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We’ve talked a lot about who the Bucs should select with the 32nd overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. To the point where the options feel narrowed down to just a few position groups. The Bucs could look for an edge defender to eventually replace the aging outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul. They could look for depth on the offensive line to step in for Ryan Jensen and/or Alex Cappa in 2022. Or find a wide receiver to replace Antonio Brown. A few other positions like defensive tackle or cornerback remain less likely, but are still possibilities depending on who is on the board at 32.

But the reality is, Tampa Bay shouldn’t select a player at any of those positions. Not in the first round. Not at No. 32 overall.

No, in this draft class, the Bucs should be concerned with one thing above all else: trading back to stockpile picks in future, better drafts, or to acquire more opportunities to draft a good player in this year’s class.

Bucs GM Jason Licht and QB Tom Brady

Bucs GM Jason Licht and QB Tom Brady – Photo by: USA Today

I’m not saying next year’s draft will be better than this one. I really don’t know what 2022 holds, and I’m not sure anyone else does either. With all the opt-outs for this past season and how little college football was played in many conferences, we are more in the dark about future drafts than ever before. But we do know this draft class is not very good or is very risky at the key positions that the Bucs need to address for their roster long term.

Sitting at 32 overall, the Bucs are highly unlikely to get one of a handful of premier players in the draft, especially at one of the few positions they should look to address. If they have the opportunity to trade back and acquire future picks, that could be extremely beneficial in their quest to find Tom Brady’s eventual replacement, or to move up for a game-changer player at another position of need in next year’s draft if necessary.

Trading back is such a useful strategy when you’re in the draft position the Bucs are in, because it gives you more opportunities to acquire good players in a range of the draft where things become more of a crapshoot, especially in 2021. Believe it or not, spraying and praying is a good draft strategy! It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make educated guesses at positions of value/need, but the more guesses (picks) you have, the better the chances you land a good player. Or maybe two.

There have been studies indicating just how useful this strategy is, and while I don’t appeal completely to the science behind something with so many variables, Tampa Bay’s draft position in 2021 is exactly where the principle can be perfectly applied. The way I see this class, and the way most classes actually unfold, picks 20-32 aren’t much more valuable than picks 33-45 or even 33-50. The Bucs have a rare opportunity to infuse a collection of young talent onto the roster if they move back once or twice in the first few rounds of the draft. That could help keep their Super Bowl window open long term.

Bucs Can Move Back And Still Fill A “Need”

Of course, Jason Licht still has to nail the picks. But the process of moving back, especially in the late first round range of the draft, is a good one. And in this draft, it might be a great one. The Bucs’ biggest needs are at edge defender, defensive tackle and interior offensive line. Moving back might not hurt them in their quest to land a target player at those positions.

The edge defender class is talented, but of the four who might go in the first round, none are close to a sure thing. According to Grinding The Mocks, Miami’s Jaelan Phillips, Michigan’s Kwity Paye and Georgia’s Azeez Ojulari are all expected to be off the board before the Bucs’ selection, leaving Penn State’s Jayson Oweh, Miami’s Gregory Rousseau and Washington’s Joe Tryon as the most likely targets in the latter stages of Round 1. I’ve written at length about all three, including why Oweh and Tryon’s lack of production and skill as pass rushers makes them too great a risk that early in the draft, and why Rousseau should actually be a Day 3 prospect.

Washington OLB Joe Tryon

Washington OLB Joe Tryon – Photo courtesy of Washington

The Bucs could find a good edge rusher. And they could do it by moving down into the second round of the draft while adding other picks. There’s a good chance Oweh and Tryon could still be on the board depending how far back Tampa Bay moves. Or the team could opt for a better player in Houston’s Payton Turner later in the second round. It’s the perfect move-down scenario when a team wants a player at a certain position and sees a bunch of comparable prospects still on the board. Better to move back and get an extra pick than to stay put and just take the next one.

