Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2020 NFL Draft Preview
The strangest offseason professional football has seen in years rolls on with the 2020 NFL Draft, which kicks off Thursday at 8pm ET.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have made huge splashes already, signing Tom Brady in free agency, and reuniting him with Rob Gronkowski via trade. But there are still plenty of things the Bucs need to address in this year's draft.
Here's everything Bucs fans need to know before Thursday night:
Who's in Charge?
Some teams have a clear power structure and chain of command when it comes to personnel and roster building, with the ownership, general manager and head coach having clearly defined roles and decision-making power.
The Bucs' current setup isn't quite as black-and-white, thanks in large part to the close relationship between general manager Jason Licht and head coach Bruce Arians. While Tampa Bay's ownership is fairly hands-off, the Bucs have a collaborative effort between Arians and Licht when it comes to building the roster.
These two know each other well, and know what the other wants in a prospect. It's unclear who makes the final call in every situation, but rest assured Licht and Arians are on the same page before any decisions are made.
What Picks Do the Bucs Have?
1st Round, 14th overall
2nd Round, 45th overall
3rd Round, 76th overall
4th Round, 117th overall
5th Round, 162nd overall
6th Round, 195th overall
7th Round, 241st overall (from SEA via NE)
What Do the Bucs Need?
Easily Tampa Bay's biggest need, veteran Demar Dotson hasn't been brought back, and veteran free-agent signing Joe Haeg is a stop-gap solution at best. The Bucs need an immediate upgrade here, and with a deep tackle class, the timing is perfect. Don't be surprised if they land a player talented enough to even push Donovan Smith on the left side, even if they have to trade up in the first round to get the one they want.
Ronald Jones II bounced back from a dismal rookie season with a strong sophomore campaign, but the Bucs are still missing something in the offensive backfield. Both Arians and Licht have made it clear that they need a better option on third-downs, both in terms of pass-catching and picking up extra rushers as a blocker. Tom Brady loves to use his running backs as receivers out of the backfield, and that's the kind of back the Bucs should target early in this draft.
They already have a pair of Pro Bowlers in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, but the Bucs lost their No. 3 target when Breshad Perriman left in free agency. Perriman's performance down the stretch while Evans and Godwin were injured proved how valuable depth can be, and while Justin Watson and Scotty Miller are young and promising, this group could use some more quality competition. Thankfully, a deep class should give the Bucs plenty of attractive options deep into the later rounds.
Yes, there's a strong core returning here, with Vita Vea and Ndamukong Suh back to anchor the NFL's top-ranked run defense from last season. But Suh is only back on a one-year deal, and he's 33 years old, while veteran Beau Allen left in free agency. This group isn't as deep as it was last year, and finding a young prospect to groom behind Suh should be a priority.
Injuries have kept this group from living up to its full potential, despite all the valuable draft resources the Bucs have invested in recent years. Former second-round pick Justin Evans may never be fully healthy, and while Jordan Whitehead and Mike Edwards have shown promise, they've been slowed by injuries of their own. The team loves D'Cota Dixon, but he missed all of last year due to injury. This may not be an early need, but depth is a concern.
NFL sack leader Shaq Barrett is back for at least one more season thanks to the franchise tag, but while both sides would love to work out a long-term extension, it's not a certainty. Jason Pierre-Paul is back on a new two-year deal, but he's 31 years old, and has had injury issues in the past. Carl Nassib is gone, and rookie Anthony Nelson spent much of 2019 injured. The starters are strong, but this is yet another position where depth can't be neglected.
This is obviously the wild-card. Yes, the Bucs are all-in on Tom Brady for at least the next two years, but how soon is too soon to start grooming his eventual successor? Tampa Bay needs to focus their early picks on giving Brady the help he needs to maximize the Super Bowl window the team has created, but using a Day 3 pick on a high-upside prospect shouldn't be out of the question.
Who Should the Bucs Target?
OT Andrew Thomas, Georgia
OT Jedrick Wills, Alabama
OT Tristan Wirfs, Iowa
OT Mekhi Becton, Louisville
DL Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina
OLB K'Lavon Chaisson, LSU
WR Henry Ruggs III, Alabama
RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire, LSU
OT Isaiah Wilson, Georgia
WR Michael Pittman, Jr., USC
S Antoine Winfield, Jr., Minnesota
RB Cam Akers, Florida State
RB/WR Antonio Gibson, Memphis
WR K.J. Hamler, Penn State
DL Rashard Lawrence, LSU
WR John Hightower, Boise State
RB Darrynton Evans, Appalachian State
OL Darryl Williams, Mississippi State
EDGE Alex Highsmith, Charlotte
S Khaleke Hudson, Michigan
QB Anthony Gordon, Washington State