks in the top 150.
It’s not certain if he’ll ever be a top 10 player at his position, but there is little doubt that McBride brings value as a crafty pass catcher and tenacious blocker. At the least, he has an Austin Hooper-like floor, which is pretty damn good.
Round 3, Pick 100 (trade with Baltimore): Matthew Butler, DL, Tennessee
One more trade here as the Bucs decide to move back 9 spots with the Ravens to acquire another fourth rounder as a way to get extra depth.
It comes a little later than maybe some expect or prefer, but the Bucs pick up a solid rotational player in Butler. He had experience with multiple fronts at Tennessee, and he possesses the requisite athleticism and intelligence to carve out a role at the next level immediately.
DT | #7 – Matthew Butler, Tennessee
Isn’t a pure one-gapper or two-gapper, but has enough play strength and athleticism to operate in either capacity.
6’4”, 297… Impressive games against tougher competition like Bama. pic.twitter.com/Lxsv6fVeLb
— Judge Mathes (@JudgeMathes) March 5, 2022
He’s not a game wrecker, nor will he likely ever be, but he injects some youth into a defensive line rotation that will probably seek a higher-upside prospect next draft cycle.
Round 4, Pick 128 (acquired from Baltimore): Rachaad White, RB, Arizona State
An extra fourth round pick nets the Bucs the backup running back they seem to be coveting. Another player with whom they’ve had several meetings, White has demonstrated that he’s a proficient receiver out of the backfield while also wreaking some havoc as the primary ball carrier with the Sun Devils last year (more than 1,400 total yards, 16 touchdowns).
Big things are coming for Rachaad White.
The @ASUFootball RB looks to make his mark in the @NFL.#Pac12FB | @76 pic.twitter.com/BTLQiw0e3F
— Pac-12 Conference (@pac12) April 21, 2022
He’s not a true home run hitter like Ronald Jones was, but he has much better upside as both a pass catcher and pass protector. He’s also shown that he can get into the endzone with 22 touchdowns in just 15 games (11 starts).
Round 4, Pick 133: Akayleb Evans, CB, Missouri
The Bucs need more corner depth with some potential starter upside, and Evans is probably as good as you’re going to get at this point.
He meets their typical size thresholds (he’s 6-foot-2 with 32” arms), he doesn’t mind mixing it up with receivers, and he’s also got the quickness and smarts to handle zone coverage. He has some injury concerns and some big problems with penalties (10 flags over two seasons), so a redshirt year gaining mass in an NFL conditioning program while learning the ropes would benefit him greatly.
If he can improve his eye discipline and hand usage, he could be a solid No. 2 corner with time.
Round 7, Pick 248: Noah Elliss, DL, Idaho
A nose tackle at a bad program typically isn’t going to attract too much attention, but that’s a win for Tampa. Elliss is a huge dude (6-foot-4, 346 pounds) who didn’t get to test because of a torn hamstring that he suffered when running the 40 at the combine.
A torn ACL and going through academic ineligibility also have been roadblocks in Elliss’s journey, but he still has shown promise and resiliency. He’s a hoss who loves playing bully ball, and he’s got some surprising flexibility for a man his size. There’s no harm in giving him a chance in camp to earn a practice squad spot with an eye on being Vita Vea’s eventual backup.
THIS IS NOAH ELLISS. And that is a bullrush. (I messed up on who he was before) That is REALLY impressive power. pic.twitter.com/pfEopVGlJ5
— Matt Alkire (@mattalkire) January 29, 2022
Round 7, Pick 261: Ryan Stonehouse, P, Colorado State
I will never let the punter dream die.
Bucs would save nearly $3 million by cutting Bradley Pinion. That’s a lot of money for a cash-strapped contender!
Stonehouse can kick straight-up bombs. He averaged a whopping 50.9 yards per kick in 2021 (42.3 yard net), and he can handle kickoff duties. His dad and two uncles also played Division 1…as punters. HE IS A LEG-ACY PUNTER! MAKE THE CALL, JASON!
Alright, Bucs Nation, let us know what you think of this haul by voting in the poll and commenting below. A quick summary:
Round 1, Pick 29: Lewis Cine, S, Georgia
Round 2, Pick 47 (trade with WAS): Trey McBride, TE, Colorado State
Round 3, Pick 100 (trade with BAL): Matthew Butler, DT, Tennessee
Round 4, Pick 128 (acquired via BAL): Rachaad White, RB, Arizona State
Round 4, Pick 133: Akayleb Evans, CB, Missouri
Round 7, Pick 248: Noah Elliss, DL, Idaho
Round 7, 261: Ryan Stonehouse, P, Colorado State