Written by Cody Manning, @CodyTalksNFL
After making the biggest splash of the NFL offseason by landing Tom Brady in free agency, Jason Licht has a crucial draft that he needs to hit on in order to surround Tampa’s new franchise quarterback with the best team possible. Per OverTheCap, the Bucs are sitting around $13.5M in cap space and as of now their incoming draft class should cost about $7.8M. With a little over $5M in remaining cap space after they sign their rookies, they could potentially add some depth free agents. Unless the front office finds some ways to move money around, I don’t expect them to land a quality starter or potentially trading for a player like Trent Williams. It is important that the organization hits on their picks because they are some pieces away from having a complete roster.
Needs: LT, RB, CB, S, WR
Round 1, #14 - Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
If Bruce Arians would like to see Brady succeed within his offensive scheme then they will need to give him the best protection possible. Tampa is in a desperate need for someone to block for Brady’s blindside. Donovan Smith is best suited as a right tackle, so they need a prospect that can slide in on the left side right away from Day 1. Thomas offers the highest floor among this year’s tackles and has plenty of experience as a left tackle against top SEC talent coming off the edge. He offers the best immediate impact as an LT among the consensus Top 4 tackles in this class.
It is possible that Thomas could fall to the Bucs, but based on recent reports, the team may have to trade up inside the Top 10 to land him. The rest of the tackles in this class need more refinement to hit as an LT, Tampa can’t afford to wait on a player to hit his ceiling. Thomas is a win-now selection among the tackle group.
Round 2, #45 - Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin
What makes life easier on a quarterback? A solid running game. Insert Taylor who is coming off one of the best collegiate careers at the position. To me, he is the best running back in this class and offers a high ceiling as a player because of his athletic profile. Adding his talent to this offense can help make an argument that the Bucs have one of the best set of skill position players in the NFL. After seeing plenty of 8-man boxes in college, imagine Taylor taking advantage of the open running lanes that Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are creating with Brady.
Round 3, #76 - Cameron Dantzler, CB, Mississippi St.
Dantzler had 1st round buzz earlier during the process, but after a poor 40-time at the combine, his stock took a hit. But, when you turn on the tape, he shows a lot of things that you want to see in a cornerback. He has the size and length plus has the ability to thrive in a press man role in a scheme like Todd Bowles runs. Dantzler could go in the back half of the 2nd round, but with a deep 2nd tier of cornerbacks, Tampa’s ideal situation lands them a prospect that offers a high ceiling.
Round 4, #117 - Kenny Robinson, S, West Virginia/XFL
Robinson is one of the most intriguing prospects in the NFL Draft. After a short stint in the XFL, he now has his eyes on making the next step to the NFL. He took advantage of his situation by making a name for himself in the past couple of months. The Bucs need a playmaker in their secondary, if he can be that ballhawk like he was for the St. Louis Battlehawks, then he could provide that during his rookie year. He’s already shown he can play at a professional level, worth the swing on Day 3.
Round 4, #139 - Van Jefferson, WR, Florida
Jefferson is a Day 2 talent, but because of an injury, he wasn’t able to compete at the NFL Combine. Due to the lack of testing numbers and how deep this class is, I could see that causing him to fall to Day 3. But that could provide a major win in value for a team like Tampa. Brady would love an efficient route runner that could find success working inside the slot.
Round 5, #161 - Anthony Gordon, QB, Washington St.
Tampa does have to keep their future in mind during the Brady era. It’s worth a dart throw on Day 3 at the quarterback position. Gordon is an interesting developmental prospect that offers some upside due to some traits. I would roll the dice on Gordon in the 5th round.
Round 6, #194 - McTelvin Agim, DT, Arkansas
The Bucs could use some depth on the interior of their defensive line. Agim would provide a rotational piece to the defensive front that could provide some value as a rusher on third-and-long situations.