Given the months and months of build-up to the annual NFL draft, the rush to summarize a team’s rookie draft class in a few sentences and stamp a letter grade on it has never quite made much sense to me.
In the past, I’ve compared this process to patrons at a restaurant complimenting (or complaining to) the chef based on the menu, rather than waiting to actually taste the food.
In much this same way, it obviously takes time to properly evaluate a draft. Given all of the complexities of the 2020 NFL draft, specifically, this is especially true.
So, while we cannot skip years ahead to know for certain which players will ultimately exceed or fail to live up to expectations in the NFL, we can provide a much deeper dive into each team’s rookie class.
Therefore, in a 32-part series, NFLDraftScout.com will be providing a detailed breakdown of each of the NFL teams’ rookie hauls, following the original draft order. Each team will be evaluated on the quality, quantity and relative safety of their draft classes (including undrafted free agents), with specific players recognized as Best Player, Best Value and Best Project, culminating in one “final” grade.
Today’s team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Head Coach: Bruce Arians
General Manager: Jason Licht
Players selected in 2020:
Round 1, Pick 13 overall: OT Tristan Wirfs, Iowa
Round 2, Pick 45 overall: FS Antoine Winfield, Jr., Minnesota
Round 3, Pick 76 overall: RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Vanderbilt
Round 5, Pick 161 overall: WR Tyler Johnson, Minnesota
Round 6, Pick 194 overall: DT Khalil Davis, Nebraska
Round 7, Pick 241 overall: LB Chapelle Russell, Temple
Round 7, Pick 245 overall: RB Raymond Calais, Louisiana-Lafayette
Key Undrafted Free Agents:
C Zach Shackleford, Texas
LB Cam Gill, Wagner
LB Michael Divinity, LSU
DL Benning Potoa’e, Washington
QB Reid Sinnett, San Diego
Overview of the Buccaneers’ 2020 draft: Fresh after completing one of the most shocking free agent tours in modern NFL history - luring the legendary Tom Brady to Tampa and following that up by convincing his former New England teammate, Rob Gronkowski to join him – one could almost forgive the Buccaneers if they had skipped the 2020 draft, entirely. Instead, Tampa Bay added immediate protection for Brady in the form of first round pick Tristan Wirfs as a plug-and-play right tackle, the man who should have won the Thorpe Award (like his father) in Minnesota safety Antoine Winfield, Jr. in the second round and hard-running replacement for free agent defection Peyton Barber in the third round with Ke’Shawn Vaughn. While the variety of weapons at wideout is likely part of what lured Brady to the Buccaneers in the first place, general manager Jason Licht wisely took advantage of the elite depth and talent in this year’s class, nabbing the ultra-productive Tyler Johnson in the fifth round with other quality depth selections at defensive tackle, linebacker and running back in Nebraska’s Khalil Davis, Temple’s Chapelle Russell and Louisiana-Lafayette’s Raymond Calais, respectively. This class is not as flashy as some of the others in the league, though it was boosted by some notable undrafted free agent signings (more on them, later). Each of the Bucs’ top three picks should make a significant contribution as a rookie, though only Wirfs looks like a step-in-starter. At 67-years old, Arians is looking to win now and the Bucs’ offseason strategy of adding or retaining older, proven players like Brady (42), Gronkowski (30), Ndamukong Suh (33) and Jason Pierre-Paul (31), among others proves it, with the draft second-fiddle to free agency in Tampa this year.
