PewterReport.com continues its daily feature previewing the upcoming NFL Draft with position-by-position analysis. PewterReport.com’s Mark Cook analyzes what the Bucs have currently on their roster at each position and Trevor Sikkema provides a comprehensive overall ranking of the top players at that position going into the draft. Scott Reynolds makes his projections for Tampa Bay with PewterReport.com’s Bucs’ Best Bets – one early round pick, and one from the later rounds.
WHAT THE BUCS HAVE AT OFFENSIVE TACKLE
Despite some negative sentiment from a faction of fans, the Bucs are pleased with their starting offensive tackles, Demar Dotson and Donovan Smith. Both certainly could have played better last year, and both must cut down on the penalties, as they were the top two offensive linemen to commit infractions in 2016. Smith is entering his third season, and while no one is comparing him to Walter Jones, the team feels his play has been solid, and there is room for improvement still.
Dotson missed two games last season with a concussion but is fully recovered, and is expected to be the teams starter on the right side when they travel to Miami to open the season in September. Dotson isn’t getting younger, and is actually the longest tenured Buccaneer on the roster, and like Gerald McCoy, he has never been to the playoffs and he is hoping that 2017 will be the year he finally tastes the postseason.
Kevin Pamphile is listed as a tackle, but plays mainly guard, although he did fill in for Dotson late last season for the Saints game and the team was pleased with hid performance. Leonard Wester is a reserve heading into his second season and the team also believe he can develop, but aren’t sure exactly to what point. Like Pamphile, Wester did get a taste of action last year, but isn’t expected to compete for anything more than depth in the near future.
Second-year player Caleb Benenoch played tackle in college, but the team appears to view him as a guard in the NFL. Still he may get some reps this offseason at both positions and could possibly play the right side if the team were to become desperate.
The Bucs lost Gosder Cherilus, whose knees finally gave out on him after nine seasons in the league. Cherilus retired this offseason.
WHAT THE BUCS NEED AT OFFENSIVE TACKLE
Having depth at the tackle position is always a luxury in the NFL, and the Bucs found that out the hard way when Dotson missed the Cowboys game and Cherilus was victimized in the fourth quarter by defensive David Irving who single-handily thwarted the Bucs late game attempts to come back on Sunday Night Football. While it doesn’t appear to be a priority, and this draft is also not a very deep one for tackles, is is possible that Tampa Bay drafts a tackle – likely on Day 3 where the team has found Pamphile and Benenoch. If the Bucs don’t draft a tackle, expect that position to be one addressed immediately following the draft with a few undrafted free agents signed by the team to evaluate some potential development.
Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, the beach and family time.Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org