At defensive tackle, the Bucs path becomes even more clear. Christian Barmore widely expected to be off the board in the Top 25 picks. Then the best defensive tackles remaining at 32 will be Washington’s Levi Onwuzurike and Iowa’s Daviyon Nixon. Both are roller coaster rides on tape, with very little consistency and limited production. Onwuzurike opted out of 2020 and got banged up at the Senior Bowl and his pro day. Nixon struggled against top competition in 2021. Raw talent oozes from both players in flashes on tape. But it is anyone’s guess how they’ll develop at the next level. That is a position that demands a lot technically and mentally.

Unfortunately, the run on tier 2 offensive linemen might end just before the Bucs at No. 32. If Oklahoma State’s Teven Jenkins or USC’s Alijah Vera-Tucker somehow slide down the board, then sure, stay at 32 and select one of those studs. But I think both players will be gone in the 10-24 range of the draft. Virginia Tech tackle Christian Darrisaw, too. That leaves Alabama center Landon Dickerson and Notre Dame offensive lineman Liam Eichenberg as the Bucs’ best potential offensive line targets in Round 1. And they can probably trade back a few spots and pick up either player.

Managing Risks In The Draft

Even if the Bucs go outside their big four position groups for a player, there are risks everywhere. LSU receiver Terrace Marshall is talented, but extremely raw with a long way to go as a route runner. I’ve given up on Northwestern cornerback Greg Newsome II being there at 32. But Virginia Tech CB Caleb Farley could fall to Tampa Bay due to injury concerns. If he gets to 32 though, what did teams in the other 31 spots see in his health assessment?

Northwestern CB Greg Newsome

Northwestern CB Greg Newsome – Photo by: USA Today

I’m not trying to make the case that any of these prospects would be bad picks. This is the NFL Draft, you accept risks all across the board when you make draft selections. Risky picks aren’t always bad picks. And some of the aforementioned players will become studs in the NFL despite those risks. But due to the strength of their roster, the Bucs are in a unique position that they don’t have to take those typical risks. At least not at their original draft spot. If the general consensus is that this year’s draft offers very few difference-making options at 32, the Bucs best strategy should be to double their chances of hitting on a potential stud by adding more picks for the 2021 or 2022 drafts.

What if the Broncos want to move up from 40 to 32 for Stanford QB Davis Mills? Or the Dolphins see a tackle like Alabama’s Alex Leatherwood or Texas’ Sam Cosmi that they want to jump up from 36 and select? Or Philly trying to come up from No. 37 for a cornerback or a receiver depending on what position they selected in Round 1?

The possibilities are endless. And they could all result in the Bucs adding another second- or third-round pick to their array of selections in 2022, or give them an extra pick in the 2021 class. Tampa Bay doesn’t have holes at the positions likely to be the deepest at No. 32 (safety, tackle, linebacker). So making a trade down seem like an even more logical move. Licht has traded down in the first round twice before in his seven drafts as general manager. So don’t be surprised if he does it again. This time however, it’ll be out of the first round and into more draft picks – for 2021 and beyond.

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About the Author: Jon Ledyard

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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Darin
5 months ago

I’m trading up not back this year if its right. I’m always for trading back and acquiring picks when building the team. Now that its “built” you gota have capable backups should someone go down. And as we know every team will bring their A game against the SB champs. Not many times do you get the chance to repeat. I say get the best players you can and let the future be the future. These coaches, gm and players shouldn’t care about two years away either. Go Bucs

surferdudes
Reply to  Darin
5 months ago

I couldn’t agree more. Since we brought everyone back, it would be difficult to even make this team, so there is no need to stockpile picks. Plus that 5th year option is huge from a cap stand point. I’d rather have a stud player at 32, than some extra picks that can’t make the team, and would be scooped up off the practice squad. When you consider all the QB’s, and receivers including Pitts going in the first round, our pick at 32 is more like the 20th best player in the draft. Stay put, or move up, win now,… Read more »

toofamiliar17
Reply to  surferdudes
5 months ago

That’s some fuzzy math that we’ll clearly get the 20th best player in the draft. All of those guys you named (Pitts + receivers), with the exception of Mac, are clear top 20 players in the draft. And even Mac, who’s turned into a pretty polarizing prospect, is seen as a top 25 prospect this year by many outlets (I disagree, but anyways, he’s seen as being in that range). Actually, consensus top 20-25 guys that currently appear very likely to go before we pick: Lawrence, Wilson, Fields, and Lance at QB. Waddle, Smith, and Chase at WR. Pitts at… Read more »

