The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had to cool their heels for roughly four hours on Thursday night to select the player who will become the immediate face of their 2021 draft class. The wait was worth it, as the 32nd and final pick of the first round yielded edge rush help in the person of University of Washington's Joe Tryon.
"He was the top guy that we had when we picked," said General Manager Jason Licht. "He was over guys that had been picked. [It] was going to be one of those situations where if we walked away and we got Joe Tryon we were going to be elated, so we are."
Four years ago, the Buccaneers were similarly elated to land another Washington Husky, defensive lineman Vita Vea, with the 12th overall pick, and indeed he has proved to be a very good player at the professional level. But, while Vea cuts a very big profile, he is far from the only valuable asset the 2017 draft yielded. The Buccaneers also got starting running back Ronald Jones and starting cornerback Carlton Davis in the second round, starting guard Alex Cappa in the third round and starting safety Jordan Whitehead in the fourth round.
In other words, the Bucs' 2017 draft was far from over after the selection of Vea, and the same is true four years later. After landing Tryon on opening night, Licht and the Buccaneers' brain trust will go back to work on Friday night for Rounds Two and Three. Barring trades, the team will pick 64th to finish the second round and 95th in the third round before the first handful of compensatory picks.
What will the second night of the 2021 draft produce for the Buccaneers. Below are six potential Day Two targets at six different positions. Please keep in mind that these are our selections and are not meant to reflect the opinions of Licht or any of the team's draft-weekend decision-makers.
1. Cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu, Syracuse
Weeks before the draft, Head Coach Bruce Arians, speaking in general terms, said the Buccaneers would like to add more speed on defense. Melifonwu has good if not outrageous speed, running the 40-yard dash in 4.48 seconds at the Syracuse Pro Day. He also showed impressive athleticism and explosiveness with a 41.5-inch vertical leap and a 11'2'' broad jump.
In addition to speed, Melifonwu has the size and length that Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles likes in his cornerbacks. Think Carlton Davis, but perhaps without as well-developed coverage skills at this point. That's okay if the Buc scouts think he has the potential to improve his footwork and mirroring skills because the team has time to let him develop. The Bucs are set with their top three corners in Davis, Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting, all of whom are still quite young themselves, but it is impossible to have too much cornerback depth.
Melifonwu is also a strong and willing tackler and he has the frame to hold up in run support. Those skills would also serve him well in what would likely be his first assignment in the NFL: special teams. That's another area that Arians specifically mentioned when discussing what the Buccaneers would like to add in the 2021 draft.
There were five cornerbacks drafted in the first round but there could be another run on the position in the second round with such players as Tyson Campbell, Asante Samuel, Aaron Robinson and Kelvin Joseph still available. Thus, if the Bucs wante dto land Melifonwu they might have to do it with their first pick of the night rather than the third-rounder.
View pictures of Washington OLB Joe Tryon, who Tampa Bay selected in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
2. Offensive Lineman Jackson Carman, Clemson
Carman primarily played tackle for the Tigers but might be better suited on the inside in the NFL due to his size, power and physical style of play. The Buccaneers are returning all five of their offensive line starters plus playoff fill-in Aaron Stinnie in 2021 but it never hurts to plan for the future and add competition and depth. Carman's positional flexibility potentially makes him a valuable depth piece at the start of his career.
Carman plays a powerful game and uses his 6-5, 335-pound frame to bully opposing linemen. He should be a force right away in the run game as he's able to move defenders off their spot, but he also has good feet and his time protecting Trevor Lawrence suggest he could be a good pass protector as well.
The second round of the 2021 draft should be absolutely loaded with offensive line picks. A run never developed at the end of the first round, as many expected, with Christian Darrisaw at the 23rd pick being the last lineman to hear his name on Thursday night. With blockers such as Teven Jenkins, Jalen Mayfield, Sam Cosmi, Dillon Radunz, Landon Dickerson, Wyatt Davis and Liam Eichenberg all still available, there should be enough depth to carry at least one of those linemen through to the end of the second round.
3. Interior Defensive Lineman Tyler Shelvin, LSU
The Buccaneers went into the 2021 draft on Thursday night with no glaring needs on the roster but perhaps a desire to acquire some depth and youth along the defensive front, both on the edge and in the interior. They accomplished the first with the selection of Tryon but might still be looking for future help on the inside given the veteran status of such starters as Ndamukong Suh and Will Gholston.
The week before the draft, Licht mentioned that the 2021 prospect pool was not particularly deep in interior linemen, which influenced the team's decision to re-sign Suh, Rakeem Nunez-Roches and Steve McLendon. Still, there are some interesting candidates on Day Two, and the Bucs don't have a lot of longer-term answers inside other than Vea.
First and foremost, the 345-pound Shelvin is a very sturdy run defender, and the last two seasons have demonstrated the emphasis the Bucs put on that area. Tampa Bay ranked first in the NFL in rush defense in both 2019 and 2020, and while the league continues to tilt more and more to the aerial game, the Bucs know that stopping the run first and making the opposition one-dimensional is a good place to start.
