General Manager Jason Licht and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in the unique position of going into the NFL Draft without a glaring need on their roster for 2021. The first Super Bowl winning team in more than 40 years to return all 22 starters on offense and defense allows a best player available approach and a wide variance of possibilities come draft weekend.
That’s not to say that the Buccaneers have a perfect roster, but allowing the draft to come to them will be valuable to the team’s hopes of hoisting the Lombardi Trophy again. Each year a prospect unexpectedly falls to the end of the first round or top of the second, and the Buccaneers have the roster flexibility to jump at that opportunity almost regardless of position.
Depth And Rotation
Depth and rotation will be key for the Bucs. Injuries to star players like Vita Vea and Ali Marpet in the middle of the 2020 season showed how quickly things can unravel without solid depth pieces to fill in. I feel that no position should be ruled out for the draft, outside of a quarterback in the first two rounds. The goal is to win, and win now.
With that being said, here are some 2021 Draft prospects that would fit in Tampa Bay for all 7 rounds.
Jaelen Phillips, EDGE, Miami
Phillips is the most polished edge rusher in this year’s draft. He has ideal size (6’5” 215lbs), football IQ, and dominated his recent Miami pro day.
In an EDGE class filled with question marks and project players, the only question about Phillips is his concussion history. There is speculation about his love of the game due to retiring from football before transferring from UCLA to Miami, but I do not buy into that assumption.
The thought of Phillips rotating in with Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul, and potentially playing alongside them on passing downs with JPP moving inside, should make Buccaneer fans very happy.
Landon Dickerson, IOL, Alabama
Dickerson has played all 5 spots along the offensive line during his college career, but flourished at center for the Crimson Tide. He has the ability to be one of the better centers in the league, and his positional versatility will be valuable as he can also fill in at either guard spot.
Multiple ankle and knee injuries in college raised durability questions early in the draft process, but his cart-wheeling pro day performance left me convinced he is good to go.
Landon Dickerson doing cartwheels in the background just four months after tearing his ACL 🤸
— The MMQB (@theMMQB) March 30, 2021
Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia
Ojulari is a true speed rusher with similar size to Shaq Barrett. The 2020 break-out star for Georgia will need to improve his counter moves and transferring speed to power. Ojulari would have two excellent players to learn from in Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul as he grows from rotational piece to every-down stud in the NFL.
Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas
Cosmi has three years of starting experience at Texas, starting at right tackle and moving to left tackle in 2019. His game has improved each year and going into the 2021 Draft he looks the part of a future starting tackle in the NFL. There isn’t a projectable skillset to move inside if needed due to his 6’7” frame. Cosmi would begin his Buccaneers career as a swing tackle who could fill in at either right or left tackle when needed. His athleticism also makes him a great option as a jumbo tight end, a spot that the Buccaneers need to fill after letting Joe Haeg walk in free agency.
Quinn Meinerz, IOL, Wisconsin-Whitewater
You have to dominate the pre-draft process to make your way into the second round as a Division 3 player, and that’s exactly what Meinerz did. Ali Marpet did this before the Buccaneers drafted him in 2015 and is now a premier guard in the NFL. Similar to Landon Dickerson, Meinerz has the ability to play center or guard at the NFL level. Meinerz’s mean playing style will remind Bucs fans of current center Ryan Jensen.
Jevon Holland, CB/S, Oregon
Jason Licht is the poster child for attacking the defensive back room through the draft until you find the players you need. Even with one of the best young secondaries in the NFL, there is a need for depth behind the current starters.
Holland can be a true chess piece for defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, showing the ability to play deep coverage, slot cornerback, and in the box during his time at Oregon. Despite his strong playoff performance, slot corner Sean Murphy-Bunting struggled during the 2020 regular season so a talented rookie would be a good way to hedge the position and provide depth. Holland can also be a future starting safety, should the Buccaneers decide to move on from Jordan Whitehead after his contract expires.
Joseph Ossai, EDGE, Texas
Ossai moved back and forth between off-ball linebacker and edge rusher at Texas, but broke out in 2020 as a true EDGE. Play strength can still be improved, but the natural traits are there for Ossai to grow into an every-down player in the NFL. He showed his freaky athleticism at Texas’ pro day and has an unstoppable motor. His time at off-ball linebacker will also appeal to the Buccaneers, who drop their edge rushers into coverage consistently.
Walker Little, OT, Stanford
Little has prototypical size (6’7” 313lbs) for left tackle and showed great play strength and technique in his 2018 season with Stanford. Once thought of as a potential 1st round pick, Little may slide down draft boards due to his lack of playing time. A 2019 knee injury and 2020 opt-out means the last significant reps from Little came in 2018. The Buccaneers would happily scoop the talented prospect at a value, where he can play swing tackle and potentially start at either tackle spot in the future.
