When you win the Super Bowl and manage to bring back all 22 of your starters—as well as most of their backups—you have the luxury of drafting purely for depth and developmental prospects in the NFL Draft. The Buccaneers continued to build out their depth on Friday, using their third round pick (No. 95 overall) to select offensive lineman Robert Hainsey out of Notre Dame. Here, we have three things you need to know about Tampa Bay’s newest big man in the trenches.
He isn’t a stranger to the state of Florida
Robert Hainsey is a product of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and played his college football at Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. How, then, is he plenty familiar with the state of Florida? Well, he moved down to Bradenton during his high school career to play at the highly respected IMG Academy under Coach Kevin Wright. IMG is known for developing top-tier collegiate and professional talent, recruiting kids from around the country—and even the world. Hainsey joined the Ascenders as a high school junior and managed to develop into a highly sought after recruit by the end of his time as a prep player.
By the end of his time at IMG, Hainsey was a consensus top-25 player in the state of Florida, earning high ratings from Scout.com (No. 17-ranked player in his class), 247Sports (No. 15), ESPN (No. 7) and Rivals (No. 21). As a four-star recruit, he was nationally ranked as well. Scout had him as the 129th-best overall player in the nation and the 14th-best offensive tackle, while 247Sports ranked him the 81st-best overall and the No. 5 offensive guard nationally. ESPN was even higher on him, as he was ranked the 31st-best player overall and the nation’s No. 1 guard. So, it’s safe to say Hainsey’s move to IMG was one that paid off. He committed to Notre Dame over a long list of equally impressive programs, including Auburn, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State.
Hainsey’s experience in Florida isn’t limited to his time at IMG, either. He played in the 2016 Under Armour All-American Game in St. Petersburg, then visited a few times as a member of the Fighting Irish, playing in Miami (2017), as well as Orlando (2017 and 2019). Now, he gets to call Tampa home as a member of the defending Super Bowl champion Buccaneers, playing his home games at Raymond James Stadium.
He brings some much-needed versatility to Tampa Bay’s offensive line depth
The Bucs have their starting offensive line already set for 2021, with Donovan Smith, Ali Marpet, Ryan Jensen, Alex Cappa and Tristan Wirfs lining up from left to right. But outside of Aaron Stinnie and perhaps Josh Wells, the team was lacking depth up front. Protecting Tom Brady is the biggest priority of this team, so using the draft to add another stud to the group of big heavies had to make a ton of sense. That’s where Hainsey comes in, and he brings a great deal of versatility to the room. He played tackle at Notre Dame and put together an impressive career both in terms of overall performance and discipline. In 2020, he wasn’t penalized.
Robert Hainsey played 836 total snaps at right tackle this season.— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) January 31, 2021
He committed ZERO penalties. pic.twitter.com/PuR4YFoSqd
But as phenomenal as he was as a tackle for the Fighting Irish, it’s been made clear throughout the pre-draft process that he has the ability to kick inside and play both guard and center. In fact, he played center at the Senior Bowl, leaving scouts and analysts impressed. Bucs general manager Jason Licht has already said that he can see Hainsey filling in at four different positions on the line. And with that kind of versatility, the third-round pick gives Tampa Bay a ton of freedom not only this year but well into the future.
In 2021, Hainsey will fill be able to fill in wherever he’s needed. In the event of an injury at tackle, he’d be able to step in. If a guard goes down, perhaps he can slide in at guard or take over at center while Jensen fills in at the guard spot. Having so many options can only help the Bucs’ coaching staff. Not to mention, beyond 2021, the team’s front office is going to enjoy that same freedom. Wirfs is obviously locked in at right tackle and Smith just signed an extension to remain on the left side. But Jensen and Cappa both have uncertain futures in Tampa, and with Hainsey able to play both center and guard, there’s a chance he is a long-term solution at one of those positions if either guy is playing elsewhere next season.
And here’s this: There’s even a possibility that Smith is eventually let go and with Wirfs having plenty of experience at left tackle, perhaps he would make the switch to play there while Hainsey comes in for him on the right side. That is a TON of options for the Bucs as they look for the best way to build their offensive line for the long-term.
His selection in the third round helped Notre Dame make history
When the Bucs selected Hainsey in Friday’s third round, it made history for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Hainsey became the third Notre Dame offensive lineman picked in the first three rounds of this year’s draft, joining Liam Eichenberg (a second-round pick for the Dolphins) and Aaron Banks (a second-rounder for the 49ers). That meant that the Irish became the first program to have three offensive linemen selected in the first three rounds of a single draft since 2001 (h/t Jason Starrett).
Before Michigan in the 2001 NFL Draft, it hadn't been done since Penn State in 1982. Pretty rare.— Jason Starrett (@starrettjason) May 1, 2021
And as Starrett noted, before Michigan accomplished that in 2001, Penn State was the last to do it—in 1982. As rare as it is, if you were to pick college programs likely to do it, you’d probably have Notre Dame in your top three. The Fighting Irish have become a FACTORY for NFL offensive linemen over the years. Currently, they have Ronnie Stanley (Baltimore), Zack Martin (Dallas), Nick Martin (Las Vegas), Quenton Nelson (Indianapolis), Mike McGlinchey (San Francisco), Sam Young (Las Vegas), Alex Bars (Chicago), Sam Mustipher (Chicago), Jarron Jones (Pittsburgh) and the three 2021 draft picks in the league. That’s quite the list.
In Hainsey, the Bucs have a guy who very well could put together a long pro career. His versatility is such a big positive, plus he’s smart and tough. He was a three-year starter and a two-year captain for a Notre Dame team that won 33 games from 2018-2020. Tampa Bay needed offensive line depth, and it certainly got it at the end of the draft’s third round.
You can find Robert Hainsey on Twitter @rhainsey72. Be sure to take some time to follow him, congratulate him and welcome him to Tampa Bay!