The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ first round NFL Draft plans are not much of a mystery at this point. The team’s biggest hole is at offensive tackle, this is an offensive tackle rich draft and Bruce Arians recently told the media at the Combine he’s spent more time watching offensive linemen this offseason than any other position.
Of course, the stars will also need to align for the Bucs at No. 14, as at least six offensive tackle-needy teams are slotted ahead of them in the draft. Not counting Cincinnati or Miami given their strong inclination to draft a quarterback, the Redskins, Giants, Chargers, Cardinals, Browns and Jets all have a gaping hole at at least one starting offensive tackle spot.
Free agency could certainly change the landscape, but all we’ve heard from NFL personnel this offseason is how good this offensive tackle class is, and we already know the position is among the most coveted by most NFL teams. It’s not out of the question to think that if the Bucs stay at 14, four offensive tackles could be off the board by the time they are on the clock.
John Spytek and Jason Licht – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
History is slightly on the side of the Bucs, as four offensive tackles haven’t been drafted in the first 13 picks since 2013, when four went in the top eleven (Eric Fisher, Luke Joeckel, Lane Johnson, D.J. Fluker, who later moved to guard). Before that it hadn’t happened since 1992.
It is a virtual certainty that at least three tackles will be off the board when the Bucs pick, but for the sake of the topic at hand, let’s pretend historical trends have been bucked and the team is looking at a scenario where Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs, Alabama’s Jedrick Wills, Georgia’s Andrew Thomas and Louisville’s Mekhi Becton have already been selected.
What should the team do in this scenario? Let’s take a look.
First, what positions can we rule out?
Realistically, Tampa Bay isn’t drafting a cornerback, safety, linebacker, tight end or interior offensive lineman at No. 14. I think it’s highly unlikely that the team will take a quarterback or running back with that pick as well, although I know Scott Reynolds disagrees with me somewhat on the latter.
I could see the team trading back into the mid-20s and selecting a running back, but I’d be stunned if it happened at 14. As for quarterback, it seemed clear from Jason Licht’s comments in Indianapolis that the team could select one, but in more of a developmental role with the team. That would suggest a mid-round pick at the earliest.
So what does that leave us? An offensive tackle (albeit with four off the board), defensive tackle, edge defender or wide receiver. I guess you can’t rule out a kicker either.
Let’s break down the options.
1. Josh Jones, OT, Houston
I’ll dive into Jones’ full evaluation in an upcoming Bucs Briefing, but I wouldn’t hate this pick for Tampa Bay. Jones’ tape is outstanding, but he also doesn’t face many top-tier rushers, so the NFL could be a bigger adjustment than most college tackles already have to endure. There’s always a risk involved when taking a tackle who needs some polish to their pass sets and hasn’t battled much Power 5 competition, but Jones was impressive against a solid slate of Senior Bowl rushers in January.
I think he’s worthy of consideration at No. 14, but Tampa also may be able to trade back a few spots and still land the senior tackle. That may be the smart play here, although they might not be able to bump back further than Miami at No. 18.
Some might mention USC’s Austin Jackson here, but I have a mid-round grade on the Trojans left tackle, so I wouldn’t consider him at all in the first round.
If Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul both return to the fold this offseason, drafting an edge defender at No. 14 might seem like overkill. However, I’m of the opinion that you can never have enough good pass rushers, plus JPP’s deal will likely be a short-term one, so I’m less concerned with the level of ‘need’ here and more concerned with how good the player is.
My full write-up on Chaisson is already up on the site, and it’s safe to say that I’m a fan of his game. However, 9.5 career sacks at LSU is a disappointing amount of production, and Chaisson would be a significant outlier when considering how few full-time college edge defenders with less than ten sacks have gone on to be successful in the NFL.
Danielle Hunter is SUCH a rare exception.
Cam Wake was off-ball in college. Clay Matthews too. Believe Robert Ayers played inside a good bit in college (also was solid in NFL, not great). Ziggy Ansah (solid, not great) was basically brand new to football. It’s a short list
Having said that, Chaisson’s elite level of athleticism, outstanding football character and high-end reps against top pass protectors at the college level do suggest he’s capable of beating the odds. I wouldn’t hate this pick by Tampa Bay, but I think it’s likely that there will be a few better options on the board, even if they aren’t offensive tackles.
We are not really seeing many wide receivers mocked in the top ten right now, outside of the occasional Lamb-Kyler Murray pairing in Arizona. Of course, picks 11-13 could all be wide receivers, which the Bucs would probably prefer if it meant the Jets were passing on a tackle to acquire weapons for Sam Darnold.
But wait a second…why are we talking about the Bucs drafting a wide receiver in the first round? They already have the best receiver duo in the league! What’s the point of adding another?
I’m a big believe in making your strengths stronger, and a receiving corps with any of these three prospects alongside Godwin and Evans would be completely unstoppable. How do you defend a deep threat like Ruggs or Jeudy when you have to also account for the vertical prowess of Evans and Godwin? You’re telling my your N o. 3 cornerback is gonna stop CeeDee Lamb at the catch point? Or after the catch? Good luck.
Now, I’m not saying I want the Bucs to draft a receiver in the first round. But if the board didn’t fall in their favor, I’d consider it. The team simply doesn’t have many needs, and taking the best player available that could also play a huge role for their offense right away (Arians’ uses 11 personnel religiously) would not be a decision that I would hate on for one second.
South Carolina DT Javon Kinlaw – Photo by: PewterReport.com
4. Javon Kinlaw or Derrick Brown
Hey, I already wrote a whole article about this! You can read that right here.
Summary: Draft Kinlaw if the top tackles are off the board. He’s an absolute difference maker in the run and pass game, and he’s just now starting to hit his stride. If Kinlaw is gone, pass on Derrick Brown to take another player or trade back. Not enough value in what he brings to the table to take him at No. 14.
Those are really the only realistic options for the Bucs if the consensus top four tackles are off the board and they decide to stay at No. 14. Here’s how I’d list my preferences if that dreaded scenario unfolds:
Ruggs or Jeudy (Lamb is probably gone)
A running back (Love ya, Scott!)
But wait, Jon, isn’t there any other path the team could take?
Well, I’m glad you asked! There is a little phenomenon that doesn’t happen very often in the first round in Tampa Bay, and it’s called “trading up”. You can read all about it in my Bucs Battle Plan article dropping on Wednesday…just come prepared to shake things up.
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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