It may come as no surprise, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have several needs they have to address with their roster. After coming into the offseason with the worst cap situation in the NFL the team has had to say goodbye to several of their free agents. It’s also forced the team to make cuts of key contributors in recent years.
This leaves the Bucs in a position where they have a lot of work to do in the NFL draft. Picking up key role players off the bench and even several starters is something that General Manager Jason Licht has to do this year if the team wants to repeat as division champions. This leaves very little room for error come late April.
While the Bucs have many needs to address, some are certainly more important than others. Here are my top ten needs in order that the Buccaneers must prioritize in the coming draft.
Lavonte David is nearing the end of his career and the team is going to have to make a decision on if they want to give Devin White the big money that he is likely to command. The Buccaneers could find themselves needing a linebacker sooner rather than later. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like that guy is currently on the roster.
Drafting and developing a linebacker this year makes a lot of sense. Someone who can bring immediate special teams value and potentially take over as a starter or key rotational player in 2024. I would look for a high upside athlete sometime on day three.
9) Wide Receiver
The Bucs are set with their top three receivers and that might be the best overall group in the NFL. However, the depth after that is a little thin. There is a need to continue to fill out this wide receiver room with young talent.
Ideally the Bucs can add a speed element here. With Evans, Godwin and Gage all being modest with their quickness and explosive speed, adding a quicker or faster player on day three would be ideal. If that can help the return game or be utilized in the running game then that’s even better.
8) Tight End
There is reason to believe that Cade Otton is ready to assume the starting tight end job in Tampa Bay. However, a well rounded back up is a need. And while nobody loves Ko Kieft more than I do, he hasn’t shown enough as a pass catcher to pencil in as the primary backup.
This is a deep tight end draft full of athletic prospects. If the Buccaneers can capitalize on the depth of this class and grab one of these players early in day three then they can get a legitimate contributor in their new offensive system.
7) Running Back
Say it with me: “running back by committee”. While we are all optimistic about Rachaad White and what he can do in the new offense, it’s in everybody’s best interest to take some weight off his shoulders. And while the addition of Chase Edmonds will help with that, I would be surprised if the team didn’t want a more physical runner in that room.
Running back is always a position that offers late value. Finding a power runner who can work in the wide zone system that the Bucs are moving to should be something they can manage. This is certainly a role player the Buccaneers should be able to find on day three.
With the loss of Sean Murphy-Bunting the Buccaneers have questions as to who their starting nickel will be. With Todd Bowles saying that he wants to play Antione Winfield Jr. less in this role it appears to become an even bigger need. Finding a safety or corner who can fill this void is very important.
So much so that this is a pick that it might be wise to invest early draft picks into the position. This might also go into other needs which might be higher on the board, which could lead to as high as a first round pick being invested in this position.
After cutting Ryan Succup the Buccaneers needed to find a cheap kicker who they can depend on. They did so in signing Chase McLaughlin. That’s a short-term fix and the Bucs need a permanent solution to this position, one with a better than 78.8 successful field goal percentage.
Specialists like kickers are rarely targeted in the draft. While you occasionally see some drafted in the second or third round, it is a position where you can find high end starters on day three or undrafted. However, just because you can wait to draft the position doesn’t make it any less of a need.
4) Defensive Tackle
The Bucs have three starters in place with Vita Vea, Logan Hall and the Newly added Greg Gaines. However, there is still a need for depth behind these guys, particularly when it comes to pass rush. This team needs to add two or three more contributing players in some form or fashion.
I expect the Bucs to add a defensive tackle at some point in the draft. Depending on how the board breaks, I could see them doing this as early as the second round. With the current lack of depth and the fact that Gaines is only on a one year deal it is important to add a long term piece at this position.
Every team wants a stable of pass rushers that they can rotate in and out. The Buccaneers are no different as they feature a group with Shaq Barrett, Joe Tryon-Shoinka and the newly re-signed Anthony Nelson. However, with Barrett returning from injury and getting into his 30’s then it’s unclear how much the team can depend on him next year.
Drafting another edge rusher to add to the rotation is important. The defense needs pass rushers who can win matchups so they aren’t in a position where Vita Vea leads them in sacks like he did in 2022. I could see this being addressed as early as the second round.
The Buccaneers need a starting safety opposite of Winfield. With Mike Edwards, Keanu Neal and Logan Ryan being free agents the Bucs lost a lot of experience and talent at this position. This makes safety a pressing need.
There are safeties that are worthy of the Bucs spending a first round pick on. There are several that could make an impact on this defense that can be drafted on day two. I expect this position to be addressed within the first three rounds of this coming NFL draft.
1) Offensive Tackle
After cutting Donovan Smith this offseason addressing the left tackle position is the Bucs greatest need. Not only did they lose Smith, but his backup Josh Wells is unlikely to return as he rehabs from injury. This is to say that the offense currently has no answers at left tackle.
Fortunately, this is a rich draft at the offensive tackle position. Even if the Bucs miss out on the top three guys at the position, they can still find a starter later in the first round and even into the second round. This is one of the most important positions on the field and it’s one they can’t put on the backburner in the draft.