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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

An NFL Super League? | S.S. Mailbag

This week, Buccaneers fans have questions about a hypothetically shrunken NFL, an infamous fumble rule, the most likely positions the team will target in the draft, and more


Will the Tampa Bay Buccaneers take a wide receiver with their first pick in next week's draft? It's not the most common prediction you will find in the various mock drafts you run across, but that pairing does pop up from time to time.

If the Buccaneers do surprise most draft analysts by not taking an edge rusher, offensive lineman or cornerback in favor of a pass-catcher, it would mark the first time the team has spent a first-round pick on a wideout since nabbing Mike Evans seventh overall in 2014. (Side note: That worked pretty well.) In fact, the only Day Two pick the Bucs have made at receiver since Evans was Chris Godwin in the third round in 2017. (Side note: Ditto.)

That's nine straight drafts without a receiver drafted in either the first or second round, and that's the longest such stretch in franchise history. That hasn't been a problem, of course, because Evans and Godwin have been very good for a very long time and both have signed new deals with the team. It has also helped that the team has been able to find some reliable-or-better third options in free agency or the undrafted rookie market, such as Adam Humphries, DeSean Jackson, Vincent Jackson and Antonio Brown.

Still, that's a pretty long time to go without a blue-chip receiver prospect entering the building. Evans is the most recent first-rounder, in 2014, and Arrelious Benn is the most recent second-rounder, in 2010, on the Bucs' draft list. Let's take a look at the Bucs' most recent first and second-round pick at the other positions.

First-round quarterback: Jameis Winston, 2016

Second-round quarterback: Kyle Trask, 2021

Winston didn't prove to be the long-term franchise answer but he did play five seasons and put up some gaudy numbers. He's the Bucs' all-time leader in passing yards and touchdown passes. Trask, just the second quarterback ever drafted by Tampa Bay in the second round (also Shaun King), is going into his fourth season but has played in just one game so far.

First-round running back: Doug Martin, 2012

Second-round running back: Ronald Jones, 2018

Martin had an up-and-down run with the Bucs, in large part due to injuries, but he did record two of the top three rushing seasons in team history and was a first-team All-Pro in 2015. Jones became a starter but never cracked 1,000 yards and was eventually surpassed by Leonard Fournette.

First-round tight end: O.J. Howard, 2017

Second-round tight end: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, 2014

Howard didn't live up to his 17th-overall-pick pedigree. Seferian-Jenkins had a rocky tenure in Tampa and was released early in the 2016 campaign.

First-round offensive tackle: Tristan Wirfs, 2020

Second-round offensive tackle: Donovan Smith, 2015

Note that I'm only including players who were originally drafted to be offensive tackles and not college tackles who were immediately converted to guard or center, such as Cody Mauch and Robert Hainsey. Wirfs was a first-team All-Pro at right tackle by his second season and was able to make a successful switch to the left side last year. This will likely go down as one of the best draft picks in franchise history. Smith was a hit, as well, giving the Bucs 124 starts over eight seasons at one of the most important positions in the game.

First-round interior offensive lineman: Davin Joseph, 2006

Second-round interior offensive lineman: Cody Mauch, 2023

Same story as above. Included here are college tackles who were drafted to play guard or center. The Joseph pick caught draft analysts by surprise in 2006 but it was the right choice, as Joseph quickly became one of the best guards in franchise history. Mauch was a Day One starter at right guard who progressed nicely during his rookie season.

First-round defensive end/edge rusher: Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, 2021

Second-round defensive end/edge rusher: Noah Spence, 2016

Tryon-Shoyinka has emerged as a starter and is capable of playing all over the defensive front; Head Coach Todd Bowles has referred to him as one of his move-around "chess pieces" on defense. Spence had 5.5 sacks as a rookie but just two more over the rest of his career.

First-round interior defensive lineman: Calijah Kancey, 2023

Second-round quarterback: Logan Hall, 2022

Obviously, the Bucs have paid a lot of potential to this position in recent drafts. One season is too early to pass judgment on Kancey but his rookie campaign was very promising and he was an instant starter. Hall became a starter in his second season, too, and was a good run-stopper who could eventually add to the pass rush.

