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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Five Possible Targets for the Bucs' Second-Round Pick

 After landing Duke center Graham Barton on Thursday night, the Bucs now turn their attention to the second round, where their 57th pick could net help at such positions as cornerback, wide receiver and linebacker


On Thursday night, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were able to stay put at the 26th slot in the first round of the 2024 NFL Draft and still land one of their most coveted players, Duke center Graham Barton. While the evenings proceedings unfolded in a way that worked out well for the Buccaneers – including six quarterbacks being snatched among the first 13 picks – there was certainly no guarantee that would happen when the evening began.

"You never know," said General Manager Jason Licht. "It's impossible to predict what's going to happen late in the first round – or any round – but late in the first round, especially. It just kind of fell the only way it could have [fallen] for us. Now, [Barton] hasn't come in here and played one snap yet, so I'm not trying to put his bust in Canton yet, but we're very happy that we get the guy that we targeted."

The Buccaneers' next pick in this draft, barring any trades, is late in the second round on Friday night, specifically at pick number 57. If it's hard to predict how the first 26 selections will fall, you can increase that order of difficult by several magnitudes for the 57th pick. Still, as we wait for the draft to resume at 7:00 p.m. ET on Friday, we can throw a few darts at prospects still on the board who might be available at 57 and of interest to the Buccaneers. Keep in mind also that a trade up is always possible, so if a couple of these players seem like they might be drafted before the Bucs' pick, there's always a chance that Licht can maneuver his team into a spot to make it happen.

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

  1. CB Mike Sainristil, Michigan

The Buccaneers had a succession plan in place when they traded six-year starter Carlton Davis to the Lions for a third-round pick last month. Head Coach Todd Bowles is confident in third-year player Zyon McCollum, an extremely fast and athletic corner who actually started nine games in 2023, at various times filling in for either Davis or Jamel Dean while they were out with injuries. The Bucs appear to be set at the two outside corner spots with Dean and McCollum in 2024.

That said, I am of the unwavering belief that an NFL team can never have too many starting-caliber corners, and the somewhat frequent absences of Davis and Dean last year feed into that belief. Now, Sainristil (5-9, 182) is probably best suited to play in the slot, and the Buccaneers are also returning their starting nickel corner from last year in former undrafted player Christian Izien, but Sainristil would likely get a real chance to compete for reps right away.

Sainristil was a two-way player in high school, playing receiver and cornerback, and his pass-catching background shows in how well he plays the ball. He had a whopping six interceptions last year, along with 12 passes defensed, and he returned two of those picks for touchdowns. Sainristil has the foot quickness, change of direction skills and toughness needed to survive in the middle, and he's better in run support than his size would suggest.

  1. EDGE Marshawn Kneeland, Western Michigan

It's not easy to find a productive pass-rusher after the first round, though the Bucs did so just last year with Louisville's Yaya Diaby in the third round. For a promising edge rusher to last into Day Two, he usually must have some questions in his scouting report. In Diaby's case, the Buccaneers believed he could thrive right away as an edge-setter who would be very good against the run, but they would have to wait and see if he would develop into a pass-rusher of note. They didn't have to wait long, though, as Diaby led the Bucs with 7.5 sacks in his rookie season.

The Buccaneers could definitely use another player for their edge rush rotation after releasing their top pass-rusher of the last five years, Shaquil Barrett, in a salary cap move in March. The recent signing of Randy Gregory potentially lessens the Bucs' need in that regard, but there's still room for another competitor to join the rotation.

In Kneeland's case, the limiting factor in his draft stock was probably that he is still developing his toolset as a pass rusher. His single-season high in four seasons at Western Michigan was 4.5 sacks, and last year he recorded three of his 4.5 QB takedowns in a single game against Eastern Michigan.

However, Kneeland is a very intriguing athletic prospect, with good size (6-3, 267) for the position and long arms to keep would-be blockers at bay. He gets off the ball quickly at the snap and immediately converts speed to power, knocking lineman backward. He also plays with a non-stop motor that can produce some hustle plays and will surely appeal to Coach Bowles.

