Bucs early 7-round predictions

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are still very focused on finishing the 2022 season strong, and with a weak NFC South, there’s still a strong chance they can capture another league title.

Things are less clear-cut for the franchise heading into the offseason, with a dreaded salary cap in place, and key players like Tom Brady and Lafonte David on expired contracts. That should make the 2023 NFL Draft even more important when it comes to staying competitive for the near future.

Here’s an early look at how the seven rounders of next year’s draft could shake up for the Bucs, who must have a pair of draft picks to make up for the fourth rounders traded during last year’s draft (the projected number of picks from the tankathon) :

First round: Penn State CP Joey Porter Jr.

(AP Photo/Doug McCuller)

The Bucs re-signed Carlton Davis III in the offseason last year, but both Jamaal Dean and Shaun Murphy-Banting are headed to free agency after this year. The son of a Pro Bowl linebacker, Porter brings the same physical strength, confidence, and great playing ability that his father has demonstrated throughout his career.

Second round: Michigan DL Mazie Smith

(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

The Tampa Bay defensive front has been a different beast with Achim Hicks in the lineup, and when he’s not, running back is painfully obvious. The 33-year-old veteran is on a one-year deal, so the younger replacement should be on Tampa Bay’s radar. Smith is a fast-rising prospect with just the right skill.

Third round: Washington State LB Diane Henley

Darren Yamashita – USA Today Sports

Yes, another defender. Lafonte David’s contract expires after this year, and even if he returns, he will turn 33 in January. It’s time for the Bucs to start grooming a potential replacement to pair up with Devin White, and Henley is one of the most underrated defensemen in this year’s class.

Fifth round: North Dakota State OL Cody Mauch

(Photo by Sean Arbutt/Getty Images)

Bucs general manager Jason Licht has a knack for finding quality blockers in smaller programs, so it wouldn’t be surprising if Mauch became one of his favorite prospects this season. He has experience with both points of tackle, but the Bucs could have him add some size and kick to the inside, where they have more of a need.

Fifth round (compensatory): Virginia WR Dontayvion Wicks

Bob Donnan, USA Today Sports

Russell Gage landed a huge contract to be Tampa Bay’s hottest WR3, but he just wasn’t 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.

Sixth Round: Kansas S Kenny Logan Jr.

William Purnell, USA Today Sports

Mike Edwards is in the final year of his rookie contract, and Logan Ryan is only on a one-year deal, so the Bucs could be looking for some safety depth in this draft. Logan is an experienced leader who can make an immediate impact on special teams, possibly growing into a larger role on defense.

Round 7 (from New York): Troy Edge, Richard Gibonor

(Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images)

You can never have too many talented and productive contestants, and it would be wise to keep reloading the youthful depth of that spot. A transfer from Auburn, Gibonour has put up some strong numbers for the Trojans this season, and he has the passing ability to be an interesting prospect for a third day.

Seventh round: Ohio State K Noah Ruggles

Syndicate: Columbus Dispatch

Ryan Succop has been the Bucs’ most consistent performer so far this season, but he will turn 37 this September, so the Bucs may have to look for a replacement. A highly regarded recruit from nearby Steinbrenner High north of Tampa, Ruggles will be worthy of a seventh driver if he can eventually redeem the consistency Succop brings to the table.

Seventh round (compensatory): Fordham QB Tim DeMorat

(AP Photo/Rebecca S.Gratz)

It never hurts to take a late stab at the most important position in the game just in case, especially when you have three picks in the seventh round. DeMorat has the size and arm of an NFL passer, and has put up some ridiculous numbers at the FCS level.

The story originally appeared on Buccaneers Wire

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