Assessing The Draft Needs

April 6th, 2019

The Sage of Tampa Bay sports looks at the Bucs’ draft from an immediate-need perspective in today’s column


When players start taking numbers to get into the trainer’s room, that’s when NFL teams are exposed.

The Bucs boast some very talented starters, but their depth was challenged in 2018 and Tampa Bay flunked the test after a 2-0 getaway behind a backup quarterback.

Jason Licht has tried to address roster depth in the offseason, focusing on Tier 2 players who can keep the team afloat rather than create a big splash in free agency.

Injuries are a fact of life in pro football, and the 2018 Bucs were no exception. Only seven Bucs made all 16 starts — and four of those players were along the offensive line. Ryan Jensen, Ali Marpet, Donovan Smith and Caleb Benenoch lined up every week, along with Mike Evans, Peyton Barber and Jason Pierre-Paul.

Injuries hit particularly hard at linebacker and in the secondary, contributing to Tampa Bay’s defensive woes. Heading into the draft, here’s a glance at the depth chart:

Ryan Fitzpatrick is out, Blaine Gabbert is in and Ryan Griffin remains on the fringes behind Jameis Winston. Although Fitzpatrick lost his final five starts last year, he has been more productive in his career than Gabbert, who has won only 13 of 48 NFL starts.

Bruce Arians can’t stop talking about Barber, but there’s very little proven depth at the position. Ronald Jones looked overmatched as a rookie and Shaun Wilson has only four carries on his NFL resume. Andre Ellington didn’t play at all last season, so there’s every reason to believe the Bucs will draft a running  back.


Bucs center Ryan Jensen

The Bucs added Earl Watford, who will compete for the starting right guard spot. Reserve Alex Cappa, who struggled as a rookie, needs to show more while veteran Evan Smith, coming off hip surgery, is listed behind Jensen at center. Benenoch is moving to tackle and Mike Liedtke is back, still looking for his first pro start. Arians has said repeatedly that this unit needs an upgrade.

The starting group was amazingly durable in 2018, but that luck isn’t likely to continue and new blood up front is a glaring need in the draft.

The Bucs are in good shape, despite the departures of DeSean Jackson and Adam Humphries. Breshad Perriman will be given every opportunity to stretch the field opposite Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, who is likely to be shifted inside to capitalize on his strong hands in traffic. Don’t sleep on Justin Watson, a fifth-round pick who figures to get more of a look this fall.

Few teams can match the tight end tandem of O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate, who have combined for 23 TD catches in the past two years. If Howard stays healthy, look out.

The Bucs were quiet here in free agency, but the draft is considered top-heavy with quality linemen. William Gholston and Noah Spence are the primary backups at end, while Beau Allen and Rakeem Nunez-Roches provide depth inside. The fate of Gerald McCoy remains a mystery and the shift to a 3-man front could enhance the role of Vita Vea. Expect another lineman to be added by Day 2 of the draft.

With Kwon Alexander holding court in another Bay Area, the Bucs are looking for a new defensive face. This group would look markedly better if Kendell Beckwith can return to the field. Newcomers Shaq Barrett and Deone Bucannon will play prominent roles and Tampa Bay could draft an inside linebacker at No. 5. Devante Bond returns as the main backup.

Cornerback depth is a major concern now that Vernon Hargreaves and Carlton Davis have been declared the starters. Ryan Smith hasn’t distinguished himself and M.J. Stewart is shifting to safety, joining Jordan Whitehead as a backup.

This is a very young group now that Brent Grimes has moved on, still looking for another NFL job. All in all, the Bucs figure to be challenged by attrition. The key is to avoid a major drop off when starters go down. Jason Licht needs to find a bunch of keepers on draft weekend.

38 Responses to “Assessing The Draft Needs”

  1. Rob Tanner Says:

    Has grimes signed anywhere? Just curious. Nice write up Ira!

  2. Jean Lafitte Says:

    Having Mike Liedtke back is certainly a plus. The way he played in preseason last season was inspiring and he is listed as a G so given the chance I think he could solidify that RG spot if Watford isn’t gifted the position outright. Even so we get to watch his progress again this preseason.

    I ideally think the draft should go
    1st rd.: BERA best edge rusher available (most valuable on defense)

    after that in no certain order:
    ILB, DT, RB, DB,

  3. ATLBucs Says:

    I would not want Grimes back for $100,000. That “I don’t get paid enough to shadow AB” attitude might be infectious. What happened to playing for pride? Can you imagine Rhonde saying something like that?

  4. Maze Says:

    Grimes has to ask Miko before he sits down to pee

  5. Tony the Brit Says:

    No No a thousand times No ILB at 5 please.

  6. Clean House Says:

    The team sucks- of sucked last year and actually got worse.

  7. Not there yet Says:

    Bucs got what they deserved signing old arse Grimes he was done before 2018 season. Cool with licht signing depth in free agency but for the love of god please stop addressing the backups in the draft and look for starters. Can’t believe someone looked at mj Stewart tape and thought this guy could become a starter in this division. Please stop licht degrading the roster any further BA

  8. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    We are getting younger with the exit of Fitz, Djax, Curry, Grimes, Unrein & Anger……but it was many of our younger players who sustained injury last year so I’m not quite sure it matters much.

