It took a little bit of maneuvering in Round One and a position-vs.-position decision in Round Two, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers feel like the first two days of the 2020 NFL Draft have presented a perfect match for what they were looking to accomplish.
"This was a great draft in terms of having players that we like that fit our needs," said General Manager Jason Licht at the end of the draft's second day, which included Rounds Two and Three. "That doesn't always happen that way. Starting in the first round with a pretty good group of offensive tackles – a very good group. Then at safety, then at running back – there are still some really good runners out there. It's a deep group of receivers. There are still some offensive linemen that we like. There are still some defensive linemen that we like. But we felt like the positions that we wanted to address this year, this draft really matched up with that, so we were fortunate in that respect."
Licht put together a small trade in Round One, moving up one spot from the 14th pick to make sure nobody leapt over the Buccaneers for Iowa tackle Tristan Wirfs. A potential new starter at right tackle for the front line protecting Tom Brady was clearly the team's biggest need. In the second round, the Buccaneers nabbed playmaking safety Antoine Winfield Jr. during a strong run on the position. And in the third round the offense got yet another weapon in versatile Vanderbilt running back Ke'Shawn Vaughn.
View pictures of S Antoine Winfield Jr., the 45th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
The Wirfs pick was something of a high-wire act, with the four top-rated offensive tackles falling in rapid succession. The sacrifice of a fourth-round pick was more than worth it to Licht and his staff. On Day Two, a rapid run at safety – the first two picks of the evening were safeties, as was the selection right before Tampa Bay was on the clock – made it clear that the Bucs should prioritize that position and see if they could still grab the running back they wanted in the third round.
"We obviously had Antoine Winfield graded pretty high," said Licht. "It's also a position that we wanted to address in the draft. We felt that as the draft rolled along that we'd be able to hopefully get a running back that we liked that we had graded at a high value and that's the way we did it. We felt the safeties were coming off pretty quick and if we left Antoine sitting there on the board, he wouldn't be there. We feel very good about the decision we made here and we're excited to have Antoine here."
Safeties Jeremy Chinn, Ashtyn Davis and Brandon Jones all went between the Bucs' selection of Winfield and the next time they were on the clock. Of course, so did running backs Cam Akers, J.K. Dobbins and A.J. Dillon, but running a draft is largely about estimating what will still be available from one round to the next and Licht's Buccaneers like the way the second day played out in regard to their needs. The Bucs wanted a running back who they thought could complement Ronald Jones and be a potential asset on all three downs, including sometimes splitting out and running routes like a wide receiver.
"By no stretch of the imagination am I going to say that we reached at all because he was sitting right there, right where we were picking and it just matched up with what felt like we needed, which was another running back to get in the mix with RoJo," said Licht. "RoJo, Dare [Ogunbowale], T.J. [Logan] – we feel like we've got a pretty good group right now.
View pictures of RB Ke'Shawn Vaughn, the 76th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
"I think [Vaughn] is capable of playing on all three downs so you can't have too many good backs. You can't just rely on one good back. If you have a guy who can do multiple things, it makes him even more valuable to your team. We'll see how it goes. We have to get him here, and we'll get him in the mix and we'll see how it all shakes out. We're excited to have him, as well."
The Buccaneers don't have any fourth-round picks to start Day Three on Saturday after the trade-up for Wirfs and the Rob Gronkowski deal, but they do have one pick each in the fifth and sixth rounds and two in the seventh. It's possible they will find another contributor in the draft's final day, or at least some assets for the future. No matter what happens on Saturday, though, the Bucs believe they addressed the right needs in the right order on Thursday and Friday.