Grading The Buccaneers 2023 Draft


The NFL draft has come and gone. We now know the results of the weekend and exactly who the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have added. Now we can all collectively take a step back and evaluate this group of incoming rookie.

Grading draft picks at this point may seem a bit pointless. Afterall, we won’t really know how good this class was for a few years of them playing in the league. However, we have been evaluating these prospects for months and had a good idea of where we expected them to be drafted.

With that said, here are my grades for each pick of the Bucs draft weekend.

Calijah Kancey – A

This pick was a bit unexpected, but that certainly didn’t make it a bad pick. On the contrary, Kancey was one of the very best players in this draft. By the way Jason Licht and company passed on more pressing needs, they obviously felt the same way.

Kancey’s combination of athletic ability and technical refinement are rare. He projects as a very good interior pass rusher and is a better run defender than his size would have you believe. He’s a high floor, high upside kind of pick.

The only critique I have is his size. Him being just 6 ‘1 and 285 lbs is a concern in terms of how he will adjust to a bigger, stronger league. However, if we were 6 ‘3 and 295 lbs then he probably would have been a top ten pick and the Bucs would have never had a chance to get him.

Cody Mauch – B+

I love the way Mauch plays the game. He thrives as a run blocker and wants to put opponents on the ground. His pass blocking was good enough in college, but I think kicking inside to guard in the NFL will help him as a professional.

As an athlete, Mauch has all the tools to be great. He is powerful and mobile and should be a great fit in the Buccaneers new outside zone running scheme. When athletic ability and the right mindset meet then good things tend to happen on the football field.

The one thing about Mauch that I am weary of is his hand usage. He often finds his hands on defenders shoulders and even on their back as opposed to in tight and controlling his opponents chest. Moving inside will negate this issue to a degree as he won’t have shorter than average arms for his position like he did at offensive tackle.

Yaya Diaby – C+

Fast and physical is the name of the game. Diaby is at his best when he uses his explosive speed off the line of scrimmage and converts that into power. He is like a nuclear powered battering ram. 

Diaby is another great athlete, which was a priority for the Bucs this year. At 263 lbs he ran a 4.51 40 yard dash at the combine. For comparison, that was a faster time than future Hall of Fame receiver Mike Evans and Diaby was more than 30 lbs heavier.

What I didn’t love about this pick is that Diaby is a bit of a project. He is very good at the things he does well, but has a ways to go to become a well rounded pass rusher. He could term into a gem with his athletic tools, but admittedly I thought there were better players available at this point in the draft.

SirVocea Dennis – C

I like what Dennis brings to the field. He is fast and physical and plays with a high level of awareness. He is cut from the same cloth as Lavonte David and should benefit a lot having the opportunity to sit behind one of the all time great linebackers. In a vacuum, I like this addition. 

On top of that, this was a need. The depth behind Lavonte David and Devin White is questionable at best. Dennis answers some of those questions and should make a nice rotational piece and special teams player as a rookie.

My qualms here come with draft value and opportunity cost. I felt like there were better players on the board at this time and several of them would have filled a need for the Bucs. A nice addition, but also one I thought could have been addressed a little later.

Payne Durham – C

The Bucs came into this draft looking for a backup tight end and that’s what they got. Durham is a big body tight end who will certainly be a red zone threat in the NFL. He has the desired size to develop into a quality blocker and can help the running game in two tight end sets.

That being said, Durham isn’t a great blocker yet and he lacks the great athletic ability to be a consistent separator in the NFL. His role will likely always be limited to a depth player and red zone target. There is value in that, but with a limited ceiling it is hard to give this pick a better grade than this.

Josh Hayes – F

This is a player that was not on my radar at all in the pre draft process. Even while looking for safety and nickel defenders, Hayes was never someone who got much buzz. In fact, many analysts didn’t have him on their in depth big boards.

After going back and watching him, I can understand why. Hayes looks like a subpar athlete on the field. He plays the role the Bucs are looking for, but too often gives up separation in coverage. The best I can say about him is that he is a willing tackler and seems to bring the right mentality to the game.

To be frank, I’m not sold that Hayes will make the final 53 man roster. I’d be surprised if the Bucs didn’t bring in at least one more free agent safety and there even undrafted rookie free agents who I believe have a better shot to make the team.

Trey Palmer – B

The Buccaneers had a clear message this offseason in that they wanted to get faster. Palmer will certainly help with that. He ran a 4.33 40 yard dash at the combine which was fastest among all wide receivers and 4th fastest overall.

Palmer will essentially replace Scotty Miller’s role with the team. He is an outside burner who the defense has to respect. The big difference is that Palmer is bigger than Miller was and has a chance to develop into more than that.

This pick also brings some special teams value. He has experience as both a kick and punt returner and has returned one of each for a touchdown in his career. Palmer will likely only ever be a depth piece, but he’s the depth piece that the Buccaneers needed in this draft.

Jose Ramirez – B+

This was my favorite value pick of the draft. In terms of quickness and ability to turn the corner, Ramirez has more than enough talent to be an NFL pass rusher. That’s something that every NFL team can always use more of.

Ramirez is a developmental prospect who can compete to be on the depth chart right away. He isn’t a great run defender, so situational pass rusher is more of his ceiling. However, if he can develop then he can be a very valuable rotational pass rusher.

This pick reminds me a lot of Detroit Lions rookie James Houston last year. Both have similar measurables as late round pass rushers and fill that role of rotational speed rusher. Houston went on to have 8.0 sacks as a rookie, so if Ramirez can come close to that then this will be a home run pick.

Overall Grade – B-

I really liked the first few and the last few picks of this Buccaneers draft. The team drafted a lot of high upside athletes, but also got high floor players who can fill roles for them right away.Three years from now we might look back at this draft and see this grade as too low if some of these players continue to develop.

I will always be in favor of a low risk, high reward approach. With that said, I think some of the players such as Dennis, Durham and Hayes could have been drafted later and the Buccaneers didn’t maximize the value of those picks. However, if those players turn out to be what the Bucs want them to be then nobody will care where they were drafted exactly. 

Many of these rookies should make an immediate impact and help the Buccaneers compete for another NFL South crown in 2023. I see multiple future starters here and most of these players should find a useful niche even if they don’t develop into anything more than what they currently are. Overall, this was a good draft with the potential to turn into a great one down the line.

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