The 2022 NFL Draft is right around the corner. Naturally, there is a lot of speculation on whom the Bucs might select. One of the main points of contention with fans has been whether or not the Bucs should take a guard in the first round. Bucs Pro Bowler Ali Marpet’s sudden retirement and losing Alex Cappa in free agency created a sizeable hole on the offensive line.
Tampa Bay’s trade with New England for right guard Shaq Mason could be viewed as an upgrade over Cappa. But the hole at left guard remains. Do the Bucs have adequate talent and depth with Aaron Stinnie, Nick Leverett and Robert Hainsey? None of those players are close to Marpet’s level of greatness.
But can the Bucs get away with “good enough” at left guard with one of those three in-house solutions?
Bucs G Nick Leverett – Photo courtesy of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Potential first-round picks like Boston College’s Zion Johnson and Texas A&M’s Kenyon Green have garnered the most intrigue from fans wanting a premium draft pick to fill Marpet’s vacancy. Johnson is the safer pick and deemed to be more of an instant plug-and-play guard.
Green might have a higher upside due to his size and physicality. But he has a ways to go in pass protection and technique. Either player could jump to the top of the competition for the left guard spot and have a realistic shot at winning the job. Yet is it the right move?
In Stinnie’s four career starts, the offensive line hasn’t missed a beat. When Cappa was injured in the 2020 playoffs, Stinnie more than held his own. Thrust into action during a Super Bowl run, he was solid in three of the most important games of his career.
Leverett is a young, promising player who has versatility to play across the line. He has improved each year since he’s entered the league and had a solid showing in the Colts game last year.
Hainsey would’ve competed to start at center this year if Jensen were not back. He has the tools and make-up to start at guard. Plus, the Bucs already have a third-round pick invested in him.
The Bucs don’t have many holes on their roster, though depth at various positions is an issue. Most will argue that with so few holes, getting a plug-and-play starter is more important than a player who might not see the field as much.
Texas A&M G Kenyon Green – Photo by: USA Today
While that is a fair point, Tampa Bay has set itself up in a position where the team can select the best player available regardless of position. That could in fact be a guard like Johnson or Green. But the Bucs shouldn’t – and won’t – pigeonhole themselves into drafting one position at No. 27.
The Bucs could be content on waiting to address the guard position on Day 2 of the draft. Players like Memphis’ Dylan Parham and Chattanooga’s Cole Strange could be available. But does it makes sense for the Bucs to add another second day lineman to the left guard competition? Especially when Tampa Bay drafted Hainsey just last year?
That’s a question the Bucs will have to answer starting on April 28. They brought in Strange for a Top 30 pre-draft visit, and met with Johnson at the NFL Scouting Combine. So the guard position is certainly on Tampa Bay’s radar.