2024 NFL mock draft: Bucs go defense twice in dueling 1st-round projections

The offseason headlines for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have centered on premium positions on offense, but some of their most underrated needs are on the other side of the ball.

That could lead the Bucs to spend their No. 26 overall pick in the first round of the 2024 NFL draft on defense, and the latest 2024 NFL mock draft from USA TODAY Sports has them doing just that.

This dueling first-round projection has every team making multiple picks at their respective spots, with USAT’s Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz and Nate Davis each making their own set of selections at each of the 32 spots, and both go defense for the Bucs at No. 26.

Middlehurst-Schwartz has the Bucs landing Florida State edge defender Jared Verse:

A spot much earlier in the first round is entirely within reach for Verse, one of this class’ most stable producers and a pass rusher whose well-rounded game should translate well to the next level. In this scenario, however, the Buccaneers would be overjoyed to scoop him up as they look to upgrade their talent on the edge.

Davis also adds defensive talent for Tampa Bay, opting for Missouri cornerback Ennis Rakestraw Jr. instead:

Carlton Davis III’s recent play and $14 million salary in 2024 could make him a financial target if the Bucs can slot in a comparable replacement.

Verse would be a fantastic match of need and value that late in the first round, and would be a fantastic replacement for departing veteran Shaq Barrett opposite rookie sensation YaYa Diaby.

If the Bucs do want to move on from the talented but inconsistent (and oft-injured) Davis, a well-rounded corner who excels in man coverage would be a sensible target, and Rakestraw definitely fits that bill.

To check out the full first-round mock drafts at USA TODAY Sports, click here.

Story originally appeared on Buccaneers Wire