TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS POST-DRAFT TEAM GUIDE
General manager Jason Licht entered the 2021 NFL Draft in an unfamiliar position as the architect of a Super Bowl-winning roster after years of being strapped by a struggling defense and turnover-prone quarterback. Combined with the outstanding coaching of Bruce Arians and Todd Bowles with the addition of Tom Brady at quarterback, Tampa Bay was able to turn the corner and add another Lombardi Trophy to its hardware case.
How did Licht add to the best roster in the NFL to gear up for another Super Bowl run? Let’s take a look back at the Buccaneers’ 2021 NFL Draft class:
Round 1: Joe Tryon, EDGE, Washington
A big storyline coming out of the Buccaneers’ Super Bowl win over the Kansas City Chiefs was how effective Tampa Bay’s pass rush was to make life difficult for Patrick Mahomes. With Tampa Bay returning 22 of 22 starters and entering the draft with a deep and balanced roster, the Buccaneers opted to go with Tryon to make its pass rush even better in 2021 and maintain a critical component of last year’s squad. Tryon fits well in Todd Bowles’ defense, where he can be used as a stand-up rusher and take advantage of wider alignments. Tryon is an urgent pass rusher with terrific first-step quickness. The key for Tryon to become more effective at the next level is to become more nuanced at the top of his rush so that he can soften the angle, flatten, and finish with more consistency. With Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaquil Barrett entrenched as the Buccaneers’ primary edge rushers, Tryon can be sprinkled in and make Tampa Bay’s pass rusher even deeper
Round 2: Kyle Trask, QB, Florida
Admittedly, this was not a pick that I liked. While the Buccaneers’ roster is loaded, the second round was too early for Tampa Bay to be thinking about a quarterback and should have been thinking more about what they could add to the roster to help maximize their opportunity to win another Super Bowl instead of selecting a quarterback with pedestrian traits that profiles as a backup. Trask enjoyed a productive 2020 campaign at Florida, but he has below-average arm strength and athleticism. Tampa Bay would have been better served finding a player that could become an X-factor for the offense or defense and considered bringing back Blaine Gabbert to go with Ryan Griffin to complete its quarterback room.
Round 3: Robert Hainsey, OL, Notre Dame
One of the few losses that the Buccaneers endured this offseason was the departure of veteran backup offensive lineman Joe Haeg and Hainsey has the ability to fill that role. A 34-game starter at right tackle in college, Hainsey projects well to playing on the interior if needed. Hainsey is a smooth pass blocker with good footwork and body control. The key for him is becoming more consistent with his hand technique and working in space. Hainsey has a chance to be Tampa Bay’s sixth offensive linemen in 2021 and replace what the team lost in Haeg.
Round 4: Jaelon Darden, WR, Notre Dame
In nine games last season, Darden collected 74 catches for 1,190 yards and 10 touchdowns—he couldn’t be stopped. In 21 games across the last two seasons, Darden has a ridiculous 31 receiving touchdowns. He’s a big play machine that thrives on targets down the field but also has the creativity to win in space and even take handoffs. Darden is also a factor as a return guy, which is another element he can bring to the Buccaneers roster. A do-everything weapon like Darden is exactly the type of piece that Tampa Bay should be thinking about adding to its roster considering where the team is in its lifecycle. His big-play ability in multiple phases of the game gives him a chance to make an impact.
Round 5: KJ Britt, LB, Auburn
Entering the draft, an underrated part of the roster that had room for improvement was depth at off-ball linebacker, which makes adding Britt a logical choice. Britt is lauded for his toughness, football character, and love of the game and he plays the game with urgency, physicality, and an overall aggressive approach. Britt is only a 14-game starter at Auburn, but he has the makeup of a quality special teams player that can provide depth to the defense and maybe even see the field in short-yardage packages. Given the state of the Buccaneers’ roster, Britt was a logical selection and the path for him to contribute as a rookie is clear.
Round 7: Chris Wilcox, CB, BYU
Injuries were problematic for Wilcox at BYU, but when he was on the field he displayed terrific long speed to carry receivers down the field and outstanding tackling skills to go with his long, gangly frame. Outside of notable challenges with staying healthy, Wilcox has below-average ball skills, coverage instincts and he lacks transitional quickness. Wilcox has a chance to provide depth at corner but his path to the roster could be challenging given what the Buccaneers already have in place.
Round 7: Grant Stuard, LB, Houston
Prospects like Stuard are what the seventh round is made for. Stuard lacks length and athleticism but he has a chance to become an elite special teams contributor. He plays with his hair on fire, is unrelenting in pursuit, and loves to be physical which should translate perfectly to covering kicks and punts. While I don’t expect much from Stuard on the defensive unit, he has a chance to stick and provide value to this Buccaneers roster because of how he can make an impact on special teams. If he does that, he won’t be irrelevant like most seventh-round selections ultimately are.
How Did the Buccaneers Do?
Outside of the Trask selection, I really like what Tampa Bay was able to accomplish. Tryon adds more depth and upside to the pass rush while Darden is an X-factor for the offense and special teams units with his big-play ability. Hainsey brings value as a versatile backup for the offensive line while Britt and Stuard should be assets covering kicks and punts. For a team that had no glaring needs and primed to win now, Tampa Bay did well to use its draft capital to maximize their opportunity to compete with young players that have logical paths to playing time in roles that will not provide a hindrance to the team accomplishing its goals by featuring rookies in critical spots.
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