First-round off-ball linebacker: Devin White, 2019

Second-round off-ball linebacker: Lavonte David, 2012

White made the Pro Bowl in his second season and was a playmaking star during the Bucs' run to the Super Bowl LV championship. He left in free agency last month to join the Eagles. David is one of the best players in team history, regardless of position, and is coming back for a 13th season in 2024 after playing at a very high level in his 12th campaign.

First-round cornerback: Vernon Hargreaves, 2016

Second-round cornerback: Sean Murphy-Bunting, 2019

Hargreaves didn't work out and was released midway through his fourth season in Tampa. Murphy-Bunting was a starter on the Super Bowl-winning team in 2020 and set a franchise record with interceptions in three consecutive playoff games.

First-round safety: Mark Barron, 2012

Second-round safety: Antoine Winfield Jr., 2020

Barron was taken seventh overall in 2012 but didn't really measure up to that pick, thanks in part to being a bad fit for the Bucs' defensive scheme. He was traded to the Rams in October of 2014 and played several more years in more of a linebacker role. Winfield was a starter for the Super Bowl team as a rookie and has since bagged both a Pro Bowl invitation and a first-team All-Pro selection. He has been given the franchise tag in 2024 but the Bucs hope to get him signed to a long-term deal this offseason.

Now on to your questions.

A reminder that you can send questions to me any time 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

Is the ball being thrown around at practice right now or is it just lifting weights and cardio?

- iamdmo_ (via Instagram)

The ol' pigskin remains packed away right now. The Buccaneers and 24 other teams started their offseason workout programs on Monday of this week (teams with first-year head coaches were allowed to start up to two weeks earlier). There are three distinct phases of what teams are allowed to do with their players during the offseason, and almost all of it is voluntary.

The Buccaneers are currently in Phase One, which lasts two weeks. During this time, they can only have the players in the building for a total of four hours per day, and the activities are limited to meetings, strength and conditioning work and injury rehab. The players can go on the field, but the only people on the staff permitted to work with them out there are strength coaches.

In Phase Two, which will begin on April 29 and last three weeks, the position coaches are allowed on the field and the players can do individual and "perfect play" drills. They can also simulate team drills by having offensive players line up across from other offensive players (same on defense) and run plays at a walk-through speed. The footballs should come out for that part; even if you're not running a play full speed, the quarterback is still going to throw the ball to a pass-catcher or hand it off to a back.

Phase Three is when teams hold up to 10 organized team activity days, or OTAs. These are similar to a normal in-season or training camp practice, except no contact is permitted. This is when the footballs will really get a workout.

What is your opinion on the fumble-out-of-the-endzone rule? Keep it or change it?

- bria.npasssmore (via Instagram)

Keep it.

I know there is a pretty vocal crowd that thinks this is the dumbest rule in the game, because the result of fumbling the ball into and out of the end zone is so much more punitive than if you fumbled it out of bounds at, say, the one-yard line. I am not of that crowd. I'm fine with it being more punitive. Ballcarriers know what the rule is and know the risk they are taking by extending the ball towards the goal line, which is how a lot of these fumbles occur. Adjust your behavior accordingly.

I know that those who would like to change this rule consider it to be arbitrary and nonsensical. But a lot of the rules of football, or any other organized sport, are arbitrary and simply the result of how the game originally evolved. Why do you need 10 yards, specifically, for a first down? Why can't a player who catches a forward pass behind the line of scrimmage then throw a second forward pass? Why are the first two wins in a game of tennis worth 15 points and the next two worth 10? Why not just score it 1-2-3-4? Why can a baserunner lead off in baseball?

To me, it's an "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" kind of deal. The NFL tweaks its rules every year, but it's almost always in the service of player safety or some obvious inequity in the game. (The cynic might add that a lot of rule changes are designed to juice up offense, as well.) To me, there's nothing inherently unfair about this rule, though I understand some would disagree. It just is, just like having to get two feet inbounds to complete a catch just is.

If you could only keep 8 NFL teams (like the UFL), which ones would they be?

- mikenzie_delgado (via Instagram)

Oooh, this is fun!