surferdudes
Reply to  toofamiliar17
5 months ago

How many of the 6 QBs taken in the first round do you think will really make it in the NFL? Teams will draft for need also, so we’re going to get a player who’s a better talent than the 32nd pick. Hell if it wasn’t for the fact you don’t have to pay a 1st round QB a kings ransom anymore, Lawrence would be the only 1st round QB selected. One of the QBs going in the first only had 300 snaps last year, that’s reaching. No rookies coming in this year will be challenging any of our fat… Read more »

aredsoxfan1
Reply to  surferdudes
5 months ago

There are only 5 QB’s expected to go in round one and they will all make it in the NFL.

toofamiliar17
Reply to  surferdudes
5 months ago

I mean, no, it’s not remotely likely that all 5 (or more) QBs taken in the first round this year turn out to be good. But that doesn’t mean that they’re not top 20 prospects in this draft. Again, 4 of them are by EVERYONE’s rankings. I haven’t reviewed the QBs myself, because I limit my analysis to players I could realistically see us drafting. But by all accounts, they’re top 20 prospects. It’s a virtual certainty that at least one, and likely multiple, of them will turn out to be average or worse starting QBs in the league. But… Read more »

Pete Wood
Reply to  surferdudes
5 months ago

We’ll probably all end up being wrong and Bucs will just stay with #32. Fun to talk about this stuff, though.

Pete Wood
5 months ago

Bucs should trade down. Many first round caliber players will fall into the second round. Since Bucs can go BPA, why not? They could end up with something like two second rounders this year and two second rounders next year if they find a desperate enough trading partner. Heck, they might be able to get two second rounders this year and two first rounders next year. Not holding my breath, but I have seen some pretty bone headed trades on draft day.

bucballer
Reply to  Pete Wood
5 months ago

I agree Wood, but I can see making an argument for drafting a player at 32 if he is highly rated on ur board too. I see both perspectives. That fifth year is very valuable difference.

toofamiliar17
Reply to  bucballer
5 months ago

I actually think the 5th year option has become overvalued by most fans and media. It’s a highly paid option. It gives you one extra year of below market value pay if you end up with an excellent player, but that’s just one year, and if he’s merely good rather than great, then you’re not getting much of a deal anyways. For example, 5th year options on RBs for this year are just over $9M for the year. Over $9.5-14.3M for DEs. $10-14M for CBs. $10.3-13M for tackles. Minimum $10.3M for guards. And the list goes on. Point being that… Read more »

bucballer
Reply to  toofamiliar17
5 months ago

Disagree. It has value to teams. Especially if they believe they r getting a good player in round 1. Most teams feel as if that first round pick will impact their team. We know, ultimately, this often turns out not to be true. But, nevertheless that is a perception that is out there. It all depends if a highly rated player that a team might have on their board is still there at the 32nd pick. Then the fifth year option is really attractive to that team.

aredsoxfan1
Reply to  toofamiliar17
5 months ago

Not sure where you are getting your numbers from. The option value is based on playing time and probowl selections over the players first 3 seasons. Most of the values you listed are close but RB is 4.5 – 8.6mil. The only way the player gets to the high end figure is if they have made 2 or 3 probowls in their first 3 seasons which makes it a pretty good deal for the team.

toofamiliar17
Reply to  aredsoxfan1
5 months ago

I was going off the option amounts from a recent season, which included Zeke Elliott’s option at the amount I listed above. But yea, good call, my mistake – with the new CBA, I had forgotten that the option rules have changed. As you said, they’re mostly still pretty similar to what they were before. On the downside for teams, 5th year options are no long guaranteed only for injury. They’re now fully guaranteed from the moment they’re exercised, which inherently makes the options themselves relatively less valuable and higher risk than they used to be to teams. On the… Read more »

toofamiliar17
Reply to  Pete Wood
5 months ago

I don’t see that collection of picks coming back, at least not without several trades back from 32, and then back again from there, this year. There’s no historical support for a deal like that. But yes, even still, I like the idea, in theory, of moving back and acquiring picks for next year. What I think is less attractive this year than most years is looking to land extra mid to late round picks. We do have good depth at some spots, although we could use better depth at plenty. But with the current construction of the roster, unless… Read more »

lambeau
5 months ago

Yes to extra second-rounders.

