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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Nothing But Draft Talk | S.S. Mailbag

This week, as the 2022 NFL Draft looms, Bucs fans have a variety of questions about that topic, including the best prospect who could fall to the 27th pick

SS Mailbag

In the first eight years that he has helmed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers draft room, General Manager Jason Licht has had the opportunity to break some new ground for the franchise, in terms of how high certain players have been selected. In fact, for a while, he almost made it an annual event.

It started with the first pick of Licht's very first Buccaneer draft, the rather astute selection of Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans with the seventh overall choice in 2014. That happened to be the highest draft pick the Buccaneers had ever used on a receiver. The previous 'recordholder,' so to speak, was Michael Clayton, who had been chosen 15th overall one decade earlier.

Now, procuring the highest-drafted receiver in team history was obviously not any part of the motivation for Licht to pick Evans. It was need meeting draft position meeting a supreme talent, and it has worked out marvelously. Evans is the most accomplished offensive player in franchise history, with apologies to Mike Alstott, Paul Gruber and a few others. It was a coincidence, but several more coincidences were to follow, coincidentally.

The following year, the Buccaneers had the first pick in the 2015 draft, so without a trade Licht couldn't help at least tying a franchise record. That's what he did, using the pick on Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston. Tampa Bay had also used the first-overall pick on Miami quarterback Vinny Testaverde in 1987, setting a record that couldn't be broken but was probably destined to be tied at some point. (Here were are not counting Steve Young, who was the first pick in the 1984 USFL dispersal draft.)

The trend continued in 2016, when the Buccaneers drafted not one but two players with the highest picks they had ever used on their respective positions. Even after a small trade down in the first round, the Buccaneers still got their highest-drafted cornerback ever at number 11 in Florida's Vernon Hargreaves. Later, with a pick near the end of the second round, the Buccaneers tried to stop their frustrating kicking carousel by taking Florida State kicker Roberto Aguayo at number 59. Before that franchise icon Martin Gramatica had been the team's highest-drafted kicker, coming off the board at number 80 in 1999.

Licht and company made it four years in a row in 2017 when they nabbed Alabama tight end O.J. Howard – a player many had projected to go among the top 10 picks – at the 19th spot. Howard was the first tight end the Buccaneers had ever drafted in the first round, and remains unique that regard to this day.

Finally, the 2019 draft saw the Buccaneers sitting in the top 10, holding the fifth-overall pick. They would use that one on inside linebacker Devin White. This one is a little trickier because Tampa Bay drafted linebacker Keith McCants with the fourth-overall pick in 1990. But McCants, another Alabama product, was an outside linebacker drafted into a 3-4 defense, the type of player we would likely call an 'EDGE' in a mock draft today. When the Bucs switched to a 4-3 in 1991, McCants was re-labeled as a defensive end. I feel comfortable lumping him in with the OLB/DE/EDGE crowd and calling White the highest-drafted off-ball linebacker in team annals.

Again, this is all coincidence and certainly no specific plan by Licht or the Buccaneers. But it is a bit surprising that the team has checked off its highest-drafted player at six different positions in just the last eight years.

For the record, below are the players at each position taken with the highest pick in franchise history. I'm lumping the fullbacks in with the running backs.

QB: Vinny Testaverde (1987), Jameis Winston (2015) – 1st

RB: Bo Jackson (1986) – 1st

WR: Mike Evans (2014) – 7th

TE: O.J. Howard (2017) – 19th

T: Paul Gruber (1988) – 4th

G: Sean Farrell (1982) – 17th

C: Randy Grimes (1983) – 45th

DE/OLB/EDGE: Lee Roy Selmon (1976) – 1st

IDL: Gerald McCoy (2010) – 3rd

ILB: Devin White (2019) – 5th

CB: Vernon Hargreaves (2016) – 11th

S: Mark Barron (2012) – 7th

P: Monte Robbins (1988) – 107th

K: Roberto Aguayo (2016) – 59th

And now on to your questions.

