The 2021 NFL Draft begins on April 29, which means that The Game Haus will be writing draft profiles for every team. Each NFL team will be evaluated heading into this year’s draft, as our staff recaps their last season, highlights their needs, and pinpoints their potential 2021 NFL Draft targets.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the subject of today’s 2021 NFL Draft profile.
This past season the Tampa Bay Buccaneers broke their twelve-year playoff drought. They made the playoffs as a wild card last year after posting an 11-5 record. Then Tampa Bay won three straight road playoff games to play in the Super Bowl on their home field at Raymond James Stadium. Not only did Tampa Bay become the first team to ever play in the Super Bowl on their home field, but they also became the first team in NFL history to win the Super Bowl on their home field.
Bruce Arians and his very talented staff coached their roster to play at a high level. But the biggest impact on their roster was signing the greatest quarterback of all-time Tom Brady. This season Brady won his seventh Super Bowl with the Buccaneers and his first without Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots. He had a very good regular season as well. He threw for 4,633 yards, 40 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. Brady’s 40 interceptions are the second most he has ever thrown in a single season to his MVP season in 2007 where he threw 50.
The Buccaneers did add Ke’Shawn Vaughn in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft. But the Buccaneers backfield was dominated by Ronald Jones and former Pro Bowl running back Leonard Fournette. The Buccaneers signed Fournette right before Week 1 after the Jaguars surprisingly cut him. Former league-leading rusher LeSean McCoy was also a Buccaneer this past season. Despite all of the additions Jones still led the team in rushing with 978 yards and seven rushing touchdowns. Fournette only had 367 yards and six touchdowns last season.
Coming into 2019-20 many believed the Buccaneers had the best wide receiver duo in football in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. There was even a case for them having the best receiving core in the entire league with the grouping of Evans, Godwin, former first-round pick OJ Howard, Cameron Brate, Rob Gronkowski, and Scotty Miller. But that was solidified when they added Antonio Brown to that group before the second half of the regular season.
Tampa’s defense took over the Super Bowl when they limited the Kansas City Chiefs to only nine points. But they played well throughout the entire season. Jason Pierre-Paul led the team with 9.5 sacks a season ago. Devin White led the team in tackles with 140 to go with his nine sacks on the year. Shaquil Barrett had eight sacks during the regular season and four more during the playoffs. Lavonte David joined Devin White as the Buccaneers’ other 100+ tackler with 117. Carlton Davis broke out as the Buccaneers CB1 and led the team in interceptions with four. Rookie second-round pick Antoine Winfield Jr. was outstanding for Tampa Bay putting up 94 tackles, three sacks, two forced fumbles, and an interception.
The Buccaneers did something this offseason that no Super Bowl winner has done before. They retained all 22 starters. They managed to resign Shaquil Barrett, Rob Gronkowski, Chris Godwin, Leonard Fournette, and multiple other key players. Other veterans including Antonio Brown and Blaine Gabbert are still available to be resigned by Tampa Bay. The biggest free-agent addition they made this offseason was Giovanni Bernard.
2021 NFL Picks
Tampa Bay will have eight picks to use in the 2021 NFL Draft
First Round (one pick): No. 32
Second Round (one pick): No. 64
Third Round (one pick): No. 96
Fourth Round (one picks): No. 138
Fifth Round (one pick): No. 177
Sixth Round (one pick): No. 218
Seventh Round (two picks): No. 253, No. 261
Wide Receiver- The Buccaneers offense took it up a notch when they added Antonio Brown mid-season. It is uncertain if Brown returns to Tampa Bay for next season. On top of replacing Brown, Tampa Bay must consider that Chris Godwin is only playing on the franchise tag next season and could leave in 2022 leaving a huge hole in the Buccaneers offense.
