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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs Draft Overview: The Right Kind of Guys at Positions of Need

The Buccaneers addressed multiple needs in the 2024 NFL Draft and came away with valuable additions that check the character box


At the 2024 NFL Combine, General Manager Jason Licht emphasized that bolstering the trenches would be a priority in the draft. The Bucs entered the draft with several needs to address and like Licht alluded to a month prior, the first two selections did just that – added value to the offensive and defensive line, respectively.

The draft began on Thursday, April 25, with the selection of Duke's Graham Barton. He is projected to play center but has the versatility to play any of the three interior spots. Barton earned All-America honors in 2020 as a freshman at center and started 34 games at left tackle for the Blue Devils over his last three seasons. His play garnered first-team All-ACC recognition in 2023 and he helped set the tone with a nasty disposition, nimble feet, violent hands and finisher mentality through the whistle. Barton's second-level skills and mobility are an upside in the run game.

"I think we got a lot better," said Assistant General Manager John Spytek. "We got a lot of our kind of guys at the positions we needed. They're good football players. We feel good about the way it shook out for us this year…those guys have to go out there and prove it. But, we are super excited with the way it fell and who we added. It gives us big expectations in the building."

The Buccaneers made seven picks over a three-day span during the draft, adding depth and potential plug-and-play starters. Here is Tampa Bay's complete 2024 draft class:

  • Round One (26): C Graham Barton
  • Round Two (57): OLB Chris Braswell
  • Round Three (89): S Tykee Smith
  • Round Three (92): WR Jalen McMillan
  • Round Four (125): RB Bucky Irving
  • Round Six (220): G Elijah Klein
  • Round Seven (246): TE Devin Culp

This marked the first time in 11 years that the Buccaneers and Jason Licht did not execute a trade during the draft. Tampa Bay exited the draft with the same selections it had when the spectacle kicked off on Thursday evening. The additional third-round pick came in a package from a trade that sent Carlton Davis III to the Detroit Lions. The Bucs did not have a fifth rounder due to a trade in 2023 to acquire an additional sixth-round pick for wide receiver Trey Palmer.

On Friday night in Round Two, the Buccaneers selected Alabama outside linebacker Chris Braswell, who gives the Bucs another valuable option in the edge rush rotation after the departure of Shaquil Barrett. Braswell showed patience at Alabama behind a talented edge rush group including Will Anderson Jr. and Dallas Turner. After playing in sub-package passing downs in 2022, Braswell took over Anderson's role in 2023 and led the SEC in pressures (56). With first-step quickness and a penetrating charge, he will help elevate the Bucs' defensive front.

The Bucs had two more picks late in the third round on Friday night and snagged Georgia safety Tykee Smith at number 89 and Washington wide receiver Jalen McMillan at number 92. Smith originally played safety at West Virginia (four picks in two seasons), before transferring to Alabama, where he settled into the nickel position in Kirby Smart's base scheme. With Antoine Winfield Jr. and Jordan Whitehead expected to be the starting tandem in 2024, Smith will likely compete for the nickel job. With instinctual play, physicality, urgency downhill and opportunistic ball skills, Smith will help fortify the Bucs' secondary. After accumulating 1,098 yards for the Huskies in 2022, McMillan dealt with a left knee injury last season that caused him to miss four games and positioned him behind Rome Odunze and Ja'Lynn Polk on the depth chart. McMillan has the speed and acceleration to attack defenses vertically and the slot machine possesses route-running fluidity, baiting defenders to generate leverage with head/body fakes.

To begin Day Three of the draft, the Buccaneers selected Oregon running back Bucky Irving in the fourth round. Irving gives Tampa Bay's rushing attack some depth. Irving averaged 6.2 yards per carry in his college career and has the shiftiness to shake off would-be tacklers. He plays with solid vision and surpassed the 1,000-yard rushing marker in each of his two seasons in Eugene. Irving creates yardage that was not blocked for him with cutting prowess and will fortify the Bucs' running back room in 2024.

With the last pick of the sixth round, their compensatory selection, the Bucs selected UTEP guard Elijah Klein. Klein was dubbed as one of the biggest sleepers in the draft by Duke Manyweather of OL Masterminds. During his zoom call, Klein candidly stated, "I don't claim to be the lightest on my feet, I don't claim to play with the most finesse. What I do like to do is put my head down and hit people as hard as I can."

The final pick, near the end of the seventh round, was another Washington product, tight end Devin Culp. Culp totaled 66 catches for 711 yards and four touchdowns for the Huskies during his six-year tenure at Washington. He ran a blazing 4.47 at the Combine, leaving onlookers stunned. Culp averaged 13.0 yards per catch last season and is a dangerous weapon with vertical speed and an innate feel for routes. He projects as an F tight end in the Bucs' offense, joining Cade Otton, Ko Kieft and Payne Durham.

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