Milton Williams, DL, Louisiana Tech
Williams displayed rare athleticism in his pro day, scoring in the 99th percentile in vertical jump (39”), 40 yard dash (4.62), and 3-cone (6.87). Competition was not elite for Williams at Louisiana Tech and he is undersized for the position, but in the 4th round you need to bet on athleticism and traits as opposed to the finished product. Williams can give the Buccaneers some much needed interior pass rush depth.
Dyami Brown, WR, North Carolina
If Antonio Brown does not resign with the Buccaneers for 2021, Jason Licht may be looking to bolster his wide receiver corps. Tyler Johnson showed flashes in his rookie year, but the NFL is a passing league and you can never have too many weapons. Dyami Brown may not last until the end of round 3 where the Bucs pick, but in a deep wide receiver class it is certainly possible. Brown was not asked to run a varied route tree in college, but has proven he can be an excellent vertical threat from the outside.
Osa Odighizuwa, DL, UCLA
His measurables (6’2” 282lbs) are undersized for a defensive lineman, but Odighizuwa plays much bigger on the field. He has long arms, plays with good leverage, and his high motor means he was constantly around the ball in college. Odighizuwa can be a good rotational piece entering the league as he develops his game.
Talanoa Hufanga, S, USC
Hufanga is a heat-seeking missile at safety who is a violent, but sound, tackler in the open field. He also showed improved coverage skills and instincts in 2020 with USC. Hufanga will excel in special teams and won’t be a liability if called upon in the secondary.
Aaron Banks, IOL, Notre Dame
Banks showed flashes playing along one of the best offensive lines in college during his time at Notre Dame. At 6-5, 335 lbs he is a mauler in the run game and shows good quickness for his size. A good depth piece for offensive line coach Harold Goodwin who can become a future starter in the NFL.
Tay Gowan, CB, UCF
Gowan has the size (6’2”) and athleticism (4.44 40-yard dash) defensive coordinator Todd Bowles loves in his cornerbacks. Lack of playing time at UCF after opting out in 2020 could slide Gowan to day three, where he can become a developmental corner that learns to use his exceptional movement and length behind Carlton Davis and Jamel Dean.
Jonathon Cooper, EDGE, Ohio State
Cooper would slot in as a designated pass rusher on obvious passing downs where he can pin his ears back and get to the quarterback. And in the 5th round, the Buccaneers could use his refined pass rush toolset to add some much needed depth.
Demetric Felton, WR/RB, UCLA
The signing of Giovani Bernard has solidified the Buccaneer’s need for a true pass catching back, but a player with the versatility of Felton would be attractive on day three. At the Senior Bowl, Felton moved to slot receiver after playing at running back for UCLA in 2020. Felton won’t be relied on year one if drafted by the Bucs outside of possibly returning kicks, but can fill in at slot receiver or third-down running back should injuries occur.
Jaelon Darden, WR, North Texas
Darden is a dynamic playmaker who can open up the Buccaneers offense with designed touches. Route running was not his forte in college, but similar to Florida prospect Kadarious Toney, just get the ball in his hands and watch him make defenders look silly. Darden could provide an immediate spark in the return game.
Buddy Johnson, LB, Texas A&M
Johnson is a run-stopping middle linebacker who is well-built despite being just 6 feet tall. His athletic profile compares to Lavonte David, but he lacks the instincts and coverage ability. But in the 6th round, Johnson can be a great special teamer and depth linebacker for the Buccaneers.
Sadarius Hutcherson, IOL, South Carolina
If the interior offensive line board for the Buccaneers doesn’t fall the way they want in rounds 1-5, Hutcherson would be a great developmental prospect toward the end of day 3. Hutcherson projects best as a guard in the NFL, but the 6’3” 320 lb prospect has experience across the offensive line that helps his chances of making the 53 man roster.
Luke Farrell, TE, Ohio State
Farrell displayed a surprising amount of athleticism at his pro day despite that not always showing on tape. What did show during Farrell’s time at Ohio State was a willingness to block and allow others to shine on the offense. With the departing Anthony Auclair, the Bucs could use a guy like Farrell to round out their tight end group.
Jamie Newman, QB, Georgia/Wake Forest
Newman had a lot of hype surrounding him before the 2020 college season after transferring from Wake Forest to Georgia. The pandemic saw him opt out before he could take a snap for the Bulldogs, but his size (6’4” 230lbs), arm strength, and mobility still make him an intriguing late round flier. The Buccaneers have no backup quarterbacks on the roster as the draft approaches and could look to develop a quarterback like Newman for the future.
Ihmir Smith-Marsette, WR, Iowa
Smith-Marsette is a bigger receiver (6’1”) than a player like Jaelon Darden, but can provide the same dynamism on offense and in the return game. An injury derailed his 2020 season at Iowa, but he would fit well into OC Byron Leftwich’s offense and could be one of the steals of the draft.