Pro Football Focus came out with its ranking of the top 32 offensive tackles in the NFL heading into the 2021 season. Second-year Bucs right tackle Tristan Wirfs ranked sixth on the list after his sensational rookie season. But veteran left tackle Donovan Smith was nowhere to be found.

The PFF list accounts for both left and right tackles. But it’s interesting that Smith failed to make the cut coming off a Super Bowl season. Smith graded out with a 72.1 overall grade from PFF. He had a 69.6 pass blocking grade and a 74 run blocking grade in 2020. Smith was flagged for 11 penalties and surrendered six sacks.

Bucs LT Donovan Smith

Bucs LT Donovan Smith – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Not only did Smith not make the PFF list, but rookie Penei Sewell, Detroit’s first-round pick, made the list over him at No. 31. What’s interesting is that Smith is the highest-paid offensive lineman in Tampa Bay yet was snubbed. His average salary is $15.5 million. Smith just agreed to a two-year, $31.8-million contract extension through 2023. The deal comes with two voidable years (2024-25).

As for Wirfs, Tampa Bay’s first-round pick a year ago, PFF was very complimentary.

“Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers desperately needed 13th overall pick Tristan Wirfs to step in as the starting right tackle and provide strong play right away. They got that and then some. He closed out his rookie regular season as the second-highest-graded right tackle in the NFL (82.2). His 81.0 pass-blocking grade is also the second-best mark in the PFF era (since 2006) by a rookie right tackle — behind only Marshal Yanda in 2007. Wirfs held his own against several top-notch pass-rushers, including Cameron Jordan and Joey Bosa, and is bound to continue to find success moving forward.”

Wirfs surrendered just one sack in 2020 and was only penalized three times during his rookie year.

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: sr@pewterreport.com
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Alldaway 2.0
24 days ago

Smith has been okay but what I don’t like is seeing Smith being hyped up. I feel the opposite with Wirfs as he is flying under the radar…well not anymore.

Eddie
24 days ago

This ranking, in my opinion reflect the realistic ranking of Donovan SMith’s performance over the entire season. Somehow, his performance improved at the Washington Game when Gronk moved over frequently to help him against Chase. So was his improvement due to defensive scheme game or his ability change? There is always a question,

eaustinyoung
Reply to  Eddie
23 days ago

I have no proof of this, but there is a timeline connection between when AQ Shipley went down and was told that he couldn’t play anymore so Arians offered him an offensive line coaching position. Right around then, Smith’s play totally turned around.

eaustinyoung
Reply to  Eddie
23 days ago

Shipley is a good veteran player with a high field IQ and intimate knowledge of Arians’ system. Wouldn’t surprise me if him coming on is what bolstered the offensive line. They were lights-out in the postseason.

DT25
24 days ago

It’s clear these PFF “top 32” lists have a bit of opinion included with PFF adding rookies to the mix and not ranking guys right in line with their PFF grades. For Smith, his past will always stick with him and likely influenced the decision to not put him on this list. For about 3 years, he was a bad OT. No two ways around that. But in the past few years he’s steadily improved to the point that he’s simply not the same liability he once was. I think that puts him among the top 32 OTs in the… Read more »

toofamiliar17
Reply to  DT25
24 days ago

It’s also clear that they don’t weight LTs over RTs. Think of that what we may, it’s at least defensible given the way edge rushers are deployed in the NFL today. I get what you’re saying about Smith today and mostly agree – he’s finally become a solid player at his position, and I think he’s better than the 16th best LT in football today. But looking at their list, I can’t really pick out anyone I for sure think he’s better than. One can make an argument for him over guys like Sewell and a couple other guys at… Read more »

FLBoy84
Reply to  toofamiliar17
24 days ago

Agree with you overall toof. Still believe even the FO questions whether Smith’s recent improvement is permanent, as there’s a legit reason he’s only garnered 2 & 3yr extensions recently. Most teams would scramble to lock their 27yo LT into a long-term deal if they’re convinced he’s the answer. Found it telling that AB mentioned they initially projected Hainsey as being a starting RT at a minimum. If so, where does that move Wirfs to?

