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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Trio of Sixth-Rounders Add Speed, Production

After some wheeling and dealing, the Buccaneers landed DB Josh Hayes, WR Trey Palmer and OLB Jose Ramirez in a frenzied first round that hit several of the team's draft objectives, including enhanced roster speed

trey palmer

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers didn't make a pick until several hours into the final day of the 2023 NFL Draft on Saturday, but once they got started, they got busy.

After serving as spectators in the fourth round – the result of last year's trade to get a fifth-rounder to take cornerback Zyon McCollum, the Bucs used a pair of fifth-rounders on Pittsburgh inside linebacker SirVocea Dennis and Purdue tight end Payne Durham. The latter came after the Bucs used a seventh-rounder to move up four spots to number 171 overall.

Then came a rather eventful sixth round. The Buccaneers started the weekend with three sixth-round selections but used one of them on Friday to trade up in the second round before selecting North Dakota State guard Cody Mauch. That left them with two to throw around on Saturday, but that wasn't satisfactory to General Manager Jason Licht and his crew. In between nabbing Kansas State defensive back Josh Hayes at number 181 and Eastern Michigan outside linebacker Jose Ramirez at number 196, Licht sent a fifth-round pick in next year's draft to the Eagles to get number 191, which was used on Nebraska wide receiver Trey Palmer.

Between them, those three players hit on three issues that were of concern to the Buccaneers this offseason: getting more team speed, finding options for the nickel corner job and generating more pressure off the edges.

Hayes could factor into the conversation at nickel, as that is where the Buccaneers envision him helping in the NFL. After starting his career at North Dakota State – he was briefly a teammate of Mauch's – and then transferring to Virginia, Hayes moved on to Kansas State to reunite with his former NDSU coach, Chris Klieman. In his one season with the Wildcats he racked up 71 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, seven passes defensed and a forced fumble and saw a lot of action in the slot.

"We see him as a nickel," said Buccaneers Director of Player Personnel Mike Biehl. "He could potentially play safety but that's going to be the first spot we're going to play him. He's got a lot of traits. He played it there so you got to see that in college. He's quick, tough, has great instincts. Everything you want in a nickel, he has all those things. And then we do think he has some versatility to potentially play safety too if we need him to play back there. He's just another high-character kid from down the road here in Polk County. We're excited about him."

Meanwhile, Palmer has speed to burn. His 4.33-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine was the best among the receivers and fourth among all players. After playing three seasons at the notable receiver factory that is LSU, he transferred to Nebraska and had a wildly productive season for the Cornhuskers. In 12 games he hauled in 71 passes for 1,043 yards and nine touchdowns, in the process setting a school record for receiving yards in a season. Head Coach Todd Bowles made it clear at the Combine that the Bucs needed more overall speed on the roster and that has been a focus for new Offensive Coordinator Dave Canales and the other 2023 additions to the offensive staff.

The Bucs didn't find a receiver in the first five rounds of the draft, but as the board started to clear Palmer's name card became more and more prominent.

"With a new staff coming in, they talked about getting some speed on the outside, so you get this kid who's over six-foot and ran a 4.3 40," said Biehl. "He's kind of what we're looking for. He was kind of just sticking out there like a sore thumb on our board, so we felt it was worth trading in to get him. I think initially he'll probably be outside, just using that speed on the perimeter and stretching the field. I think he could possibly work inside in the slot, too, but my guess is we'll leave him outside."

The Bucs have sown the fruit of one of the league's deepest and most talented receiving groups for several seasons in a row, but their current depth chart is sneakily light behind the presumptive top three of Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Russell Gage. Scotty Miller – another sixth-round draft pick taken for his take-the-top-off-the-defense speed – signed with the Falcons in free agency and neither Julio Jones nor Breshad Perriman has been re-signed. There are obvious opportunities for a newcomer, especially one who offers the type of speed the coaching staff is searching for.

"We had a bunch of veterans that have gone other places, and we lost Scotty Miller in free agency," noted Biehl. "There's some roster spots to be filled there and, again, when this new staff came in they were looking for some speed and we think he has the trait to fill that void. He's got build-up speed but he's also got enough quickness that he can run routes and separate underneath too. He's a talented player."

Yet another 2023 objective for the Bucs was to construct a more productive edge rush to compliment the power they get on the inside from Vita Vea (and now first-round pick Calijah Kancey, as well). Ramirez had 12.0 sacks at Eastern Michigan and has a well-developed plan to get after the passer. Since he wasn't the biggest edge rusher available (6-2, 242) and his 4.73 40 time at the Combine didn't light up the radar guns, he was still available on the third day of the draft, but the Buccaneers appreciate his game as whole.

"Jose's another local guy from Polk County," said Biehl. "He's a guy that I think was very under the radar, but he was the MAC defensive player of the year last year. I think he ended up with 12 sacks. He's just a guy who, when you turn on the tape, you can see that he just understands how to rush the passer. His testing numbers don't blow you away but – while we would never compare him to Shaq Barrett – his game is kind of like Shaq's. Shaq isn't the biggest and he isn't the fastest but he just knows how to rush the passer, and I think Jose's got that too.

"He also plays really hard. And I know I keep talking about this but he's another high-character kid. He was a team captain. He's kind of everything we're looking for in terms of intangibles and off-the-field stuff."

The Buccaneers did a lot of work in the sixth round on Saturday afternoon, and they potentially hit some very key roster needs. It was a rush of action in a short amount of time, but it was a good way to cap what could be a very impactful 2023 draft class.

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