2023 NFL mock draft: Post-Senior Bowl 7-round projections for Bucs
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are facing a daunting offseason, with a challenging salary cap situation, the retirement of Tom Brady, and a long list of key free agents on both sides of the ball.
That means the Bucs will have to get immediate contributions from their rookie class this year, nailing as many picks in the 2023 NFL draft as possible to help reload the roster.
With Senior Bowl week officially in the books, here’s an updated look at how all seven rounds of this year’s draft could play 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 | Maryland OT Jaelyn Duncan
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Injuries tanked the Bucs’ interior offensive line before the 2022 season even began, but Nick Leverett, Aaron Stinnie, Robert Hainsey and Luke Goedeke should give them solid depth alongside Ryan Jensen and Shaq Mason next year. The bigger need should be at tackle, where Donovan Smith could be a salary cap casualty, and Tampa Bay’s depth is much thinner. Duncan backed up his solid film with a strong week at the Senior Bowl, and has both the talent and polish to start Day 1 at left tackle.
3rd Round | Army EDGE Andre Carter II
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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, and Anthony Nelson is a free agent. Carter is talented enough to be a second-round pick, but a deep EDGE class could push him down the board. If he makes it to the Bucs’ pick, he could be a huge steal.
5th Round | TCU LB Dee Winters
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Lavonte David’s contract is up after this year, and even if he returns, he turns 33 in January. There’s not much in terms of proven depth behind David and Devin White, so they have to reload this unit in the offseason. Winters had a strong week of practice at the Senior Bowl, and his skill set would pair well with Todd Bowles’ defense.
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 big-play ability this offense definitely needs more of in 2023.
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): Coastal Carolina DL Jerrod Clark
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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. Clark 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. Tom Brady is retiring, and with the overhaul of the offensive coaching staff, Blaine Gabbert isn’t expected to re-sign. 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): Michigan K Jake Moody
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Ryan Succop was the only player on the roster who consistently scored points for the Bucs this season, but he’ll turn 37 next September, and his struggles from beyond 50 yards have become an issue. Moody nailed a 59-yarder in the Fiesta Bowl, and drilled two more from over 50 yards in the East-West Shrine Game.