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Buccaneers

Bucs Fill Their Biggest Need

All systems are officially go for Tom Brady and the new look Bucs.

The Tampa Buccaneers got their future offensive tackle to protect the future Hall of Fame quarterback and added more weapons and depth on that side of the ball to improve what is already a dynamic offensive threat. Despite not having a lot of picks in the draft compared to other teams, the Bucs filled their immediate needs and added some much needed depth to their backfield.

Before the draft, the Bucs already made a splash revamping their team. After adding Brady back in March, the Bucs traded their fourth round pick for the rights to Rob Gronkowski and received an extra seventh-round pick from New England. This gives the Bucs three legitimate weapons now at tight end.

Here’s an overall look at the Bucs draft along with grades based on their potential to shine with the team and make the final roster.

ROUND 1: Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa

After Jedrick Wills, Jr. and Mekhi Becton were taken just a couple picks ahead of the Bucs, Bruce Arians and Jason Licht were worried the parade of elite tackles was about to pass them by. Tristan Wirfs was still there, the offensive lineman projected by some to be the best overall tackle in the entire draft. Nervous that another team would trade up to the 13th spot and take Wirfs ahead of them, the Bucs were proactive and gave up their fourth round pick to move up one spot to assure Wirfs would land in Tampa Bay.

Wirfs instantly becomes Tom Brady’s protection. The Iowa star tackle does not have many glaring weaknesses and is as athletic an offensive tackle as you will ever find coming out of college. He has raw power and the ability to pancake defenders and create holes for backs. He also has speed, illustrated by his recording the fastest 40-yard dash of any offensive lineman at the NFL Combine. He has above average lateral quickness in his pass blocking technique and is explosive coming out of his stance. The one area Wirfs will look to improve upon is changing directions and slowing down the best speed rushers off the edge.

Wirfs was also a wrestler at Iowa and is used to mauling other players. The pick was a home run for the Bucs; there was some question as to whether it was smart to move up one spot and give up a fourth to get Wirfs, but we don’t know what was going on behind the scenes. There have been rumors that other teams, such as the Dolphins, were inquiring with the 49ers to move up to take Wirfs, and if the 49ers got a head’s up from Joe Staley that he would retire, they may have taken Wirfs themselves.

GRADE: A

ROUND 2: Antonie Winfield, Jr., S, Minnesota

The surprise with Tampa came in the second and third round. The Antoine Winfield, Jr. pick was a solid one, but passing on J.K. Dobbins and then taking Ke’Shawn Vaughn, the running back out of Vanderbilt, in the third round is a bit of a head scratcher. I personally thought the Bucs should have snagged Dobbins in the second, but the Bucs weakness on defense a year ago was in the secondary and they felt the need to choose a potential rookie starter in Winfield.

While Winfield is undersized a bit, he earned the honor of 2019 Big 10 Defensive Back of the Year. He has great athleticism and speed for a safety. He also comes from good genes; his father was a former Pro Bowl defensive back for the Bills and Vikings. He can play different positions in the secondary and brings raw strength to the starting lineup. He is small, though, for a safety and could struggle against the tall and more talented receivers in the NFL.

Despite his durability and missing two years in college, Winfield, Jr. was a solid pick and instantly becomes a starter on the depth chart for the 2020 season.

GRADE: B

ROUND 3: Ke’Shawn Vaughn, RB, Vanderbilt

The Bucs had a great draft overall, but this is the one pick I question. Vaughn could have been there in the fifth round when the Bucs took again and may have been a reach selecting him in the third round. While some experts had the Vanderbilt back labeled as a sleeper, most were not very high on him.

Vaughn does bring some big play potential to the backfield and is a great compliment to Ronald Jones. He is essentially a quicker version of Peyton Barber, whose role he will likely take over. He is a solid pass blocker and has the ability to break tackles and keep plays alive. He doesn’t have great burst explosiveness and he isn’t the most shifty back, but can hit the hole and give the Bucs a few yards.

The Bucs needed a running back and they got one. It’s a good fit, but I feel there were better options available at this position, such as Zack Moss.

GRADE: C-

ROUND 5: Tyler Johnson, WR, Minnesota

Almost every team in the NFL selected a wide receiver. Heck, the Raiders took three in the first three rounds. There was plenty of talent to go around. The Bucs didn’t really need one, especially after adding Gronkowski, but wanted to add some depth and potentially a number three wide receiver to go alongside Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.

Johnson was a steal at this spot. He should be able to challenge Scotty Miller and Justin Watson over time for the number three wide receiver spot. He is a great route runner and has big hands and the ability to make acrobatic catches. He does occasionally drop passes, however, and speed isn’t his strength.

Guys taken in the fifth round and later are usually fighting for a roster position, and Johnson will be doing that come August. He should make the team, but don’t expect heads to roll right away.

GRADE: B

ROUNDS 6 AND 7: Khalil Davis, DL, Nebraska; Chapelle Russell, LB, Temple; Raymond Calais, RB, La.-Lafayette

Getting guys at this point of the draft are basically filler spots for the practice squad. Occasionally, however, you’ll hit a home run and find a guy who not only makes the final roster, but earns a starting position down the road. Buccaneer Tom Brady knows that all too well. Not to mention the Bucs did draft Kwon Alexander several years back in the last round and he became a starter for the Bucs within a couple seasons.

Of the final three guys picked, the most potential is with Calais. The Ragin Cajuns back has monster big play potential and is dangerous when he finds space. Unfortunately, his size and weakness as a pass blocker will keep him from getting a lot of playing time, but if the Bucs can find ways to utilize his strengths even some of the time, he could be a seventh-round steal.

Davis raises some eyes as a defensive tackle from Nebraska where he had success and was named to the Big 10 Honorable Mention class last season. He comes off the ball strong and has the skills to break through the offensive line. However, his size and small arms will make it difficult for him to make it in the NFL.

GRADES: Davis C, Calais B-, Russell, C-

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