The NFL is filled with talented athletes. Each team has their best players, which compile a list of the league’s best. Tampa Bay, despite being expected by most to be a bottom dwelling team this season, still has quite a bit of talent left on their roster. The Buccaneers were a talent juggernaut during their Super Bowl season and the subsequent season after. Two years later heading into 2023, that talent pool is not nearly as deep as it once was. However, the Buccaneers are nowhere near the shallow end when it comes to putting talent on the field.
It is important to note that this is not a list of the five best players on Tampa’s roster and that outside variables, such as age or contract situations will not be taken into account. This is simply a list of five current Buccaneers who would be starters in 2023, no matter their zip code. Here are five Tampa Bay Bucs who would be starters for any NFL team, a statement not every organization can make.
Mike Evans- Let’s get the obvious ones out of the way first. Mike Evans is one of the best players on Tampa’s roster and one of the best receivers in the league. Evans usually flies under the radar quite a bit in league-wide wide receiver rankings, but it’s important to note that in today’s NFL each team has two (realistically three) starting wide receivers. Evans has had the unique career arc of never being given recognition as a top one, two, or three player at his position, while having always been regarded as top 10. There is no team in the NFL with three receivers better than Evans, who is on a Hall of Fame pace.
Lavonte David- An oldie but a goodie. Age, contract status, future years, all null and void for this discussion. If Lavonte David was to be cherry picked off of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers roster, no matter the NFL city he landed in, he would start for that franchise. Similarly to the claim made above, not exclusively pinning Mike Evans as the best receiver in the NFL, Lavonte David may not be the best off-ball linebacker in the league but each team, in most instances, sports 2 off-ball linebackers, making David a shoo-in to see the field for any defense.
Tristan Wirfs- Buccaneers tackle Tristan Wirfs might just be the best individual player on the team. Tampa Bay selected Wirfs in the first-round of the 2020 NFL Draft. The former 13th overall pick has gone on to become of the better Jason Licht selections during his tenure as Tampa Bay’s general manager. There are minimal stats kept for tackles but Wirfs has established himself as one of the league’s very best. In his first three seasons, he’s been selected to two Pro Bowls and two All-Pro teams. His value is only likely to go up if he takes on his new role of left tackle this season and continues to perform at an elite level.
Dude, this might be Tristan Wirfs' best tape this season — put on a CLINIC against Cameron Jordan in pass pro. pic.twitter.com/GAQG1q7EOn— Austin Gayle (@austingayle_) January 19, 2021
Antoine Winfield Jr.- The next Tampa Bay draft selection, following Tristan Wirfs in the 2020 NFL Draft was Tampa’s second-round pick, Antoine Winfield Jr. Winfield Jr. makes the list even as somewhat of an underdog candidate. Through three seasons as a starter he has amassed over 250 tackles, nine sacks, and been involved in nearly 20 turnovers. The wide of array of columns Winfield Jr. has stacked stats in during his three-year career is the main reason for his incorporation. The young playmaker has already been recognized as a Pro Bowler still, ranking Winfield Jr. as a top safety in the NFL can be highly debatable. His ability to be position-less is what secures his position on this list. Winfield Jr. is a very promising young safety who could earn the top spot on the depth chart for a lot of teams, but he also brings value elsewhere. After last season, where he spent a large portion of his time as a nickel corner, Winfield Jr. has earned this spot because of his quality play across the defensive backfield. Any defensive coordinator could use a multidimensional chess piece that they could move around their lineup at will.
Ryan Jensen- Even if it’s a shock to see Ryan Jensen as the fifth name on the list he has earned it. Number 66 on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive line may not be the best center in the league, though he is a high-level player amongst his peers. The logic here is very similar to the aforementioned Antoine Winfield Jr. Jensen is a center, offenses only play one center at a time, however there was a small blip in Ryan Jensen’s time as a Buc where he flashed his own position versatility. During the 2020 season, Jensen had to step out of his element. Due to injury, the team’s starting center kicked over to guard as backup center A.Q. Shipley was called in off the bench. Jensen played exceptionally well in his stint at guard including being a focal point of the longest run in team history— Ronald Jones exploded for a 98 yard touchdown against the Carolina Panthers in week 10 of the 2020 season— The man who sprung the speedy run? Out of position, Ryan Jensen. This changes the argument from—
Would Jensen start over the other 31 centers in the NFL?
Would he see the field over one of the three interior linemen each team fields on gameday?
Not only has Jensen proven himself as a talent, but a player with the tenacious nature Jensen plays with would always be welcomed in the trenches on any team.
Ryan Jensen is a straight bully out there pic.twitter.com/4qLUbDvmHD— Andrew D'Ottavi (@druwchainzzzz) January 18, 2021