First of all, for obvious job security reasons and my own rooting interest, I have to keep the Buccaneers as one of the eight. I'm sure you expected this, just like a Lions writer would start with the Lions. So we're really talking what seven teams I would keep to join the Buccaneers in this NFL Super League.

I can tell you this much, there's no NFC South sentimentality here. The Saints, Falcons and Panthers would all miss the cut. Especially the Saints. Never having to go the Superdome again would be one of the main perks of this condensed league. I also am going to assume that the players of the eliminated teams would be available to the remaining ones, so I don't have to worry about losing a player I enjoy watching because I eliminated his team. For instance, I'd probably eliminate the Bills just so that I don't have to worry about a December trip to Buffalo, but that would be a lot harder to do if it meant I was also eliminating Josh Allen from the league.

My first instinct was to leave out West Coast teams in order to make the Bucs' travel situation better. However, my wife would kill me if I eliminated the 49ers, and I have to admit they seem like a franchise that should have a place in this Super League. Plus, that's good news for John Lynch, who is obviously our friend. In addition, I have long held that, Buccaneers bias aside, the Chargers have by far the best uniforms in the league. I don't want to lose that. So those two teams are in.

The Packers have to be in. I love going to Lambeau, and with only eight teams in the league I assume I'm getting at least one trip there every year. I have a life-long distaste for the Bears (it's a St. Louis-Chicago thing), but if the Packers are in I think I have to keep the Bears, too. Those teams have been around for more than a century. They are the NFL. Plus, with the rest of the Bucs' current division banished, at least these are two clubs with which Tampa Bay has a rich history.

So I have three spots left and six more teams I'm considering: Baltimore, Dallas, Denver, Miami, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. That's tough. The Steelers are in. Too much history there. I very badly want to eliminate the Cowboys because I think that would be hilarious, but I can't. As is the case with the Bears, I've been a Cowboy-hater my whole life (they used to torture the St. Louis Cardinals when they were both in the NFC East), but I think that's the point. There are a lot of Cowboys fans, but there are even more Cowboy haters, and I don't want the shrinkified NFL to lose that element.

So one spot left for the Ravens, Broncos, Dolphins and Eagles, as it turns out. The Broncos and Dolphins have the better uniforms of those four teams, so I'll cut it in half that way. Elway or Marino? Shanahan or Shula? Randy Gradishar and Karl Mecklenburg or Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas? You know what? Just to give the Bucs one short trip every year, I'll keep the Dolphins.

So my final answer is Bucs, 49ers, Chargers, Packers, Bears, Steelers, Cowboys and Dolphins. I imagine the Chargers will be the most controversial choice in that group.

Who do you think will have the best chance of being NFL MVP on your team?

- zachirschorn (via Instagram)

I just looked up the betting odds on 2024 NFL MVP and the 10 candidates listed, in order, are Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Joe Burrow, C.J. Stroud, Lamar Jackson, Jordan Love, Brock Purdy, Justin Herbert, Jalen Hurts and Dak Prescott. I'm sure I don't need to point out the common denominator here.

The last time a non-quarterback won NFL MVP was in 2012, when Vikings running back Adrian Peterson ran for nearly 2,100 yards. The last time this award went to a player other than a quarterback or running back was when Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor had 20.5 sacks in 1986. In fact, since this award was introduced in 1957 (it was called "Most Outstanding Player" for the first four years), it has gone to a player at a position other than quarterback or running back just three times in 64 years. Vikings defensive tackle Alan Page won it in 1971 and Washington kicker (!!!) Mark Moseley won it in 1982. The 1982 season was an intensely weird one for the NFL.

So, of course, you know where I'm going with this. The only two Buccaneer players who realistically have a shot at winning NFL MVP in 2024 are quarterback Baker Mayfield and running back Rachaad White, and Mayfield's odds would be enormously better than White's odds.

Mayfield was awesome in 2023, his first year in Tampa, and the Buccaneers won the NFC South and advanced to the Divisional Round of the playoffs. That was great, but both the quarterback and the team will have to take it to another level in 2024 for Mayfield to have a shot. Mayfield finished ninth in the NFL in passing yards, seventh in touchdown passes and 12th in passer rating. Again, that's fantastic. But with guys like Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Dak Prescott, Lamar Jackson and Brock Purdy putting up even better numbers on teams that won more games than the Bucs, it is hard to build an NFL MVP campaign on those results.

