Photo via Tori Richman/Tampa Bay Bucs
The draft has come and gone, and now we can all stop talking about “scheme fits” and “positions of need” and “generational talents” for a while.
So, who did the Bucs draft? Were they good decisions? Did they miss on some players? We’ll get into all of that and more, with the grades of their 8 draft picks this past weekend.
Round 1, Pick 19: DI, Calijah Kancey, PITT: B+
About as safe of a pick as you can get, Jason Licht went with someone at a position of dire need to help shore up a run defense that has been pretty darn good over the past half decade. Vita Vea now has a fun running mate in Kancey, who has been (unfairly) compared to former PITT man and multiple time Defensive Player of the Year, Aaron Donald. I’m not sure he’ll live up to those lofty comparisons, but he looks like someone who can be a really solid contributor from day one.
Round 2, Pick 48: OT, Cody Mauch, North Dakota State: B
Another safe pick, Mauch can line up at one of the guard positions immediately, assuming the Bucs follow through on their plan to move Luke Goedeke to the right tackle position and stick Tristan Wirfs at left tackle. Of course, due to Mauch’s experience at the tackle position, the Bucs could decide on a number of different configurations for the o-line, but Mauch seems to possess the same type of high-energy, nasty demeanor that makes Ryan Jensen so great. Hopefully his lack of experience against quality competition becomes a non-factor, but he certainly looks the part of a quality offensive lineman, regardless of whether it’s on the interior or at the tackle position. Could the Bucs have traded up from this position and taken Brian Branch, the best safety in this draft who somehow slipped to the second round? Yeah, but this was their decision, and it’s one that I can certainly live with, especially looking at the state of their offensive line.
Round 3, Pick 82: EDGE, YaYa Diaby, Louisville: B
The Bucs’ pass rush has been average at best for the past couple of seasons, and with Shaq Barrett coming off an Achilles injury and JTS looking a bit rough to start his NFL career, reinforcements were needed. Diaby can come in and become part of an interesting 4-man rotation of Shaq, JTS, Diaby, and Anthony Nelson. Diaby is one of many stories of resilience in this draft class, as he started at a JUCO due to a slight frame and worked his way to Louisville to become a productive member of the Cardinal defense. The Bucs are banking on his continued growth as a pass rusher once he arrives in the NFL.
Round 5, Pick 153: LB, SirVocea Dennis, PITT: C-
When I give out these grades, it never has to do with the actual prospect himself; if the Bucs had went with a secondary guy here and drafted Dennis in say, the 6th, I’d probably be giving this pick a B or higher, as the linebacker position is certainly one that needed to be addressed in this draft with the uncertainty surrounding Devin White and Lavonte David being on his way out following this season. Dennis is a teammate of Kancey, and possesses some good instincts in the run game and getting after the QB. But to spend a 5th on this position when they came into this draft with 2 starting corners and 2 safeties on the roster and wait until the 6th round to address either position is just… confusing. Dennis will hopefully come in and prove that he was worth taking the slight risk on by ignoring the DB position, but I’m a bit pessimistic and perplexed.
Round 5, Pick 171: TE, Payne Durham, Purdue: C+
The Bucs being 10 picks away makes this a bit easier to swallow in regards to missing out on a secondary guy, especially since none were taken between Durham and Josh Hayes (we’ll get to him), but I would’ve loved to see the Bucs go receiver before tight end. I believe in Cade Otton being a starter for the next few years, I don’t think Evans and Godwin are here much longer. Plus, their wide receiver depth is nonexistent; after Russell Gage, things get real hairy. Then again, the Bucs really needed a backup receiving tight end, as Ko Kieft probably shouldn’t be running too many routes. So I understand this pick, and am not super upset about it, especially since Durham has some real size as a red zone threat and can potentially fill the role of prime Cam Brate really well.
Round 6, Pick 181: DB, Josh Hayes, Kansas State: C+
I was a bigger fan of JL Skinner out of Boise State, who was available at this spot, and I would say who am I to question Jason Licht and his DB evaluations, but looking at picks like MJ Stewart and Vernon Hargreaves, it gives me a bit more pause. Hayes possesses the ability to slide to the nickel and the speed to be a special teams contributor, so I don’t entirely hate the pick, I just wish the Bucs would have gone this route far sooner than the 6th round. Maybe even packaging their 5th plus a 6th (or 2) would have gotten them back into the 4th and a chance to get a starting-quality defensive back, but I digress.
Round 6, Pick 191: WR, Trey Palmer, Nebraska: B
Palmer is an absolute burner who can be a valuable return man if he wins the position, but his route running leaves a LOT to be desired. Many times his catches were a result of blown coverages or using his elite speed to blow the tops off of defenses; he won’t get away with that in the NFL. But, if Palmer can get better and learn from some excellent route runners like Chris Godwin and Mike Evans, he could really turn himself into a quality player, as he has decent size. For now, he’ll have the chance to earn a spot as a 5th or 6th wideout on this Bucs roster.
Round 6, Pick 196: EDGE, Jose Ramirez, Eastern Michigan: B+
The end of the draft is the perfect place to take a chance on someone from a smaller school who had a pretty good career in college. Ramirez fits that mold perfectly, and he has a chance to make the roster as a 5th EDGE rusher on a team that can use something different when it comes to the pass rush. If he wants to make the roster (because as a 6th rounder, that’s no guarantee), he’ll need to prove that he can contribute on special teams too, something that I anticipate not being a problem for someone who seems to be a hard worker.