The NFL draft is here and the Buccaneers to this point have made three selections in the first three rounds. Do the picks for the Bucs make sense? Lets give it a grade and find out.
Round 1, 19th Overall: Pittsburgh DL, Calijah Kancey
In the first round the Bucs surprised many, myself included when they selected Pittsburgh defensive lineman Calijah Kancey with the 19th overall pick. Kancey is a lineman with a quick first step and his calling card is rushing the passer, which the Bucs lacked last season. Listed at 6’1, 281 pounds, Kancey is a bit smaller than your typical interior defensive lineman, especially one in a Todd Bowles defense.
He has often been compared to another former Pittsburgh Panther in Aaron Donald. He has also been compared to the likes of John Randle and Warren Sapp due to his measurables. While those comparisons are way premature and quite frankly unfair to Kancey at this point, he still does have a solid chance of becoming an impact player. Tampa Bay has been looking for more pass rush from the interior of their defensive line for a little while now and even spent a second round pick last year on Logan Hall, who had a quiet rookie campaign.
While Kancey was a surprise, it was a pleasant one. This is a good football player who is going to help the Bucs defense get to the quarterback much more consistently for years to come.
Round 2, 48th Overall: North Dakota State OL, Cody Mauch
The Bucs moved up two spots to select the North Dakota State product, giving up one of their two 6th round picks (179th overall). Mauch played mostly left tackle at North Dakota State, but projects to be a guard in the NFL.
This is as Jason Licht of a pick as you can get. Small school lineman who is versatile and plays with a nasty streak, not to mention the hair. Mauch will have a chance to start right away for the Buccaneers and will compete with the likes of Robert Hainsey, Nick Leverrett and Luke Goedeke for a starting guard spot. This is a solid pick and while Mauch may go through some growing pains, he could develop into a quality starter in the NFL.
Round 3, 82nd Overall: Louisville EDGE YaYa Diaby
Jason Licht and company rounded out day two with a very intriguing selection in Louisville’s YaYa Diaby. After having a breakout year in 2022 with 9 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss, Diaby rose up draft boards and now lands in Tampa Bay.
I will be honest, I like Diaby as a prospect, but this pick felt a little early. Maybe it was the result of not having a 4th round pick, but there was a lot of other talent available on the board as well. Nonetheless, Diaby brings great physical traits and he is a freak athlete, which has been a theme for Tampa so far in this draft. At 6’3, 263 pounds, it was amazing when he ran a 4.51 40 yard dash. That is serious speed for a guy that size and he has a lot of potential to grow into a nice pass rusher.
That said, it still was early to choose him, even if the EDGE options were limited. A trade down to acquire more picks and also being able to land him would have been ideal, but I know that may not have been an option. I like the player, but I don’t love the value at this spot.
The Buccaneers enter day three with five more selections but none until the fifth round which is 153rd overall. It wouldn’t be a shock if Licht attempted to move up if there was someone there he liked enough. Time will tell, but the Bucs aren’t done quite yet adding talent to the mix.