Not since 2001 (22 seasons) Kenyatta Walker.
That’s how long it’s been since the Bucs spent a first-round pick on a left tackle. Walker was switched to the right side in his second season. You have to go back to 1991 for the next first-rounder spent on an OLT, Charles McRae — not saying much for the most important position on the team. The problem is that when most fans hear that their favorite team spent their top pick on an offensive lineman— you get crickets. A sexy pick it is not. It doesn’t draw visions of 70-yard touchdown receptions, or fleetfooted running backs shredding the field, or even a quarterback putting one over a shoulder for the TD. Although, it very well should bring those things to mind because the left tackle is often responsible for allowing those exciting plays to develop. Left tackle can make every player on the offense better, starting with a right-handed star quarterback.
Smith is finally shown the door.
From the moment; I started writing for BucsLife, I have written articles about Donovan Smith needing to be let go and the team spending a first-round pick on a dominant left tackle. Could this finally be the answer to my wishes? Smith was cut, and the draft is quickly approaching. When the team moved up to take Tristan Wirfs, it showed me that Jason Licht has it in him to pull the trigger if a talented tackle is available. This NFL Draft is considered one of the deeper ones for the offensive left tackle position than the last 3 to 5. Let’s take a look at several of the studs that will be available in the first round.
Darnell Wright – Tennessee, 6’5 1/8″, 333 lbs
Wright had the lowest blown block rate (0.0%) on run plays of any player in the top ten at the position. Wright came out on top against the best defensive lineman in the SEC and beyond. Alabama’s Will Anderson Jr., Clemson’s Bryan Bresee, and LSU’s B.J. Ojulari (all top-of-the-line players), were handled by Wright. Cream of the crop. Virtually no chance the Bucs will land this gem. He will be long gone.
Paris Johnson Jr. – Ohio State, 6’6 3/8″ 313 lbs
Johnson came up in high school working out with Willie Anderson, a former lineman with the Bengals and Ravens. It apparently went well for a young Johnson Jr., as he won the Anthony Munoz trophy given to the best high school o-lineman in the nation. He was a five-star recruit and the number one overall tackle when he was recruited by OSU and committed to the same. He started out at OSU as a right guard (2021) but switched to left tackle in 2022. Johnson’s strength is in pass protection, but his lack of much experience at left tackle should be considered. Count on Johnson to figure it out quickly. Either one of the two above could be the top tackle selected. The Bucs have basically no chance Jr. will be available when selecting unless they moved up on draft day.
Antone Harrison – Oklahoma, 6’4 1/4″ 315 lbs
Harrison started out as a basketball player but made the jump to football after transferring to high school. Over the last two seasons with Oklahoma, Harrison allowed only one sack, no hits, and just 8 hurries over those two seasons. That’s impressive. Harrison helped his running backs run out a 3.8 yards per carry through his slot as well. He’s not quite the super elite like the two above him but very talented nonetheless. This is a guy the Bucs could maybe move up to get.
Blake Freeland – BYU, 6’7 7/8″ 302 lbs
A three-sport star in high school while playing quarterback and tight end, this guy is impressive, and he is the one I think the Bucs should try and land. He played his first two seasons on the right side, then his last two on the left at BYU. He allowed no sacks in 2022. Only Darnell Wright had a better-blown run-blocking percentage than Freeland. He’s very quick off the ball and has very good movement for such a tall guy. He’s a bit underrated, and I’m hoping the Bucs can do whatever is possible to bring him into the fold. Whether that is a trade to move up or if they can get him where they sit at 19. But I’m doubtful of that.
Here’s hoping the Bucs will stand tall and make the OLT selection it needs to lead this team over the next ten seasons. A talented and strong left tackle will make everyone better. Think of what Wirfs did for the right side of the line. If the Bucs can even come close to that on the left side, we’re cooking with grease. Go Bucs!!
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