A Bucs Best Bet and Pewter Report’s final prediction for Tampa Bay’s first round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Bucs selection of Washington OLB Joe Tryon at 32 overall was not a huge surprise. Recent rumors had the edge rusher’s stock climbing into the first round, despite an opt-out season that saw Tryon finish his college career with just nine sacks. But what we didn’t realize at the time was how close the Bucs were to passing on Tryon and other opt-out players altogether.
“Originally, I said we probably aren’t gonna take anyone that opted out,” Bucs head coach Bruce Arians said on the Pewter Report Podcast. “But then..well, wait a minute. Why did they opt out? Then you start looking at the players, start looking at the junior and sophomore tape and say ‘yeah, there’s some really, really good players that didn’t play this year, for whatever reason’. Joe was one of those guys. All you saw were the arrows going up. Every time you watched him you saw arrows going up.”
Washington edge rusher Joe Tryon
Tryon checked in at 6-5, 259 pounds with 34-inch arms at his pro day on March 30th. The chiseled edge defender proceeded to run a 4.68 40-yard dash at that size, before jumping 35 inches in the vertical and posting a 7.18 3-cone. The workout generated plenty of buzz in NFL circles, none more than in Tampa Bay’s front office, where Tryon skyrocketed up the Bucs draft board.
“His pro day workout was probably the kicker for me,” Arians said. “I thought after his pro day workout that he might have been the best outside [linebacker] in the draft.”
When Tampa Bay was finally on the clock at No. 32, it took GM Jason Licht and co. about 30 seconds to turn in their draft card. The decision was quickly followed by high fives and cheers all around, as the Bucs’ brass celebrated another addition to their championship roster.
“Well, it was about midnight,” Arians said, laughing as he recalled how quickly the team turned in their pick. “So we’re like ‘if he’s there bro, we’re taking him and we’re out of here. Let’s go get some sleep and do it again tomorrow’. But we were so excited that Joe was still there. We knew there were gonna be some outside [pass rushers] going right around that time in front of us (in the first round). We had [Tryon] really highly-rated and we’re really excited about having him on our team.”
Arians wasn’t kidding about the run on pass rushers near the bottom of the first round. Edge defenders came off the board at No. 28 to New Orleans, No. 30 to Buffalo and No. 31 to Baltimore, yet Tryon remained for the Bucs at No. 32. Tampa Bay considered all their options before selecting the Seattle native.
“We had three (players), we had three that we really, really liked (at No. 32 overall).” Arians said. “The thing for our football team right now, just making this team…trading back and maybe getting a fifth, sixth rounder, he’s probably not making our ball club. Might make our practice squad. So it was like, let’s get guys that can help us right now. Luckily we got the one we really wanted.”
Bucs OLB Joe Tryon – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
One of the challenges of evaluating the Bucs draft class is recognizing that they weren’t necessarily trying to obtain the best players on the board like other teams were. Tampa Bay couldn’t, because the Bucs have no room on the roster for more high-end talent, save for a few positions. Once the draft moved into day 3, it was all about finding special teams contributors to fill out the bottom of the roster. None of the team’s four day 3 picks appear to be locks to make the final roster at this time.
“Jason and I were talking about it pre-draft,” Arians said. “If somebody wants to [trade up] what are we going to get? If we’re not getting a 3rd or 4th (round pick)…yeah that’s gonna be a practice squad guy for us.”
In a normal year, Tampa Bay would have considered trading down, something Licht has done twice in Round 1. But given the loaded nature of the Bucs roster, there really wasn’t room for additional day 3 picks to make the team. That knowledge allowed Tampa Bay to eliminate trade-down options and just choose the top player at a position of need. At No. 32 overall, there was little doubt in the draft room that Tryon was that player.