Shelvin started every game at nose tackle for LSU in 2019 before opting out amid the pandemic in 2020. The Buccaneers obviously do not hold the opt-out decision against prospects after taking Tryon, who made the same decision, in the first round.
There were no interior defensive linemen taken on Thursday night, setting up Day Two for a run at the position. Players such as Alabama's Christian Barmore, Washington's Levi Onwuzurike, Louisiana Tech's Milton Williams, North Carolina State's Alim McNeill and UCLA's Osa Odighizuwa could come off the board first, meaning it's possible the Bucs could land Shelvin or a similar player in Round Three.
4. Wide Receiver Dyami Brown, North Carolina
Simply put, Brown offers something the Buccaneers could covet on Day Two: big-play ability.
Brown heads to the NFL after two consecutive seasons of more than 1,000 receiving yards and a per-catch average north of 20.0 yards. His 2019 and 2020 campaigns were virtually identical in terms of his production, with 51 catches for 1,034 yards and 12 touchdowns in the former and 55 receptions for 1,099 yards and eight touchdowns in the latter. In addition to that obvious on-tape production, Brown also impressed at his Pro Day with a 4.44-second 40-yard dash.
The Bucs don't currently have a pressing need at wide receiver after managing to keep their 2020 group intact. They even have valuable and ascending depth in the likes of Scotty Miller and Tyler Johnson. Still, Chris Godwin will play the 2021 season on the one-year franchise tag tender and the expected re-signing of Antonio Brown would also be a short-term deal.
Furthermore, Brown's downfield capabilities fit into Arians' "no risk-it, no biscuit" philosophy and the Bucs' penchant for going over the top. The former Tarheel might need some work to develop a more varied route tree but he wouldn't be needed to step into a big role right away. He did not return kicks at North Carolina but given his speed and quickness he could possibly get a look in that department early in his career.
5. Linebacker Chazz Surratt, North Carolina
No, I am not a secret Tarheels fan, but Surratt could give the Buccaneers depth at a position that is lacking exactly that behind its incredible starting duo of Lavonte David and Devin White. Currently the only other off-ball linebacker on the roster is veteran Kevin Minter, who has proven to be a very good spot starter when needed but is only one man.
Surratt is fairly new to the linebacker position so would likely need some time to develop, which he would get behind David and White. He started out as a quarterback at UNC but switched to defense in 2019. It worked out immediately, as he started the last two years and racked up 207 tackles and 22.5 tackles for loss. He also snared two interceptions and accrued five passes defensed. Surratt is the sort of slightly-undersized (6-2, 225) but speedy and rangy linebacker that has so often excelled in Buccaneer defenses through the years.
Even if he has to wait a while for a big role on defense, Surratt has the skill set to be an asset from Day One on special teams which, again, is something the Bucs are looking for in this draft. And it's possible he could even play a role in sub packages as a pass rusher, given the 12.5 sacks he racked up over the past two years.
If the Buccaneers want to target a different position at the end of the second round, they might need a small slide by Surratt or a trade up in order to land him, as he is widely projected as a mid third-rounder.
6. Quarterback Kyle Trask, Florida
We can't discuss the Buccaneers' Day Two draft plans without at least considering the possibility of a quarterback in Round Two or Three. Both Arians and Licht have said on multiple occasions over the past two years that they would like to add a developmental quarterback if the right player and the right spot in the draft intersect. That didn't happen in 2020 but the Bucs could be more inclined to pull the trigger in 2021 given their overall lack of roster needs.
There are three quarterbacks commonly popping up in second and third-round draft projections: Trask, Stanford's Davis Mills and Kellen Mond of Texas A&M. All three could possibly last to the third round, but on the other hand there are plenty of teams that might still be interested in drafting a passer. If the Bucs were interested in Trask, they might have to get to him before such clubs as Washington, Detroit, Denver, New Orleans, Carolina, Philadelphia and Minnesota. Thus, it might take a second-round pick to make it happen.
Trask has prototypical QB size at 6-5 and 240 pounds and he was extremely productive for the Gators in 2020. His 43 touchdown passes led the nation last year and overall he finished his college career with a TD-INT ratio of 69-15 and a passer rating of 168.5. He's kind of late to the scene as an NFL prospect, spending most of his high school career and several years at Florida backing up other passers. He also hasn't yet shown that he can produce big plays when things break down.
Still, Trask is tough in the pocket and he shows good touch on his passes. He was also the one distributing the ball to top-20 picks Kyle Pitts and Kadarius Toney, which either means those playmakers made him look better or vice versa. Either way, in Tampa Trask would have plenty of time to hone his game behind Tom Brady and under the tutelage of Arians, Byron Leftwich, Clyde Christensen and Tom Moore.