The Buccaneers took a big leap at the beginning of the offseason when they decided to part ways with long-time left tackle Donovan Smith.
It was not only a cap-saving procedure, as Smith’s play noticeably dipped in 2022 and forced the team’s hand in seeking a different direction. How they move forward is arguably the biggest storyline behind the upcoming quarterback competition.
Rumors have posited the idea of moving All-Pro right tackle Tristan Wirfs to the blindside and have last year’s second-rounder, Luke Goedeke, step into the starting lineup again. Or, perhaps the team invests in more high-level competition for Goedeke in this scenario.
If the right prospect presents himself, however, it seems just as likely for Tampa to invest in a left tackle of the future while keeping Wirfs at the position everyone knows he will play at. A move like this would come within the first two days of the NFL Draft, and one possibility comes from the University of Syracuse.
Could Matthew Bergeron be an option for the Bucs on Day 2? Let’s take a dive into his background.
MATTHEW BERGERON’S COLLEGIATE CAREER
The Canadian native from Quebec was a 3-star prospect who joined the Orange in 2019, and he became the first true freshman to start at tackle for the university in almost two decades.
Across four seasons, Bergeron started a robust 39 games, with 31 at left tackle and 8 at right. In the last two seasons, he started every game on the blindside for Syracuse, garnering second-team All-ACC honors in his final year to go along with team captain honors.
The 23-year-old participated in the Reese’s Senior Bowl and performed well there, putting up some excellent reps against some of the top draft talent.
Syracuse's Matthew Bergeron (6-4, 323; 33 5/8 arm) had the week he needed to have at the Senior Bowl.— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) February 3, 2023
Here he is vs. Auburn's Derick Hall, who is all gas off the edge.
(Also: When you see an OL/DL who played hockey, keep watching. They're probably gonna show you something) pic.twitter.com/2tCssY3bbC
PRO DAY AND SCOUTING COMBINE
Bergeron participated in the Scouting Combine on a limited basis. He measured in at 6-foot-5, 318 pounds with 33 3/4” arms and 9 1/2” hands. His overall size and length is only modest for a tackle but within a non-concerning range, and he makes up for it with good explosiveness and agility.
Not only did he ace on-field drills at the combine and his pro day, showcasing plus balance and body control, but he also posted jumps of 30.5” in the vertical (79th percentile) and 8’7” in the broad (52nd percentile). His 3-cone time of 7.27 seconds was fantastic, sitting in the 91st percentile historically and proving to be the best number among offensive tackles in this class.
He has above-average play strength that he showed through the bench press, putting up 29 reps (top 5 for tackles this year). On the fied, he’s also an aggressive finisher who looks to bury his opposition on a frequent basis, and the Bucs have an established track record of valuing that aggressive demeanor and natural strength.
It’s been hard to pin down Bergeron’s formal visits, but SB Nation’s Nunes Magician site reported that the Buccaneers did meet with him at the Syracuse Pro Day. It’s very possible he’s spoken with the team in some capacity at the Senior Bowl and combine as well.
WHAT BERGERON CAN DO FOR THE BUCS IN 2023
If the Bucs take Bergeron, the expectation will be for him to start at one of the four lineman spots immediately.
Analysts like NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah expressed confidence in Bergeron’s ability to stay at tackle as a pro thanks to his established tools and glimpses of potential, but other experts like Bleacher Report’s Brandon Thorn expressed more confidence of Bergeron being a guard at the next level due to some of his current limitations.
His inconsistent hand placement and average range will test him as an NFL pass protector, there’s no doubt, but the initial punch is lethal when it lands and his great body control and fluidity suggest more ability than what’s consistently shown.
Some teams absolutely will love him at guard though because of how quickly he could make an impact as a run blocker, given his already superb technique and aggressiveness. Being inside would also minimize the drawbacks of his potential range limits.
If the Bucs view him as a tackle, Bergeron’s experience with playing both left and right could help him with sorting out his best fit at the next level quickly.
OL Matthew Bergeron from Syracuse is the #65 overall player on my big board for the 2023 NFL Draft.#Syracuse#Orange#NFLDraft— Shane Haff (@HAFFnHAFF_TPL) April 8, 2023
Full Video breaking down #61-#70 https://t.co/TWqlp2pqz2 pic.twitter.com/j8Ot8sQXei
Within three years, the hope for Bergeron should be for him to become an established centerpiece who combines with Wirfs and Robert Hainsey. Obviously the ideal scenario is his fit coming at either tackle spot, but I’m sure the team would settle for him becoming a good guard as well given the long-term uncertainty at that position.
Luke Goedeke has a lot to prove this year in his sophomore campaign, and how he does will play a huge role in how the team views his fit. Nick Leverett played well at guard in 2022 but it’s currently hard to know his future given the one-year deal he’s on. With that stated, it’s clear that Bergeron settling at guard would be far from the worst result.
The general sentiment is that Bergeron is a Day 2 pick whose range lies anywhere between Round 2 and early Round 3. The NFL Mock Draft Database has Bergeron as the 72nd overall player based on aggregated big boards, with his best rank currently sitting 45th and an average mock draft position of 56th.
The Athletic’s Dane Brugler seats Bergeron as his 60th overall prospect on his latest top 100 board, which would make him Brugler’s OT No. 7 behind Paris Johnson, Broderick Jones, Darnell Wright, Anton Harrison and Dawand Jones.
ON THE CLOCK...
Let’s hear your takes on Bergeron, Bucs Nation. If the team decides to prioritize some other position in Round 1, would he be a suitable fit on Day 2? Let us know by voting in the poll and discussing in the comments below.
The Buccaneers Should Target Matthew Bergeron in the NFL Draft...
This poll is closed
In the second round at pick 50
Trade up in the third round if he slips
See if he falls to pick 82 in the third round
Shouldn’t be on their board/draft someone in Round 1