The PewterReport.com Roundtable features the opinions of the PR staff as it tackles a topic each week that involves the Bucs. This week’s topic: Who Will The Bucs Draft In Round 1?
Scott Reynolds: Williams Too Good Of A Weapon To Pass Up
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PewterReport.com will soon publish its fifth and final 2021 Bucs 7-Round Mock Draft. Unlike years past when quarterback Jameis Winston was the unanimous selection in all five mocks in 2015, or when inside linebacker Devin White commanded the top spot in four of our five mocks in 2019, anything goes this year. Neither I nor general manager Jason Licht knows who will be available at No. 32. As a result, PewterReport.com has had four different players for the Bucs in the first round in this year’s mock drafts. North Carolina running back Javonte Williams was followed by defensive tackle Levi Onwuzurike. Then Texas edge rusher Joseph Ossai was atop the third mock draft, followed by Alabama center Landon Dickerson. Here’s a hint: another edge rusher will be the pick in our final mock draft.
North Carolina RB Javonte Williams – Photo by: USA Today
While I was involved in the decision-making process to put that pass rusher in the mock draft at No. 32, I also have this feeling that it could be a running back. I believe Alabama’s Najee Harris and Clemson’s Travis Etienne will be off the board by No. 32. That would leave the Bucs with Williams, the dynamic, tackle-breaking Tar Heel as the best available back. It’s no secret that I have had a draft crush on Williams since our first mock draft. He had a breakout junior season with 1,140 yards rushing and 19 touchdowns while averaging 7.3 yards per carry. Williams split time with Michael Carter at UNC and still managed to catch 25 passes for 305 yards (12.2 avg.) and three TDs.
With Leonard Fournette, Ronald Jones II and Giovani Bernard only under contract through 2021, the Bucs could very well be in the market for a long-term solution at running back. Williams is a complete back who just turned 21 on April 25. There is value to drafting a running back late in the first round because of the fifth-year option. Tampa Bay could get five years out of him, then franchise him for a sixth season and then move on to another younger, cheaper runner. Remember, the Bucs drafted Jones high in the second round, and were debating taking Memphis running back Antonio Gibson in the second round last year before settling on safety Antoine Winfield, Jr. I wouldn’t be upset at all if the Bucs went with a pass rusher or an offensive lineman at No. 32. But I would be thrilled if Licht drafted Williams.
Mark Cook: When You Don’t Know, Go Lineman
Anyone feel sorry for the Buccaneers having such a hard time trying to figure out who to draft with the 32nd pick? Yeah, I didn’t think so. It is it so hard being so good you don’t have a glaring weakness. And your draft picks, who actually make the team, are likely bound for backup and special teams duties. My how the Bucs fortunes have turned.
In a recent stat I saw, first-round success rates for offensive linemen are the safest position to draft with 60 percent of them earning second deals with their drafted teams, as opposed to a position like wide receive where teams only offer second contracts to 30 percent of those picked. And how important is offensive line? Just go back and review 2020 and see the importance a rookie like Tristan Wirfs made, or a veteran like Donovan Smith at tackle. Do the Bucs win a Super Bowl without the steady play of guard Ali Marpet and center Ryan Jensen? In a deep class of offensive linemen, and without a glaring need, take a big man, and I expect that’s what the Buccaneers do on Thursday night.
Alabama C Landon Dickerson – Photo courtesy of Alabama
Alabama center Landon Dickerson would be a Top 15 pick without the torn ACL he suffered last year in the SEC Championship game, so getting him at the end of the first – essentially the second round – would be a steal. And with Ryan Jensen set to anchor the offensive line for one more year, there is no pressure for Dickerson to even see the field, giving him time to fully recover. A year off from football contact would do wonders for the big man who has stayed banged up on and off for his entire college career dating back to his freshmen year at Florida State. Blocking and tackling – the team that does it the best on Sunday stands the best chance of winning the game. You can’t have too many guys who do it and do it well.
