Tampa Bay Buccaneers NFL Draft Grades 2023: Buccaneers Add to Their Defensive Interior With Calijah Kancey

What are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' grades for their selections in the 2023 NFL Draft as they look to address their main needs this offseason?

How do the Tampa Bay Buccaneers‘ 2023 NFL Draft grades stack up? Tampa Bay appears stalled out in the NFC South after the retirement of Tom Brady, but the 2023 class may have presented a chance for them to regain some momentum and start climbing back.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers NFL Draft Grades

Round 1, Pick 19: Calijah Kancey, DT, Pittsburgh

Let me preface with this: I love the fit for Calijah Kancey in Tampa Bay. This is a slight reach for the undersized DT on my board, but he needed an impact nose tackle to play alongside.

He has that in Vita Vea. Vea can both produce pressure for himself, as well as encumber double-teams and create 1-on-1 opportunities for Kancey. That player-combo is dangerous.

MORE: 100% FREE NFL Mock Draft Simulator (With Trades)

Now the hope — for Tampa Bay — is that Logan Hall develops in 2023 and gives the Buccaneers a terrifying trio on the line. But Kancey gives the unit a facelift on Day 1 as an attacking 3-technique with logic-defying explosiveness, flexibility, and violence in his hands. It’s rare for a player as high-energy as Kancey to also be so controlled and precise, and that mix allows him to counteract his size.

As exciting as Kancey’s fit is, however, Tampa Bay may need to answer for their QB situation in time. Their quarterbacks are Baker Mayfield and Kyle Trask. Will Levis fell to them at 19th overall. They had a chance to add him without trading up — into a situation where he wouldn’t have to play right away — and they passed. Simply choosing not to take that swing is questionable.

Grade: C+

Round 2, Pick 48: Cody Mauch, OL, North Dakota State

The landing spot and ultimate playing position of Cody Mauch was one of the hardest things to project in the 2023 NFL Draft cycle. The Buccaneers came into the draft in dire need of offensive line help, and Mauch can help with that at multiple spots. That ambiguity isn’t necessarily ideal, but it’s also part of the appeal.

Tampa Bay has a gaping hole at left tackle, and they can improve their guard positions as well. Without elite arm length, Mauch has been projected inside to guard by many. His elite explosiveness and physicality would translate well inside, and while he’s a bit leaner for his size, he still has the core strength and power to drive through and seal out blocks.

As popular as Mauch’s projection to guard has been among analysts, I think he has the nimble athleticism, smooth footwork, and independent hand usage necessary to counteract his length concerns and stay at tackle. It’ll ultimately be up to the Buccaneers to decide where they play him. But as long as he gets stronger, Mauch can be a very quality player at tackle or guard.

Grade: A-

Round 3, Pick 82: YaYa Diaby, EDGE, Louisville

Shaq Barrett is aging and coming off a torn Achilles, and Joe Tryon-Shoyinka hasn’t yet lived up to his first-round billing. Having a group of Vita Vea, Calijah Kancey, and Logan Hall on the interior should help free up more opportunities for Tampa’s EDGE talent, but the rotation can be deeper. YaYa Diaby helps with that.

Diaby is one of the most traits-rich EDGE prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft, and he converted on those traits in 2022, with nine sacks and 14 tackles for loss. At 6’3”, 263 pounds, with 34” arms, Diaby has 4.51 speed and a 37” vertical — numbers that exhibit his elite athleticism.

MORE: NFL Draft Grades 2023 — Live Analysis and Grades For All 7 Rounds in 2023 NFL Draft

Diaby has awe-inspiring power capacity with his combined burst, length, and frame density, and he has some alignment versatility. He’s still very raw with his hand usage, which isn’t ideal for a 24-year-old rookie, and he can be overaggressive in run support, shooting past gaps when he needs to hold positioning.

On my board, Isaiah McGuire was the higher-rated prospect at this point, but to be fair, Diaby is a better scheme fit. He’s a quality rotational presence with upside to unlock.

Grade: B

Round 5, Pick 153: SirVocea Dennis, LB, Pittsburgh

Especially with Devin White trade rumors lingering and Lavonte David aging, this is a phenomenal pick for Tampa Bay. SirVocea Dennis is a fringe top-100 prospect on my board. He has a compact 6’0”, 226-pound frame with 33” arms. He’s an elite athlete with searing explosiveness downhill, but Dennis also knows when to sift through congestion. He can be an impact player at his maximum potential.

Grade: A+

Round 5, Pick 171: Payne Durham, TE, Purdue

The Buccaneers traded up to get Payne Durham in their tight end room. On one hand, they probably could have stayed put, kept their picks, and waited to add another TE. But Durham is a cut above your average Day 3 pick. He’s not a great athlete, and that’s the prime reason he fell. Nevertheless, he’s an incredibly reliable receiving threat with superb instincts and strong hands.

Grade: B-

Round 6, Pick 181: Josh Hayes, DB, Kansas State

There were higher-rated players on my board, but if the Buccaneers want versatility, they’ll get that from Josh Hayes. He can play cornerback or nickel. He logged 5.5 tackles for loss and seven PBUs in 2022.

MORE: Overall 2023 NFL Draft Grades

At his pro day, Hayes ran a 4.47 40-yard dash — a stronger time than anticipated. This late, the opportunity cost is fairly low for any pick, and the Buccaneers use this one on a player they have a particular affinity for.

Grade: C

Round 6, Pick 191: Trey Palmer, WR, Nebraska

This part of the NFL Draft, more than most, is all about value. If you can play the board effectively, it can pan out very well in the long run. In Round 6, the Buccaneers were able to land a WR in my top 100. Trey Palmer has speed in the 4.3 range, which he uses to effortlessly stress defenses downfield. But he’s also shown promise cutting stems efficiently, and he has great ball-tracking ability, too.

Grade: A

Round 6, Pick 196: Jose Ramirez, EDGE, Eastern Michigan

This is a sneaky good pick for Tampa Bay. They got their explosive power rusher earlier in YaYa Diaby, and now they get a pass-rushing OLB who can win with bend and active hands around the apex. Jose Ramirez is undersized, and he’s not nearly as explosive as Diaby.

But his finesse and ankle flexion as a rusher are superb, and he used that bend to amass 12 sacks and 19.5 TFLs in 2022. He’s a quality rotational add who could have a nice career as a designated pass rusher.

Grade: B+

What Were the Buccaneers’ Biggest Needs Entering the Draft?

  • QB, OT, LB, EDGE, G

The Buccaneers went from the cream of the NFL crop from a roster construction perspective to barren in a hurry. While there is still defensive talent present, the offensive line has become a massive question mark, and QB is an even more significant one.

Baker Mayfield is still on the path toward redemption, but he’s likely not the long-term answer. Linebacker swiftly became a need when Devin White requested a trade. Lavonte David is outstanding, but he’s also not going to play forever.

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