Buccaneers Eager to Strengthen Team in NFL Draft

Buccaneers' Draft Strategy Gains Momentum Ahead of NFL Event.

by Nouman Rasool
Buccaneers Eager to Strengthen Team in NFL Draft
© Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, still feeling the sting of their narrow divisional playoff loss to the Detroit Lions, are poised to strengthen their lineup through the upcoming NFL Draft. Led by quarterback Baker Mayfield, the Bucs faced formidable challenges in that crucial game, most notably from a Lions defense that applied pressure on Mayfield in 37% of his dropbacks—a season high.

The Bucs' own defense struggled to impact Lions' quarterback Jared Goff, highlighting areas in need of urgent enhancement. As the NFL Draft approaches, with coverage starting Thursday at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN, ABC, and the ESPN App, the Buccaneers are focused on capitalizing on their draft selections to bridge the gaps revealed last season.

Remarkably, all but one of Tampa Bay’s 2023 draft picks participated in that playoff game, demonstrating the immediate impact of fresh talent. This draft strategy emerges as more than necessary; it’s strategic, given the team’s operation under $80 million in dead cap space, which led to the departure of several high-priced stars.

Draft Class Expectations

General Manager Jason Licht is relying on the new class to replicate last year's immediate contributions, referencing players like Calijah Kancey and Cody Mauch, who became instrumental quickly.

However, he remains pragmatic, noting that sometimes player development can take longer than anticipated. Addressing specific needs, the Bucs find themselves at a crossroads with significant voids to fill. They're particularly looking to fortify the offensive line and the edge rusher positions.

The departure of Shaquil Barrett has left a glaring gap at outside linebacker, and there's also a critical need to strengthen the offensive line at center and left guard, not to mention cornerback—highlighted by the trade of starter Carlton Davis III to the Lions.

The draft class is rich in offensive line talent, with potential candidates like Troy Fautanu of Washington and J.C. Latham of Alabama. The Buccaneers have historically converted college tackles to interior linemen effectively, a tactic they may well continue given past successes like Ali Marpet and Alex Cappa.

As for edge rushers, the Bucs could set their sights on talents such as Alabama's Dallas Turner or UCLA's Laiatu Latu, though they may not be available by the 26th pick. The possibility of selecting a lower-profile yet high-potential player like Chop Robinson from Penn State, who boasts exceptional speed, is also on the table.

With cornerback also a key position of need, prospects like Iowa's Cooper DeJean and Alabama's Kool-Aid McKinstry, who visited with the team, are under consideration. Unexpected draft picks could also be in play, reminiscent of last year’s selection of defensive tackle Calijah Kancey, who was a surprise addition.