toofamiliar17
Reply to  FLBoy84
24 days ago

Definitely possible, and I wouldn’t blame them. Although it could also be that with his durability, Smith prefers moderate length deals to set himself up to hit the market and go get a better deal earlier, whether from us or whoever else. Longer deals = some more security, but they also = more likelihood that a player plays multiple years of his contract out under his market value. Recently, NBA players have taken to frequently taking less than max extensions in order to re-up at higher pay rates sooner. Smith may be doing something similar intentionally, it’s tough to know… Read more »

Naplesfan
24 days ago

Hardly anybody pays attention to PFF rankings except media people.
Certainly not NFL quarterbacks and coaches.

toofamiliar17
Reply to  Naplesfan
24 days ago

Actually, PFF works directly with all 32 teams in the NFL. PFF is contracted to provide them with various player analysis and, specifically, week to week with teams on opponent preparation to give them head starts on trend analysis of opponents and scouting reports. The information they provide includes snap analysis, player, unit, and overall team production grades, key plays, personnel/alignment/formation analysis, fronts, commonly used blitz and coverage concepts, and more. In addition to working with all 32 NFL teams they also work with over 100 college programs doing similar work, including over 80% of power 5 teams.

Naplesfan
Reply to  toofamiliar17
23 days ago

You sound like an ad for PFF.
What you wrote has zilch to do with how much credence coaches and other players put into PFF analyses and rankings. Obviously the Bucs don’t or they would have cut Smith by now.
Arians and Licht have their own way of evaluating players that much of the league doesn’t use. And they are reigning Super Bowl champions, and the rest of the league isn’t.

toofamiliar17
Reply to  Naplesfan
23 days ago

I’m just telling you facts, lol. I’m sorry if you don’t like them or what they do to your narrative. If all NFL teams use a whole host of PFF services and pay substantial money for them, it seems safe to say that those teams value PFF’s analysis and input. I can’t comment on how much individual coaches or players care about this stuff, and neither can you. We’re both completely guessing there. But if no coaches saw any value to be gained from PFF, then their teams wouldn’t spend money on acquiring their work. Which isn’t to say that… Read more »

Dave
Reply to  toofamiliar17
22 days ago

Couldn’t possibly have said it better. He really does think that Licht can’t possibly make a wrong call. In any way, shape, or form. And if you dare question a single move that he makes, you’re a piece of crap too. It’s like holy crap dude, you should hear yourself when you talk. You can’t even make this shit up

bucballer
24 days ago

With team success comes individual accolades!

SenileSenior
24 days ago

I saw a report (I don’t recall where) that Smith changed his stance under the guidance of his coaches. I give Smith kudos for being able to break a habit and learn something new about his basics after playing his position for so long. This incident also highlights once again the difference a coaching staff can make. We obviously had not had the same level around here for a long time previously. I would expect our main guys such as Scott, Mark, and Jon to note such things occasionally. I also, do not view a lot of film and watch… Read more »

WVBucFan
24 days ago

Smith sometimes plays down to his competition. Big games vs big names he usually has his best games. But I think after that Chi loss where he had a bad game, he played the rest of the season very well… I wasn’t mad when they extended him the past 2 times. He had a hell of a playoff run…

fredster
23 days ago

Despite being durable, Smith has always been inconsistent. He has always had too many penalties and gives up sacks at worst possible times usually. Whirfs is top 3 RT in league imo. Our 3rd and 4th rd picks are only ones I’m excited about. We may have filled a need for kick returner with Darden in 4th and another weapon and we may have landed another versatile O lineman in the 3rd with Hainsey. Tryon and Trask don’t thrill me will have to see on those 2.

toofamiliar17
Reply to  fredster
23 days ago

If Wirfs grows even just a decent amount in year two, he’s looking like a guy who will be one of the best OL in the league for the next decade. There’s a long road between here and there, but man, what an incredible start he got off to last season. Such a stud. I was thrilled to land him in the draft, but I was concerned about his relatively low floor in that OT group when compared to guys like Andrew Thomas and Jedrick Wills just due to his being quite raw. He sure exploded onto the scene though,… Read more »