Daniel Jeremiah may have started a trend.
As far as I can tell, the former NFL scout turned draft analyst for the NFL Network and NFL.com was the first mock drafter to match the Buccaneers up with West Virginia wide receiver Tavon Austin. Jeremiah had Austin coming off the board at #13, Tampa Bay’s pick, in his March 20 update, which is still the one displaying on NFL.com’s oft-updated collection of mocks.
(Note: You will find Austin’s name pop up right here in the Captain’s Blog three weeks before that, in our Point/Counterpoint right after the Combine.)
Now some rather prominent NFL and draft analysts are following Jeremiah’s lead. On March 28, ESPN and ESPN.com’s Todd McShay posted the 4.0 version of his mock draft efforts, and he had Austin to the Buccaneers at #13, as well. In his 3.0 version, McShay had predicted Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro to Tampa Bay, but that was before the Bucs’ signing of All-Pro safety Dashon Goldson in free agency. (McShay’s mock is behind the ESPN.com Insider subscription wall; click here if you’re a subscriber.)
On Wednesday, SI.com senior NFL analyst Don Banks offered up his latest first-round mock, and he too found reason to pair Tavon Austin with the Buccaneers. Both McShay and Banks gave nods to the depth chart needs most commonly associated with the Bucs by outside analysts – CB and DL – but believed Austin would be too tempting for Tampa Bay to pass up.
“The Bucs might consider DT Sheldon Richardson or CB Xavier Rhodes here, but it would be hard to pass up the most dynamic offensive playmaker in the 2013 class with this pick,” wrote McShay. “Some might think this is a bit high for a 5-foot-8 slot guy, but today’s NFL demands that teams have players who can create in space, and Austin is just that. He has the versatility to contribute from the slot or the backfield, and occasionally in the return game. His elite combination of speed and quickness will cause headaches for opposing defenses and help open up room for Tampa Bay RB Doug Martin and WR Mike Williams.”
Echoed Banks: “The more conservative pick would be a defensive end (Bjoern Werner of Florida State) or the best available cornerback (Desmond Trufant of Washington), but I could see the Bucs talking themselves into Austin, the matchup nightmare who would give Tampa Bay something of its own version of what division rival New Orleans has in chains-mover Darren Sproles.”
Whether or not he ends up a Buccaneer, Austin’s stock has risen dramatically over the past month. Charles Davis’ mock draft is the most dated one on NFL.com, posted on March 5, and he has the Mountaineer playmaker going 27th overall, to Houston. When Mel Kiper posted his first mock draft on NFL.com, on January 16, he had four receivers going in the first round, but none of them were Austin. Austin still wasn’t a first-rounder in Kiper’s second effort, posted on February 7. It was only in his 3.0 version, posted on March 11 after the NFL Combine, that Kiper had Austin in Round One, immediately jumping him to Carolina at #14.
Some other mock draft updates:
- In his Mock Draft 4.0, posted on Thursday, Kiper is sticking with Utah DT Star Lotulelei for the Buccaneers, the same prediction he made on March 11. Previously, Kiper had matched the Bucs with Georgia LB Alec Ogletree and Notre Dame LB Manti Te’o. Kiper adds a second round to this effort and gives the Bucs Doug Martin’s old teammate at #43, Boise State CB Jamar Taylor. (This is also an ESPN.com Insider article; click here if you can access it.)
- Several of the mock drafts on NFL.com have been updated in the last week, and a few new analysts have been added or have posted more fleshed-out first rounds. Charley Casserly, who previously only posted the top 10 picks, now has the Bucs matched up with Lotulelei. Akbar Gbaja-Biamila has been added to the ranks and sees Tampa Bay taking Missouri DT Sheldon Richardson. Gil Brandt continues to stick to his guns; his March 27 mock draft update still has the Buccaneers taking Alabama T D.J. Fluker, the same prediction Brandt made on January 15.
- A number of experts at CBSSports.com have also updated their predictions. Dane Brugler is sticking with Florida State CB Xavier Rhodes, but Pat Kirwan has switched from his March 18 prediction of Washington CB Desmond Trufant to an April 1 guess of BYU DE Ezekiel Ansah. On the same two dates, Clark Judge went from Lotulelei to Florida State DE Bjoern Werner, while Will Brinson switched from LSU LB Barkevious Mingo to Trufant.
- Russ Lande of the National Football Post, who paired the Buccaneers with Florida DT Sharrif Floyd on March 18, has a different take than most in his latest version (10.0!), posted on Wednesday. Likely realizing that Floyd is a top-10 or top-five pick at this point, Lande has now matched Tampa Bay up with Notre Dame TE Tyler Eifert.