A reminder that you can send questions to me anytime you want on Twitter (@ScottSBucs) and they're easier to find if you include the hashtag #SSMailbagBucs. We are also now soliciting questions each week on our Instagram page; look for that story on Wednesdays. As always, if you want to get a longer question into the mailbag and would prefer to email your question, you can do so to

Who is the best player in this draft that you could realistically see falling to the Bucs at pick 27?

-hh_crille80 (via Instagram)

This question is probably more difficult to answer this year because there is so little consensus as to who the best players are at a number of positions. Also, several general managers (including the Bucs' Jason Licht) and multiple draft analysts have contended that this year's class probably doesn't have enough players deserving of first-round grades to actually fill up a first round. If there are only, say 15-25 players in that category than it's going to be hard to find a way to get one of them to the Buccaneers. The best development for Tampa Bay would probably be an earlier and larger run on quarterbacks than expected, at least if you don't think the QBs are among that group of players with first-round grades.

But I'll give it a shot. First, let's rule out a dozen or so players that seemingly have no shot at lasting to the fourth quarter of the first round, barring some kind of last-minute news bombshell. I would include edge rushers Aidan Hutchinson, Travon Walker, Kayvon Thibodeaux and Jermaine Johnson in that group. I would also include offensive tackles Ikem Ekwonu, Evan Neal and Charles Cross. No way are defensive backs Ahmad Gardner, Derek Stingley Jr. and Kyle Hamilton going to fall out of the top half of the round. The receivers are interesting because there are a lot of different opinions about the order the top five should go in, but I'm willing to bet Garrett Wilson and Jameson Williams are long gone before 27. And while I'd like to finagle a way to get interior defensive lineman Jordan Davis down to 27, I can't see it happening.

Here's my first answer, and I know it's going to seem like cheating, but I think it fits the criteria of the question: Michigan edge rusher David Ojabo. Hutchinson is the probable top-two pick out of Michigan but Ojabo's stock was really gaining steam after the NFL Scouting Combine, where he ran a 4.55 40-yard dash and generally impressed with his overall athleticism. If you go back and scan some mock drafts during the first half of March you'll see Ojabo's stock on the rise, with some putting him in the top 10 and most in the top 15.

Then, of course, misfortune found Ojabo as he suffered a torn Achilles tendon during Michigan's Pro Day on March 18. The impact on mock drafts after that date was predictable, with Ojabo immediately falling out of almost all first-round mocks. It has only been lately, in the last week or so before the draft, that his name has started to pop up again in the first round, as various analysts have good teams near the end of the round making something of a luxury pick. (I gave him to the Packers at number 28 in my final mock, with Green Bay previously hitting its glaring need at wide receiver with the first of their two first-round picks.)

I'm not saying the Buccaneers would pull the trigger on an Ojabo pick at number 27, but he will probably be the most talented player left on the board at that point, injury issue aside.

I think Georgia's other defensive tackle, Devonte Wyatt, is another possibility, and in fact I've had that as the Bucs' pick in previous mock drafts. In my last one, though, I didn't have Wyatt still available at 27 and I think it's likely he's off the board by the Bucs' pick on Thursday night. Still, it's realistic to think he could make it.

A couple other choices: Arkansas wide receiver Treylon Burks. If we put the top tier of receivers as Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave, Drake London, Jameson Williams and Burks, in some order, my guess is that Burks is the one most likely to slip if there are not enough teams looking for a receiver in the first 25 picks. He's probably the least polished of those five but still a really intriguing prospect. I don't think this happens but it's not unrealistic. Utah linebacker Devin Lloyd, Washington cornerback Trent McDuffie and Boston College guard Zion Johnson all seem like possibilities.

In terms of pure talent and the possibility of the player being available at number 27, if you consider the Ojabo pick a cheat then I would probably go with Lloyd. I'm not sure how many teams are desperate for an off-ball linebacker, even a really, really good one, in the first round this year, so he could fall below where his talents say he should go.

Would the Bucs possibly look to address special teams in the draft this year even after selecting Jaelon Darden a year ago?

