The 2022 NFL Draft is nearly here. And Bucs fans are (im)patiently awaiting what their team might do to bolster its roster for a run at the Super Bowl. This annual event has turned into one of the most popular on the league’s calendar. Bucs fans are especially interested this year, as it may be the last of a three-year Super Bowl window. To top it off, the team has a few holes on its’ roster that the draft class could potentially shore up.

That wasn’t the case this time last year though. In 2021 the Bucs were fresh off their second Super Bowl in franchise history. Bucs GM Jason Licht had just done the unthinkable. He had somehow retained every key contributor of the championship team. Then head coach Bruce Arians characterized the team’s draft strategy as looking for depth pieces who could start long-term, as the team had no open starting positions.

And that is the perspective I want us to take on this journey of re-evaluating last year’s draft. Like it or not, that was the strategy the team took when making their selections last year. It makes sense to then evaluate those picks and how they are developing within that plan. Could the team have tried to make selections that would have challenged entrenched veterans for starting roles? Maybe. But they didn’t, so using that as our benchmark doesn’t make sense. With that in mind, let’s look at the 2021 Tampa Bay Buccaneers draft class one year later.

Pick 32: OLB Joe Tryon-Shoyinka

Bucs OLB Joe Tryon-Shoyinka

Bucs OLB Joe Tryon-Shoyinka – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

JTS was the last pick of the first round. The Bucs fell in love with him during his Pro Day and during team interviews. They were impressed by how Tryon-Shoyinka used his year off due to COVID to really maximize his body physically. Tryon-Shoyinka combined great athleticism with a desire to succeed. That made the Bucs think he could lead an outside linebacker room after Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul moved on.

Tryon-Shoyinka was expected to spell the starters and provide impact pass rush on long and late downs. In addition, he would provide insurance in case one of them got injured. Long-term, JTS was to be the heir-apparent to JPP, as Pierre-Paul was entering the last year of his contract while approaching his mid-thirties.

Re-Evaluating the Draft Pick

The Bucs plan here has worked out well so far. Pierre-Paul spent most of last year dealing with injuries that limited his ability to dress for games. When he did play, his performance was clearly affected by those injuries. Tryon-Shoyinka provided play that superseded JPP’s when the veteran was out. When Pierre-Paul was in, Tryon-Shoyinka was able to be impactful on a limited basis. Now, as we approach the 2022 season, Pierre-Paul remains un-signed and Tryon-Shoyinka looks poised to take over the starting OLB role.


Pick 64: QB Kyle Trask

Trask was a lightning rod of a pick. Many Bucs fans thought the use of a premium pick on a quarterback who would never see the field in year one was a waste. On top of that, evaluations of Trask didn’t exactly reveal the ideal Bruce Arians’ quarterback. But the Bucs saw someone who could effectively operate the offense when Tom Brady no longer donned red and pewter.

Trask was supposed to be a quarterback for the future. He could develop for a year or two, learning from great football minds such as Tom Brady, Tom Moore, Byron Leftwich and Bruce Arians. Then, in a post-Brady world, Trask would hopefully be ready to take the reins as Tampa Bay’s QB1.

Bucs QB Kyle Trask draft

Bucs QB Kyle Trask – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Re-Evaluating the Draft Pick

Year one for Trask went as planned. He spent the year as QB3 on the official depth chart. He got to learn the offense as the Bucs made another playoff run with Brady at the helm. Now that Brady is back for 2022, Trask will once again look to learn everything he can in a backup capacity.

There are two things to note with how events have unfolded in the offseason related to Trask. The first is that when Brady initially retired, the Bucs did not go all-in on Trask as the starter. Instead, they publicly praised his abilities while acknowledging that they were looking at all options. Secondly, when Brady did return, the team still made sure to re-sign Blaine Gabbert. Gabbert and Trask are set to battle throughout training camp for the primary backup job, but the veteran is the incumbent.

Ideal growth for Trask will be beating out Gabbert for QB2. Hopefully Trask can eventually move into the starter role when Brady is gone. But the next step in his evolution is clearly winning the No. 2 job. If Trask can do that, he’ll be on the timeline the Bucs envisioned for him on draft day.

Pick 95: IOL Robert Hainsey

Bucs C Robert Hainsey

Bucs C Robert Hainsey – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Hainsey profiled as so many Bucs offensive line draft picks before him. An OT in college, the Bucs saw him moving to an IOL position at the NFL level. This transition was always going to require time for Hainsey to learn a new position. After all, Hainsey took all his college snaps at right tackle. Also, the 23-year old would need to transform his body and add considerable muscle.

The plan was for Hainsey to spend the year as a backup. Of course, the Bucs gave him playing time late in games during blowouts too, and Hainsey performed well. Long-term, Hainsey is at worse a utility backup offensive lineman for the team At best, the workhorse lineman would step into a starting role, especially with Ali Marpet retiring.

Re-Evaluating the Draft Pick

The Bucs did lose Alex Cappa to free agency this year, but they were able to re-sign Ryan Jensen. The team was also able to replace Cappa by trading for Shaq Mason. What they probably did not foresee this time last year was the eventual retirement of Marpet. That has left a void that currently can be filled by a number of internal options. These options include Hainsey. Hainsey will need to beat out a couple of former UDFAs in Aaron Stinnie and Nick Leverett.

