Buccaneers fans don’t agree on much these days, but one common belief is that the team must upgrade its offensive line before the 2020 season. As of now, it’s certainly a possibility that Tampa Bay addresses that need in the first round of April’s NFL Draft.
ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. is among those who believe that’s the direction the Bucs could be headed in. In his first mock draft of the year, he has them taking Iowa offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs with the 14th overall pick. Here’s what he had to say about the selection:
This is another tough team to peg because we don’t yet know whether it will bring back quarterback Jameis Winston or breakout pass-rusher Shaquil Barrett, who are both free agents. The Bucs also could lose defensive linemen Ndamukong Suh, Carl Nassib, Jason Pierre-Paul and Beau Allen in free agency. That’s a lot of unknowns, and the entire defensive line could be addressed here, really, particularly if Bruce Arians & Co. spot a pass-rusher they like. Because this is my mock draft, though, I see a perfect fit for Wirfs on the right side of the line with Demar Dotson likely leaving in free agency. Wirfs is powerful at the point of attack and tremendous in the run game. And if you’re keeping count, that makes four offensive tackles in the first 14 picks here.
Kiper makes some good points in his reasoning, noting that the Bucs have Winston and plenty of defensive free agents to consider. If they need a quarterback come draft day, perhaps that’s the pick. Or if some combination of Pierre-Paul, Suh and Nassib leaves Tampa, maybe they address the defense. But as things stand now, it’s hard to argue against the idea of finding a replacement for Dotson at right tackle.
The 6-foot-5, 322-pound Wirfs declared for the NFL Draft early, forgoing his senior season with the Hawkeyes. He is highly regarded for his power and mobility, although the assessment of his run blocking ability appears inconsistent. Kiper says that he is “tremendous in the run game” while the folks over at The Draft Network seem to have a little bit of concern about that aspect of his game.
Tampa Bay will surely have to like what he offers to the rushing attack, as the offensive line has been a significant part of the team’s backfield struggles in recent years. Taken at pick No. 14 in Kiper’s draft, he was the fourth offensive tackle selected. If things fall a little bit differently, maybe there’s another tackle the team may like better once its pick rolls around. Regardless, Wirfs may very well be in the mix for the Bucs come April.