By J.T. Olson
The Buccaneers are just over a week away from the NFL draft. To this point we have seen approximately a million mock drafts and over a dozen players commonly projected to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the 27th overall pick. Just like the Bucs, it’s time we all start narrowing our shortlist on who the Buccaneers will take.
Who Is The Likely Player Pool?
There have been many players connected to the Buccaneers in the 1st round. The most common names are:
– Devonte Wyatt, Defensive Tackle, Georgia
– Travis Jones, Defensive Tackle, Connecticut
– Jordan Davis, Defensive Tackle, Georgia
– Zion Johnson, Guard, Boston College
– Kenyon Green, Offensive Line, Texas A&M
– Tyler Linderbaum, Center, Iowa
– Kaiir Elam, Cornerback, Florida
– Daxton Hill, Safety, Michigan
– Lewis Cine, Safety, Georgia
– Breece Hall, Running Back, Iowa State
– Treylon Burks, Wide Receiver, Arkansas
– Chris Olave, Wide Receiver, Ohio State
That is a lot of talented players to choose from; so how do we begin to narrow it down? Process of elimination. Here’s what I mean.
Anyone who follows the Bucs can identify where they need to add talent to the roster. A pass rushing defensive tackle, a tight end and a left guard to protect Tom Brady. Additionally, looking at future needs after this coming season, a cornerback of the future, a backup running back, a safety and somebody to play nickel. Despite the philosophy of just drafting the best player regardless of need I believe this can eliminate a few players off the Buccaneers list.
Jordan Davis is a fantastic nose tackle. He shuts down the running games and makes everyone around him better. Frankly, there hasn’t been a prospect like him since Vita Vea. With that said, the Bucs already have Vea and Davis doesn’t provide the pass rush the Bucs are looking for. For those reasons, I would take him off the list of potential selections with the 27th pick.
Breece Hall is widely considered to be the best running back in this draft. He’s a physical between the tackles runner who does most things pretty well. In terms of what the Bucs want he’d really be a great fit. With that said, Tampa Bay just re-signed Leonard Fournette to a three year deal. And while I believe there is a need for a running back, taking one this early to be a backup seems highly unlikely. Taking him of the board in the first round is a safe bet.
Bucs general manager Jason Licht has an established history at this point in his career. He has made eight first round picks in his tenure and at this point some trends have developed. Specifically, Licht has a history of drafting great athletes early in the draft.
Of the eight players Licht has drafted in the first round, six of them posted a relative athletic score above 9.0 (on a scale from 0-10). The two who fell below that mark were Jameis Winston, a pocket quarterback, and Mike Evans, who is a very unique athlete in his own right. That means Licht’s last six consecutive picks have all met that 9.0 relative athletic score threshold.
Of the players commonly projected to the Bucs, five fell below that mark. Those players are Kaiir Elam, Kenyon Green, Treylon Burks, Chris Olave, and Tyler Linderbaum. And while Linderbaum and Olave did test well, Green and Burks were just a little above average.
Keep in mind that none of this is a sure fire way to determine what the Buccaneers will do with their first round pick, but based on their trends we can take them off the board for now.
Ranking Who’s Left
After narrowing the board down there are five realistic options that the Bucs are likely to draft. Here’s how I believe the Bucs will rank them.
5) Lewis Cine – I believe Cine is easily the least likely to be picked by the Bucs on this list and is likely in their second tier of options with guys like Treylon Burks and Kaiir Elam. With the addition of Logan Ryan and Keanu Neal, I just don’t see a pathway for him to play baring injury. With those new additions and Mike Edwards being a free agent next year I could still see the need for Cine, but with Brady being here for just one more year it seems logical that the Bucs target an instant impact player.
4) Daxton Hill – Despite both being safeties, I have a huge gap between Hill and Cine. Part of that is just because I think Hill is a better player. Part of it is because Hill is a more versatile player. He thrived in the nickel during his time at Michigan and cap play over the top as well as make plays in the backfield. Additionally, the Bucs met with him at the combine. In germs of the Bucs short list of targets, I believe this is where the conversation starts.
3) Travis Jones – When you talk about plug and play defensive tackles, Jones is a natural fit. He has great size and power which makes him a great run defender. He also tested extremely well at the combine and has the traits that project to being a good NFL pass rusher. The only thing that may give the Bucs pause is that he played primarily nose tackle in college. And while there’s ever reason to believe he can play in more of a pass rushing role, this does require some projection.
2) Zion Johnson – Johnson is everything the Bucs want in a guard. He’s fluid, physical, athletic and intelligent. To hit the typical Licht profile, Johnson worked his way up from a small school (Davidson) before transferring to Boston College and he has left tackle experience. The only reason he slips to the second spot is just a matter of need. After drafting Robert Hainsey in the third round last year and re-signing Aaron Stinnie, who they won a Super Bowl with, the Bucs do have some reasonable in house options.
1) Devonte Wyatt – In terms of profile, Wyatt is the perfect match for the Bucs. He’s an athletic pass rushing defensive tackle and that is the biggest need on this team. Wyatt is fresh off a national championship at Georgia where he had 7.0 tackles for a loss and 2.5 sacks in 2021. Do I wish he had more than 5.0 sacks in his career at Georgia? Of course I do. But there’s every reason to believe he’ll be a more productive NFL player. I’d call him the front runner to be the Bucs pick if he’s available at 27th overall.
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