As a top-100 pick, Hainsey should win the competition. If he doesn’t, this pick will start to look like one that isn’t working out as planned.

Pick 129: WR Jaelon Darden

Bucs WR-KR Jaelon Darden

Bucs WR-KR Jaelon Darden – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

The Bucs saw a playmaker who could affect two different phases of the game when they traded up to draft Darden in the fourth round last year. Seen as an explosive threat with the ball in his hands, Tampa Bay hoped he could bring an element of YAC that most of their receiving room lacked. Most importantly,  the Bucs hoped that his playmaking ability would translate to the return game right away.

Re-Evaluating the Draft Pick

Year one did not go as planned for Darden. In limited opportunities, he was unable to carve out a consistent role late in the season in the team’s depleted wide receiver room. On special teams, Darden disappointed, averaging 19.9 yards per kick return and 7.5 yards per punt return for the season. Taking out a season-high long of 43 yards, that punt return average would have cratered to a 5.5 average. Darden consistently lost his footing after fielding a punt, often falling to the ground before any contact.

Darden’s struggles may ensure that he has no pre-determined role with the team in 2022. While his draft status may give him a roster spot for at least one more season, Darden will compete with Scotty Miller, Cyril Grayson Jr, Tyler Johnson and Breshad Perriman for the team’s WR4/5 spots.

Pick 176: LB KJ Britt

Bucs ILB K.J. Britt draft

Bucs ILB K.J. Britt – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

KJ Britt profiled as a hard-hitting, run-stuffing off-ball linebacker that the Bucs hoped could help on special teams in 2021. Ideally, Britt will develop into a decent starter, but more likely a No. 3 linebacker for Tampa Bay.

Re-Evaluating the Draft Pick

This one went pretty much according to plan in 2021. Britt logged snaps in five of the six special teams units for the season, while totaling an overall special teams grade of 68.6 for the season per PFF.

Britt also played 28 snaps on defense. He’s currently slotted as the team’s No. 3 linebacker. Given his lack of draft pedigree and limited exposure last year, the highest expectations for Britt moving forward is that he can be a competent backup and a special teams ace.

Pick 251: CB Chris Wilcox

Bucs CB Chris WIlcox draft

Bucs CB Chris WIlcox – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Wilcox was drafted as a potential depth piece to a unit that could see a lot of change over the next two seasons. CB1 Carlton Davis was in a contract year, with Sean Murphy-Bunting and Jamel Dean only a year behind him. Wilcox showed some characteristics that the Bucs looked for in corners. He was tall (6-2) and fast. The Bucs hoped he could spend year one developing as a back-of-the-roster or practice squad player.

Re-Evaluating the Draft Pick

Wilcox was waived on August 31st. The Bucs could have added him to the team’s practice squad. However, the Indianapolis Colts claimed Wilcox off of waivers. Two weeks later, the Colts were able to pass him through waivers and sign him to their practice squad. Wilcox remains a part of Indianapolis’ organization.

Pick 259: LB Grant Stuard

Bucs LB Grant Stuard draft

Bucs LB Grant Stuard – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Mr. Irrelevant was drafted by the Bucs with the primary intention of boosting the team’s struggling special teams. As someone who consistently played every snap at 110 percent, the Bucs saw someone who could bring a mentality to the third phase of the game the team desperately needed. Eventually, maybe Stuard could develop into a quality linebacker. But that wasn’t the driving force behind the team picking him.

Re-Evaluating the Draft Pick

Considering he was the last pick in the draft, the selection of Stuard has already been a clear success. Last year, Stuard logged over 300 snaps on special teams. He quickly became the team’s best cover guy with a team-high 8 tackles. Stuard even played almost as much on defense as Britt, with slightly better results. He should be a lock to make the team due to his special teams play.

Overall 2021 Draft Assessment

Seven picks. Seven plans of development. Five are currently on the proper trajectory based on the team’s original thought process. So far, there is no reason to view this draft as a disappointment. It is progressing almost exactly as the organization hoped.

Will the play of Tryon-Shoyinka, Hainsey and Darden, with massive opportunities this season, inform our eventual grade on this class? Yes, absolutely. But looking through the prism of the philosophy itself, last year’s draft is working out according to plan…so far.

