2023 NFL mock draft: Latest 7-round forecast for Bucs
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers ended their frustrating 2022 season with a disappointing loss in the first round of the playoffs, and now face a daunting offseason full of big question marks on both sides of the ball.
A long list of free agents, along with a challenging salary cap situation, will force the Bucs to hit big on as many picks as possible in the 2023 NFL draft. Tampa Bay is set to lose some key players this offseason, and they won’t have much money to replace them with veterans, so the rookies will have to deliver.
Here’s an updated look at how all seven rounds of this year’s draft could shake out for the Bucs:
1st Round | Alabama DB Brian Branch
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The Bucs are set to lose two of their top three corners (Jamel Dean, Sean Murphy-Bunting), as well as three of their top four safeties (Mike Edwards, Logan Ryan, Keanu Neal) to free agency. Why not spend their top pick on a player who can line up at corner on the outside, in the slot, or on the back end? Branch did all of that at a high level in Nick Saban’s defense, and would be a perfect fit for Todd Bowles’ scheme.
2nd Round | Auburn EDGE Derick Hall
(Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)
Joe Tryon-Shoyinka has shown flashes of potential over his two seasons in Tampa Bay, but not enough consistency, especially when it comes to setting the edge as a run defender. Shaq Barrett just turned 30, and will be coming off a torn Achilles, so spending an early pick on a promising edge rusher like Hall shouldn’t be out of the question.
3rd Round | Washington State LB Daiyan Henley
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Yes, another defender. Lavonte David’s contract is up after this year, and even if he returns, he turns 33 in January. It’s time for the Bucs to start grooming a potential replacement to pair with Devin White, and Henley is one of the most underrated defenders in this year’s class.
5th Round | Mississippi OL Nick Broeker
(AP Photo/Thomas Graning)
Tampa Bay’s lack of quality depth in the trenches were a big reason for their offensive struggles this season. Broeker has tons of experience at both guard and tackle, with a track record of success against top competition.
5th Round (compensatory): Virginia WR Dontayvion Wicks
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Russell Gage was given a hefty contract to be Tampa Bay’s all-important WR3, but he just hasn’t been able to stay healthy. The Bucs should use one of their extra picks to add some receiver depth, and Wicks has the skill set and big-play ability to excel in this vertical passing scheme.
6th Round: Kansas State RB Deuce Vaughn
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Tampa Bay has to get more explosive on offense, and that means adding playmakers with burst and big-play ability, regardless of their size. Vaughn may be one of the smallest players in this year’s draft, but he’s a versatile weapon who could allow the Bucs’ new offensive coordinator to get creative with matchups all over the field.
7th Round (from NYJ): Kentucky DL Justin Rogers
Syndication: The Courier-Journal
Akiem Hicks is on a one-year deal, and the Bucs’ rush defense takes a huge hit when he’s not lined up next to Vita Vea. Rogers is a space-eating interior defender who could take over Hicks’ role on early downs, freeing up 2022 second-round pick Logan Hall to remain a pass-rushing specialist inside.
7th Round: TCU QB Max Duggan
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Kyle Trask is the only quarterback currently under contract for the 2023 season in Tampa Bay, so if Tom Brady and Blaine Gabbert don’t return, the Bucs will need to add a couple. This year’s runner-up for the Heisman Trophy, Duggan might not have the physical tools to be an early-round pick, but his competitiveness and intangibles are worth taking a chance on here.
7th Round (compensatory): Ohio State K Noah Ruggles
Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch
Ryan Succop was the Bucs’ most consistent performer this season, but he’ll turn 37 next September, so the Bucs might have to find a replacement. A highly touted recruit out of nearby Steinbrenner High just north of Tampa, Ruggles would be worth a seventh-rounder if he can end up replacing the consistency Succop brings to the table.