Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Will Bucs go defense in first round? A couple experts say yes

Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire

With the first pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers select . . . a defensive end?

It seems a bit odd given their needs at running back, wide receiver and safety but that’s what two noted draft-nicks have them doing.

In his first mock draft, released Thursday, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper has the Bucs taking Michigan D-end Taco Charlton with that pick.

Also in his first mock draft, released Friday, Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com has the Bucs taking Missouri D-end Charles Harris 19th overall.

Now, before you pass these projections off as crazy, keep in mind that Bucs general manager Jason Licht is a value shopper.

He’s that way in free agency and he’s that way in the draft, where the best value in a running back, a receiver or a safety may come later.

There are always some good running backs to be had in the second or third round and the same goes for wide receivers and safeties.

The same usually cannot be said of defensive ends and in particular of productive college pass rushers like Harris and Charlton.

Kiper referred to Charlton as “the best pass rusher in the draft,’’ and really now, who wouldn’t want that?

Along the same lines, Jeremiah pointed out that Harris would give the Bucs “another fastball off the edge’’ to team with Noah Spence.

That sounds like a pretty good addition to make, too, and let’s be honest, the Bucs could use that kind of an addition.

Just as they aren’t sure what the future holds for running back Doug Martin, the Bucs don’t really know what the future holds for Jacquies Smith either.

Smith’s 2016 season was destroyed by a torn ACL and there’s just no way of knowing how good he’ll be if and when he returns from that.

The best way to ensure that you’re not caught off guard should the return not go as hoped is to prepare for the worst.

By adding either Charlton or Harris the Bucs would be doing that and if they do there’s no reason to worry about a logjam at defensive end.

For starters, the Bucs can always move Robert Ayers inside to tackle, which is where some believe he’s most effective anyway.

That would leave Spence, Smith, Will Gholston (if he’s back), George Johnson and either Charlton or Harris as the top rush ends.

Throw in a Howard Jones, Ryan Russell and Channing Ward and at the very least you’d have an interesting battle for game-day snaps.

At best you might finally have a pass rush that gets past the 40-sack mark. Believe it or not, it has now been 12 years since the Bucs had one of those.

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