Jon Ledyard: I’m Just Tryon To Get This Prediction Right
Later this week I’ll write about a handful of players I believe the Bucs will consider at No. 32 overall, an unenviable task given their draft position and lack of perceivable need. Sneak peek: I think the top two position groups the Bucs will consider in Round 1 are edge defender and offensive line, with the idea of slotting whoever they draft at guard or center into the starting lineup next offseason. That’s when either center Ryan Jensen or right guard Alex Cappa will become a free agent, or perhaps both.
Washington OLB Joe Tryon – Photo courtesy of Washington
But the draft is deeper on the offensive line than it is at pass rusher, which will play a role in the way the Bucs approach the class. Washington edge Joe Tryon is a player I have expressed reservations about, but it’s hard to argue that Tampa Bay wouldn’t be an ideal fit for him. Tryon is big, long, athletic who plays with his hair on fire. Yet he’s lacking considerable polish, a go-to pass rush move or desirable college production. If there’s a landing spot that can utilize his strengths and bring him along slowly, it’s Tampa Bay.
Thanks to the presence of Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul, the Bucs wouldn’t need Tryon to start right away. He could provide valuable pass rush off the bench and allow Todd Bowles to move Pierre-Paul inside on long-and-late downs. Tryon is already an upgrade over Anthony Nelson. And he has the type of upside the Bucs are looking for at the position. The Washington opt-out wouldn’t be my first choice, but I understand the appeal. It’s an ideal fit for the player. Even if Tryon isn’t ready to give the Bucs first round-caliber play as a rookie.
Matt Matera: Bucs Go OLB With Tryon As The Best On The Board
I truly do think that the Bucs will go with either an edge rusher or interior defensive lineman with their first pick to get a player that’ll immediately be put in the conversation as a number three the depth chart. Since Jason Licht isn’t too fond of the defensive line draft class, the Bucs go with Washington edge rusher Joe Tryon.
Washington edge rusher Joe Tryon – Photo by: USA Today
The best is yet to come for Tryon, who opted out of the 2020 season. Yet he was improving in his game in 2019 with 41 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks. He has a great combination of size, strength and quickness that would fit in well along the Bucs defensive line. He would be a solid replacement for Jason Pierre-Paul if he were to leave after this season. It would be so valuable to learn from Pierre-Paul and Shaq Barrett as he gets his bearings in the NFL.
Tampa Bay has three Washintong players on the roster, including nose tackle Vita Vea in the first round in 2018. The Bucs have a good relationship with head coach Jimmy Lake, who was an assistant coach for the team in 2006-2007 and 2010-2011. That makes Tryon the choice for the 2021 draft after a couple of edge rushers come off the board.
Taylor Jenkins: I’m Still Rolling With Harris
With the Bucs returning all 22 starters from the Super Bowl, they don’t have many, if any, pressing needs in 2021. This allows them the freedom to add crucial depth pieces and future starters. Tampa Bay could trade up or down or just take the best player available at No. 32.
Alabama RB Najee Harris – Photo by: USA Today
With that said, I still think the Bucs will attack the running back position with Harris despite the recent addition of Giovani Bernard. Over his last two seasons at Alabama alone, running for over 1,200 yards in each, Harris totaled 2,690 rushing yards on just under six yards per carry, 729 receiving yards on 70 receptions and 50 total touchdowns. He’s solid runner between the tackles or to the outside. Harris is also a natural pass-catcher, and could be the running back of the future in Tampa Bay. He has the talent to even be able to ease himself into the rotation as a rookie.
It doesn’t seem to make much sense now that Bernard has seemingly locked up the Bucs’ pass-catching role out of the backfield, behind two more-than-capable runners in Ronald Jones II and Leonard Fournette. But all three of those backs will be free agents in 2022. Maybe Tampa Bay will find a way to bring back one or two of them, but why try to replace an entire backfield when the team has the luxury of limited needs and the opportunity to hand-pick a well-rounded running back of the future right now?