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Potential Buccaneer Draft Targets: Offensive Line

From possible first-round draft picks to developmental late-round selections, the Buccaneers have options to bolster the offensive line via the 2023 draft

AP Images OLine draft prospects_

The 2023 NFL Draft is just a couple weeks away. The three-day event kicks off on the evening of April 27, featuring 31 picks, and concludes on April 29 following rounds 4-7 on Saturday. The Buccaneers currently own nine picks and will vie to solidify the roster for another run at an NFC South crown.

Over the next week, we will be diving into potential draft targets for the Buccaneers at six different positions. Some could be first-round possibilities, while others could add depth as a late-round addition. Today, the offensive line will be addressed. Here's the position-by-position schedule:

Monday, April 17: Quarterback

Tuesday, April 18: Offensive Line

Wednesday, April 19: Running Back

Thursday, April 20: Edge Rusher

Friday, April 21: Defensive Backs

Monday, April 24: Tight Ends

(NOTE: The following is the analysis of the author alone. It is not meant to reflect or reveal thoughts or strategies regarding the 2023 draft by Buccaneers General Manager Jason Licht, Head Coach Todd Bowles or any member of the scouting or coaching staffs.)

"Tackles are very hard to find," General Manager Jason Licht described on the offensive line position in the 2023 class. "There are a few good ones that we like that we've spent a lot of time on. It's a little bit more dominant from the beginning of the draft until the end of the draft this year, I think, with interior linemen. There are some very good ones there I think, too. We love our offensive linemen, so it's a position that quite possibly we would be addressing. But once again, we have a lot of in-house options, as well."

The Buccaneers own the 19th-overall pick in the draft and while there is some controversy, most mocks project Tampa Bay to select an offensive lineman in the first round. If the Buccaneers are in fact in the hunt for a blocker, they will encounter competition for the top prospects as many teams will strive to bolster the trenches in a strong offensive line class.

The Bucs will seek to replace Donovan Smith, who posted 137 starts in eight seasons at left tackle. Tampa Bay All-Pro right tackle Tristan Wirfs does have position flexibility and is preparing to line up on either side of the formation. However, in terms of "hitting" on offensive linemen in the draft, the Bucs have a successful history doing just that during Licht's decade-long tenure as general manager. Strengthening the offensive line is paramount to Licht and co. Licht has drafted eight offensive linemen over the course of nine drafts and six of those eight players were drafted in Round Three or higher. 2023 could continue the trend.

"There's no secret to it," said Licht of the Bucs' productivity in selecting linemen. "It seems like the offensive linemen that you mentioned, like Tristan and Ali [Marpet] and [Ryan] Jensen – that's free agency – the guys we just had fun watching while we're evaluating, have fun watching them, those are the guys that we've hit on. It's not that you don't have fun watching some others, but sometimes they can kind of put you to sleep. Okay, he's doing his job. But the one that is getting that little extra in at the end – legal, but just that little extra in at the end – or having a lot of fun playing, because you can tell, those are the ones that you usually hit on."

Here is a breakdown of potential prospects the Bucs could target:

*Broderick Jones, Georgia *

On latest mocks, Broderick Jones has dipped into the late-teens and early-20s, which bodes well for the Buccaneers at 19. In 2023, the Buccaneers are expected to have a heavier emphasis on the running game, under the tutelage of Offensive Coordinator Dave Canales. There will be additional movement up front by the offensive line and Broderick Jones fits the bill. With above-average athleticism, Jones possesses superb agility in the run game to seal the edge or out-leverage. He is elite when working at the second level or paving the way for outside zone runs. At 311 pounds, Jones ran the fastest 40-yard dash time at the Combine among offensive linemen (4.97) and is a bona fide people-mover.

Jones became a full-time starter in 2022, protecting the blindside in Athens, and did not register a single holding penalty during his UGA career. With power, tenacity and agile feet, Jones profiles as an impact-maker in the NFL. The bookend tandem of Tristan Wirfs and Broderick Jones sounds enticing. The question is, does Jones fall to 19?

*Darnell Wright, Tennessee *

Darnell Wright's draft stock continues to rise, and he has become a name invariably linked to the Buccaneers. Wright hit an untapped ceiling when he moved to right tackle as a senior in Tennessee's spread offense. He did not allow a sack on Hendon Hooker and held his own against top-tier talent, including Will Anderson Jr. Wright wins with power in both the run and pass game, displacing opponents. He is regarded as one of the top three tackles in this year's class and he looks the part.

Wright comes with a nasty demeanor; a trait Bucs coaches covet in their linemen. Center Ryan Jensen certainly has that quality and like Licht mentioned in the aforementioned quote, they are drawn to players that possess "that little extra in at the end." Jones could make an immediate contribution as a plug-and-play right tackle. If the Bucs move Wirfs to left tackle, drafting Wright would give the club two athletic specimens. Wright can mirror rushers and anchor at 333 pounds.

*Anton Harrison, Oklahoma *

Anton Harrison is likely a Day Two pick (19 seems like a stretch), but he could rise to the first round once draft boards settle. Harrison was a two-year starter at Oklahoma, lining up at left tackle in the Sooners' RPO-based scheme. He has the athleticism to hold his own against speed rushers off the edge and is adept at redirecting against counter movements. He is an underrated pass protector, allowing just 33 total pressures in over 1,000 pass-blocking snaps at OU per Pro Football Focus. Harrison is effective as a puller in space, and although there are some evaluation concerns with the scheme at OU, he has the traits to become a longtime NFL starter after undergoing the adjustment/learning period at the pro level.

*Nick Saldiveri, Old Dominion *

Nick Saldiveri is a Day Three developmental option that would help fortify the Bucs depth. Saldiveri has the size/length profile and natural mobility to succeed as a puller in space. His athleticism allows him to redirect at the second level and slide laterally against counters. Saldiveri was voted a senior captain and has the leadership qualities that coaches praise. At the collegiate level, players can often benefit from stellar play around themselves. Despite a struggling offense at Old Dominion in 2022, Saldiveri became a bright spot, not allowing a single sack. He possesses position flexibility and has the agile footwork to handle one-gap penetrators.

Honorable Mention:

*Andrew Vorhees, USC *

Andrew Vorhees tore the ACL in his right knee during on-field combine workouts and comes with an extensive injury history, however, his mental/physical toughness, position flexibility and ability to climb to the second level make him a potential late-round steal for the Bucs. Vorhees was a first-team AP All-American and all-conference producer in 2022, starting 11 games at left guard (he missed three games due to injury). He was also a recipient of the 2022 Morris Trophy as the top-blocker in the Pac-12. Vorhees' wrestling days in high school translated into his movement, handwork and leverage skills. Known for his accomplishments in the weight room, Vorhees once again impressed at the 2023 Combine post-injury. He went on to hit the most reps on the bench press (38) with only one foot on the ground. That is the personification of determination that will likely help Vorhees overcome the injury concerns for a selection in the 2023 draft.

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