June 1, 2023

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Five First-Round Possibilities For The Bucs

6 min read

THE NFL DRAFT IS HERE!

You can tell by all of the mock drafts being released and by all the fans arguing over who their teams should draft in the first round. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in a position that they haven’t been in for quite some time. They have multiple BIG needs to fill on their roster. For the first time in a few years, the Bucs could go a few different ways with their first round pick. They have needs at offensive tackle, safety, running back, defensive line and pass rusher. You could even make the argument for tight end and quarterback and I wouldn’t disagree. However, they only have one pick in the first round. That 19th pick will set the tone for the rest of the draft and it could go a number of different ways.

Tampa Bay’s biggest need has got to be offensive tackle. With the exit of left tackle Donovan Smith and swing tackle Josh Wells, they need to bring a player into that position that can have an immediate impact. You could also say the same about edge rusher and safety. The Buccaneers pass rush was severely lacking last season, especially after Shaq Barrett went down with his achilles injury. There’s question marks surrounding whether or not he can come back from that injury and be the same productive pass rusher that he was before. The team is also wondering if Joe Tryon-Shoyinka can still develop into the sack artist that he was drafted to be. Sure, they re-signed Anthony Nelson which will help. But Nelson is what he is, a quality rotational outside linebacker that will give you 5 sacks a season. Tampa Bay needs another killer on the edge. Even IF Shaq returns to his former self and JTS takes that next step this season, they could still use another threat from that outside linebacker position. And if the right guy is still there at #19, then the pick makes sense.

Safety is probably the second biggest need on the team. Even though they signed free agent Ryan Neal, one of PFF’s top rated safeties from 2022, they still need another starting quality safety. Todd Bowles likes to use three safeties in a lot of his coverage schemes, so they need to grab someone to go along with Neal and Antoine Winston Jr. Not only is safety on the table for this first round pick, but it’s probably a position that Tampa Bay might double-dip into in this draft.

As for the other three positions listed below, they are simply “best player available” scenarios. Quarterback, running back and defensive tackle are all positions of need for the Buccaneers, but they aren’t necessarily the biggest needs. If the Bucs decide to use their 19th pick on either of these positions, it would be because of one of two things. Either that player is the top-rated player on their board OR it’s simply a player too goo to be passed up. No matter what the reason or who the pick is, Tampa Bay will be getting a player that will be able to immediately contribute.

I’m here to go over the possibilities of that 19th pick. The players that could be available to the Bucs when they go on the clock Thursday night. I’m not advocating for any of these players per say. I also wouldn’t oppose to any of them either. Any one of these guys would be a fantastic choice and the Bucs could justify making any one of these decisions. So, here are the top rated players that could be available when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers go on the clock at the 2023 NFL Draft tonight.

 

1. OT

Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics

 

 

 

 

 

 

I didn’t name a specific player here because it’s not that easy.  It seems like Ohio State left tackle Paris Johnson Jr is #1 on the Buccaneers wishlist. Unfortunately, he’s also #1 on a lot of team’s lists, so he’s probably not going to fall to them with that 19th pick. Of the top five tackles in the draft class, only one or two might be available when the Bucs pick. Those two could be Oklahoma left tackle Anton Harrison and Tennessee right tackle Darnell Wright. Either one would be a great pick. I don’t think both of them will be there for the Bucs. Maybe one of them will be. Maybe neither of them will be. But if Tampa Bay can get one of these guys, it will help solidify their o-line for the foreseeable future.

 

2. RB Bijan Robinson

It’s not likely, but there is the possibility the Bucs could draft Robinson. Do they need a running back? Not necessarily. But would they pass on the opportunity to take a blue chip back like him? I doubt it. He’s a special talent. He’s one of those “generational backs” that you hear some draft experts talk about. He probably won’t even make it this deep in the draft. He could go as early as #10 to the Eagles. It wouldn’t surprise me if Jerry Jones trades up into the top 15 to get him on the Cowboys. He’s the kind of talent that anyone could pull the trigger on at any time in this first round. However, if he is there with the 19th pick, don’t be surprised if the Buccaneers do take him. I don’t care what they say about Rachaad White. It will be a tempting choice for anyone, including Tampa Bay.

 

3. S Brian Branch

This used to be a realistic option for me at 19 until the Buccaneers signed free agent Ryan Neal. Now, it would be a luxury pick. Maybe that’s a poor way to put it. Now it seems like a bit of a reach. I’ve seen Branch falling into the second round in some mock drafts. I don’t expect that to actually happen. However, it would make more sense to take him IF neither one of those tackles are on the board at 19 and the Bucs can trade back later in the first round. That scenario would make a lot more sense to me than reaching a little bit for a safety that the Bucs don’t necessarily “need“. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see Branch in the same secondary with Winfield Jr. and Neal. But I would just prefer to get him with the 24th pick rather than the 19th pick.

 

4. DT Calijah Kancey

“The next Aaron Donald“. That’s how some draft evaluators have describe Kancey. Maybe it’s just because he’s an “undersized” defensive tackle from Pitt. Or maybe it’s because he’s an absolute terror for offensive linemen to handle as a pass rusher. Either way, how would you like to be known as the General Manager that passed up on the next Aaron Donald? I wouldn’t want that on my resume’. That, combined with the Buccaneers need to better their pass rush, makes Kancey an interesting possibility with that 19th pick.

 

5. Edge Nolan Smith

If those top five offensive tackles are off the board, the Bucs could go for an edge rusher. There should be a few really good ones still available at this point of the draft and Smith should be one of them. He is everything the Bucs are lacking and should be looking for as a pass rusher in this draft. If he’s there, he most definitely could be the pick.

 

BONUS: QB Will Levis

One more possibility, even though it’s not as realistic as these others, is for the Bucs to take a quarterback. I don’t think any of those top four QB prospects will fall all the way to 19, but anything can happen in the NFL Draft. Even though they spent a second round pick on Kyle Trask two years ago and signed Baker Mayfield in free agency, neither of those guys are what anyone should consider a “franchise quarterback“. Levis is that. And the Buccaneers are really, really high on him, according to some sources. Unfortunately for them, so are most of the other teams in the top 20 picks. I seriously doubt he makes it out of the top ten, but if he falls to the Bucs for some reason, don’t be surprised if they draft their franchise QB for the next 10 years.