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Could Bucs Repeat Tackle-to-Guard Convert in 2024 Draft? | Updates

Keep informed with our daily updates: News, notes and more throughout the month of April

G Cody Mauch #69
G Cody Mauch #69

April 12 Updates

Jason Licht's largely successful run of picking offensive linemen on Day Two of the draft has one collective throughline. From Ali Marpet to Alex Cappa to Robert Hainsey to Luke Goedeke to Cody Mauch, all of those second and third-round picks played tackle in college but were viewed as interior linemen during the draft process.

Marpet eventually played all three interior spots during his career and eventually landed in the Pro Bowl as a left guard. Alex Cappa settled in at right guard and played well enough to get a lucrative deal from the Bengals in free agency. Hainsey solidified the Bucs' center position the past two years after a knee injury pushed Pro Bowler Ryan Jensen to eventual retirement. Goedeke actually moved back to his college spot of right tackle in his second season and performed well, though Licht mentioned that the door isn't completely closed on him playing guard again at some point. Mauch was a Day One starter at right guard as a rookie last year and had a promising debut season.

(There's also a lot of small school success in that group, but Hainsey played at Notre Dame so that's a little bit less connective tissue.)

That things have mostly gone according to plan with all of those converted linemen is impressive, and perhaps a bit against the odds.

"I learned long ago that it's not as easy as people think," said Licht. "Some people think, 'Just move a guy inside and it'll work out.' The guy, first of all, has to be tough. He has to be able to have a lot of reactive athleticism because bullets are flying a lot quicker inside. You have people coming at you from different directions, as opposed to just coming off the edge."

As noted, all of those players were second or third-round picks, but it's possible the Bucs could try their hand at another O-Line position switch in the first round this season. Licht confirmed that the Bucs have needs in "both trenches" in his pre-draft press conference on Thursday, and indeed there is an open spot at left guard after Aaron Stinnie left for the Giants in free agency. For that reason, interior offensive line is a common pairing for the Bucs in mock drafts, and specifically a prospect often mocked to the team at pick number 26 is Duke's Graham Barton.

Barton played a little bit of center as a freshman out of necessity but then settled in at left tackle for the Blue Devils for the past three seasons. NFL scouts project him as a guard or center, however, and he has been compared to versatile Jets lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker. Other college tackes who could possibly move inside and are likely Day One or Two picks include Washington's Troy Fautanu, Arizona's Jordan Morgan and Kansas' Dominick Puni.

College tackles who are immediately moved inside by NFL teams usually have some physical trait that teams believe translate better to guard than tackle, such as shorter arms. But there's a lot more that goes into the scouting report when considering such a switch.

"You have to be instinctive, smart, tough," said Licht. "You have to be able to bend, you have to be able to anchor, you have to have some stoutness, you have to be able to play with your cleats in the ground. There's a lot of things that go into it."

CLICK HERE to watch Licht's entire pre-draft press conference.

bowles

April 1 Updates

For the first time in team history, the Buccaneers are three-time defending division champions, having now topped the NFC South in 2021, 2022 and 2023. The oddsmakers don't expect them to make it four in a row.

The Atlanta Falcons haven't won more than seven games in a season since 2017 and have a new head coach in 2024 in Raheem Morris. While that brief description wouldn't seem like the pedigree of a division favorite, the Falcons made one dramatic move earlier this offseason that has made the oddsmakers quite bullish on their fortunes. They signed quarterback Kirk Cousins.

It's early, obviously, but the Falcons are currently the betting favorites to win the NFC South, with the Bucs a somewhat distant second. Early win total projections have the Buccaneers at 8.5, which nearly matches their nine wins of 2023. The Falcons, however, are projected to win 10.5 games.

Of course, the Bucs are familiar with this situation. After winning the South with an 8-9 record in 2022 and watching Tom Brady ease into retirement, the Bucs were slapped with a projected win total of around six for 2023. The Bucs are also perfectly fine with this national perception.

"That's fine with me," said General Manager Jason Licht. "I like being the underdog. This team likes being the underdog. And I like keeping receipts."

The Bucs' nine wins in 2023 may have been the lowest total among the eight division winners, but the team surged to a 5-1 finish in the regular season then blasted Philadelphia in the Wild Card round before taking Detroit to the brink in the Divisional round. At this time a year ago, the Bucs thought they might have a suitable replacement for Brady but couldn't be completely sure. After Baker Mayfield's outstanding performance in his first season in Tampa, the Buccaneers have reason to feel more confident about their chances than they did last spring.

"To be honest, I feel a lot better than I did last offseason, knowing what this team is capable of," said Licht. "We were getting better and better as we went along during the season. It's not like we're just staying status quo. I think the players we have are going to get better, the team's going to be better and we're going to add some more youth during the draft, so I'm really, really excited."

Barring some major addition to the roster or an untimely injury, the Bucs' outside projections for the 2024 season are not likely to change much between now and the start of the season. And the Bucs will happily carry the role of underdog all the way up until it's time prove on the field whether they will capture a fourth straight division crown or not.

"It's no different," said Todd Bowles. "You talk about respect – Aretha Franklin's probably the only one that gets that. Everybody else, you kind of just go with the flow. We're not trying to win the offseason, we're trying to win the season. So our focus will be the same. It fuels a lot of us. It fuels the players. We get ready to come back and defend our title, like we did (in 2023), just go further in the playoffs. That's all we worry about at this time of the year."

CLICK HERE to listen to Todd Bowles' lengthy meeting with the media during the NFL Annual Meeting.

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