Latest 7-round forecast for Bucs
After a magical three-year streak with Tom Brady, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are now at a crossroads following GOAT’s retirement.
The Bucs face a scary offseason filled with big questions, with a long roster of key free agents on both sides of the ball and a challenging salary cap. Throw in a new offensive coordinator, and you have plenty of reason to wonder what this year’s Bucs team will look like after three straight trips to the playoffs.
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All of these challenges make it even more important for the Bucs to master their rookie class in the 2023 NFL draft, as they’ll likely need big contributions from multiple freshman players if they want to be competitive this season.
Here’s an updated look at how all seven rounds of this year’s draft could turn out for the Bucs (draft commission courtesy of Tankathon):
The Bucs are expected to lose two of their top three corners (Jamel Dean, Sean Murphy-Bunting) as well as three of their top four safes (Mike Edwards, Logan Ryan, Keanu Neal) to free hands. Why not spend your best pick on a player who can line up on the outside corner, in the slot, or at the back end? Branch did all of this at a high level in Nick Saban’s defense and would fit perfectly with Todd Bowle’s plan.
Joe Tryon-Shoyinka has shown potential in his two seasons at Tampa Bay but not enough consistency, especially when it comes to coming out on top as a running defender. Shaq Barrett has just turned 30 and is set to suffer a torn Achilles tendon, so spending an early pick on a promising edge-rusher like Ojulari shouldn’t be out of the question.
Yes, another defender. Lavonte David’s contract is up and even if he returns, he’ll be 33 in January. It’s about time the Bucs looked for a potential replacement for the Devin White pairing, and Henley is one of the most underrated defensemen in this year’s class.
Tampa Bay’s lack of quality in the trenches has been a big reason for their offensive struggles this season. Broeker has a wealth of experience in both guard and tackle and has a track record against top competition. If Donovan Smith is released on a cap-saving move, however, the Bucs may be more interested in a straight tackle than a versatile swing type.
Russell Gage landed a fat contract as Tampa Bay’s principal WR3, but he just couldn’t stay healthy. The Bucs should use one of their extra picks to add some receiver depth, and Jason Licht loves his Nebraska boys. Palmer has a solid combination of size, speed, and athleticism, and put up strong numbers for the Huskers last year, averaging nearly 15 yards per catch.
Tampa Bay needs to become more explosive on offense, and that means adding playmakers with burst and big-play abilities, regardless of their size. Vaughn may be one of the smallest players in this year’s draft, but he’s a versatile weapon that could allow the Bucs’ new offensive coordinator to get creative with matchups around the field.
Akiem Hicks has a one-year contract and the Bucs’ rush defense takes a big hit when he’s not alongside Vita Vea. Clark is a big, strong central defender who could fill Hicks’ role in early losses, freeing up 2022 second-round pick Logan Hall to remain a pass-rushing specialist inside.
Kyle Trask is the only quarterback currently under contract for the 2023 season at Tampa Bay. Tom Brady is retiring and with the offensive coaching staff overhaul, Blaine Gabbert is unlikely to re-sign. Duggan, this year’s Heisman Trophy runner-up, may not have the physical makeup to be a first-round pick, but his competitiveness and intangibles make it worth the risk here.
Ryan Succop was the only player on the roster to consistently score for the Bucs this season, but he turns 37 next September and his struggles from 50+ yards have become a problem. Moody nailed a 59-yarder in the Fiesta Bowl and drilled two more from over 50 yards in the East-West Shrine Game.