One of the nice things about being world champions is you have a ton of options when it comes to what you can do in the draft. There are countless options in every round. This is more true for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers than perhaps any other team before them. That’s because the Bucs return every starter from their Super Bowl win as they look to repeat in 2021.
This means the Bucs can really go in any direction in this draft. Depth and future difference makers will be high priority, but those concepts really apply to every position. Because of this, it’s extremely hard to determine who the Bucs will target.
It makes sense the Bucs look primarily at positions where the starter is getting near the end of their career or a player is entering the last year of their deal. Based on these parameters, it makes sense that the Bucs strongly consider positions like offensive line, defensive tackle, outside linebacker, quarterback, running back and even wide receiver, strong safety and inside linebacker to a degree.
That is a long list of potential positions to be drafting for. Obviously the Bucs can’t fill all these slots in one draft. In fact, it’s hard to say what position they’ll be able to address just based on who is picked in front of them. This is the downside of winning a championship; being the last team in the draft order.
Due to this created uncertainty, the Bucs will have to look at several options in every round. Below are several that I think will draw serious interest from the Bucs.
Najee Harris, RB, Alabama.
Harris is so much of what the Bucs seem to want at running back. At 6’2 and 230 lbs he brings great size and ability to run the ball between the tackles. He also provides the power that is utilized on short yardage situations, like on the goal line. Only Leonard Foutnette brings that type of size on this roster and the team seems hesitant to commit to him long term. Harris could be that bell cow back of the future.
More than just big and strong, Harris is excellent in the passing game. His route running is smooth and advanced. Harris has soft hands and can use his size to adjust to the ball and make plays over smaller defenders. Although not extremely shifty or explosive there is no doubt that Harris would be the best pass catching running back on the team. This would fast track him to the starting lineup.
Jayson Oweh, EDGE, Penn State.
In the last four years the Bucs have really rebuilt this roster into a contender. Looking at their picks in the first round, you can really start to notice a trend. O.J. Howard, Vita Vea, Devin White and Tristian Wirfs were all excellent athletes coming out of college. It seems likely that Jason Licht would continue that pattern moving forward.
Oweh is a rare athlete. He runs as fast as most receivers and weighs in at 6-foot-5 and 260-pounds. His combination of speed and size off the edge make him the type of prospect who could turn into an All Pro caliber player given time and coaching. Given his very limited production in college, it is possible he slides to the Bucs and they can bring him along slowly behind Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul.
Alijah Vera-Tucker, OL, USC.
There is uncertainty along the Bucs offensive line after this year. Ryan Jensen and Alex Cappa are both entering the last year of their deals and it seems like Donovan Smith is always on the hot seat in Tampa Bay. So when you have questions at left tackle and interior offensive line, it makes sense to draft a guy who has played both at a very high level.
Vera-Tucker has played guard and tackle for USC and has done nothing but impress. He is fluid and physical and shows well in pass protection and run blocking. His athletic testing validated his play on the field. He put up 36 reps on the bench press at his pro day, which would have been the third most at last year’s combine. Between his physical gifts and experience at multiple positions there is no doubt he will be a great addition to the Bucs offensive line regardless of where he plays.
Hamsah Nasirildeen, SS, Florida State.
Jordan Whitehead is entering the last year of his deal and there is no backup in place at this point. Nasirildeen brings great size at 6’4 and has the ability to play some over the top in two high safety looks or match up at a big nickel. His versatility makes him a valuable chess piece when looking at different match ups he could help the Bucs in. Nasirildeen can even play a hybrid linebacker role on obvious passing downs. With a creative defensive mind like Todd Bowles there is a lot you can do with a jack of all trades like Nasirildeen.
Quincy Roche, EDGE, Miami.
Roche was praised for his intangibles and leadership while at Temple. He wore a single digit number there which is only given to the toughest players on the team. Now after a year of playing for the Hurricanes he is being talked about for his talent.
The first thing that stands out about Roche is how easily he moves. He is very agile and has the bend to win around the edge. He also shows some off ball skills in terms of pursuit and coverage. These are traits that Bowels will value; both his skills and leadership.
Levi Onwuzurike, DT, Washington.
Onwuzurike is powerful, explosive and flexible. He has all the makings of a great NFL defensive tackle. However, he is very raw. His hand usage as a pass rusher is basic at best and there is very little plan to be seen. To call him a project would be accurate.
With that said, there may be no better place for Onwuzurike to develop. Ndamukong Suh is a long time veteran who has played at a high level for over a decade. The Bucs prioritize teaching among their coaching staff. With all that knowledge and experience plus a year to learn behind Suh, this could be the steal of the draft.
Jordan Smith, EDGE, UAB.
Smith is very impressive on tape. He has all the tools and it’s easy to see why he was a highly regarded recruit out of high school. If there is a high upside pass rusher to bet on outside the top fifty then I’d put my money here.
He will need to answer questions on his maturity after being involved in a credit card scam at Florida. However, with a strong veteran locker room he could realize his lofty potential. The Bucs have that type of environment in place.
Kellen Mond, QB, Texas A&M.
There’s a good chance that Mond is the best quarterback in this draft who won’t be drafted in the first round. His physical gifts are well above average with a strong arm and the ability to pull the ball down and run. Mond also shows that he’s generally accurate and has shown some very good flashes.
Despite having multiple years of starting experience, Mond is inconsistent. It’s hard to say what the cause of this is, so it’s unclear how likely that is to improve. If he is to find consistency it seems there may be no better coach to maximize his talent than the quarterback whisperer. If Mond develops then he could be the heir to the Tom Brady throne.
Chazz Surratt, LB, North Carolina.
Surratt only played linebacker in college for two years, but he looked great in that time. He’s proven to be fast sideline to sideline and a tackling machine. This seems like the kind of player who is only going to keep improving with more experience that the Bucs can buy low on.
Surratt would provide great depth and would be a great special teams player. Best case scenario he can step in and start down the line.. With more coaching and learning behind a guy like Lavonte David it seems likely that Surratt will be a quality NFL linebacker.
Tommy Doyle, OT, Miami (Oh).
Doyle is a big athletic offensive tackle out of the Mid American Conference. He has all the physical ability to be a starter in the NFL and is the perfect type of player to develop.
Elijah Mitchell, RB, Louisiana.
David Moore, OG, Grambling State.
Shaun Wade, CB, Ohio State.
Wade was a big time prospect two year ago, but his stock really dropped off this year after struggling at outside corner. He might always be limited to the nickle and special teams, but he can be good in that role.
Naquan Jones, DT, Michigan State.
Jones is a big defensive tackle who makes all the hustle plays. He probably won’t ever be a starter, but he can do well in a rotation as a guy who does all the dirty work.
Shi Smith, WR, South Carolina.
Smith is a good route runner who constantly creates separation. He impressed at the Senior Bowl this year and should be a quality depth player at the next level.
These are just some of the names the Bucs will be looking at. However, there are dozens more they will consider who would make sense for this team. Countless scenarios and directions that the draft could take. With so many options in every round it is clear that Licht will have his work cut out for him. This will likely be his most difficult single draft to navigate as a general manager.