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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

First-Round Draft Target | Point-Counterpoint

Contributors Brianna Dix and Scott Smith discuss which position they think the Buccaneers should prioritize in the first round of this year's NFL Draft


Brianna Dix, our team writer/reporter, and I spent the last month debating topics from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' very encouraging 2023 season. What was the most pleasant surprise from that expectations-defying squad? Who was the team MVP? What were our favorite plays? And so on.

Now it's time to pivot and start looking forward.

Over the next month, our Point-Counterpoint discussions are going to focus on what lies aheadbetween now and the start of the 2024 season. And, of course, one of the biggest events in that span will be the 2024 NFL Draft. We've already started looking at that all-important weekend in April with a pair of mock drafts, one each by me and by Brianna.

Mock drafts are impossible to nail, and it usually only takes one or two surprise selections in the early going to throw a set of predictions completely off the rails. For the record, my first mock went with Washington EDGE Bralen Trice, while Brianna's first crack at it went with the same position but a different individual in Penn State's Chop Robinson. Those both seem like good ideas to me here in late February, but what are the chances either of those exact predictions will be right?

So for this exercise, let's simplify the ask a little bit. As we look at the Buccaneers' roster at the end of the 2023 season and how it could shape up after free agency, what do we think the priority position(s) will be on the first night of the draft? We don't have to nail a specific player, just the part of the depth chart the team will choose to address.

Here's the full list of topics we will be debating between now and the start of free agency.

Monday, February 5: Who was the Buccaneers' 2023 MVP?

Monday, February 26: Which position should the Buccaneers address in the first round of the 2024 NFL Draft?

Monday, March 4: What is the biggest need the Bucs have to address this offseason in order for the team to remain a contender in 2024?

Monday, March 11: If the Bucs are able to do any free agency shopping outside of their own roster, what position should they address?

Monday, March 18: Make one bold prediction for the Buccaneers' 2024 offseason.

Since we have decided not to allow duplicate answers, the order in which we pick can sometimes be significant. Therefore, we're alternating that order week by week, and this time around Ms. Dix gets to go first.

Brianna Dix: Edge Rusher

There are many positions that the Buccaneers could target with the first overall pick. Mike Evans is ticketed for free agency, but the future Hall of Famer will be a top priority for the team's brass this offseason. In addition to receiver, interior offensive line, safety and cornerback could be options at pick 26 for Tampa Bay.

Shaquil Barrett is 31-years-old, and the Buccaneers will need to find his successor for the future. In 2023, rookie Yaya Diaby led the club in sacks and any NFL can never have too much edge rush depth. It is no secret that Todd Bowles likes to dial up exotic pressure packages, rotating linemen to keep offenses guessing. Depending on the value that is available at 26, finding a dynamic player to make an impact in the rotation and get after the quarterback would bolster the Bucs' front line. In a pass-heavy league, pass rushers are held at a premium and the Bucs could find another diamond in the rough in 2024.

Scott Smith: Wide Receiver

It's hard to argue with much clarity at this point in time about how significant the Bucs' need at receiver will be by the time the draft rolls around. The one outcome that would greatly increase that need – franchise icon Mike Evans playing somewhere else in 2024 – is something I don't particularly want to think about and will be rooting against.

If Evans does depart, I probably don't have to say much more in this space. The Bucs wouldn't necessarily be able to find a one-for-one replacement for their all-time leading receiver, but they would have an obvious hole to fill in the lineup. So let's take this argument from a hypothetical vantage point of Evans remaining with the Buccaneers. And you know what? I still think a first-round swing at receiver is a good idea.

Evans is the last receiver the Bucs have taken in the first round of a draft, and that was a decade ago. As Brianna noted above in support of taking a pass rusher, the NFL is driven by the passing game these days, and unless your quarterback is Patrick Mahomes you usually need at least two standout pass-catchers to keep up. The Bucs have had that for a long time with Evans and Chris Godwin, and it has shown in the results; Tampa Bay is second only to Mahomes' Chiefs in passing yards over the last four years.

But how long will that be true? Even if both Evans and Godwin are both back in 2024 – and, again, it is my fervent hope that they are – how much longer will the Bucs be able to keep them together and in their respective primes? It just makes sense to make periodic attempts to land talented pass catchers in today's NFL and the Buccaneers haven't tried to do that in the first round in a long time. As is the case in most offseasons these days, the current crop of receiver prospects in the draft is deep and there will almost certainly be an intriguing option or two for the Buccaneers late in the first round.

Take a look at some of the best photos of the Buccaneers' offense from the 2023 season.

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