It’s bound to be an interesting weekend, so let’s get right into it. Here is Bucs Nation’s 2023 NFL Draft round table.
We’ll start off with a simple question that would have a huge impact on both the team and draft as a whole. Do we think the Bucs will draft a quarterback? If so, how high?
Will Walsh - No. I think the Will Levis talk is all a smoke screen. Tampa is not in position where they absolutely must draft a quarterback. There are other holes to fill, and it makes more sense to grab talent this year, see what you have in Kyle Trask/Baker Mayfield and come back for quarterback next year, if need be.
Gil Arcia - Ultimately? Maybe. But I personally don’t see them taking that approach. What good is a quarterback drafted high this year with uncertainty throughout the coaching staff for next year? Best to ride with Kyle Trask and Baker Mayfield this season and see what they can give you under this new offense. Draft at the positions that certainly need to be addressed, and those that potentially impact the quarterback position in some way.
Mike Kiwak - Unless an incredible opportunity comes to snipe someone like CJ Stroud or Anthony Richardson, I agree that quarterbacking this year should fall to Baker or Trask (probably both). The team will likely keep its mind open on Day 3 with someone like Houston’s Clayton Tune or TCU’s Max Duggan as a practice squad QB.
Evan Wanish- I am going to say yes, but it won’t be until day three. I do think they would take a guy like Will Levis if he fell to 19th overall, but I just don’t see that happening. They currently have six day three picks, including three fifth round picks and two sixth round selections. If they keep all of those, it would not shock me if one of them ended up being a QB.
James Yarcho - I think we could see the Bucs draft a quarterback, absolutely. However, I would be surprised if it was before day three. They have Baker Mayfield and, as Jason Licht put it, an “unknown” in Kyle Trask. Flesh that out over the course of 2023 and if neither emerges as a guy you feel you can contend with, attack the position in 2024.
If quarterback isn’t going to be a top priority, what positions would you all rank as most important to address sooner rather than later?
Will - The trenches. When the Buccaneers won the Super Bowl, headliners like Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski were awarded all the credit but the team’s success came from its dominance at the line of scrimmage. Since 2020, Tampa’s fronts have regressed on both sides of the ball. Pass rush and offensive line are at a premium in today’s NFL.
Gil - I have to agree with Will here, but take it even further. Bucs have to address the defensive front early and often. There wasn’t much there after losing Jason Pierre-Paul, Ndamukong Suh, and after Shaq Barrett got hurt. Joe Tryon-Shoyinka was decent, but could and should have been better. The rest of the pass rush was abysmal at best.
Mike - Offensive tackle and edge stand out as obvious sore spots, but I think the Bucs will strongly consider a defensive back as well. The safety and corner rooms are both perilously thin right now, and there’s no clear answer at nickel.
Evan- I really wanted to come up with something different than the consensus, but I also have to say the trenches. It is just too big of a need for Tampa Bay this year and there will be a lot of talent available to them along both the offensive and defensive lines throughout the draft.
James - I’ve gone over this a lot on the Locked On Bucs podcast but you obviously have to start in the trenches with offensive tackle and defensive end. The Bucs are actually in good shape as far as the interior offensive line is concerned but they need a starter at tackle. Then, Vita Vea needs some help along the line. He needs his Ndamukong Suh for the long term. Outside of that, running back, safety, corner, edge, and tight end stand out as the most glaring needs on the team whether that’s a starter, rotational player, or depth.
As I’m sure we all know, draft season signals the peak churning of the rumor mill. With all the smoke currently getting blown by both teams and agents, what Bucs-related rumors have you seen that stand out to you and why? Good or bad.
Will - That the Buccaneers are going to trade Devin White to the Eagles and swap first round picks, to move up and draft Will Levis. Tampa Bay may very well trade away Devin White but I doubt it would be a draft day deal for Will Levis.
Gil - The rumor of the Buccaneers trading up. Period. General manager Jason Licht has always been one that prefers to trade down. And as we get closer to Day 1, I think we are starting to see many folks collectively feel the same way.
Mike - The rumor of the Bucs possibly trading for Trey Lance. It was quickly rebuked, but I’m not opposed to the idea in the future. Lance has huge talent and really hasn’t gotten a fair shake to this point in his career, but the team would be wise to keep its Day 2 picks for now and see how the Baker/Trask show plays out. I’d be interested to possibly revisit this conversation in a year if he’s still languishing in San Fran.
Evan- I am going to agree with Will here. The Eagles have not shown a history or prioritizing the linebacker position and I just don’t see a deal like that materializing. I also believe that the Bucs want Devin White back in Tampa for this season so I’m not sure White will get his wish to be dealt.
James - The infatuation with Texas running back Bijan Robinson speaks volumes. With Dave Canales running the offense and running backs coach Skip Peete, adding a dominant player like Robinson would be huge for the Bucs. He’s a great combo with Rachaad White and takes a lot of pressure of Mayfield or Trask. Many fans don’t like the idea of drafting a running back that high, but there’s no question Robinson is a difference maker - and if you look at the Bucs as a team that will take two off-seasons to fully reload he’s a perfect pick.
