A week from today, the 2022 NFL Draft will begin. The Bucs select No. 27 overall, looking to add a stud contributor to their already strong roster. Here are four picks the team should avoid when selecting in Round 1.
1. Travis Jones, DT, UConn
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I actually like Travis Jones’ game, which has made this decision difficult. For awhile, I was impartial on this pick. Now, I’m against it. Jones hasn’t shown up to the Bucs in a ton of mock drafts, but it’s happened enough that I wanted to address him here. While the UConn defensive tackle is a good player, he’s mostly an A-gap run stuffer in the NFL. The Bucs already have two good ones in Vita Vea and Rakeem Nunez-Roches. They are different types of players, but both are excellent against the run.
What Tampa Bay needs is more explosiveness and pass rush ability on the inside. There are just a few players who fit that bill in this class, and Jones isn’t one of them. The 325-pound senior has some rush ability, but he lacks the twitchiness to get through gaps and apply quick pressure behind the line of scrimmage to running backs and quarterbacks. Jones should have a long NFL career, but he’s not a first round caliber player, and he’s not an ideal fit for the Bucs.
2. Any Running Back
Bucs RB Leonard Fournette – Photo by: USA Today
If you know anything about me as an evaluator, you’re not surprised by this one. Running back is the least valuable position on the field, so it should seldom be chosen in Round 1. But, more importantly, the Bucs don’t even have a big need at the position anymore. Leonard Fournette, who proved to be an every down back last year, returns on a three-year contract. And Giovani Bernard and Ke’Shawn Vaughn are a balanced pair of capable backups.
Even if an injury befell Fournette, running backs that can play are available off the street every season. The Bucs certainly don’t need to take the first running back off the board in an average running back class in order to fortify the position. If Tampa Bay insists on taking a back later in the draft, so be it. I’m not a fan of it, but at least they’ll avoid the position in Round 1.
But over-drafting a running back next week would be a disaster. Not only would it waste a valuable pick on the least valuable position, but it would also add a player with no clear path to early playing time. Also, it would make the decision to pay Fournette even more questionable, especially if he ends up splitting time eventually. Finally, if it signaled an approach to a more run-heavy Bucs offense under Todd Bowles, Tampa Bay’s championship hopes would drop, along with their offensive output.
3. Kenyon Green, OG, Texas A&M
Texas A&M G Kenyon Green – Photo by: USA Today
I like Green as a player just fine. If the Bucs were building up their offensive line, I would be fine with a talented rookie who needs a lot of technical work. But Tampa Bay’s front already boasts four of the better linemen in the NFL. And at left guard, three promising young players are set to compete for playing time. Do they really need to add a fourth player to the mix? Green has a higher ceiling than the Bucs current left guard options, no question. But his hand placement, strike timing and pad level are concerns.
While Green’s bad habits are being coached out, the Bucs will be trying to win a Super Bowl. They’re as likely to do that with Aaron Stinnie or Robert Hainsey in the lineup this season. Or a later round guard. Green isn’t a can’t-miss, plug-and-play rookie stud in my opinion. Long-term, yes he could help the Bucs offensive line. But he’s a guard, good ones pop up every year. Plus, the Bucs shouldn’t need to invest heavily at left guard if their four other starters play as well as they should. So, despite Green’s talent, the smart move is to pass on him next week. Currently, Green is the second-most mocked player to the Bucs over the past two months, per Grinding The Mocks.
4. George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue
Purdue DE George Karlaftis – Photo by: USA Today
This may surprise some people, but Grinding The Mocks has Karlaftis as the fifth-most often mocked player to the Bucs since March. In fact, 16 percent of all mocks have sent Karlaftis to Tampa Bay. I would not be a fan of that pick at all. While Karlaftis is an intense and physical player, his functional athleticism for the position leaves something to be desired. Karlaftis is too easily eliminated in the run game, and doesn’t have the agility to play in space either. Ohio State forced him to do so with their run concepts, and Karlaftis predictably struggled.
Of course, that doesn’t mean Karlaftis can’t bring value to a team. I think there is a role for him as a rotational player in year one, but the Bucs already have three capable edge defenders. Karlaftis doesn’t profile as a player who can kick inside on more than long-and-late downs. The Bucs need interior pass rush that can also play inside on first and second down. Remember, no defense was thrown against more in neutral situations than Tampa Bay’s last season. GM Jason Licht needs to focus on bringing in players more capable of handling a larger role on the interior. And, hopefully, with higher ceilings than Karlaftis.
Jon Ledyard is PewterReport.com's newest Bucs beat writer and has experience covering the Pittsburgh Steelers as a beat writer and analyzing the NFL Draft for several draft websites, including The Draft Network. Follow Ledyard on Twitter at @LedyardNFLDraft
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