Rob
Rob
5 months ago

Hey Jon-in total agreeance with you on this one. And you may have already done this but often it’s easy for us to just say “oh ya trade back and get picks” but it takes two to trade and I’m curious if you could provide some details on what past drafts have done that included a trade back from the 32 (or late 30s pick)? How far back did teams have to go to pick up another 2nd rounder? Or was it typically a 3rd rounder? Would love to know what our true options could be as we think about… Read more »

toofamiliar17
Reply to  Rob
5 months ago

That’s a great question, Rob. I hope I can help answer it for you. There weren’t really any trades of this type last draft (meaning out of the back of the 1st round into the 2nd). The closest was NE moving back from 23 in exchange for 37 and a 3rd rounder. 2019, the Colts moved back fro 26 to 46 and got an extra 2nd rounder. 2019, the Seahawks moved from 30 to 37 and got back 4th and 5th round picks. 2019: Rams trade 31 and a 6th rounder for 45 and a 3rd rounder. 2018: Eagles traded… Read more »

Charlie
5 months ago

If they could trade down with the Jets, grab their two 2nd rounders. Jevonte Williams, Peyton Turner, Quin Meinerz all in the 2nd…crown em Champs again. Big if, but would be a hell of a draft imo.

toofamiliar17
Reply to  Charlie
5 months ago

There’s no chance. The market price going back a loooong time for a move back like that is roughly a 5th rounder. 4th at the most. The difference between 34 and 32 is just too small for teams to trade that kind of capital for the move up. That’s a pipe dream.

bucballer
5 months ago

I’m sure the Buc’s brass will do what they perceive to be best for the Bucs. We really won’t know until a pick or two before our pick what player or players will be available at that pick. If some team has a high draft pick rating on a particular player and he is still there, then the Bucs can deal.

fanofdabucs
Reply to  bucballer
5 months ago

Exactly this

Every year, like clockwork, there is talk of trading down.

If there is a player they really like at 32 AND they have no trade up offers they like, then NO.

If there are a bunch of guys they have on their board they like AND someone offers them something reasonable for the 32nd pick them YES.

Can’t just say, “we decide to trade down”…

toofamiliar17
Reply to  fanofdabucs
5 months ago

I agree with you, for sure. I do think it’s more likely to be possible this year than most years. Teams do place some value on making a splash and getting back into the first round again. So I think there will be offers on the table. Whether or not they’re worth it is another matter, of course.

kegan
5 months ago

I agree with many of the points. Also, that most of the Bucs picks need to be targeted toward solid picks. There is nothing wrong with taking a flier on one high potential guy…but the Bucs can’t afford to get over confident. Picking solid players give us a potential to upgrade some backups…that could develop into starts. The coaches and staff know a lot more than fans…. and some times we need to remember where the real expertises and knowledge resides.

Alldaway 2.0
5 months ago

Trading down makes sense to me. The fifth year option has become overrated for certain position groups.

magoobee
5 months ago

It is doubtful any player at 32 could start for the Bucs. So trade back about 10 spots. A player like Rondale Moore will probably be there. He could actually contribute this year as a slot receiver and returning punts and kick-offs. He is a better version of Edelman/Welker and we all know how Brady loves that type of player.

bucballer
Reply to  magoobee
5 months ago

Is a special teams player considered a starter? If so, then u can possibly get a talented speedster who may be a contributor on special teams immediately although his position talent, say WR, has him not even being able to bust into the top 5 or 6. Also, I’m not saying pick a RB, but if they were to pick one of the two top RBs in this draft, who is to say that that RB couldn’t/wouldn’t beat out those RBs currently on our roster? Stranger things have happened. That’s what makes the preseason games so important for these young… Read more »

toofamiliar17
Reply to  magoobee
5 months ago

A player taken at 32 definitely COULD start for us, if the team has a genuinely open competition for every spot on the roster in camp. But I don’t see that happening coming off a Super Bowl, especially given our extreme focus on just keep together last year’s team to this point in the offseason. I do honestly think that, right or wrong, Arians and his coaching staff are coming into the 2021 season from day one with the mindset that we already have all of our starters. I think we’re content with what we have right this second from… Read more »

