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Jason Licht Sees Value at Later Draft Slot

The Buccaneers are picking in the latter half of the first round for the fourth year in a row, a result of the team's recent success on the field, but GM Jason Licht expects to have several attractive options at pick number 26

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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are currently scheduled to pick 26th in the first round of the upcoming NFL Draft. This will mark the fourth straight year that the Bucs will be picking 19th or later in opening round, as their last selection in the top 16 was Tristan Wirfs in 2020 and their last top-10 choice was Devin White the year before that.

This is, of course, a good thing. Later draft slots mean the previous season went well, and the Bucs have been to the playoffs four seasons in a row and to the Divisional Round in three of those campaigns. As exciting as top-10 picks can be, the Bucs will happily take another pick near the end in 2025.

The Buccaneers had the 19th pick in last year's draft and stayed put before snagging dynamic interior pass rushers Calijah Kancey from Pitt. In 2022, Licht started with the 27th pick in Round One but eventually traded down to the first pick of Round Two (33rd overall) and selected Houston defensive tackle Logan Hall. The Bucs were defending Super Bowl champs headed into the 2021 draft and thus had the last pick in the first round, which they used on Washington outside linebacker Joe Tryon-Shoyinka. Both Hall and Shoyinka are expected to be starters in 2024.

Of course, picking later in the first round works out best when the draft's strengths match up to your team's most pressing needs. This year, Licht expects to see plenty of attractive options when the Bucs finally get on the clock late on opening night, even without trying to trade up from number 26.

"There's a lot of temptation to move up, because you start to kind of fall in love with a lot of players that at one point you think you have an opportunity to get," said Licht. "Then the league kind of catches up with you and you realize you're not going to get him. But you have to kind of resist it sometimes. You don't want to give up your draft to just move up for one guy. But we feel really good about this draft. We think that there are a lot of players we're really excited about in our first three rounds, if you just run the numbers."

That said, Licht has never been shy about making a minor move up if a player his crew seriously covets is getting within range. He did so in 2020 to get Tristan Wirfs and has obviously never regretted that decision as it didn't take long for Wirfs to emerge as one of the best tackles in the league. When discussing last month's trade of cornerback Carlton Davis to the Lions, Licht made a comment about the third-round pick (number 92) the Bucs got in return that hints at him at least having an open mind about trading up.

"It's always tough to let a player go, via trade or release or whatever," he said. "We just felt like it was an opportunity for us to get a pick, a really good pick, to add some youth with that pick, whether we use it [to pick a player] or use it as ammo to get up, or whatever it is."

Depending on the positions the Bucs hope to fill with their early picks, the draft could unfold in a way that wouldn't require any move up. Most draft analysts consider this year's class to be very deep in talent at offensive line and wide receiver; at last week's NFL Annual Meeting, Licht agreed with those assessments and also added that there is good depth at running back, if not necessarily in the first round.

"It's a great draft for these positions," said Licht. "I think we're going to be able to find some good players throughout the whole draft at those positions."

View photos of Alonso High School and Newsome High School facing off during the first 'Battlegrounds' flag football game at AdventHealth Training Center on Tuesday, March 26, 2024.

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