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About the Author: Joshua Queipo

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Bradley Smith
Bradley Smith
2 months ago

I remember the preseason hype with Darden. He had some drops and too often tried to outrun coverage to the sideline. The latter may have worked playing in CUSA, but not the NFL.

drdneast
drdneast
Reply to  Bradley Smith
2 months ago

He reminded me of Kenny Bell on kickoffs, always “slipping” right before he got to the first level of tacklers. Either get bigger cleats or better guts. On top of that, I don’t think Brady really trusted him enough to throw the ball. Drafting Trask was a bust. A real Jordan Love pick as evidenced by their search for a legitimate starter before the season started. We are in he middle of a Super Bowl window and Licht wasted the pick on a QB who no one wants to see on the field for another year. I don’t share your… Read more »

scubog
scubog
Reply to  drdneast
2 months ago

You often cite the “wasted pick” of Jordan Love in Green Bay when they had Aaron Rodgers. The funny part is that you don’t go back a step further and mention the Aaron Rodgers choice when they had an aging and antsy Brett Favre. I’m not ready to write-off Kyle Trask until he eventually gets his chance like MVP Rodgers ultimately did. Hopefully the 45 year old GOAT plays the whole year, but I think we’re all smart enough to know this is probably his final season. Who knows, the Trask pick, might one day prove to be the one… Read more »

Dude
Dude
Reply to  scubog
2 months ago

I agree with you scubog! Imagine what people thought, and said, about Brady after Bledsoe went down back during his second year and was thrusted into the starting position in NE? I think Trask deserves his shot after the Brady era is over. No one knows what this kid can do until he’s been given a chance when the live bullets are flying. He’s got a strong arm and throws one of the best balls I’ve seen. I think he’s got some good upside. Not only that, but getting to spend two years behind the G.O.A.T., should be well worth… Read more »

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
2 months ago

Unless a rookie flat out fails completely or becomes a superstar, it is impossible to properly evaluate draft picks based upon rookie performance. Even when a rook plays very well, they all to often fail to develop in subsequent years. For most players, it takes a minimum of 3 years of NFL play to evaluate their viability for future play. For instance Joe Tryon Shoyinka played reasonably well for a rookie, but edge rushers typically take at least 2-3 seasons to learn all the tricks of NFL pass rushing. Joe is certainly on track, and it’s reasonable to expect him… Read more »

FinkleisEinhorn
FinkleisEinhorn
2 months ago

I’m not super optimistic on the 2021 class. It’s as if they treated this draft as a luxury, as if all we needed were special teamers. Everyone was either small, light, underdeveloped, or a combination of the three. JTS – very finesse, not much mass in the lower body. I’m running at him 30 times a game if I’m a d-coordinator next year…Hainsey has twigs for legs, looks like he needs another year or two in the weight room…Darden – tiny and plays scared…A 2nd round QB we seem to have very little faith in…And then we draft 2 middle… Read more »

drdneast
drdneast
Reply to  FinkleisEinhorn
2 months ago

I hope your not right but I agree with you in your opinion that Licht treated this class like a luxury. It was like he was searching for something that wasn’t there and then just took what he was hoping might work.

Eddie
Eddie
2 months ago

I know it is the PR writer’s job to paint a encouraging view for the Bucs front office. The reality is last year’s draft is average to poor. I hope the first round pick is spending a lot of his off season in the weigh room bulking up and adding strength.

drdneast
drdneast
Reply to  Eddie
2 months ago

Shoyinka is already a physical specimen, What he needs to do now is take the Suh class on playing with an attitude. To much McCoy in him.

Horse
Horse
2 months ago

This is all sound for me. I agree with your analysis.

Alldaway 2.0
Alldaway 2.0
2 months ago

I liked the 2021 draft class for the most part. I didn’t buy into the concept that the majority of these players are backups or special teams aces. All these players were picked to be groomed for 2023 in mind for bigger roles.

Spitfire
Spitfire
2 months ago

I still don’t think Gabbert winning #2 this year would be a knock on Trask. I think the Bucs we’re hoping Brady would be here this year originally, they wanted Trask to have absolutely no pressure to play last year, workout, study and learn the ropes. I think they probably planned on him competing for #2 this year but not expecting it. If he wins it and lights things up then great, but if not then Gabbert stays #2 to be ready to step in if he has to try to save the season. Meanwhile Trask will hopefully dress for… Read more »

James Taylor
James Taylor
2 months ago

Oh I disagree. JTS might work out for the team, but Christian Barmore was still available as was Javonte Williams. At the end of the third they picked Robert Hainsey over Quinn Meinerz a Division-III guy. The Jaelon Darden pick was also a head scratcher. He is too small to be in the NFL. He looks scared returning kicks and hears footsteps. It ain’t his fault because he is 175 staring down gunners at 210 running at him at full speed. In retrospect it would have been better to trade up in the second round and ship off that 4th… Read more »

scubog
scubog
2 months ago

I’m not ready to place a grade on the 2021 Draft class until after the 2022 season concludes. That said, so far it has been average. Most rookies don’t make much of an impact, but we all want to judge them against the few who do. Of course there are those draftees who very quickly look out of place and destined for a short career. Some are simply overwhelmed by the step-up in competition and their heads are spinning. That should subside. Thus, the second season should serve as a much better gauge. Picking at the absolute bottom of each… Read more »

fredster
fredster
2 months ago

last draft was below average for Licht imo. Time will tell but by end of 2022 we should have better idea. It was looked at as we don’t have any needs and they drafted some odd projects. I’m not even sure JTS will be above average as a starter. I have said I’d like to see another pass rusher here either draft or free agency. I just don’t think he will have the impact a healthy JPP had. Hope I’m wrong because I don’t think they will be adding another one early in draft or free agency at this point.… Read more »

Last edited 2 months ago by fredster