The 2021 NFL Draft is 12 days away, and who the Bucs take in the first round is anybody’s guess. With no crying needs and eight draft picks, Bucs GM Jason Licht is in position to take the best player available in any round, even if it means trading up. Tampa Bay’s roster isn’t likely to have room for eight rookies, so don’t be surprised to see the team package some day 3 picks to move up in the draft at some point.
At No. 32 overall, the Bucs array of potential selections is wide open. Here are a few players I wouldn’t take a chance on in Round 1 if I were Tampa Bay, as their profiles present too great a risk to use the team’s most valuable resource on.
Jayson Oweh, EDGE, Penn State
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I know Oweh is the freakiest of athletic freaks, and maybe he does become the extremely rare outlier to go from college edge rusher with less than 10 career sacks to a monster in the NFL. But the odds are slim as we’ve seen over the years, with Danielle Hunter representing the only player to make that transformation over the past 20 years. Hunter had a fanatical approach to the game, and I would need to know that Oweh shares that mindset to even think about taking him in the first round.
Sometimes we chase the allure of a sky-high ceiling for a really raw player over the certainty that you can get a plus starter with a selection. For every upside prospect in the draft, there should still be a baseline of on-field ability and college production to guide your value of that player. Oweh didn’t hit those marks in my evaluation, and the Bucs would be foolish to take a risk on a player with his floor in Round 1.
Joe Tryon, EDGE, Washington
Tryon is another edge prospect who tested well and has great physical tools, but also missed the college football threshold for sacks, finishing his career with nine. Tryon didn’t play in 2020, a season he was going to enter as a very raw prospect in need of significant development. We aren’t sure how his game has progressed since then, which makes him a considerable risk going into his NFL career.
I love Tryon’s effort and play temperament, but I need to see some pass rush skill and polish if I’m going to select you Round 1. Watch him against Washington State, a game in which he actually had two sacks, and you’ll see most of his production comes from effort and hustle. That’s worth something, to be sure. It’s just not worth a first round pick. There will be better options on the board for Tampa Bay at No. 32 than what Tryon brings to the table.
Alex Leatherwood, OL, Alabama
I’ve tried to like Leatherwood, I really have. Through average 2019 tape I saw what Leatherwood could be, and through a really rough Senior Bowl performance I continued to believe he could be fixed. But then I dove deep into his 2020 tape, saw those maddening inconsistencies continue at left tackle, and started to doubt that Leatherwood would ever reach his hypothetical ceiling.
Leatherwood has some of the things every team covets in offensive tackles, including explosiveness out of his stance, a massive frame and vines for arms. There’s no denying his power when he lands his hands and can control defenders, especially in the run game. But Leatherwood’s consistent undersets in pass protection and strike timing issues open him up to a bevy of pass rush moves. When college rushers can beat you on your edge, across your face and knock you back into the pocket with bull rushes, you’ve got a plethora of issues to correct at the next level.
I think a lot of teams will see Leatherwood’s struggles at tackle and want to push him inside to guard. The Bucs may be among those teams, but I’m not convinced that a position switch will be enough to fix all the concerns in the 3-year starter’s game. Leatherwood can definitely be a better player at the next level, and he checks the size and athleticism boxes the Bucs have typically looked for on the offensive line. His experience at right guard as a sophomore will also be attractive, but Leatherwood is a better fit in a run-heavy offense that help their tackles a lot more than the Bucs do.
Any Of The Top Defensive Tackles
Alabama’s Christian Barmore, Washington’s Levi Onwuzurike and Iowa’s Daviyon Nixon are three of the most mocked players to the Bucs according to Grinding The Mocks, but none of them are prospects the Bucs should consider in Round 1. An argument could be made that all three possess high ceilings, a fact that is expected to push them up the board in a weak defensive tackle draft. Still, Barmore is the only one expected to be selected in the first round, currently the player most often paired with the Bucs in the first round of mock drafts.
There are flashes with all three defensive tackles, but the inconsistencies are just as persistent. Barmore’s pad level and lack of processing in the run game is a concern, while Onwuzurike gets pushed around too often for my liking. Nixon might have the highest ceiling of the trio given his power and the way he moves, but he feasted on weak opponents and was erased against top competition.
Barmore is likely to come off the board before Tampa Bay is on the clock, so the Bucs may not have to worry about him. I don’t think they’ll reach for Onwuzurike or Nixon in Round 1, but I would probably be ok with either player at No. 64 overall, depending on who else is available. It’s less about the individual risks of spending a top 32 pick on players with their concerns, and more about passing up on better prospects that will likely be available in Round 1.
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