toofamiliar17
Reply to  magoobee
5 months ago

As for Moore, count me out. That dude is SMALL. The difference between him and Edelman in height is the same as the difference between Edelman and Chris Godwin. There has been exactly one successful WR in this league since the year 2000 who’s been under 5’8″ – Cole Beasley, who measured in 5’7 7/8″ He’s insanely small in every way. His reach with his incredibly short arms is that of a middle school kid’s, meaning his catch radius is REALLY small. He’s also, predictably, very lightweight, although not for his size. I’m not saying he can’t or won’t be… Read more »

Dman
Reply to  magoobee
5 months ago

Even though I don’t think we need a WR.I really like Rondale Moore [Purdue fan] and if that were to work out I think we’d be thrilled. But I like your point – we need to find a special player with that first pick in whatever round it falls.

Erik Jager
5 months ago

Ledyard’s rating of the edges is brutally harsh compared to other reviewers. None of these edge rushers are not great passers compared to other years’ options. Kwity Paye deserves to be in the conversation. Barrymore seems to be like a relatively safe pick. Dickerson who could serve OL backup in all five positions. A flashy RB could be the best long-term option. How about a 2022 first round and another 2021 third round pick and a fifth round pick?

toofamiliar17
Reply to  Erik Jager
5 months ago

I’m more bullish on this edge class overall than Ledyard and many evaluators are. I get the reason for being wary of the group due to the relative lack of statistical productivity, but I think there is some potentially elite NFL talent (Phillips and Ojulari, and on a level behind them Oweh and Tryon, with Paye and Turner clearly both plenty capable of reaching that level as well) and ample tantalizing depth in high-level pass-rushing roleplayers (Elerson Smith, Cam Sample, Jordan Smith, and others) in this class. I haven’t done deep film dives into every position in this draft (I’ve… Read more »

aredsoxfan1
5 months ago

So much depends on finding a desperate team. For example, the Patriots actually traded pick #29 in 2013 for picks 52(2nd), 83(3rd), 102(4th), 229(7th). Can’t exactly count on finding a team that desperate but its nice when you can. I wouldn’t mind seeing the Bucs trade their first into next year’s draft. Trade 32 for a 2022 first and maybe a third this year. And then keep your fingers crossed the team you trade with has a bad year. Also, this year is more of a crap shoot with no combine, team visits, etc. Hopefully next year will be more… Read more »

toofamiliar17
Reply to  aredsoxfan1
5 months ago

Ugh. It would hurt to push our first pick back to 64, but I’d probably do that deal, depending on the team we were talking with. I don’t know for sure I do it with, for example, KC or BUF – teams that are very likely to be picking not only very late this year, but also very late in the first round of the next draft. But I don’t think I could say no to a team that looks like they’ll be picking in the top half of the draft next year.

scubog
5 months ago

Lot’s of valid opinions and drafting philosophies…….and no name-calling. LOL! In the past I was always reluctant to trade down too far to acquire more picks. To me it was akin to giving up a chance to take a cute cheerleader to the Prom in order to take two less than attractive girls from the band. The question is, how cute and how homely? The Bucs are clearly in the driver’s seat this year. We could essentially enter the 2021 season “As-is” and do well. We don’t need to find that “savior” to fill a glaring need to survive. There… Read more »

Dman
Reply to  scubog
5 months ago

Whatever happened to Big Sombrero???

chefboho
Reply to  Dman
5 months ago

Once the Bucs won the Super Bowl he went back to his cave to wonder what could’ve been for his beloved colts.

fredster
5 months ago

Unless it’s just an insane offer for Bucs to move back I’d stay put and take best player each rd.

Brandonges
5 months ago

With no real needs, this is the year the Bucs should trade UP with their picks. They don’t have room for all their picks to make the roster, so consolidate and go get the guys they like.

I also think Jon is underrated Oweh. Use him rotationally this year and let him learn the art of pass rushing from JPP and Shaq and he could be a monster.

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