Just over 24 hours prior to the 2021 NFL Draft, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers removed the No. 3 wide receiver position from its short-list of team needs.
The fact that WR No. 3 was on the short-list of needs tells you everything you need to know about the Buccaneers' position entering the draft. The team returns all 22 of its starters from the 2020 Super Bowl run, meaning there are no pressing needs at any starting position. This draft can be best utilized by securing depth pieces and addressing the future of the roster.
With that in mind, we've compiled a list of three positions the Buccaneers would greatly benefit from addressing over the weekend - each position looking for depth and, at most, a player that could push an entrenched starter.
Quarterback would have been included on this list if Ryan Griffin hadn't re-signed with the Buccaneers last week. Tampa Bay could still greatly benefit from drafting a developmental backup to Tom Brady on day two, but with Griffin around for a seventh season, the team can at least feel comfortable at the position as it is.
In this reporter's opinion, cornerback is the Buccaneers' biggest positional need right now with ease. Tampa Bay returns its three starters in Carlton Davis III and Jamel Dean outside and Sean Murphy-Bunting at nickel, but only two backups currently reside on the roster in slot corner Ross Cockrell and 2020 undrafted free agent Herb Miller.
Davis, who has one year remaining on his rookie contract, has emerged as one of the NFL's better man coverage cornerbacks. Murphy-Bunting found his groove in the nickel in the second half of Tampa Bay's 2020 season and emerged as one of the team's best playmakers in the playoffs. Dean has proven himself as a solid option outside as well but is a bit limited in the fluid aspects of man coverage.
Whether the Buccaneers would like to add some competition for the No. 2 CB role opposite of Davis or not, the team is in desperate need of depth on the outside. Miller's progress as a rookie was encouraging as he recorded an interception in the third game of his career, against Detroit in Week 16, but that isn't enough for Tampa Bay to hang its hat on. We could even see the Buccaneers selecting two cornerbacks before the draft concludes, so long as the team holds on to all eight of its selections.
The Buccaneers' second-round selection in our most recent mock draft was Georgia cornerback Tyson Campbell, a lengthy athlete for the position who has shown promise as a man coverage defender and would fit Tampa Bay's scheme.
Defensive line/edge rusher
Both defensive linemen and edge defenders could be considered earlier in the draft by Tampa Bay with the future in mind. Buccaneers' starting defensive ends Ndamukong Suh and William Gholston, who will both be 30+ years old this season, are entering the final years of their contracts. 32-year-old edge rusher Jason Pierre-Paul is as well.
Suh and Pierre-Paul are currently anchors on the Buccaneers' defense, make no mistake about it. The two combined for 15.5 sacks and 16 tackles for loss during the 2020 regular season. However, it wouldn't be viable for Tampa Bay to keep either player around long-term at their price tags and considering the fact that they aren't getting any younger. Gholston is a serviceable starter but the same can be said for him, especially as he's never tallied more than three sacks in a season.
With all 22 starters returning from a year ago, adding a rotational defensive lineman or edge rusher for the 2020 season with a high pick may be luxurious but could reap huge benefits. Not only could such a player offer veterans a breather in sub-packages, but they can be groomed into a future starter upfront for the Buccaneers.
Our mock draft from Monday had the Buccaneers landing edge rusher Joe Tryon from Washington in the first round.
A run on edge rushers is expected from the mid-to-late first round into the early second round, meaning a couple of enticing options could be on the board for Tampa Bay with the 32nd overall pick. Tryon, Penn State's Jaysen Oweh, Miami's Jaelan Phillips and Gregory Rousseau, Texas's Joseph Ossai, perhaps Georgia's Azeez Ojulari and others could be available for the Buccaneers at that point.
Interior offensive line
A.Q. Shipley was forced to medically retire in the second half of the 2020 season after a neck injury and Joe Haeg was not re-signed this offseason, meaning the Buccaneers could use at least one interior offensive lineman to develop as a depth piece and perhaps into an eventual starter.
Tampa Bay was able to re-sign guard Aaron Stinnie in March, who started three playoff games including the Super Bowl in place of injured right guard Alex Cappa. Stinnie's playing experience as a guard could lead the Buccaneers to select a player with ample playing time at center under their belt, particularly with Shipley no longer available. It's worth remembering that Cappa and Tampa Bay's starting center Ryan Jensen are entering the final year of their contracts as well.
A run on interior offensive linemen including Alabama's Landon Dickerson, Oklahoma's Creed Humphrey, Ohio State's Wyatt Davis, Wisconsin-Whitewater's Quinn Meinerz, Tennessee's Trey Smith and others is expected to occur on the second day of the draft. It wouldn't come as a total surprise if the Buccaneers hopped in before the class of interior linemen dries up.