Skip to main content

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs Go Back to the Lab with First-Round Pick Graham Barton

The Buccaneers used the 26th overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft on Duke center Graham Barton, who reminds the team of several other very successful linemen


The Tampa Bay Buccaneers used the 26th selection of the first round of the 2024 NFL draft to select Duke center Graham Barton, who they viewed as an amalgamation of some of their best investments in the offensive line in recent years.

Barton played center and tackle at Duke and is viewed as capable of stepping in at any spot on the front line, though the Buccaneers will start him on the pivot. The Bucs hope he can mimic some of the best traits of the likes of Pro Bowl center Ryan Jensen, Pro Bowl guard Ali Marpet and All-Pro tackle Tristan Wirfs.

"He reminds me, and a lot of us, a little bit of Ali," said General Manager Jason Licht. "He's got some Ryan Jensen in him, which is a very good thing, too. And [he's got the] personality of Tristan Wirfs. That's some pretty good lab work there."

View pictures of Duke center Graham Barton, who Tampa Bay selected in the first round of the 2024 NFL Draft.

The Buccaneers signed Jensen to a lucrative free agency contract and spent premium picks on both Wirfs and Marpet. But Jensen and Marpet are now retired and the team was seeking more power up front on offense. Barton was considered the top interior offensive line prospect in the draft and plays with both power and light feet.

"He's got the tools to do it all," said Licht. "He's a very athletic guy. He plays with a great base, he plays with a good anchor and he plays with a nasty temperament. Those are all ingredients we look for in our offensive line. He fits all the traits that we look for in a Buc, to be a great Buc, so we're excited about that.

"We had him at center, but he can play guard. He's done a pretty damn good job of playing tackle, too, so there's a lot of versatility there with him, too. He's got a tenacious playing style that we like. He's a very good athlete, a very good technician."

Licht said the Bucs' personnel professionals had their "fingers crossed" in the draft room hoping that Barton would fall to the 26th pick. The draft started with a record 14 offensive players before the Indianapolis Colts took UCLA edge rusher Laiatu Latu 15th, and then there were three more offensive linemen taking in the next 10 picks. The Dallas Cowboys traded down from the 24th pick, two spots before the Bucs, which was a relief in Tampa Bay's draft room. Getting stronger up front was a major priority for the Buccaneers, who wondered if the Cowboys might be thinking the same thing.

"The interior offensive line in general, we're trying to get more physical," said Licht. "We're really happy with the guys that we have, we know they're getting better as well, but this was something that [Head Coach] Todd and I had talked about since the middle of last year, something that we needed to improve."

Robert Hainsey, a third-round pick in 2021, has started the past two seasons at center after Jensen suffered what proved to be a season-ending injury in training camp in 2022. Like Barton, Hainsey played tackle in college but is versatile enough to play at several positions. Barton won't be handed the center job, but if he wins it Hainsey would be one of the candidates to play at the open left guard position. Other candidates include recent free agency signings Sua Opeta and Ben Bredeson.

"I see it as a good competition," said Licht. "We've got Sua, and we've got Bredeson and you mentioned Hainsey. We've got some guys who were with us last year, so it's going to be a good competition."

Related Content

Latest Headlines