Best Player of the Buccaneers’ 2020 Draft: OT Tristan Wirfs
In terms of talent, tape and need, Wirfs is clearly the big catch of Tampa’s draft class and its most important rookie given who he will be tasked with protecting. The Bucs lured Brady out of the cozy confines of New England with the promise of elite weapons at receiver and an ultra-aggressive play-caller in Arians but less attention may have been paid to their offensive line, which surrendered 47 sacks in 2019 (11 most in the NFL). That was the third consecutive year Tampa Bay allowed at least 40 sacks, with New England, not surprisingly, ranking as one of the league’s best at protecting the quarterback during that span and, frankly, throughout much of Brady’s Hall of Fame career. The clear focus up front for the Bucs was at right tackle, where incumbent 34-year old starter Demar Dotson was not re-signed. Fortunately for the Bucks (and Brady, specifically), the 2020 draft was loaded with talent at tackle. Licht was able to drop down a spot from the Buc’s original 13 overall pick and still land Wirfs, one of four tackles off the board within the first 14 picks this year. A remarkable Combine workout showed off Wirfs’ elite potential but his three-years as a starter for renowned OL guru Kirk Ferentz was all the Bucs likely needed to see. The 6-5, 320 pound Wirfs is not only massive, he’s shockingly athletic, clocking in at 4.85 seconds in the 40-yard dash and posting a 36.5” vertical jump that was higher than any of the other six players selected in the 2020 draft by Tampa Bay, including safety Antoine Winfield, Jr., wide receiver Tyler Johnson and running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn.
Best Value of the Buccaneers’ 2020 Draft: FS Antoine Winfield, Jr.
Given that he’s severely undersized at 5-09, 203 pounds (Combine) and missed much of both the 2017 and 2018 seasons due to injury, some will question Winfield’s selection at No. 45 overall, especially given that the Bucs have invested a lot of draft capitol in safeties the past few years. For the sake of transparency, however, Winfield checked in 47 on my final Top 100 Big Board making him a strong value midway through the draft’s second frame.
And certainly, anyone who saw Winfield last year for the Gophers, knows what a playmaker he was and that he was robbed of joining Antoine Winfield, Sr. as the first father-and-son winners of the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back. The committee in charge of this award honored LSU (and now Cleveland Browns’) standout Grant Delpit for this past season but Winfield was far and away the more impactful player, registering seven interceptions and two forced fumbles along with his team-leading 88 tackles. The apple didn’t fall far from the tree with the Winfields, with the younger version playing with the same combination of instincts, tenacity, speed and absolute disregard for his own physical safety as his father, who played cornerback for 14 years in the NFL for the Buffalo Bills and Minnesota Vikings after being selected 23 overall in the 1998 draft and winning the Thorpe Award at Ohio State. Stacked at safety, it could take some time for Winfield to work his way to the top of Tampa’s depth chart but once he does, watch out. While I expect a long, productive career for Wirfs, Winfield will ultimately be viewed as the star from this year’s Bucs’ rookie class.
Best Project of the Buccaneers’ 2020 Draft: QB Reid Sinnett
With Brady now in the fold, few are going to be watching Tampa Bay’s “other” quarterbacks, which could be exactly what Sinnett, a one-year starter at San Diego, needs. Possessing a legitimate NFL frame at 6-4, 229 pounds, Sinnett quietly bid his time over his first four years (including his redshirt) behind Anthony Lawrence, the most productive passer in Toreros’ history, completing a total of just 24 passes during that time. Sinnett excelled once on the field this past season for the FCS program, however, completing 66.9% of his passes for 3,528 yards and 32 touchdowns (another seven rushing) against just 10 interceptions. The breakout campaign caught the attention of NFLPA Collegiate Allstar Game scouts, where Sinnett further impressed, showing the functional mobility, zip and accuracy to warrant developing. Sinnett is certainly a project – in a different way so too is fellow undrafted free agent center Zack Shackleford from Texas – with each intriguing developmental candidates at positions where Tampa Bay currently lacks depth.
Overall Grade for the Buccaneers’ 2020 Draft: C+
Previous 2020 NFL Draft Report Cards: Cincinnati Bengals |Washington Redskins | Detroit Lions | New York Giants | Miami Dolphins | Los Angeles Chargers | Carolina Panthers | Arizona Cardinals | Jacksonville Jaguars | Cleveland Browns | New York Jets | Las Vegas Raiders | Indianapolis Colts | Tampa Bay Buccaneers | Denver Broncos | Atlanta Falcons | Dallas Cowboys | Pittsburgh Steelers | Chicago Bears | Los Angeles Rams | Philadelphia Eagles | Buffalo Bills | New England Patriots | New Orleans Saints | Houston Texans | Minnesota Vikings | Seattle Seahawks | Baltimore Ravens | Green Bay Packers | Tennessee Titans | San Francisco 49ers | Kansas City Chiefs