I'm not the first person to point this out, but it's definitely worth noting: The last 13 quarterbacks to win NFL MVP have been on teams that got either the first or second seed in their conference playoff field. The last quarterback to win the award without leading his team to a first or second seed was Peyton Manning with the Colts in 2008, and that team tied for the second-best record in the NFL but had to go the Wild Card route because the Titans went 13-3 in the same division. That's why I say the Bucs as a whole would have to step it up in 2024 for Mayfield to have a chance at MVP.

That's not to say it's impossible. Matt Ryan won MVP for the Falcons in 2016 without ever really sniffing that award before or after. (That's not a shot at Ryan; he was a very good quarterback for a very long time and may end up in the Hall of Fame.) That season, Ryan set career highs in passing yards (4,944) and touchdown passes (38) while throwing just seven interceptions and leading the Falcons to the second NFC seed and a first-round bye. NFL awards balloting takes place before the playoffs, so the fact that the Falcons made it all the way to the Super Bowl – a very memorable Super Bowl – didn't factor in but still gives you an idea of how good a team generally has to be to have the MVP on its roster.

So there you go, Mayfield leads the NFL with 5,000 passing yards and throws 35 touchdown passes and the Bucs finish 13-4. That could do it.

More likely the bucs get an edge rusher or OL 1st pick?

- aj_turnup (via Instagram)

I think those are the two most likely options for the Buccaneers at pick number 26, with cornerback third and receiver fourth. If I had to guess which one it will be, I would say offensive lineman.

This guess is based not on which one I think the Buccaneers want or need the most, but on the relative depth of those two positions in terms of potential first-round picks. I think the consensus top four prospects at edge rusher are, in some order, Alabama's Dallas Turner, Florida State's Jared Verse, UCLA's Laiatu Latu and Penn State's Chop Robinson, and I personally love Latu. Problem is, if the most recent mock drafts are to be believed, there's a very good chance all four will be gone before the 26th pick.

Conversely, this is an incredibly deep class of offensive linemen with first-round projections, and there is a very good chance one of them will be available when the Bucs go on the clock. That's particularly true if we believe the Bucs would consider an interior lineman or a tackle. Even if you think the Bucs would only use that pick on a guard or center, with Tristan Wirfs and Luke Goedeke set as the tackles in 2024, the top tackles almost always come off the board earlier than the top guards. The fact that there are so many highly-coveted tackles in this class should push down some of the top interior lineman, like Duke's Graham Barton and Oregon's Jackson-Powers Johnson. There are also a couple other nominal tackles who might be better suited to play guard in the NFL, such as Washington's Troy Fautanu, Arizona's Jordan Morgan, Alabama's JC Latham and Oregon State's Taliese Fuaga.

The Buccaneers need to fill one starting spot on their offensive line, and they certainly could use another man in their edge rush rotation after bidding farewell to Shaq Barrett. Either spot seems like really good move for the Bucs, but the opportunity and value may be greater on the offensive side of the trenches.

One change you are hoping to see from 2023 to 2024?

- erinhamister_ (via Instagram)

I assume you mean one change for the Buccaneers from 2023 to 2024, and not the NFL as a whole. And I can't just say something simple like 13 wins instead of nine, right?

I think my answer would be an effective rushing attack. The Buccaneers have ranked last in the NFL in both rushing yards per game and yards per carry each of the past two years, and at least in 2023 it wasn't for a lack of trying. Tampa Bay ranked 11th in the NFL in percentage of rushing plays on first-and-10 last year, at 53.5%.

The Bucs have found a way to get the job done on offense despite these struggles, and it's fair to say that Rachaad White and the run game as a whole showed significant improvement in the second half of last season. Still, I know this is a coaching staff that would prefer a more balanced attack. That's clearly a top goal for new Offensive Coordinator Liam Coen. White told the media that Coen's first thoughts in the team's very first meeting this past Monday were about building an efficient rushing attack. White said Coen emphasized that throughout the meeting, and I'm sure he will continue to do so. Therefore, if this is clearly one of the main goals of the coaching staff, then it is probably the thing I most want them to accomplish.

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