2021 NFL mock draft: Final 7-round projections for Bucs

Luke Easterling
Bucs Wire
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NFL draft week is finally here, so it’s time to put the finishing touches on our projections for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in this year’s event.

The Bucs don’t have any glaring needs after bringing back their entire starting lineup from last year’s Super Bowl team, but they should still be focused on building young depth for the future, and hopefully still landing some instant-impact players like they did in last year’s draft.

2021 NFL Draft:What do the Tampa Bay Bucs actually need?

2021 NFL mock draft:Bucs make surprise pick at No. 32

Here are our final projections for all of Tampa Bay’s eight picks in the 2021 NFL draft:

FILE - Georgia linebacker Azeez Ojulari (13) celebrates with his teammates after a sack during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Mississippi State in Athens, Ga., in this Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020, file photo. Ojulari is a possible first round pick in the NFL Draft, April 29-May 1, 2021, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)

1st Round, No. 32 overall | Georgia EDGE Azeez Ojulari

It’s much tougher to peg the Bucs’ ideal target at No. 32 than it has been in recent years at higher slots. That said, edge rusher feels like the position where Tampa Bay’s needs (scarce as they are) will best meet the value likely to be on the board in this year’s draft.

Ojulari has been a favorite of mine throughout this process, and his well-rounded skill set would be a perfect fit for Todd Bowles and the Tampa Bay defense. He’s a polished, technically sound defender who can get after the passer and stuff the run. He’d be the perfect player to rotate in as a rookie before eventually taking over for Jason Pierre-Paul opposite Shaq Barrett.

National offensive lineman Quinn Meinerz of Wisconsin -Whitewater (71) drills with National offensive lineman Creed Humphrey of Oklahoma (56) during National practice at Hancock Whitney Stadium.

2nd Round, No. 64 overall | Wisconsin-Whitewater OL Quinn Meinerz

The offensive line is set in stone for 2021, but things are far less certain beyond this season. Ryan Jensen and Alex Cappa are both in the final year of their contracts, so both center and guard could end up being huge needs for hte Bucs next offseason.

Meinerz is a small-school stud who proved at the Senior Bowl that he can handle top competition. His athleticism is rare for an interior lineman, and he has the versatility to play either guard or center. Bucs GM Jason Licht has an affinity for small-school blockers who light it up in Mobile (Ali Marpet, Cappa), so don’t be surprised if he targets Meinerz on Day 2.

FILE - Tennessee offensive lineman Trey Smith (73) blocks against Georgia in the second half of an NCAA college football game in Athens, Ga., in this Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020, file photo. Tennessee guard Trey Smith says he has no problem explaining his situation, even a million times if he must. He played college football while dealing with a condition that can cause blood clots, and Smith says it's unique. But he wants to play in the NFL, so he has no problem detailing the plan his doctors and specialists put together allowing him to do just that. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)

3rd Round, No. 96 overall | Tennessee OL Trey Smith

The Bucs double-dip in the offensive trenches here, this time going with another athletic, powerful and versatile blocker in Smith. His career was interrupted due to blood clots, but he’s a first-round talent at full health. He returned for his senior season at Tennessee and was named first-team all-conference.

Things appear to be set at tackle for Tampa Bay, but having a player like Smith who can play either guard or tackle gives them added insurance for the future. If Smith can stay healthy at the next level, he could prove to be a huge steal at this pick.

Florida quarterback Kyle Trask looks for a receiver during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Kentucky, Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

4th Round, No. 138 overall | Florida QB Kyle Trask

Tom Brady isn’t showing any signs of slowing down anytime soon, but the Bucs have made it clear throughout the offseason that finding a young quarterback to develop behind him is a priority. This year’s class doesn’t offer much upside outside of the top five prospects at quarterback, but Trask is an intriguing prospect who could make sense if he’s still on the board at this point.

Trask may not have the high-upside traits of this year’s top quarterbacks, but he’s solid across the board, and doesn’t have any glaring flaws. He’s a low-floor prospect who could develop into a quality starter, and what better place to do so than in Tampa Bay behind Brady.

West Virginia Mountaineers linebackers Tony Fields II and Josh Chandler-Semedo (7) celebrate after a defensive stop during the third quarter against the Kansas Jayhawks on Saturday. Chandler-Semedo, a McKinley product, was named Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week on Monday.

5th Round, No. 177 overall | West Virginia LB Tony Fields II

These late-round picks are all about potential, depth and special teams. Fields checks all three boxes for the Bucs, who don’t have much in terms of youth and upside at inside linebacker behind Lavonte David and Devin White.

Fields is an undersized but athletic linebacker prospect with starter upside who would fit perfectly in Todd Bowles’ scheme. He also has the athleticism, toughness and intelligence to excel on special teams.

FILE - In this Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019 file photo, Boise State's Avery Williams (26) races past San Jose State's Tre Jenkins (22) on his punt return for a touchdown during the first half of an NCAA college football game, in San Jose, Calif. No. 25 San Jose State will face perennial conference powerhouse Boise State in the Mountain West championship on Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020 in Las Vegas. The game is usually played on the higher seed's home field but this year it will be held at Sam Boyd Stadium. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar, File)

6th Round, No. 218 overall | Boise State CB Avery Williams

Williams has become a popular mock pick for the Bucs in the later rounds, and with good reason. Tampa Bay lost their best special teams ace in Ryan Smith, who left in free agency this offseason, leaving a need there as well on defense in terms of corner depth.

The Bucs have also been in desperate need of a difference-maker in the return game for years, and Williams would immediately be the best man for the job on the roster. He excels both on special teams coverage units and as a big-play returner, which makes him a perfect fit for Tampa Bay on Day 3.

Ohio State Buckeyes tight end Luke Farrell (89) celebrates a touchdown catch against Clemson Tigers cornerback Derion Kendrick (1) in the first quarter during the College Football Playoff semifinal at the Allstate Sugar Bowl in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans on Friday, Jan. 1, 2021.

7th Round, No. 253 (from PIT) | Ohio State TE Luke Farrell

Sure, the Bucs are loaded at tight end, with the three-headed monster of Rob Gronkowski, O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate returning for the 2021 season. But Tampa Bay lost their blocking specialist in Antony Auclair to free agency, leaving an opening for a key role player in their offense.

Farrell is underrated as a pass-catcher, but it’s his blocking prowess that would make him a valuable pick for the Bucs here. Roster spots will be tough to come by this fall in Tampa Bay, but Farrell’s ability to replace what Auclair brought to the ground game as a blocker would give him a high chance of locking up one for himself.

Michigan's Carlo Kemp celebrates an interception in the second half of an NCAA college football game against Illinois, Saturday, Oct.12, 2019, in Champaign, Ill. (AP Photo/Holly Hart)

7th Round, No. 261 overall | Michigan DL Carlo Kemp

It’s not a great year to need interior defensive line help, so it wouldn’t surprise me if the Bucs punt on this year’s class altogether, even though they could use some young depth along the interior. If they are going to find value there, it’s likely to be in the late rounds, where they can find some versatility and upside that would fit their scheme.

That’s why Kemp makes sense, with his size and skill set that would allow him to line up at multiple spots along Tampa Bay’s defensive front. Kemp is also the nephew of NFL coach Chuck Pagano, who is a close friend of Bucs head coach Bruce Arians.

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