Skip to main content
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Five Possible Targets for the Bucs' Second-Round Pick

The Buccaneers could seek help at a variety of positions on the second night of the NFL Draft, including wide receiver, linebacker and offensive tackle


Earlier this week, I looked at the entire history of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' second-round draft picks prior to 2023. Within that compilation I noted that the average number of games played and games started for those players for the team were 58 and 41, respectively. That number actually skews a little low because five of those second-round picks are still on the roster and are going to be adding to their own participation totals.

So, even with the inevitable misses that come in every single round, even the first, the baseline expectation for a second-round pick is a multi-season starter. I bring that up again to make this point: Even though the vast majority of pre-draft analysis and speculation focuses on the first round, what happens in the Buccaneers' draft room on Friday night is also of deep significance for the franchise.

After adding to their defensive front with the selection of Pitt lineman Calijah Kancey with the 19th overall pick on Thursday night, the Buccaneers have a number of different directions they could go with pick number 50 in the second round. Let's look at some possibilities, factoring in what look like positions of need on the team's depth chart.

Last year, after a trade down on Thursday night, the Buccaneers had their pick of every player left because they had acquired Jacksonville's top pick in Round Two. This time around, their first pick on Friday night is a bit past the middle of the round. That means we have to be realistic with our options here. For instance, Tampa Bay's defense could probably use at least one more option in their edge-rush rotation, but I think the remaining pass rushers could go quickly on Friday night.

Please keep in mind that these are my guesses and are not meant to reflect the opinions of General Manager Jason Licht or any of the team's draft-weekend decision-makers.

1. WR Josh Downs, North Carolina

For a long time now, the wideout position has been considered one of the greatest strengths on the Buccaneers' depth chart. And that crew is still fronted by a trio of Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Russell Gage that easily ranks among the best in the NFL. However, take a look at the current roster: Beyond those three, the only other wideouts under contract are Kaylon Geiger and Deven Thompkins. I like Geiger and Thompkins, but they are both smaller receivers who went undrafted last year.

Scotty Miller is in Atlanta and at least as of yet Julio Jones and Breshad Perriman have not been re-signed. The Bucs could use another weapon in their receiver room, particularly considering the injuries they have had to navigate around in recent years. While this year's class of receivers is not as deep or top-heavy as the ones we've become accustomed to in recent years, there are a number of smaller-but-quick pass-catchers who are likely to fly off the board on Friday night.

One of those is Downs, who measured in at 5-9 and 171 pounds at the Combine and ran a 4.48-second 40-yard dash with good numbers in the drills that measured explosiveness. Downs was extremely productive the last two years at UNC, catching a total of 195 passes for 2,364 yards and 13 touchdowns. He's a fantastic athlete – his father, Gary, played seven years in the NFL as a running back – and his shifty route running makes him a good fit to play out of the slot. He is simply a tough man to cover man-to-man and he is great at finding the open spots in zone coverage.

The Bucs have made great use of Godwin out of the slot during his career and may continue to do so. However, the team has a new offensive coordinator in Dave Canales and could possibly be looking to utilize Godwin on the outside a bit more going forward. Either way, Downs would add another weapon for whomever wins the quarterback battle to replace Tom Brady.

2. CB D.J. Turner, Michigan

The Buccaneers have invested heavily in retaining their homegrown cornerback standouts the past two years, signing Carlton Davis to a multi-year deal in 2022 and Carlton Davis to the same thing this year. However, Sean Murphy-Bunting and Mike Edwards, two potential options to play in the slot, left in free agency and Antoine Winfield, who held that job last year, is apparently going to focus on free safety this year.

I am always a proponent of using early picks on cornerbacks because I feel like it is a very difficult position at which to cultivate and maintain enough talent. In this particular case, however, the best way for the Buccaneers to do that and land a player who could help them immediately is to find a corner who can operate in the slot. That's Turner.

First of all, Turner is fast, and General Manager Jason Licht mentioned at his pre-draft press conference that the Bucs need more team speed. Turner ran a 4.26-second 40-yard dash and a 2.58 20-yard split at the Combine, both the fastest numbers for any player intended. So check that box. He also has good change-of-direction skills – essential to surviving in the slot – and doesn't mind getting physical with receivers. He broke up 20 passes over the last two seasons at Michigan.

