The Tampa Bay Buccaneers heartbreaking playoff loss was only a few short days ago. And while this disappointment is still fresh in everyone’s mind, the offseason waits for no one. The first big event of the NFL draft season is upon us as participants in this year’s Senior Bowl will be reporting for practices at the start of the coming week.
With so many question marks surrounding the Bucs heading into the offseason they will potentially have a lot of holes to fill on this roster. Key free agents could be on their way out from the offensive line, wide receivers, tight ends, running backs, defensive tackles and even quarterback. This week can hopefully provide some answers as to who could be filling those voids.
The Senior Bowl is an event that the Bucs have paid attention to in recent years. In fact, They’ve drafted at least one player from this event every year in general manager Jason Licht’s tenure with the Buccaneers, including three players last year. It seems more than likely that they will continue that trend in 2022. If they do, here are 10 players I believe they will be looking at.
The Buccaneers have three free agent running backs and the only guy returning is an unproven Ke’Shawn Vaughn. The team will need to add at least one running back in the draft and they just project to have too many needs to invest a high pick on one. They will have to find value in a day three ball carrier who can make an impact for them.
One such back they could target is Alabama’s Brian Robinson Jr. He brings great size at 6’1 and 225 and is built to be a bell cow back. Robinson is also an asset in the passing game, both as a blocker and a pass catcher. He would be able to step right in and start as a rookie
The biggest name at the event will be Doak Walker finalist Tyler Badie. Badie is short at just 5’8, but he’s got a compact build and good quickness. He is a weapon catching the ball out of the backfield and if nothing else can be a valuable part of a rotation.
With Rob Gronkowski and O.J. Howard hitting free agency the Buccaneers could be in the market for a new tight end. Ruckert is an intriguing option who has more talent than his statistics show. He pulled in just over 300 yards and 3 touchdowns were nothing to write home about, but it’s worth noting that he was part of a pass catching group that likely included three first round picks at wide receiver. This week will be a good chance for him to show off his skill set and he’s definitely a guy the Bucs should have an eye on.
From the big pass catchers to the little ones, wide receiver Calvin Austin is a name on my radar. He is very small at just 165 lbs, but he plays bigger than his size indicates. Austin is very quick and projects as a very good route runner and separator at the next level. He will likely fall in the draft due to his size, but if this is something the Bucs feel comfortable with then he could be a great value pick.
One name I’ll be keeping an eye on is Chris Paul. No I’m not talking about the NBA super star, I’m talking about the offensive lineman from Tulsa. At 6’4 and 325 lbs, Paul moves fairly well for his size. He projects as a developmental interior offensive lineman which is important for a Buccaneers team who could be losing to starters there.
On the other side of the ball, it’s the defensive line that will need more immediate attention. With Ndamukong Suh and Steve McLendon potentially retiring this offseason the Bucs will need to infuse their defensive tackle group with young talent. Fortunately, this is an especially deep group at the Senior Bowl.
Travis Jones (UConn) is a big powerful tackle who holds the point of attack. It’s difficult to run at him and he’s shown flashes with his strength and hand usage to believe there is upside here as a pass rusher.
Oklahoma’s Perrion Winfrey has a game built around quickness off the line of scrimmage and athletic ability. He can be very disruptive as a pass rusher and with more refinement has potential to be great in this area. This comes at the expense of some power upfront, but after watching Matthew Stafford pick the Buccaneers defense apart with little pressure it might be a trade off worth considering.
“The other defensive tackle” at Georgia is Devonte Wyatt. He is a bit of a blend of both of these two. He has good size and strength to hold up against the run, but also flashes a good jump and ability to make splash plays.
Any of these three would be a great addition in the second round.
Eye on the Future
The linebackers and secondary are basically set going into next season. Carlton Davis is going to be a free agent, but I expect him to be a high priority to re-sign. Lavonte David is beginning to appreciate his mid 30s and it might be wise to groom his eventual replacement.
Terrel Bernard is a fast and physical linebacker out of Baylor. He is a bit undersized, but he is a missile on the field. Additionally, he brings coverage skills that guys like Grant Stuard and KJ Britt simply do not. He makes for a great mid round developmental linebacker who can thrive on special teams and eventually move into the starting lineup.
Jason Licht has developed a few patterns in his time as the Buccaneers general manager. One of them is drafting corners from Auburn. Both Carlton Davis and Jamel Dean were drafted out of Auburn in recent years and I won’t be surprised if Licht goes back to that well this year. Roger McCreary is the latest in this line of cornerbacks. He is physical and fluid and would be a perfect match for this Buccaneers defense.