I’m a fan of mock drafts. I think they’re fun, entertaining, and (sometimes) thought-provoking articles in a time of year where I’m desperate for football talk. With that said, nothing in the world is more pointless than mock drafts done prior to free agency. Blatant weak spots on teams are patched up with veterans, and before you know it, a new weak spot leaps to the top of their priority lists, rendering the mocks completely broken. The Bucs offseason thus far is a prime example.
At the beginning of the offseason and even up to the point that I type this, you would be hard pressed to find a mock that didn’t give the Bucs a cornerback with their first pick. Most often the player was Vernon Hargreaves from the University of Florida. It’s easy to see why. The team had an abhorrent secondary in 2015, routinely getting roasted by middling quarterbacks, and middling is being generous in some cases. It would have surprised nobody if incumbent corners Johnthan Banks and Alteraun Verner were cut during the offseason, and a complete overhaul of the unit made total sense. Heck, I even advocated for it on twitter at one point. But as it so often turns out, the team had much different plans.
Jason Licht and company decided that it would be wiser to give Verner and Banks another chance, and infuse the unit with talented vets Brent Grimes and Josh Robinson. With these four as solid bets to make up the top of the depth chart, it now seems unlikely that the Bucs will take Vernon Hargreaves, or any other top cornerback prospect in the 2016 draft.
To a lesser degree, similar can be said regarding defensive end. If you were able to find a pre-free agency mock draft without Hargreaves to the Bucs, it probably had a defensive end as a substitute. While there’s still a fair chance that the team drafts Shaq Lawson, Emmanuel Ogbah, or Noah Spence, the addition of Robert Ayers and re-signing of Jacquies Smith make it much less of a lock than it was entering the off-season.
What we’re faced with now is uncertainty. But the good type of uncertainty. The type where fans can rest easy knowing that the team will truly take the best player available in the draft instead of forcing themselves into a player simply to fill a need. No longer at this point in the offseason can fans flippantly dismiss mocks that give the team a defensive tackle like Sheldon Rankins, or offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley. The door is even open for Corey Coleman, a wide receiver. The point is, the Bucs can approach this draft with an open mind, and so should fans.