TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Cody Mauch won’t be fixing the gap in his smile any time soon.
The North Dakota State offensive lineman vows to wait until he’s stopped playing football to replace front teeth missing since he collided with a friend during a junior high school basketball game. He was selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the second round of the NFL draft Friday night.
And if he turns out to be as good as the Bucs feel he can be, that could be a while.
“Another buddy dove for the ball and I just kind of ran right into his head,” Mauch recalled Friday night, when the Bucs also addressed the need for an edge rusher by taking Louisville defensive end YaYa Diaby in the third round.
Mauch, who also sports long, flowing red hair and a beard, says his gap-toothed smile is a source of pride.
“Oh, absolutely,” he added. “I’m not going to get them fixed any time soon. I’ll just say that.”
Mauch fills a need created in part by the team’s decision to part ways with veteran left tackle Donovan Smith, who played poorly last season, when the Buccaneers struggled to protect Tom Brady and finished last in the league in rushing offense.
While Brady threw for the third-most yards in the NFL and was one of the league’s least-sacked quarterbacks, that primarily was attributed to the seven-time Super Bowl’s ability to get the football out of his hands before being hit.
With 2021 All-Pro Tristan Wirfs already preparing himself for the possibility of moving to left tackle for next season, Mauch eventually could get an opportunity to compete for the starting job Wirfs has held on the right side since being drafted in the first round in 2020.
For the time being, though, general manager Jason Licht sees the native of Hankinson, North Dakota, as a guard.
“I think one of my biggest strengths is my athleticism — the ability to block out in space is something I’ve always prided myself on and done a good job with. Also, my knowledge — that’s something that you don’t see on the field but just knowledge for the game is huge,” Mauch said.
“Something I’m trying to work on is figuring out which position they’re going to want me to be at and doing my best to go in and compete there.”
To ensure themselves of getting Mauch, the Bucs traded up two spots from 50th overall to No. 48, swapping draft positions in the second round with Green Bay and also sending the Packers a sixth-round pick, No. 179 overall.
Mauch began his career as a 220-pound walk-on tight end and enters the NFL as a versatile 6-foot-5, 302-pound prospect.
He impressed the Bucs at the senior bowl, where he worked at both tackle and guard.
“I think that helped the most. Maybe some teams were looking at me just as a tackle or maybe some teams were looking at me just as a guard, and my ability to go in there and prove that I can play all of those different spots absolutely opened up eyes to every team,” Mauch said.
The Buccaneers addressed a desire to get younger, stronger and quicker on the defensive line, selecting Pittsburgh tackle Calijah Kancey with the 19th pick in the first round on Thursday night.
Diaby had 10 1/2 sacks at Louisville and will be counted on to contribute to a pass rush that was inconsistent in 2022, with linebacker Shaquil Barrett missing much of the season because of a torn Achilles.
“We wanted to get faster and more physical,” Licht said. “I feel like we did that with all of these picks.”
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