The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will need to answer several questions this offseason in regards to their roster. Key players are set to hit free agency, including Shaq Barrett, Lavonte David, Ndamukong Suh, Chris Godwin, Leonard Fournette, Antonio Brown, and Rob Gronkowski. Some of these names will undoubtedly be brought back on cap-friendly deals, but unfortunately, money talks for the other names. So Tampa Bay GM Jason Licht needs to get back to the drawing board and begin focusing on one of our biggest strengths the past few years: The 2021 NFL Draft.
I believe the first thing we need to come to realize is that Shaquil Barrett is going to be suiting up for someone else in 2021. This is a huge hole for the Buccaneers defense, considering they were the number one ranked run defense this past season. Barrett and Pierre-Paul were two of the main reasons that Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes struggled mightily in the Super Bowl as well.
It is important to note that I will not take into consideration free agents that Tampa Bay has been linked to in this article.
Tampa Bay should select an edge rusher with the 32nd overall pick this year. I believe that player is Miami Hurricanes Edge Rusher: Jaelan Phillips. His high motor and good hands will give the Buccaneers exactly what they are looking for to replace Barrett. Phillips is 6’5 and weighs 266 pounds. He finished with 45 tackles and 8 sacks. He also recorded 15.5 tackles for loss. This would be a very nice pick for the Buccaneers to open the draft.
In round 2, the Buccaneers could look to continue to solidify the depth on the defensive front with the selection of Pittsburgh Panthers defensive lineman: Jaylen Twyman. Pittsburgh produced one of the greatest defensive lineman of our generation in Aaron Donald. Twyman is 6’2 and weighs 290 pounds. The experts out there have made comparisons with the Defensive Player of the Year Award winner. Twyman recorded 23 tackles and 10.5 sacks. He is a traditional three-technique but would be the perfect fit for Tampa Bay’s defensive scheme. He is a matchup nightmare for any offensive lineman. Look for the Buccaneers to jump at the opportunity to steal Twyman in the 2nd round. Donald 2.0 in Tampa Bay!
Round 3: I believe that Chris Godwin will get paid in 2021, but it won’t be from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. If Florida Gator speedster, Kadarious Toney, is still on the board, I believe Jason Licht will make the selection. Toney is the name not being mentioned in this year’s wide receiver class because the top dogs are just that elite. Toney had a very productive 2020 season with 70 receptions, 984 yards, and 10 touchdowns. He projects to run a 4.44- 40 yard dash at the combine. At 6’0 and 193 pounds Kadarious Toney can play outside, slot, and more importantly, give the Buccaneers an actual weapon on special teams. He will be battling it out with Scotty Miller and Tyler Johnson, as well.
Round 4: If the Buccaneers cannot bring back Lavonte David, I believe they will dip back into the LSU talent pool and select linebacker: Jabril Cox. The former LSU Tiger was very productive this past season and could be the perfect fit with Devin White. Cox is 6’4 and weighs 231 pounds making him the perfect size to play linebacker in the NFL. While at LSU, Cox was able to learn and study the linebacker position from Devin White. Cox recorded 37 tackles, 1 sack, and 3 interceptions for LSU. He is more of a coverage linebacker but has the ability to play physically. Tampa Bay could have found the carbon copy of Lavonte David in this pick.
Round 5: The Buccaneers could select another edge rusher in Elerson Smith out of Northern Iowa. Smith is not a household name, but at 6’6, 262 pounds, maybe he could turn into that someday. He sat out the 2020 season due to covid-19, but his 2019 season was outstanding. He totaled 63 tackles, 14 sacks, and 5 forced fumbles. Also, out of the 63 total tackles, he accumulated 21.5 were tackles for loss. The Northern Iowa product could be a steal in the 5th round for Tampa Bay.
Round 7: Jason Licht and Company will address the offensive line. Why fix what isn’t broken? The Buccaneers moved up to get Iowa Hawkeye Tristan Wirfs last season, and thanks to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Buccaneers will lean on Iowa again to select OL Alaric Jackson. He played mostly left tackle for the Hawkeyes, which should make several Buccaneers fans happy. This would be the replacement for Donovan Smith. Jackson stands 6’6 and weighs 315 pounds. Most experts seem to think he will project better as a guard, but at this point, he adds depth to an already stout offensive front in Tampa Bay.
Round 7: Playoff Lenny was an absolute monster for the Buccaneers down the stretch, but the future is unknown for him returning in 2021. The argument could be made that he was the MVP of the Super Bowl. The backfield is already crowded with Ronald Jones II and Ke’Shawn Vaughn, and although I do believe the Buccaneers will offer Fournette a contract, he will be playing somewhere else in 2021. This allows Tampa Bay to select Buffalo Bulls running back Jaret Patterson. The most unknown running back on the draft board for most NFL fans stands 5’9 and weighs 195 pounds. He isn’t a burner, but the defense never seems to catch him. I like that in a running back. Drafting a guy like this would provide the perfect mix of power and speed between Patterson and Rojo. He was an absolute force for the Bulls this past season, and he displayed it all against Kent State. He rushed for 409 yards on 8 touchdowns. What is even more impressive is the 101 yards and two touchdowns on 4 carries in the first five minutes of the game. Patterson would finish the 2020 campaign with 1,072 yards and 19 touchdowns. This would be a slam dunk pick at this stage of the draft for Jason Licht and Company.
If the Buccaneers choose to go this route in this year’s draft, I believe that it addresses all of our needs for the upcoming season and beyond. These guys all have the ability to be impact players like Antoine Winfield, Devin White, and Vita Vea. GM Jason Licht has been hitting on all cylinders the past couple of drafts, so who’s to think this year will be any different. Remember, we are not “RUNNING IT BACK”; WE ARE WINNING IT AGAIN! Go Bucs!