    As far as needs…..IMO……we should be drafting DE or MLB high (1st pick) and Oline with our 2nd….then S, Slot CB & RB.

    With our cap situation going forward it would help to have extra picks….it would also help if we quit missing on round 2 & 3 picks……Stewart, Rojo & Cappa need to be starters.

  9. BucEmUp Says:

    Ronald Jones could be a lot like Ellington. He was always hit before taking his second step, how can you judge the guy on that? HE WAS given so few oppotunities that defenses knew he was getting a carry when he came in the game. Im not sure the Bucs use anything more than a fourth rounder at best on a rb.Jones being a second round pick isnt going anywhere, hints why Arians isnt talking about him right before the draft. He wants teams to think hes all.over a third round rb when hes not.

  10. Joeypoppems Says:

    Safety has been a topic of conversation lately on this site. I havent watched any of them, but i read up on most of the top guys and i think Taylor Rapp is my favorite one.

    He is a sure tackler, can blitz, cover TEs 1 on 1, great in run support, great instincts too. Downside is his 40 at Washington’s pro day was in the 4.7s. If he slides to the early 3rd for that he could be a steal and fill the Jamaal Adams role in Bowles defense. He has also been compared to Harrison Smith and Eric Weddle.

    Johnathan Abram would be my 2nd choice. From what I read he has that firey leadership. Him and Devin White would be 2 culture changers thats for sure.

  11. Bob in Valrico Says:

    I understand why we signed second tier players because of the cap space.
    But past results have not been good, and these second tier players often have to be replaced after a year. Hope BA can guide Licht in this area. Also a bit concerning are players from Arizona. Its not a given that they will be as good
    or fit in with the team. We can’t afford to sign players on the decline like Grimes.

  12. D-Rome Says:

    Ryan Smith hasn’t distinguished himself and M.J. Stewart is shifting to safety, joining Jordan Whitehead as a backup.

    Yet, some still think Backstabbin’ Jason Licht is a good GM and that M.J. Stewart is a starting caliber press corner. You’re not supposed to waste 2nd round picks on backups.

  13. Colonel_MP Says:

    Great stuff Ira! I think the best off season move is the coaching staff. Players started ever game 2 steps behind with the last 3 regimes. Playing to our players strengths will be the difference. Draft the best player on your board no matter what position he plays or where national media have players ranked. Media has been wrong so much more than right on player projections.

  14. Bob in Valrico Says:

    It will be critical to have an excellent free safety who can cover ground quickly
    cover well and be a sure tackler.
    They will be the last defense if one of the bigger taller receivers gets by the press coverage. J. Evans does have that potential. His durability is a question mark. we seem to have a lot of hybrid safeties and box safeties but not enough free safeties.

  15. Andrew Says:

    So we need starting level talent at DT, DE, RG, RB, and CB. Depth at OT, LB, CB, C. Basically, we are good at WR, TE, and hopefully QB LOL

  16. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    I wish I can finger the several JBF posters who jumped all over me when I simply questioned why Licht chose Stewart before Davis……I didn’t understand that then and I still don’t.
    If you are one who did this….please answer me now.

    It simply seemed at the time to be a very questionable decision..

    Licht gets careless when he has extra picks…..loves to use them to move up on questionable projects……hopefully, BA & Bowles will put a stop to this.

  17. Bird Says:

    Cappa is best to try at right tackle eventually Does not have build of guard.
    So guard is a major concern. Huge problem.

    Dline/corner /linebacker /guard in no particular order should be there 1st 4 picks. No question. Get 4 guys that can play as rookies.

    Get duke Johnson with trade for 5th or 6th for the running back everyone is needing. I think barber will be fine with proper coaching of play calling and oline coaching. Definitely need running back that can catch /3rd down back.

  18. Bird Says:

    Can’t wait for draft.

    We should stay at five and get one of the studs of the draft.
    Not sure we can trade back and still get devin white. Olivier won’t be around for long either
    Unless the giants get scared and move up a spot to solidify getting their QB of future. Haskins or lock.

  19. WhatTheBuc Says:

    MJ has the potential to be a stud safety. He has speed and ability to tackle. He showed an ability to strip the ball in preseason. That’s important because opposing offenses did so much as drop the football once from week 2-8. Hard to get turnovers that way. BTW I know MJ doesn’t have elite speed as a corner but he’s faster than most safeties.

  20. Dominican Bucs#1 fan Says:

    I am ok with Bucs drafting ILB White @5. The reason is that there are not any other great ILB in this draft after the Devins. Opposite to what is available for edge rushers LB and DT/DE. That’s where the depth can be available to choose from in RDs 2-4.
    I would go: ILB, DT/DE, OL, RB, Nickel Back, S.
    Prospects I love: D. White (obviously), Tillery (3Tech ND), OL Ford (Oklahoma), or the OL from Boston College Lindstrom, RB Miles Saunders, S Abrams (Miss St) he IMO is the closest thing to J. Adams in this class (leadership and playmaker), the Nickel Back from James Madison.
    Agree we need to find starters in RDs 2-5 at least to make this a win now team. GoBucs!