3. LB Trenton Simpson, Clemson

In terms of projection regarding his availability at the 50th pick, this is probably the shakiest pick on the list. Simpson is considered one of the three best prospects at his position and is surely number-one on some evaluators' boards. However, the off-ball linebacker position is pretty far down the pecking order on draft weekend and this isn't considered a particularly strong class at that spot. As such, Simpson could be available around the middle of the second round, depending upon how teams feel about Arkansas' Drew Sanders and Washington State's Daiyan Henley (Iowa's Jack Campbell went in the first round).

Make no mistake: The Buccaneers have their two starters for the inside linebacker position in 2023. The team was able to re-sign long-time Tampa Bay star Lavonte David and, as Licht noted two weeks ago, have no intention of trading Devin White despite a request. However, those two are under contract for just one more season and there's no guarantee that either will be on the field in 2024. Reloading in the linebacker room is probably a good idea.

Simpson has a very appealing size-speed combination for patrolling the middle of the field. He stands 6-2 and 235 pounds and ran the 40 in 4.43 seconds at the Combine. He is the type of rangy, sideline-to-sideline 'backer that the Buccaneers have been fortunate to find over and over again in their history, most recently with David and Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks. Simpson has long arms, a sudden burst and the desire to visit big hits on opposing ballcarriers.

In addition, like White, Simpson has shown he can get into the opposing backfield. He's a great blitzer and had 12.5 sacks over three years at Clemson, and he makes life difficult for running backs who are trying to protect their passers.

4. TE Sam LaPorta, Iowa

The Buccaneers drafted two tight ends just a year ago, so this wouldn't seem like a position of need. However, after the retirement of Rob Gronkowski in 2021 and the release of long-time stalwart Cam Brate in March, the depth chart at the position is a little thin, particularly in terms of pass catchers.

Cade Otton, a fourth-round pick last year, had a very promising rookie season and looks like he could be a long-term starter with two-way potential for the Buccaneers. Ko Kieft, a sixth-round selection, also delivered a very good debut season, particularly in terms of blocking and making an impact on special teams, but may not be a high-volume pass-catcher. The depth chart could use another tight end who could add spice to "12" personnel packages alongside Otton, and this year's class of prospects is considered on of the deepest in a long time.

That's how the Bucs could land LaPorta, a very productive tight end at Iowa, in the middle of the second round. He might be the fifth, sixth or seventh tight end of the board but he still has the potential to develop into a very good pass-catcher in the NFL. Over the past two seasons he hauled in 101 passes for 1,321 yards and four touchdowns.

LaPorta ran a 4.59-second 40-yard dash at the Combine and showed off good short-area quickness. He has soft hands and can work down the field in the seams and is a hard-working competitor. He was also a team captain as a senior. Bucs scouts like that.

5. T/G Cody Mauch, North Dakota State

Hey, you know what Jason Licht's Bucs have done quite well over the years: Draft offensive lineman out of smaller football programs. Could they do it again with North Dakota State's Mauch?

The first part of answering that question is whether or not the Bucs see Mauch as an offensive tackle at the next level. He played left tackle for the Bisons and fared quite well, but there are concerns about whether his size (6-1, 302) and wingspan will be adequate for the position in the NFL. That said, Mauch is very athletic – he started at NDSU as a 220-pound tight end but didn't lose his movement skills as he bulked up to 300 pounds – and he plays with intensity at all times.

The Buccaneers will likely be adopting more wide-zone schemes in their rushing attack under new Offensive Coordinator Dave Canales, and offensive lineman who can block on the run are at a premium in that approach. Mauch is very mobile and he knows how to work his way through traffic in this kind of scheme.

The Buccaneers are in the market for a new starting tackle after releasing long-time iron man Donovan Smith in March. All-Pro Tristan Wirfs will be manning one of the two positions, depending upon what the Buccaneers end up with on either side. They have in-house options to consider at right tackle if Wirfs moves down the line, including Luke Goedeke and Brandon Walton. But adding another potential starter to the mix would only help with the competition up front.

Related Content

win monthly prizes, download the app and turn on push alerts to score

Download the Buccaneers app and turn on push alerts for your chance to win

Latest Headlines