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2016 NFL draft needs for the Buccaneers

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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers spent free agency filling their major needs to give themselves more flexibility in the draft. Oh, and to add some talent to the team, I guess.

The need they addressed most aggressively was cornerback, signing Brent Grimes and Josh Robinson to add to Johnthan Banks and Alterraun Verner. That's four players who are capable of starting. There's also still Jude Adjei-Barimah, who was impressive for an undrafted rookie last season. The Bucs hope Verner and Banks can return to form with a new set of coaches. In all, they addressed that need so thoroughly they can safely skip drafting a player at that position.

They didn't manage to do that at every position, although they certainly added key talent to the roster. Let's see which needs they still need to tackle in the draft.

Edge rusher

Current roster: Robert Ayers, Jacquies Smith, Howard Jones, William Gholston, George Johnson, Kourtnei Brown, Martin Ifedi, Cliff Matthews, Jermauria Rasco

Yes, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed Robert Ayers to shore up their pass rush -- but he's not a true edge rusher. In New York, he often played inside on passing downs. And when he was signed, both Mike Smith and Robert Ayers hinted that they would use him in that way in Tampa. Ayers isn't a guy you put over a left tackle to just let him go -- he'll get shut down far too frequently.

Other than Ayers, they have no one reliable at defensive end. William Gholston is an outstanding run defender who has the potential to make an impact as a pass-rusher, but has never been able to put it together. Jacquies Smith and Howard Jones have explosiveness and combined for 12 sacks last year -- but they didn't do much outside of those 12 plays. They can be contributors, but they're unlikely to develop into consistent pass rushers early on. And then there's George Johnson and his zero sacks. Not a very good group.

So, the Bucs still need to find an edge rusher. Both for the short term, but especially the long term. Rookies don't generally do much as edge rushers, but the team simply lacks young talent at the position. They need to build a pipeline for the decade to come, not just this season.


Current roster: Chris Conte, Bradley McDougald, Major Wright, Keith Tandy, Gerod Holliman, Kimario McFadden

The Bucs have safeties who can start. Chris Conte and Bradley McDougald did so for most of the year, Major Wright is a potential starter, and Keith Tandy is a useful player in some specific situations. What they lack is a difference maker -- someone who can make their entire secondary pop by producing turnovers, and helping out his underneath coverage.

Finding a difference maker is a tall order, though. Adequate safeties are abundant, but the ones everyone craves are incredibly rare -- which is why you rarely see a high first-round pick used on one. It won't happen this year, but there are a few players the Bucs could target later in the draft -- and because they have adequate starters on the roster, they won't need to rush him into action, either.

Right tackle

Current roster: Demar Dotson, Gosder Cherilus, Kevin Pamphile

The Bucs will go into the offseason with Demar Dotson at the top of the depth chart, and Gosder Cherilus backing him up. That's a depth chart of two 30+-year-olds with one-year contracts, and Kevin Pamphile -- who does look like he'll be a starter at some position, at some point. The Bucs don't need to find a new tackle now, but they do need a future plan at the position. Using a mid-round pick on a tackle would probably be a smart move.

Wide receiver

Current roster: Mike Evans, Vincent Jackson, Louis Murphy, Kenny Bell, Donteea Dye, Adam Humphries, Bernard Reedy, Evan Spencer, Andre Davis

The Bucs have a young but very talented starter, a veteran starter who probably has a few more years of productive play in him, a veteran who can be a capable third receiver but is coming off a knee injury, and a whole bunch of young talent on the roster. That's a good group, or so you'd think, but this group struggled for most of last year. Kenny Bell spent the entire season on injured reserve, Louis Murphy most of it, and Vincent Jackson missed a couple of games and was limited in many more. Meanwhile, Mike Evans had a few too many drops. Combine that, and the Bucs were suddenly starting undrafted rookies and getting very little production at the end of the season.

Tampa Bay could count on an injury-free season and some progress out of Kenny Bell, Adam Humphries and Donteea Dye. But adding some talent wouldn't hurt. Louis Murphy is ultimately replaceable, Vincent Jackson isn't going to have eternal life, and every team likes explosive receivers.


Current roster: No one.

Technically, this is a need. In practice, teams don't spend significant picks on fullbacks because it's just not a very important position.