The Buccaneers came away with seven picks from the 2021 NFL draft, which was unlike any other in recent memory. Not making their first pick until 32 and returning all of their starters from their Super Bowl winning team meant that at least in the first round, they had plenty of options and directions they could take.
They settled on outside linebacker Joe Tryon from the University of Washington, adding to their edge rotation on defense that includes two of the best bookends in the league. Any position the Bucs drafted had much the same story. Tampa Bay was drafting for wants, not for needs.
They followed their first pick up using that very same philosophy as they took quarterback Kyle Trask out of Florida. Tom Brady isn't going anywhere anytime soon, but this was to get a guy in that they could develop and potentially become Brady's successor… eventually.
The Bucs also focused a lot on special teams as the rounds went on, nabbing players that could be role players but will be able to make an immediate impact in the third phase of the ball. As far as the Bucs are concerned, they got what they needed.
While front offices have spent months and months preparing, draft analysts have spent months predicting what each team will do to very varying degrees of accuracy. But now that they've done it and we know the results, let's see what the experts have to say about Tampa Bay in particular.
The Bucs 2021 Draft Class:
OLB Joe Tryon, Washington
QB Kyle Trask, Florida
OL Robert Hainsey, Notre Dame
WR Jaelon Darden, North Texas
LB KJ Britt, Auburn
CB CJ Wilcox, BYU
LB Grant Stuard, Houston
Comments: "Tryon's versatility fits quite well in the Buccaneers' scheme, as he can play the five-technique or stand up as a powerful rush linebacker. The team really needed to get younger there, with Ndamukong Suh, William Gholston, and Jason Pierre-Paul all potentially free agents after the season. Trask could be a Nick Foles-type starter down the line, but was probably picked one round earlier than his skill set called for. Hainsey brings versatility and toughness to a Tampa line in need of depth.
I was afraid teams would overlook Darden because of his size (5-8, 174), but he was a draft crush for me because of his juice and toughness after the catch. Britt is a leader with great football IQ, and he will serve as a nice backup to the Bucs' veterans. GM Jason Licht finished off the draft with solid selections in versatile defensive back Wilcox and high-motor linebacker/special teamer Stuard."
Comments: "What a difference a year makes for the Bucs, huh? They crushed free agency and the draft last year -- offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs and safety Antoine Winfield Jr. were home runs with their first two choices -- and won Super Bowl LV. They brought back essentially everyone from their title-winning team, and they entered this draft with no immediate needs. They aren't likely to have any rookie starters, barring injury. Sure, they're aging in a few spots -- definitely not at quarterback, though -- but they could afford to stick to their board and pick the best guy available.
I'm kidding about quarterback, of course, because Bruce Arians will hope that his second-round pick becomes the future -- in the future. It was a little early for Kyle Trask (64) based on my rankings, but quarterback evaluations are always difficult, because coaches like what they like and no two evaluations are the same. It depends on scheme and fit. Arians must see starting potential in Trask. He had a tremendous 2020 season, but he needs to speed up his processing after the snap, and he's limited physically in the pocket.
Not to pass up Tampa's first-rounder, but Joe Tryon (32) is a productive edge rusher who forced 15 incompletions in 2019 (he opted out last season). He even played a few snaps at defensive tackle. The Bucs could use him as a third-down pass-rusher as a rookie while he gets his feet underneath him. Robert Hainsey (95) was the third Notre Dame linemen off the board, and he'll challenge for snaps at guard. He played tackle in college but is likely to move inside. Jaelon Darden (129) is an electric 5-foot-8 slot player. Linebacker Grant Stuard (259) might be the most entertaining Mr. Irrelevant in league history; he levels players when he hits them.
This is a solid if unspectacular group of picks, made more interesting by the quarterback in Round 2. If Trask develops into a starter, this grade obviously will be much different. But for now, with the Bucs not needing any rookies to play massive roles, this is a middle-of-the-pack class."
Comments: "They were clearly drafting for the future with all 22 starters back from the Super Bowl team. That's a heck of a luxury. First-round pick Joe Tryon gives them a nice potential replacement down the line for Jason Pierre-Paul."
Comments: "When your roster is stacked and without holes and you pick last in Round 1, nobody expects waves. That said, edge Joe Tryon was a reach in the 32nd spot with intriguing defensive linemen Christian Barmore and Azeez Ojulari on the board for the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
They could, however, afford to try to line up quarterback Tom Brady's potential successor. And while I think Kellen Mond has the most upside among the second-tier options at that position, I won't fault them for giving a shot to Kyle Trask.
Comments: "We were lower on Joe Tryon than most other outlets and analysts. He boasts ideal size, length and explosiveness and features a menacing bull rush. We just didn't see those dominant reps on a consistent basis, and that bull rush was about all he had to his name. He posted a middling 71.9 pass-rush grade in 2019 (opted out in 2020), and nearly half of his 41 pressures that year were unblocked or clean-ups. He's a work in progress, but the reigning Super Bowl champions can afford to take a chance on him."
Grade: B (first round only)
Comments: "With all 22 starters back this fall, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers went BPA here at the backend of the first round, where they may find themselves this time next year. Joe Tryon is a big-bodied defender with a strong lower half and polished fundamentals on the outside for defensive coordinator Todd Bowles to utilize."