DAY 2 IS IN THE BOOKS!
Jason Licht and his staff have killed it in the first three rounds of this draft. They’ve brought in, not one, but two versatile and speedy pass rushers in Pitt’s Calijah Kancey and Louisville’s Yaya Diaby to boost the d-line. And they brought in another nasty, mauling ginger-headed badass to boost the o-line in North Dakota State offensive tackle Cody Mauch.
So, what’s left to fill?
Well, I’m glad you asked. There are plenty of holes left on this 2023 Buccaneers roster. After trading one of their three sixth round picks to Green Bay to move up a couple of spots in the second round and grab Mauch, the Bucs now have just five picks on Day 3. Unfortunately, they don’t have a fourth round pick, so they’ll have to wait until Round 5 to make their next pick. That is unless Jason Licht figures out a way to trade back up.
After filling their needs in the trenches, the Bucs still need to add depth to their secondary, maybe grab a tight end and a running back and find a realistic backup at inside linebacker. It wouldn’t hurt to throw a wide receiver in there either. That’s five positions to fill with five picks left.
Sounds easy enough, right?
So let’s take a look at my top prospects that could be available to the Buccaneers in each round on Day 3 starting with Round 5.
1. TE Zack Kuntz, Old Dominion
Tampa Bay needs a tight end and if they had to wait until Day 3 to get one, then this is the draft to do it. At 6’7″/265lbs, Kuntz has the size, athleticism and speed to make him a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. Right now, the Bucs have a good dual threat tight end in Cade Otton and a blocking tight end in Ko Kieft. Now what they need is a field stretching tight end. Kuntz is just that.
2. ILB Ivan Pace Jr, Cincinnati
With Lavonte David entering the twilight of his career and Devin White apparently wanting out of Tampa, the Bucs need to start finding eventual replacements for both of them. They also need a realistic backup in case one of them goes down with an injury this season. Pace is a speedy, sideline-to-sideline off the ball linebacker that could fill that role.
3. S Jammie Robinson, Florida State
Safety is still a big need for the Buccaneers defense and they’ll need to address it on Day 3. Robinson is a solid in-the-box safety that is a force against the run.
4. OT Warren McLendon, Georgia
If the Bucs want to continue building their trenches, they could probably stand to add some depth at offensive tackle. McLendon is one of the most athletic tackles left on the board, so if Tampa Bay is going to take one more, it may as well be him. He’s experienced, tough and he’s above average as both a run-blocker and pass protector.
5. DL Karl Brooks, Bowling Green
Again, if the Bucs are still interested in building the trenches, Brooks would be a great piece to add to their d-line. He’s got versatility playing at outside linebacker, defensive end and defensive tackle. He’s explosive and powerful. And he’s a strong run defender, as well as an aggressive pass rusher. They probably aren’t looking to add another d-lineman in this draft, but if they are, then Brooks could be that guy.
1. CB Arquon Bush, Cincinnati
After losing Sean Murphy-Bunting to Tennessee in free agency, the Bucs could use a nickel corner to go along with Carlton Davis III and Jamel Dean on the outside. Bush is solid in coverage and an above-average run defender. At 6’/187lbs, he’s got good size and speed to be the nickel the Bucs are needing right now.
2. ILB Dee Winters, Texas Christian
At 5’11″/225lbs, Winters is a speedy off-the-ball linebacker who’s a rangy run defender and solid in coverage. He’s another guy that could be a solid pick as a backup to David and/or White AND the eventual replacements for one or the other after this season.
3. RB Muhomad Ibrahim, Minnesota
Yeah, I know. Rachaad White is going to be the Bucs primary running back this season and I’m glad he’s getting that opportunity. However, they could still add some depth behind him. They did sign free agent Chase Edmonds a few weeks ago as their new third down back, but they still need more bodies in that RB room. Even at 5’8″/200lbs, Ibrahim is still a tough runner with good power and speed who doesn’t shy away from contact as a pass blocker.
4. RB Deuce Vaughn, Kansas State
At 5’5″/180lbs, Vaughn is considered “undersized” as an NFL running back. He tends to use it to his advantage to be a compacted little wrecking ball that can break tackles if defenders don’t wrap him up. He’s got Barry Sanders like cutting ability and agility, which almost looks like a video game at times. He also has great hands coming out of the backfield. He’s a fun player to watch, and the Bucs might like to compliment what they already have in their backfield with a player like him.
5. CB Anthony Johnson, Virginia
At 6’2″/205lbs, he’s a big corner that gives receivers all they can handle when he’s in press coverage. He’s strong and physical up at the line of scrimmage, yet still has the length and speed to handle coverage downfield. If Todd Bowles wants a big corner in there at nickel, then this could end up being their guy.
1. TE Noah Gindorff, North Dakota State
If the Bucs are still looking for a tight end late in the sixth or seventh rounds, Gindorff could be their guy. At 6’6″/265lbs, he has great size and power as an in-line blocker. He also uses those traits as an open field runner to get yards after the catch. He’s probably the best dual threat tight end left on the board and the Bucs would be smart to take him at this point.
2. WR Justin Shorter, Florida
Some may not see wide receiver as a position that needs to be addressed in this draft, but I disagree. Besides Mike Evans at 6’5″, the Bucs don’t have another receiver over 6’1″ (Chris Godwin), so they could stand to add a little size to that group. At 6’4″/230lbs, Shorter has a massive frame and a HUGE catch radius. He also uses his size to be an aggressive downfield blocker, which is something the Bucs could use in their new run-heavy offense.
3. S Kaevon Merriweather, Iowa
If Tampa Bay is still in the market for a safety this late, then Merriweather could be their guy. He’s probably best at strong safety, but has the ability to play on the back end at free safety as well. Todd Bowles likes his safeties to be versatile and play different roles within his defense and that’s just what Merriweather could do.
4. S Trey Dean III, Florida
Another versatile safety that could still be available this late, Dean offers great size and strength from that position. At Florida, he started at cornerback and was converted to safety where he played both strong and free, as well as some as a hybrid linebacker. He’s an aggressive, physical run defender who offers the ability to cover tight ends and running backs from that nickel safety position. As I said before, Bowles loves these types of versatile players that he can move around and play chess with on the field. So if Dean is still on the board, look for him to be the Bucs pick.
5. RB Camerun Peoples, Appalachian State
At 6’2″/220lbs, Peoples offers something that the Bucs current backfield doesn’t have…size. Right now, Rachaad White is the biggest back in their room at 6’/215lbs. Peoples a power back, which the Buccaneers badly need after being one of the worst running offenses last season. He’s not going to be an NFL feature back, or even a primary back in this league. However, he could thrive in a specific role within a running back-by-committee situation like the Bucs have now. White and Ke’Shawn Vaughn would be the workhorses, with Edmonds as the third down back and Peoples as the power/short yardage back. If he’s still available in the seventh round, then it’s a pick that makes a lot of sense to me.