3 December 2020

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Draft Preview: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were led by quarterback Jamies Winston last season who had one of the strangest seasons by a quarterback. Winston threw for 30 touchdowns, 5,109 yards and had a completion percentage of 60.7% which sounds like he would be in talks for an MVP, but when you finish reading his 2019 stat line and you see he also threw 30 interceptions with seven of those resulting in a pick-six, you scratch your head in confusion.

Despite Winston throwing interceptions left and right the Buccaneers found success in their wideout duo of Chris Godwin and Mike Evans who quickly became one of the best-receiving duos in the league. Tampa Bay finished up the season with a record of 7-9 missing the playoffs for the 12th consecutive year. The Buccaneers landed the top free agent available in the off-season as they signed quarterback Tom Brady to a 2-year $50 million fully guaranteed contract.

With Tom Brady now the starting quarterback the Buccaneers must address any holes they have to have hopes of making the playoffs. Here are some positions Tampa Bay can look to address in the draft.

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Offensive Tackle

The Buccaneers just signed Tom Brady, the now biggest prize possession on their team, turns 43 in August and is entering his 21st season in the league and can’t afford to take a big hit from anybody.

The Buccaneers must protect Brady at all costs and beef up their offensive line to make Brady feel more secure. Tampa Bay’s o-line allowed the 11th most sacks in the league with 47 sacks and allowed 106 QB hits for the season which is not what you like to see if you’re Brady and have only a few years left in you to play. Last season the average stat line for a lineman for sacks given up for the season where 5 sacks along with an average of 5 penalties resulted in an average of 30 total yards given up and that’s not good if each player on the starting o-line gave up that much throughout the year. Tampa Bay has made efforts to boost up their o-line by adding tackle Joe Haeg who allowed 1 sack last season and had 0 penalties.

The Buccaneers can boost up their o-line even more by adding 6’5 315 lbs offensive tackle Andrew Thomas who is coming off an impressive year for Georgia. Thomas did a good job protecting quarterback Jake Fromm while at Georgia but excelled in the run game as he was a crucial part of D’Andre Swift’s success. Thomas showed he can do it all in a matchup vs Notre Dame where he took on some of their best edge rushers and opened up a huge hole at the goal line allowing Swift to score. Although he did have some off games against top talents like Auburn’s Marlon Davidson and LSU’s K’Lavon Chaisson he backed it up with solid performances against top teams like Florida and Notre Dame.

Running Back

The Buccaneers currently have Ronald Jones II as their starting running back and in just his second year he was already bumped up to the starter because of their lack of run game. Jones put up 724 rushing yards and 6 touchdowns which is pretty good for a running back who didn’t have the best o-line blocking for him. The problem with Tampa Bay’s run game is they have no depth when Jones comes out of the game to take a breather.

They have nobody who can carry the workload until he gets back in the game. Jones was singled-handling the run game for Tampa Bay the whole season and their ranking of 24th for average rushing yards per game shows they need some help.

A prospect to look out for is Clyde Edwards-Helaire who was a big part of LSU’s run game he might be considered to be the focal point of their run game. While at LSU Edwards-Helaire recorded 1,414 rushing yards with 16 touchdowns which were a team-high but not only was he good in the run game he caught 55 receptions for 453 receiving yards and 1 receiving touchdown. This is what made  Edwards-Helaire dangerous; he had the ability to not only run the ball but he was able to catch a couple of passes and he was very consistent with catches scouts have said he has natural receiving skills. His versatility will be a huge factor for the Buccaneers as they lost their #3 receiver Breshad Perriman in free agency Edwards-Helaire can be that unexpected #3 receiver if needed.

Defensive End 

The Buccaneers defensive line was one of the best in the league this past season as they recorded 47 sacks which were ranked 7th for the most in the NFL. The d-line was led by the 2019 NFL Sack Leader Shaquill Barret who had an outstanding year with 19.5 sacks, Barret was also a free-agent this off-season as the Buccaneers signed him to a 1-year prove-it deal and he indeed proved he can be the main guy. Tampa Bay would go on to place their franchise tag on him as they had no intention of letting him walk away, Jason Pierre-Paul was also a big part of the d-line as he had 8.5 sacks which were second-most on the team behind Barrett. Pierre-Paul was set to become a free agent but was re-signed by the Buccaneers on a 2-year $27 million contract.

Tampa Bay took a hit when they lost defensive end Carl Nassib who signed with the Las Vegas Raiders in free agency. Nassib was also a key factor in the d-line success as he recorded 6 sacks and 1 forced fumble.

To replace Nassib at the defensive end the Buccaneers can draft Kenny Willekes who is coming off a great season for Michigan State but is being overshadowed by his disappointing Senior Bowl and Combine performance. Willekes had 10.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and returned one of the fumbles for a touchdown and played a solid role for Michigan State d-line. Willekes is a solid edge rusher which is perfect since he won’t be taking on the role as the #1 guy on the d-line he can still perform solid and come through when they need a big play.

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