  21. Anonymous Says:

    We don’t get to sit down with these kids, and break down their film all day. We need a great player with our first pick. One who is a first day starter, and long time contributor. Whether it be a MLB, RT, DT, DE doesn’t matter. What matters is they step in as upgrades right away. It’s hard to screw up the fifth pick in a talented draft, Licht has to find a starter in the second round for a change. Can’t blow anymore 2nd round picks. For God’s sake, don’t look under rocks for players, then move up to grab a Cappa.

  22. Destinjohnny Says:

    Let’s see if a good coach can’t ovecome the worst gm in the nfl

  23. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    WhatTheBuc Says:
    April 6th, 2019 at 7:56 am
    MJ has the potential to be a stud safety.

    Exactly what I am saying……potential to be something he wasn’t drafted to be…..2nd round……this must stop……we have cap problems and simply can’t miss on 2nd round picks.

  24. Bob in Valrico Says:

    I have not seen M J stewart exhibit any speed in coverage. I saw him trailing
    crossing routes way too much. He does seem like he is built to deliver some hard hits. Totally agree that Stewart was one of the most puzzling draft picks at No. 2

  25. tmaxcon Says:


    Can’t wait for the draft

    Draft is the only time bucfan has hope. Once games start its always clear they have no hope or chance.

  26. Buccaneer Bonzai Says:

    MJ Stewart will be much better this year.

    This first pick of ours can only be one of two things…DL or LB. At least that seems to be the case.

    Wouldn’t it be a surprise move if no QBs are taken ahead of us and Arians takes a QB?

    Instant controversy!

  27. Buccaneer Bonzai Says:

    MJ has speed…he;s a press corner and hte game was too fast for him in his rookie year. That happens a lot in the NFL.

    Things will be different this year.

  28. Buccaneer Bonzai Says:

    And no, I do not buy the whole ‘moved to safety’ pre-draft story.

  29. tmaxcon Says:


    He’s got a lot issies in addition to licht to over come

    Bad roster
    Worst owners on 2 continents
    No cap
    No Defense
    No Leadership
    No Oline
    A fanbase afraid of talent and personality

    BA might have bit more off than he can handle especially at such an advanced age with previous health issues
    Staffs come to Tampa to retire not to fix bucs.

  30. JameisAlmighty! Says:

    In Jameis I Trust!

  31. WhatdaBUCisthis Says:

    Again I say. Oliver @ 5 and I’m happy. Gotta draft GMC replacement eventually.
    @Joe… sorry for the name change.. the spelling anyway. Someone new on here going by the same name.. minus the is this
    Go BUCS

  32. D1 Says:

    Stewart then Davis ….
    hmmmmm…it’s such an isolated case and really nothing to compare it to…’s a mystery.

  33. Anonymous Says:

    Everybodt talks about RG & RT, but I think they are going to have problems at Lt with lazy ass, overpaid Smith. Over paying is a big reason they are in cap hell.

  34. bucnole Says:

    I really wonder how anyone could eval this team from last years tape. . . the all 22’s must have looked like keystone cops with sooooo any people out of position.
    but agree with most here – YOU HAVE TO HIT ON R1-R3 – and by that I mean players that start and contribute
    No more wasted picks!!!

  35. teacherman777 Says:

    Cappa and Benenoch have skinny legs. Guards need big butts and thick thighs.

    We need a big booty guard in the 2nd round.

    Like I have been saying for 4 years!

    Evan Smith? After hip surgery? Is still here?? wtf??? He sucks!

    We need to draft a badass guard/crnter prospect.

  36. D1 Says:


    Re. the MJ selection ;
    I’m not sure what is mysterious, puzzling, or any other adjective that’s more likely to be used in an episode of x files than a football site. The selection is consistent.

    Consistent in both a historical and philosophical approach. It’s not an outlier. Far from it.
    Nothing stands out as strange, weird or bizarre. There’s no investigation needed.
    Just a change in perspective .

  37. Buc4eva Says:

    I dont understand how some fans will admit that Mike Smith was trash, yet still seem 100% decided on the “lack of talent” on defense.

    Please share how you are evaluating these players when they were put in position to fail every snap they took.

  38. D1 Says:


    Those 2 thoughts aren’t mutually exclusive. Both Coach and player can suck.
    Who is the best players on Defense? And where do the rank among their peers?

    I believe it’s universally accepted that Smitty’s scheme was garbage. So there’s no need to explore that topic.

    The question everyone seems to ask is, how much did a bad scheme effect the defense?
    I’d say it did effect the team . Perhaps something else contributed to the problem. And maybe that x factor had much more influence on the team than scheme. Injuries.

    Injuries prevented starting a consistent group from week to week. Hard to really expect consistent play from a group that’s inconsistent.