With the NFL draft being just two days away, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be looking to add a premier player with their seventh overall selection. Whether that pick will be an offensive or defensive piece remains to be seen, but the team will have plenty of options. There is no question that the Buccaneers still have some glaring needs on their roster, and I will put in order what positions need to be focused on the most come draft weekend.
#1 - Cornerback.
Tampa Bay currently has Brent Grimes, Vernon Hargreaves III , Ryan Smith, Javien Elliott, Maurice Fleming and David Rivers at the cornerback position. Outside of Brent Grimes, who is likely playing his last season in the NFL, the Buccaneers don’t have enough talent in the secondary, especially on the outside. I believe that Vernon Hargreaves is more suited to play nickel corner in this league and feel he would excel if he was placed there full time. After having the 32nd ranked pass defense, the Bucs simply can’t go into the season with Ryan Smith as a starting cornerback. No disrespect to him, because he plays incredibly hard, but the Buccaneers can find a much better option. Tampa Bay has added to the defensive line in free agency, but they didn’t sign one secondary player which was a big surprise to many fans. To me, all signs point to a cornerback being taken with one of their first two round picks. Whether it be Denzel Ward, Jaire Alexander, or Mike Hughes, I think it’s imperative that one of these three players become a Buccaneer.
#2 - Running Back
You can make the argument that safety is the #2 need, but Chris Conte and Keith Tandy can be serviceable options for one more year. You can’t fix every need in one offseason. The Buccaneers currently have Peyton Barber, Jacquizz Rodgers and Dalton Crossan on their active roster. Barber played in all 16 games for Tampa Bay, but he only started in four of them. Barber had 108 carries last season, for 423 yards and 3 touchdowns. Barber is a very good compliment back in this league, but the Buccaneers need a true #1 option who has home run ability and can be a dangerous threat in the passing game as well. If Saquon Barkley is there at seven, Tampa Bay will pick him, but if he’s not, this is another position that needs to be addressed with one of their first two picks. The team waited too long last season and it burned them big time. I just don’t anticipate them, with the current picks they have, waiting until the top of the fourth round to pick a running back.
#3 - Safety
Over the last month or so, more and more mock drafts have Tampa Bay selecting Florida State safety Derwin James. The Florida State standout would be an excellent fit in Tampa Bay and would fill an immediate need, however I don’t think it’s the biggest need. Tampa Bay just spent a second round pick on a safety last season, and have Chris Conte and Keith Tandy on their active roster who have played in this defensive scheme for two seasons now. We all agree that James would be an immediate upgrade over Conte and Tandy, but I would rather have Conte in the secondary then be forced to start Ryan Smith on the outside.
#4 - Offensive Tackle Depth
Let me start by saying this, if Quenton Nelson is on the board at seven, Tampa Bay won’t wait more than 10 seconds to turn in the card and select the future All-Pro guard. I think the Buccaneers offensive line is in good shape as a whole, but Demar Dotson and his injury woes concern me. Another question mark along the offensive line is who will play right guard? I suspect a training camp battle between Caleb Benenoch and J.R. Sweezy. We saw last season what a few injuries along the offensive line can do to a ball club, which is why Tampa Bay needs to add some depth during this draft. I’d lean towards taking a tackle simply because of Dotson’s age and I feel the team has enough depth along the interior. It will be interesting to see how Jason Licht and Co. view the line depth.
#5 - Defensive Line Depth
Tampa Bay overhauled their defensive line over the offseason and added Jason Pierre-Paul, Vinny Curry, Mitch Unrein and Beau Allen. All four of those will hopefully be significant upgrades over last year’s unit and help take some of the pressure off of Gerald McCoy. If Noah Spence can stay healthy, and that’s a big “if”, the Buccaneers will have a much improved pass rush. With that being said, you can never have enough pass rushers or run stoppers. Look at the Philadelphia Eagles and the defensive line depth they had during the Super Bowl. . Lineman always get banged up and miss a game here or there. If I was a general manager I would select at least one defensive lineman every draft and continue to build depth.
The draft can’t get here fast enough and I think it will be one of those to remember, especially the top 10. Tampa Bay has many options and it is arguably the most important draft Jason Licht has had during his tenure in Tampa Bay.