Offensive Line- Tampa Bay’s offensive line overall is solid. Ali Marpet, Ryan Jensen, and 2020 First-Round pick Tristan Wirfs are near the top of the league at their respective positions. But there are question marks surrounding Donovan Smith and Alex Cappa. Both are solid but could be upgraded. Regardless of how they feel about their current offensive line arrangement, Tampa Bay should consider adding some depth at the position. They are lacking a swing tackle or versatile interior lineman who can fill in if one of their starters is forced to miss time.
Interior Defensive Line- The Buccaneers have a great group of starting defensive lineman and a couple of solid backups in the group of Vita Vea, Ndamukong Suh, William Gholston, Rakeem Nunez-Roches, and Steve McLendon. But next season Vea and Nunez-Roches will be the only members of that group that will be under contract. Tampa can get ahead of the need by adding a player on the interior of their defensive line early in this year’s draft.
Edge Rusher- Resigning Shaquil Barrett helped eliminate an urgent need for Tampa Bay to add an edge rusher. However next offseason Jason Pierre-Paul will be hitting free agency. This decision will be an interesting one for Tampa Bay because Pierre-Paul will be 33 next offseason. Would Tampa Bay be willing to get Pierre-Paul the money he wants when they factor in his age and production? The Buccaneers could give themselves an insurance policy by adding an edge rusher in this year’s draft. The player could start off in a rotational role and either replace Pierre-Paul if he was to leave the team or stay in a rotational role until Pierre-Paul gets outplayed by him. Either way, there is no such thing as too many talented edge rushers.
Defensive Back- Last season the young Buccaneers’ secondary seemed to play up to their draft status. Carton Davis, Jamel Dean, Sean Murphy-Bunting, and Antoine Winfield Jr. were all high draft picks who played well last season. But the Buccaneers could keep adding depth at the position. It also couldn’t hurt to add a safety to compete with Jordan Whitehead for his starting role next season.
Quarterback- Tom Brady received an extension this offseason, but the Buccaneers only have veteran Ryan Griffin to back up Brady. They could consider adding a high upside backup in the middle rounds. They could even consider adding Brady’s eventual replacement with a Day 2 selection like New England did multiple times over the years.
2021 Draft Targets
Pick No. 32: Jayson Oweh, Edge, Penn State
If any team can afford to bet on the upside of Jayson Oweh, it is the Buccaneers. They are not in urgent need of an edge rusher. But with Jason Pierre-Paul headed towards free agency in 2022, Oweh could become his heir and create a dynamic duo of edge rushers with Shaquil Barrett for the next four seasons. Oweh is an athletic freak who dominated his Pro Day, but his biggest knock was not having a sack last season. Todd Bowles could spend the next season or two helping Oweh reach his potential. Some believe Oweh could have one of the highest upsides of any defensive player in this year’s draft.
Pick No. 64: Dwayne Eskridge, WR, Western Michigan
One of the winners of the Senior Bowl this past year was Dwayne Eskridge. The former Western Michigan receiver showed that he is capable of competing with NFL-caliber defensive backs. He is extremely raw as a wide receiver but has great upside due to his speed. Eskridge ran a 4.38 forty time during his pro day. If taken by Tampa Bay he could compete with Scotty Miller for the WR3 role that Miller and Antonio Brown shared last season, but could be their WR4 that stretches the field. Eskridge and Brown have an extremely similar frame. Eskridge is 5’9″ and 190 lbs. and Brown is 5’10” and 185lbs. On top of that Eskridge ran a tenth of a second faster than Brown in the forty. He is a long way away from becoming the receiver Brown was in his prime. But Brown is an example of a receiver who flourished at the same size as Eskridge.
Pick No. 96: Kendrick Green, G, Illinois
A late riser in the draft process is Illinois offensive lineman Kendrick Green. Some scouts may be concerned that he didn’t play against outstanding talent at Illinois. However many believe he has the traits to become a starting interior defensive lineman at the next level. Most teams believe he is a center, but could also play guard as well. If taken by Tampa he could compete for the starting right guard job with Alex Cappa and most likely be a reserve his rookie season. Green could possibly be capable of replacing Ryan Jensen next offseason if he was to leave in free agency.