To put it simply, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have had the best offseason of any team in the NFL. The additions of Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski put them in immediate Super Bowl contention, especially with the firepower they have on offense and improvements made defensively throughout last season. They entered the 2020 NFL Draft with a need for better protection for their now 42-year-old quarterback and secured that by selecting offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs. From there, they drafted a mixture of prospects that offer immediate upside and developmental traits. I’ll take you through their draft class and grade their overall haul.
Who did the Tampa Bay Buccaneers draft?
Round 1, Pick 13: Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa
Round 2, Pick 45: Antoine Winfield Jr., S, Minnesota
Round 3, Pick 76: Ke’Shawn Vaughn, RB, Vanderbilt
Round 5, Pick 161: Tyler Johnson, WR, Minnesota
Round 6, Pick 194: Khalil Davis, DL, Nebraska
Round 7, Pick 241: Chapelle Russell, LB, Temple
Round 7, Pick 245: Raymond Calais, RB, Louisiana
Best Player: Tristan Wirfs
Tampa Bay needed to address offensive tackle in front of Brady and they did so in a big way. Tristan Wirfs was a candidate for the best offensive tackle in the draft, and the athletic specimen should become an immediate starter and upgrade at the right tackle position.
Wirfs has the explosiveness, quickness, and strength to develop into an elite pass protector, and projects well into the Bucs running game. Wirfs has all-pro upside, but his baseline is strong for a young offensive line prospect.
Best Value: Tyler Johnson
Tyler Johnson was one of the most productive wide receivers in college football over the past two seasons but fell to the middle of day three due to a questionable pre-draft process. Johnson curiously wasn’t invited to the Senior Bowl and declined his invite to the East-West Shrine game in order to get ahead on athletic testing preparation. However, Johnson skipped the Combine workouts and wasn’t able to hold a pro day.
Johnson has strong footwork as a route runner with the ability to adjust to passes through contact, which could make him a favorite of Tom Brady’s. The bottom half of the Bucs wide receiver depth chart consists of a bunch of question marks, which means Johnson quietly has a realistic path to early playing time.
Minnesota WR Tyler Johnson has a natural feel for his route pacing, closing down the cushion of the defensive backs and breaking once he gets “in their kitchen.” Johnson is able to cross face of DB’s no matter their initial depth. pic.twitter.com/OKaBxEAIHK
— Brad Kelly (@BradKelly17) February 4, 2020
Biggest Reach: Ke’Shawn Vaughn
Tampa was able to get relative production out of Ronald Jones in 2019, as the second-year running back accounted for over 1,000 total yards and six touchdowns. Despite that, the Buccaneers decided to target a running back with their third-round pick, taking Ke’Shawn Vaughn out of Vanderbilt.
I felt as though there were not only better value to be had at other positions, but better running back prospects available as well. Lamical Perine was drafted at pick number 120, DeeJay Dallas was taken at number 144, and Eno Benjamin lasted until pick number 222.
Still available at the time that Vaughn was picked were stronger prospects on the offensive line, wide receiver, and even pass rusher, positions more valuable to a team’s success than running back.
Biggest Sleeper: Raymond Calais
Tampa doubled down on the running back position with their final pick of the draft, selecting Raymond Calais out of Louisiana-Lafayette. Despite his diminutive stature (5-8, 188), Calais averaged 8.3 yards per rush over the past two seasons.
He was their starting kick returner for all four years of his college career, increasing his average each season and finishing with 99 returns and two touchdowns. Calais will have the potential to stick to the roster because of his ability on special teams, but he has RB2 upside because of his linear explosiveness.
Draft Grade: B+
Tampa Bay addressed their biggest need in the first round without sacrificing value, as Wirfs has the potential to be the best player from the entire draft class. They continued their strong start by selecting versatile safety prospect Antoine Winfield Jr., who should be an immediate presence in their secondary.
From that point, the Bucs did a solid job of finding value and prospects who may be able to contribute over the next two seasons. For a team that suddenly finds themselves in a Super Bowl window, the Bucs drafted prospects who have both strong immediate and long-term projections.