  1. WR Troy Franklin, Oregon

The Bucs might have had a whole different focus in the first round of this year's draft if they hadn't been able to re-sign franchise icon Mike Evans in March. With Evans hopefully becoming a "Buc for Life" and Chris Godwin also under contract, the Buccaneers have one of the better starting wideout duos in the NFL. In addition, 2023 sixth-rounder Trey Palmer showed some promise with his field stretching speed as a rookie and undrafted receiver Rakim Jarrett could prove to be a find. Still, Licht opined on the attractive possibility of adding more pass-catching depth during his pre-draft press conference two weeks ago.

"It's another position that you can't have too many of those," said Licht. "I think [Offensive Coordinator] Liam [Coen] can find a way to use a lot of very good receivers and playmakers. We really like Trey and we like what 'Rock' was showing before he got injured last year. Like I said, it's another position that I would consider a need and you can't fill them all right now in the draft, but we'd love to get one."

Day Two might be the chance to get one. After the consensus top three receivers came off the board in the first nine picks on Thursday, followed by the expected fourth one in LSU's Brian Thomas, there seemed to be little consensus as to how the rest of another deep class of receivers should be arranged. Xavier Worthy, Ricky Pearsall and Xavier Legette also came off the board in the first round but that still leaves the likes of Franklin, Ladd McConkey, Adonai Mitchell, Roman Wilson, Keon Coleman, Malachi Corley and Ja'Lynn Polk for teams to sort through, and they could all get the call in the second round.

Franklin is slender but tall and he has both the speed and surprising acceleration to get past defenders quickly and get open deep, as shown by his 17.1 yards per catch and 14 touchdown receptions for Oregon in 2023. He's also quite good after the catch, with the ability to make sharp cuts without decelerating and get past waiting defenders. His 25 touchdown grabs over the past two seasons were second in that span only to Ohio State's Marvin Harrison Jr.

  1. LB Edgerrin Cooper, Texas A&M

The Buccaneers watched one of their two off-ball starters depart in free agency as 2019 first-round pick Devin White signed with the Eagles. After re-signing long-time star Lavonte David for another season in March, the team will presumably let a pair of former fifth-round picks, K.J. Britt and SirVocea Dennis, battle it out for White's vacated spot. Britt drew several starts late last season after White suffered an injury, and continued to see significant play time when White came back. Dennis has an intriguing skill set that could make him a valuable blitzer from the middle or the edge.

That said, the depth chart is not particularly deep at this spot and the Bucs will probably need to plan for the future at some point. A newcomer like Cooper would likely get the chance to compete for a starting spot right away but would almost certainly be an immediate core contributor on special teams.

The 6-2, 230-pound Texas A&M product ran a 4.51 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine and showed smooth feet and natural agility in the other drills. The speed shows up on his game tape, as he is a very rangy linebacker who can cover a lot of ground. He's smooth in coverage as well and projects as a potential three-down linebacker in the NFL. The Buccaneers really leaned into White's skills as a blitzer during his time with the team, and Cooper could prove to be a force in that regard, too. He had 8.0 sacks last season while earning first-team All-America honors.

  1. S Javon Bullard, Georgia

The Buccaneers were delighted to bring Jordan Whitehead back after his two seasons with the Jets, and with Antoine Winfield Jr. getting the franchise tag (and hopefully a long-term extension soon), the team has its starting duo from the Super Bowl season in place, with both still in their prime. They don't necessarily need another safety who has to be plugged into the starting lineup anytime soon.

That said, the Buccaneers had a capable starting duo of Whitehead and Mike Edwards already in place when they drafted Winfield. Generally, Bowles has tried to stock his safety depth chart with at least three potential starters, and has usually found a way to get them all into the mix in some way or another.

At 5-10 and 198 pounds, Bullard isn't the biggest safety but he plays very aggressively and seeks out contact. Like Whitehead, he could prove to be a hard-hitting menace around the line of scrimmage and in run support at the NFL level. Bullard also has good instincts when in pass coverage and has some flexibility to play in the slot. He was a team leader on a stifling Georgia defense and has both the physical and mental toughness that should appeal to Coach Bowles.

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