With the general consensus being that the team is trying to reload, not rebuild, how aggressive should Jason Licht be when it comes to trading up or down in the first round? History would indicate that he’s going to be wheeling and dealing in some way, but are you Team Trade-Up or Team Trade-Down?
Will - I think Licht would be wise to trade down. Different from in recent years, Tampa has a variety of needs and less pressure to win immediately. Securing extra picks provides a greater infusion of youth and will allow the team to address more needs.
Gil - I think this will depend on who is on the board. Tampa Bay does a good job of sitting back and letting the board come to them. If they have several prospects graded on their board (not any broadcast’s big board) then they should definitely trade back and gain some more picks.
Mike - In the first round, I’m leaning toward staying put and then using days 2 and 3 to be more active on the trade front. If I had to choose, a small trade down to possibly recoup a fourth-round pick would be ideal, but a bigger leap like 8 or 9 spots feels more risky with this class.
Evan- Like Gil said, I think this mostly depends on who is on the board, but I am usually always going to be team trade down. This team has a lot of holes that need to be filled with cheaper players on rookie contracts so I think it would be a good idea to gain more picks if there is no one they love on the board at 19th overall.
James - I’m team “depends on the situation.” If there’s a talent like Robinson, Paris Johnson Jr., Peter Skoronski, or even Anthony Richardson starting to slide I could support a move up. However, this is a team with a lot of holes and not a lot of draft capital. They don’t have a fourth round pick and only have three picks in the top 100. I’d rather see the Bucs move down a couple of spots - not out of the first round entirely, but maybe around the 23-26 range - and pick up a few more picks.
Licht has also kept the team’s interests generally close to the vest. What’s an under-the-radar move that you could see the team making in the first three rounds that fans might not expect?
Will - All of the talk surrounding the Buccaneers 2023 draft has been centered around getting Tom Brady’s replacement. The beginning of the mock draft season had them taking Anthony Richardson at 19. Now the masses believe that the Buccaneers might be trading up to get the future face of the franchise. Bucs fans may be buying some Kyle Trask or Baker Mayfield merch after this draft. I think Tampa Bay goes the whole 2023 draft without a quarterback selected.
Gil - An under-the-radar move I see Tampa Bay making is perhaps immediately pulling the trigger on a guy not many expected to be there at 19. Lame response, I know. But with all the “needs” the Buccaneers have and a top player falling to them when it comes time for their selection, Tampa Bay may very well choose whomever that may be without hesitation. So in other words, the under-the-radar move would be staying put, and not trading up nor down.
Mike - I think the Buccaneers will strongly consider selecting a tight end in the top 50. The team has done its homework on all of the top names throughout the process, Jason Licht publicly sung the class’s praises, and it’s been mentioned heavily that the team will likely explore more aggressive 12 personnel deployments within its new offense. A first-round pick there might be more the result of ill-luck with other positions, but we should watch out for the second round.
Evan- The Bucs may draft a WR sooner than people think. They still have Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Russell Gage. Behind those guys though? Devin Thompkins and Kaylon Geiger. Russell Gage could be cut to save money next offseason and Mike Evans, while he is a Bucs legend, will be 30 years old this season and is also a free agent after this year. I don’t think WR will be an option in the first-round unless they trade down, but don’t be shocked if they take one during day two.
James - Don’t rule out a day two tight end selection. While Cade Otton showed flashes of being a viable weapon, Cam Brate is gone which leaves just Otton and Ko Kieft. With a deep tight end class, the Bucs could have quite a few options that fit the team in both the run blocking and pass catching aspects that they’ll ask of the position. Canales comes from a system that utilized multiple tight ends and didn’t have a dominant top guy.
Finally, the last question is simple. If you were in the GM chair, who are you taking in Round 1?
Will - If it’s me, I’m trading back. I’m giving up the 19th pick to the highest bidder and when my pick does come around, I am jumping on the best player available on either side of the line of scrimmage. Games are won and lost in the trenches and Tampa has to fortify their lines to reclaim championship glory.
Gil - There are some guaranteed top tier players that could very well still be available at No. 19 that the Bucs can afford to trade back a few spots and still get one of their top targets. If guys like Myles Murphy, Joey Porter, Jr., or Bijan Robinson are there, I think you grab them.
Mike - I think the team will take whoever is ranked highest on their board at offensive tackle, edge or tight end, and I’d wager the following names have a good chance to be part of that discussion: Anton Harrison, Lukas Van Ness, or Dalton Kincaid. All of them may fall within that 15-20 range, and I could see the merits of picking each one.
Evan- I think they will look to move back, but if they can’t, then Anton Harrison makes a lot of sense for them. If I had my way in a perfect world though, I would try and trade back and select an EDGE defender like Iowa State’s Will McDonald IV, who is one of my favorite players in this class. Despite that, I still think there’s a solid chance the pick is Harrison.
James - If he’s there, the slam dunk pick to me is Bijan Robinson. He does everything from dominate in the run game to catch passes to blitz pickups. A combination of Robinson and, say, Matthew Bergeron in the second round is far more valuable to the team than a Darnell Wright or Anton Harrison plus a later running back. Robinson can hide a lot deficiencies on the offense and can be the bell cow for a team that has seen their head coach, offensive coordinator, and newly signed quarterback stress how important it is to be a ground-and-pound team this season.