-tjhark1 (via Instagram)

It wasn't just Darden in the 2021 draft if we're talking special teams. On Saturday of draft weekend last year, the Buccaneers took Auburn linebacker K.J. Britt in the fifth round and Houston linebacker Grant Stuard with the Mr. Irrelevant pick in the seventh round and immediately noted that both players had a good shot to help on special teams as rookies. And that's exactly what happened, which Jason Licht noted during this year's pre-draft press conference. And, yes, Darden filled the punt and kickoff return jobs for the majority of the 2021 season, too.

Would the Buccaneers do that again in 2022? Well, I believe they are always going to have special teams considerations in the back of their minds when we get a bit into Day Three of the draft. Britt and Stuard are good examples. Tampa Bay hopes that both guys will eventually develop into players that can offer some value on defense, but if that doesn't happen the team will have still gotten a reasonable amount of value after later picks. It's very common for sixth and seventh-rounders, in particular, to never make much of a mark.

That said, there won't be nearly as much opportunity for that to happen this year, unless Licht does some draft weekend wheelin' and dealin'. The Buccaneers don't have any picks in the fifth and sixth round, which would be a prime spot to land, say, a defensive back or running back with some tools at their main positions but very projectable special teams roles. The Bucs do have two picks near the end of the seventh round, but Grant Stuard aside those usually aren't high-percentage plays.

The Bucs also don't have any extra picks in the first four rounds, so there's not a lot of room to make picks that don't hit one of their more pressing needs. This is completely hypothetical, but let's say the team grabs someone for their defensive front (IDL or OLB) in the first round, then goes after tight end and cornerback depth in the next two rounds. That leaves just one more pick, number 133 in the fourth round, before the long wait to the draft's final moments. A pass-catching running back might be nice here, or a guard with some long-term starting potential, or a safety. At this point in the draft, I think you're still trying to find a player primarily for what he can do at his main position, with any special teams contributions being a bonus.

Even after using a second-round pick on Kyle Trask last year, could you see the Bucs taking a QB in this draft?

-alden.sie (via Instagram)

Anything's possible, I guess, but I really doubt it. The Buccaneers already have a young quarterback that they took with a fairly high pick (second round, number 64) a year ago in Kyle Trask, and they haven't really had much time to develop him yet. I'm not sure the team wants to get in the business of developing two young quarterbacks at the same time, though I guess it's not unheard of. I'll concede that Washington selected both Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins in the same 2012 draft and ended up being happy they did when injuries derailed RG3's career. But Washington also knew it was going to start Griffin right away so they really only had one young QB they were presumably developing for the long run. The only other QBs they had at the time were Rex Grossman and John Beck; Beck was released the same day Cousins was drafted.

To me, the only way this would make sense is if the Buccaneers were to pick one of the top quarterbacks available in this draft, believing him to be a higher-level prospect than Trask. I have no idea if Licht and company feel strongly about any of this year's passers – Malik Willis, Kenny Pickett, Desmond Ridder, Matt Corral, etc. – but I would be surprised if they felt strongly enough to quarterback in the first round or two rather than hitting some more pressing needs. With Tom Brady's return and his contract only running through the upcoming season, the Buccaneers are obviously in all-in, win-now mode. I think they would prefer to use their earliest picks on players who can hopefully help with that Super Bowl chase right away.

The Bucs aren't actually lacking in quarterback depth, so I don't see a later-round pick at the position being likely, either. Blaine Gabbert re-signed with the team again, and while Trask will probably get a greater shot at competing for the number-two job this year than he did as a rookie the current coaching staff is obviously very comfortable with Gabbert as Brady's primary backup. The Bucs even re-signed Ryan Griffin, who spent all of last season on the practice squad as a fourth quarterback in the house and conceivably do so again.

If the Buccaneers were to draft another quarterback this year, it would create a logjam at the position when it came time to cut the roster down to 53 players. I can't see the team devoting four spots to the quarterback position because that would be three players who almost never contribute on the field on game days. So to make room for the newly-drafted player on the roster, the Bucs would either have to give up on Trask after just one season in which all the exposure he got was a little work in the preseason, or hand Trask the number-two job and move on from Gabbert. I don't think either of those things is likely so, again, I would be surprised if the Bucs drafted another quarterback this season.

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