TAMPA, Fla. -- With the New York Jets trading into the third spot of the 2018 NFL draft, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in better shape to land a top-five caliber prospect at No. 7. That's assuming that the Cleveland Browns, New York Giants and the Jets all select quarterbacks, which could cause a few of the elite prospects to fall into the Bucs' lap. Here's a look at who may be available:
Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State
A dream scenario would be selecting Bradley Chubb, arguably the top defender in the draft. The Bucs have focused heavily on improving their defensive line play this offseason, signing defensive tackles Beau Allen and Mitch Unrein and defensive end Vinny Curry in free agency. But Chubb is a true edge rusher who can play every snap from Day 1. This would also be a big help for 2016 second-round pick Noah Spence, who is recovering from his second shoulder surgery in two years.
The Browns, who also select at No. 4, don't need a pass-rusher after drafting Myles Garrett in 2017 and Emmanuel Ogbah in 2016. The Denver Broncos no longer need a quarterback with a top pick after trading for Case Keenum, but do have needs with their pass rush, which is where Chubb could come in. But they also have to account for the loss of Aqib Talib, which could bring a cornerback into play. With the Bucs signing center Ryan Jensen (the Colts were looking at him as a guard), general manager Jason Licht may have effectively forced the Colts to draft offensive guard Quenton Nelson.
Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
Fitzpatrick is a true Swiss army knife, with the ability to play cornerback on the outside, nickelback, safety and he can be a core special teams performer. In three seasons at Alabama, he had nine interceptions with four defensive touchdowns, 26 pass breakups and 171 combined tackles.The Bucs re-signed cornerback Brent Grimes on a one-year deal with Vernon Hargreaves currently their No. 2. Hargreaves, the 11th overall pick in the 2016 draft, struggled last season and right now, he's best-suited to play nickel. Fitzpatrick would give him the option to stay at nickel and regain confidence for one more year. Taking Fitzpatrick and making him a corner may be an admission that Hargreaves isn't yet who they thought he was, but when a team gives up a league-high 260.6 passing yards per game -- as the Bucs did in 2017 -- it's more about results than pride.
Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
The same argument to draft Fitzpatrick goes for Ward -- the Bucs can't afford to have a weak link in their pass defense -- not in a division that includes quarterbacks Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Cam Newton, and features top receivers Julio Jones and Michael Thomas. Considering the success Marshon Lattimore had his rookie season, his Ohio State teammate deserves a look. In the last two seasons, Ward had 24 pass breakups -- 15 in 2017 -- with two interceptions. He clocked a 4.32 in the 40-yard dash, tied for the fastest 40 time at the NFL combine. His frame's a bit on the smaller side -- 5-foot-10 and 191 pounds -- but still big enough to play outside. According to Pro Football Focus, Ward has allowed a completion percentage of only 35 percent over the last two years.
Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
Barkley would instantly upgrade a Bucs' offense that averaged 90.6 rushing yards per game in 2017, 27th in the league. The two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, Barkley's 5,038 yards from scrimmage were the most among Power 5 players at any position from 2015-2017 and set a school record. He also set a school record for total touchdowns (53) and rushing touchdowns (43). He became the first player in Penn State history to amass 3,000 career rushing yards (3,843) and 1,000 receiving yards (1,195). Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter loves explosive plays, which are rushing plays of 12 or more yards and receiving plays of 16 or more yards. Barkley produced 117 explosives, tied with Royce Freeman for the most in Power 5 from 2015-2017.
Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame
The Bucs addressed a huge need along their offensive line by signing center Ryan Jensen in free agency, which moves Ali Marpet back to guard, opposite J.R. Sweezy. Sweezy is, however, recovering from a lower leg injury. Nelson would certainly help a Bucs' ground game that fell from fifth-ranked in 2015 to 27th in 2017. According to Pro Football Focus, Nelson allowed only five pressures last season. In three years with Nelson, the Fighting Irish averaged 5.52 yards per carry, sixth-most of any Power 5 school.