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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Rookie Review: Yaya Diaby 

A look at Yaya Diaby’s stellar rookie season for the Buccaneers


Yaya Diaby, the Buccaneers' 82nd overall selection in the third round of the 2023 NFL Draft, put on a show his first year in the league. Diaby led the Bucs in sacks with 7.5 and led all rookies last season in tackles for loss with 12. He made his presence felt, earning significant playing time in Tampa Bay's frontline.

Originally brought in to rotate in sub-packages due to his prowess against the run, Diaby eventually earned a starting role opposite Shaquil Barrett with his development as a pass rusher. He showcased his skills as an enforcer with brute power and short-area burst. With an explosive first step, effective hand strike and flexibility on the edge, Diaby helped bolster the Bucs' defense.

"The physical tools were there when he walked in – he's truly a physical specimen," said Bucs' Defensive Line Coach and Run Game Coordinator Kacy Rodgers. "But when you watch his improvement from day to day as he picked up the technique and started learning our system – our system is not an easy system for a young player to come into because we do a lot. We're not a line up in 3-4 or 4-3 [system]. That isn't the way we do it – there's a lot of moving parts there. We ask those guys to do a lot. He's a rusher, he's a dropper, he's a three-technique, he can be out there at nine-technique, he can be in man-to-man on the tight end. We have whole lot of moving parts there. So, to see where he's able to grasp the system and still be a productive player – this kid has a bright, bright future ahead of him."

Todd Bowles' attack-styled defense is complex in nature with a variety of exotic looks to keep offenses off balance. At Louisville, Diaby was primarily utilized on run downs and was known for his ability to invade the backfield as a three-technique. In Bowles' system in Tampa Bay – much like his Senior Bowl audition – Diaby showcased his versatility.

The Bucs' placed Diaby all along the formation in 2023 to fill a variety of roles and whether it was setting the edge against the run, getting off blocks to disrupt the backfield, or dropping into coverage on fire zone blitzes, he excelled. He was adept at moving laterally against wide zone runs and at getting north-south as a downhill thumper to disrupt. Diaby came into his own as a rookie and his athleticism jumped off the tape. He routinely drove offensive linemen back into the quarterback with raw strength, forcing signal-callers off their spot.

"When we drafted him, the biggest thing for me was that he was a shutdown run defender and he could close off the edge," described Head Coach Todd Bowles. "We knew he could run straight ahead. We didn't know that much of the pass-rush arsenal that he has because he played inside as a three-technique at Louisville. We knew he was very athletic and once we saw him when he got in and we saw the movements, we said, 'This guy has a chance to be a very good football player.' He's continued to grow and grow and progress and you're kind of seeing a lot of that right now."

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