2017 NFL Mock Draft: Tampa Bay Buccaneers select Dalvin Cook with 9th pick

By Frank Cooney, NFLDraftScout.com   |   April 20, 2017 at 2:24 PM
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This is one in a series that covers each team, offering viewers information for homework, suggestions and then the opportunity to make a draft pick.

When the NFL Draft begins selections in Philadelphia April 27, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have the No. 9 pick in the first round.

Here is an in-depth look at the team's needs, offseason changes, potential best fit and the selections by NFLDraftScout.com's experts.

Who would you pick and why?

Top five needs

1. Defensive back: The Bucs used their first-round pick last season on Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves. Could they double up? Sure. Veteran Brent Grimes will be 34 in July, and even though the Bucs think he has a lot in the tank after tying for the team lead with four interceptions last season, his eventual replacement isn't on the roster. The Bucs also have a need at safety despite signing Cowboys free agent J.J. Wilcox and bringing back Chris Conte.

2. Running back: Doug Martin will miss the first three games. He is 28 and has been injured three of his five seasons. The Bucs re-signed Jacquizz Rodgers and both Charles Sims and Peyton Barber return. But the Bucs won't commit to Martin for 2017 and his contract is no longer guaranteed. With a deep draft at running back, it would not be surprising if the Bucs used an early-round pick on one such as Dalvin Cook.

3. Safety: The Bucs re-signed veteran Chris Conte and signed Cowboys free agent J.J. Wilcox. But those aren't long-term solutions. Neither has the kind of range in the passing game coordinator Mike Smith needs in his defense. A safety with speed who can make plays on the ball is needed.

4. Defensive end: The Bucs still are looking for an outside pass rusher to complement defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. Noah Spence, the team's second-round pick a year ago, showed promise with 5.5 sacks as a rookie despite playing with a separated shoulder. The Bucs re-signed defensive end William Gholston, but he is a run stopper with only three sacks a year ago. A bookend pass rusher opposite Spence would fit the need.

5. Wide receiver: This might not seem as big of a need with the signing of DeSean Jackson. However, the Bucs lost one of their wideouts when Russell Shepard signed with Carolina. Adam Humphries is strictly a slot receiver. At some point, they have to develop somebody to play opposite Mike Evans.

BEST FIT

RB Dalvin Cook, Florida State: The Bucs refuse to commit to Doug Martin, who will miss the first three games of 2017 serving a suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance enhancing drugs. His salary is no longer guaranteed. The team also re-signed Jacquizz Rodgers. But Cook would guarantee a needed component for the Bucs and quarterback Jameis Winston, his former Seminoles teammate. Cook is a three-down running back, a bell cow the Bucs really lack with explosive speed, power and the ability to make plays in the passing game. Kicker Roberto Aguayo may have been a miss in the second round a year ago, but Winston will lobby hard for Cook.

PREDICTION

Rob Rang: Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State. With Doug Martin facing a three-game suspension for PED use and coming off his third injury-shortened season, the Bucs understandably could be looking for help at running back. Reuniting Cook with former Florida State teammate Jameis Winston could be the perfect solution. Cook has off-field and durability concerns of his own, but he is an ideal fit in this offense as a slashing runner with terrific hands.

Dane Brugler: Obi Melifonwu, S, Connecticut. Tampa Bay has shown plenty of interest in Melifonwu, a player who can wear several hats in the secondary. His tape wasn't nearly as impressive as his testing numbers, but teams can't teach his athletic skill-set.

Jim Miller: Jabrill Peppers, S, Michigan.

Frank Cooney, IMO: Obi Melifonwu, S, Connecticut. This guy is fascinating, with rare athletic ability that can help overcome all those exotic mismatches that offenses attempt.

Frank Cooney, founder and publisher of The Sports Xchange and NFLDraftScout.com, is in his sixth decade covering football and 25th year on the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee.

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