Said picks leaned defense over offense, with the Bucs drafting Pittsburgh linebacker Sirvocea Dennis, Kansas State defensive back Josh Hayes, and Eastern Michigan edge rusher Jose Ramirez. Offensively, Jason Licht and Co. added more weapons with Purdue tight end Payne Durham and Nebraska wide receiver Trey Palmer.
Every one of those players has good odds of making the final 53, and we’ll dive into the whys and hows of all them right now.
Why SirVocea Dennis and What’s He Like
The Bucs spent a fifth-rounder on Dennis, an explosive inside linebacker from Pitt. A teammate of first-rounder Calijah Kancey, Dennis will immediately take the reins as the team’s No. 3 linebacker from K.J. Britt, who is simply too poor of an athlete to play on defense.
Upgrading that depth and finding a potential starter for next season stood out as a notable need, as Devin White’s situation is totally unsettled and Lavonte David may retire after this season. Dennis is definitely undersized at just about 6-foot, 225 pounds, but David isn’t much bigger and has clearly done alright for himself.
SirVocea Dennis was drafted with pick 153 of round 5 in the 2023 draft class. He scored a 7.28 #RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 723 out of 2652 LB from 1987 to 2023. https://t.co/Qtg6dLBpJu pic.twitter.com/J42zjk8NdH— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) April 29, 2023
Overall, Dennis was massively productive at Pitt (led team in tackles back-to-back years with 11 total sacks between 2021-22), touts esteemed character (team captain and leader), and showcases the agility and play recognition to fit in Todd Bowles’s defense playing downhill or in coverage. I saw him as an early 4th round pick, so this is a steal in my eyes.
Why Payne Durham and What’s He Like
The Bucs shifted to offense with their second fifth-round pick, trading up to land the bulky Durham. Durham’s selection was a break from the great athlete mold that the team previously stuck to in this draft, but he’s still a solid one with a 6.41 RAS score.
Payne Durham is a TE prospect in the 2023 draft class. He scored a 6.41 RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 367 out of 1020 TE from 1987 to 2023. https://t.co/OBhOsHzGFp #RAS pic.twitter.com/cA7Hmv50Ry— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) March 10, 2023
Them seeking out another receiving tight end made sense given new OC Dave Canales’s interest in using more 12 and 13 personnel — Cade Otton is the only tight end on the roster right now with good receiving upside. Ko Kieft is an above-average blocker but won’t contribute much to the pass game.
Enter Durham, who is a contested catch savant with a crafty approach. He did nothing but score for the Boilermakers, converting 21 of his 126 career catches for touchdowns. The 6-foot-5, 255-pounder might not be a dynamic YAC receiver or seam stretcher, but he’ll be a dependable threat in the redzone and underneath thanks to his strong hands and toughness. He’ll be a good complement to Otton’s skill set — perfectly fine value in the fifth.
Why Josh Hayes and What’s He Like
The Bucs needed more bodies in the backfield at both corner and safety, and ideally the person they added would create competition at the wide-open nickel spot. While many suspected it to come earlier, Tampa found depth it liked in the sixth round with Josh Hayes of Kansas State.
Not much evaluation went into Hayes amongst the draft analyst community, as prominent evaluators like Dane Brugler and Lance Zierlein didn’t even craft a full profile for the sixth-year defensive back. He’s well-traveled, as Hayes started four years at North Dakota State before spending one year apiece with Virginia and Kansas State.
I honestly knew nothing about the Florida native prior to today, so I’ll leave any deeper thoughts to people who’ve actually watched him.
Buccaneers add a versatile and physical DB in Josh Hayes. Played corner at North Dakota State before transferring to Kansas State and shifting to safety. Smart football player. Dude likes to hit people: pic.twitter.com/V7PZps7dsU— Bobby Football (@Rob__Paul) April 29, 2023
@PFN365’s overall scouting report on new CB Josh Hayes: Was a productive collegiate defensive back for Kansas State as well as North Dakota State. Speed is an issue, but he possesses enough ability to line up as a dime back in a zone system that restricts his area assignments.— JC Allen (@JCAllenNFL) April 29, 2023
At this point, it’s not worth it to be particularly hard on reaches — the chances of finding anyone better than a career backup or marginal role player isn’t great. If the team likes his fit with the defense, give him a shot.
Why Trey Palmer and What’s He Like
Just when it looked like the Bucs might abstain from adding desperately needed speed to the offense, Licht pulled off a trade for an additional sixth rounder. He swapped a future fifth to the Eagles for Pick 191, which he then invested in Nebraska’s Trey Palmer.
Palmer is a human Hot Wheels. He ran the fastest 40-yard dash of any receiver at the combine, logging a 4.33 with a 1.51-second split. It’s functional, too, since he led the FBS in catches of 70-plus yards (three) and became only the second Cornhusker to ever record 1,000 receiving yards in a season. He’s a dangerous kick returner as well, which we all know is a perpetual pitfall in Tampa.
Many rated Palmer as fourth-round pick, a fifth at worst, so getting him at this stage is a coup. It fills a big need on Tampa’s depth chart behind the top 3 of Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Russell Gage. He’s a higher-ceiling Scotty Miller, and that’s not a bad thing at all. Very good pick.
Why Jose Ramirez and What’s He Like
The Bucs remained vigilant on improving their pass rush from start to finish this draft, as they invested a third pick in the trenches with their final sixth-rounder. The edge depth chart was sparse the last couple years, but that no longer looks to be a problem with the following names now on the roster: Shaq Barrett, Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, Anthony Nelson, Cam Gill, third-rounder YaYa Diaby, and now Ramirez.
Ramirez is definitely a rush specialist type, as he’s undersized (6-foot-2, 242 pounds) with a stocky build, but sports notable burst and slipperiness needed to succeed at the pro level. He generated top-tier production at Eastern Michigan over the last two seasons. In 2021, he led the Eagles with 12 tackles for loss with 6.5 sacks and three forced fumbles in 13 games. he then achieved 2022 MAC Defensive Player of the Year and third-team Associated Press All-American honors by ranking second in the FBS with 12 sacks and tying for fourth with 19.5 tackles for loss.
Part of the production can be chalked up to sub-optimal competition, but he stands out with objectively good bend and a base-level understanding of how to win against different offensive tackle archetypes. He has the athleticism to repeat his methodology at the next level as well.
Jose Ramirez is a DE prospect in the 2023 draft class. He scored a 8.08 RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 296 out of 1534 DE from 1987 to 2023. https://t.co/NW57vbzy2Q #RAS pic.twitter.com/WydLAdjsJs— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) March 22, 2023
This pick isn’t like Andre Anthony in the seventh round last year, which largely felt like a throwaway. Ramirez has legit NFL talent with the capacity to grow into a specific niche that isn’t going away anytime soon.
There’s definitely obstacles to overcome and development to be had, but Ramirez has a very good chance of making this roster.