NFL Draft: Mel Kiper Jr. has Buccaneers Reaching Big Time for Leonard Fournette’s Eventual Replacement

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers saw a giant sigh of relief set in after Tom Brady unretired and returned to the organization for at least one more season. With that, others followed suit, including Ryan Jensen and Leonard Fournette.

The Buccaneers are getting most of the band back together in 2022 and are still waiting on Rob Gronkowski’s decision. Because of that, there aren’t too many pressing needs in the 2022 NFL Draft, although they desperately need some quality rookies added to an aging squad.

ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. dropped his recent mock draft and has a stunning pick for the Buccaneers in the first round by grabbing Fournett’es eventual replacement.

Mel Kiper Jr. has the Buccaneers selecting Breece Hall in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft

The Buccaneers are being linked to Breece Hall.
Leonard Fournette and Breece Hall | Cliff Welch/ David Purdy/ Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It took a while for Fournette to re-sign with Tampa Bay. He explored the free-agent market and even visited the New England Patriots before deciding to return on a three-year deal.

Still, even after Fournette’s decision, Kiper is rolling with Breece Hall to the Buccaneers at the end of the first round.

Is this a need for Tampa Bay? Of course it is, especially with Ronald Jones leaving to sign with the Kansas City Chiefs in free agency. There are other needs for the Buccaneers in the first round, but as Kiper mentioned, getting the unquestioned top running back in the draft class is hard to pass up at the end of the first round.

Hall brings a lot to the table and will be a breath of fresh air for the Buccaneers if they decide to go that route.

Running backs in the first round is tough to justify for most teams, but the Buccaneers only have Ke’Shawn Vaughn on the depth chart after Fournette, so an influx of talent is needed in a big way.

On the other hand, this could be a massive reach for the Buccaneers if they go this route.

The Buccaneers don’t need to reach for a running back in the first round at all

Breece Hall has stayed atop the running back board for a long time and should continue to do the same leading up to the NFL Draft.

But there isn’t a pressing reason why the Buccaneers need to grab a running back this early. Do they need depth? Yes. But should they pass on offensive line options such as Zion Johnson or even defensive help like George Karlaftis or Nakobe Dean?

The talent Hall brings is evident, but the Buccaneers also need defensive help, especially with guys like Jason Pierre-Paul and Ndamukong Suh unsigned.

On top of that, the depth in this RB class is impressive, and Tampa Bay could benefit from waiting a round or two to grab somebody else. Maybe they get Texas A&M star Isaiah Spiller in the second round or Georgia product James Cook or Notre Dame RB Kyrien Williams later in Day Two.

The pick of Hall in the first round just feels like a reach that the Buccaneers don’t need to make, especially after giving Fournette a three-year contract.

Iowa State star Breece Hall is generating more and more Round 1 buzz leading into the draft

Well, that makes things interesting.

Is Hall a reach for Tampa Bay in Round 1? Probably. However, he is starting to generate more and more discussion as a Round 1 product as the draft gets closer.

Many mock drafts have Round 1 ending without a single RB selected, which has become a common trend. Last year, Najee Harris went to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round and Travis Etienne went to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

It looks like the only option to go on Day One is Hall this time around. Another RB-needy team that might take a chance on Hall in Round 1 is the Buffalo Bills, who pick before the Buccaneers.

The end of the first round is always a toss-up, especially for a team like the Buccaneers. However, they shouldn’t feel the need to draft a running back that early.

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