Tackling History In The Draft

March 2nd, 2020

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The law of averages says this can’t be — but it be.

In the 44-year history of the franchise, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have never drafted a Pro Bowl offensive tackle. Not one.

Paul Gruber, a first-round pick in 1988, was good enough to make at least a few Pro Bowl rosters, but he was professionally buried by playing for lousy Tampa Bay teams. Gruber has to settle for seeing his name in the team’s Ring of Honor.

This recognition void at a premium position remains alarming.

The Bucs have been selecting players every year since that inaugural 1976 season … and they’re still looking for an offensive tackle deemed worthy of a Pro Bowl. They’ve tried, whether it was the likes of Ron Heller, Jerry Wunsch, Kenyatta Walker, Jeremy Trueblood or Donovan Smith.

Zilch, zippo, nada.

RT Jeremy Trueblood was a Bucs second-round pick in 2006. He made 84 starts in seven Tampa seasons.

Unless they address the position this month in free agency, the Bucs will head into the 2020 draft with a pressing need at right tackle. If Jack Conklin is considered too expensive for their tastes, Jason Licht and Bruce Arians need to strongly consider using a premium pick on a right tackle to replace Demar Dotson.

Job requirements? Size, strength, technique and a nasty disposition.

Short List

When it comes to drafting decorated offensive linemen, the Bucs aren’t exactly trench pundits. Center Tony Mayberry (1997-99) and guard Davin Joseph (2008, 2011) are the only Buc draft picks up front to earn Pro Bowl berths while in a Tampa Bay uniform.

Even by Buc standards, that’s nuts.

This chronic issue started well before Jason Licht arrived in 2014. Johnny Cash may have walked the line, but Buc general managers haven’t drafted a decent line since Gerald Ford was bunking into furniture in the Oval Office.

And at least one national observer believes the hogs up front have never been more crucial.

“I was talking to somebody about this a couple months ago,” said NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah. “And I posed the question to them with the personnel director and said, ‘Tell me all the great teams with bad offensive lines and tell me all the bad teams with great offensive lines.'”

These current Bucs simply aren’t receiving enough value up front. The performances aren’t matching the salaries, particularly when you consider Ryan Jensen is one of the NFL’s highest-paid centers while Smith and Ali Marpet are on their second contracts.

Losing Numbers

Mediocre line play didn’t cause Jameis Winston to lead the league in giveaways, but better play up front is mandatory if Arians intends to turn this franchise around.

“At some point in time, it’s not complicated,” Jeremiah said. “The teams with good offensive lines have a high floor every year. They’ll keep you competitive, give you a chance to win each and every week.

Ira’s old friend, 2014 Bucs left tackle Anthony Collins.

“I don’t know that offensive line has ever been more important than it is right now. When you look at the investment with these playoff teams, what they’ve done in the offensive line, it sticks out like a sore thumb.”

For far too many years, the Bucs have tried to get by with underwhelming offensive lines. Winston was sacked 47 times and Tampa Bay averaged 3.7 yards per rush last season.

Those are losing numbers.

If, as expected, the Titans allow Conklin to test the free-agent market, he’ll attract plenty of suitors. The Bucs should be in the mix, but Tampa Bay doesn’t need to engage in a bidding war. There are several intriguing prospects at tackle who may be available at No. 14.

How about making a little splash, fellas?

How about nailing a tackle who will eventually represent this franchise in a Pro Bowl?

That would be lovely. That would be significant. Hard to believe, but that would be historic.

Ira hanging out with his good friend Sean Sullivan, GM of Bill Currie Ford. Sean is giving all Bucs fans a special Ira/JoeBucsFan discount, and he personally will work with you to meet your vehicle needs (and talk Bucs).

12 Responses to “Tackling History In The Draft”

  1. Ghost of Darrell Henderson Says:

    If the Bucs (#14) trade back with Philly (#21 + #53) for their 1 +2, they will be able to grab one of about 6 stud OT’s in the 1st round like Josh Jones from Houston.

    In the 2nd they will be able to select a pass rusher and premium RB like Gross-Matos and Cam Akers.

    Philly is desperate for an elite receiver like Jerry Jeudy or Ruggs from Alabama.

  2. Allbuccedup Says:

    Plenty of good tackles in 3rd or 4th round.

  3. NOLES Says:

    Ghost of Darrell – I like the way you think. I would be ecstatic with those 3 picks..

  4. Dewey Selmon Says:

    Why would you wait until rd 3 or 4 for a good tackle when one of the big 4 is going to fall into your lap at pick 14?

  5. Bruce Blahak Says:

    Wirfs! @ 14

  6. Pewter power Says:

    Doesnt really matter Dallas had the best o line in the league with a bunch of first round picks and a top shelf running back but still didn’t get them any playoff wins. Still remains there is more than one way to build a roster. There are lots of lineman in the league who are drafted in the first round and are complete busts just like any other position. Being a first round pick doesnt mean automatic success and probowls

  7. Ghost of Darrell Henderson Says:

    “Wirfs! @ 14”

    I agree on Wirfs but he will never fall to #14. He has never been mocked outside of the top ten and he had a monster combine that drastically improved his position.

    People freaked out when Becton ran a 5.11 40 yard dash.

    “Wirfs measured in at 6’5 and 320 pounds, and was an absolute beast when it came to the jumping drills. His 36.5-inch vertical leap was the highest ever by an offensive lineman. He also went 10’1 on the broad jump, which tied him for the longest ever by an offensive lineman.

    Those jumps alone are insane for a man that size. But on top of that, he ran a 4.85-second 40-yard dash, the fastest ever by a player weighing 320 pounds or more…according to the official NFL Combine.

  8. Mister Negative Nancy Says:

    Well they’ve tried free agents and trades, but good OL are going to stay with their teams… you have to build it in the draft. Thing is, you probably don’t need to burn 1st round picks on O-line.

  9. Buczilla Says:

    Good article Ira and I agree 100%.

  10. Bucsfan951 Says:

    Bucs ALWAYS go for the sexy pick and offensive linemen are not sexy picks.

  11. Bucs Guy Says:

    Assuming nobody trades in front of the Bucs, I’m afraid the top 4 Tackles will be gone by 11.
    I can see the Giants, Browns and Jets absolutely going T in the 1st. Maybe the Jets get Conklin in FA as reported and they go elsewhere. Others who could go T ahead of the Bucs are the Chargers if they get an FA QB, the Cardinals need line help for Murray and could go WR in the 2nd as this is a strong WR draft, along with the Jags and Colts looking for T help. That’s up to 7 teams looking for 4 available Tackles ahead of the Bucs in the first round. If the Bucs are serious, they should consider a trade with Jax — especially if the Chargers don’t get a FA QB. That gives you the #2 or 3 Tackle — though I would be happy with any of the 4. The other options are hope one of them is still there at 14 or trade back to 21 with Philly (who wants to get in front of zDenver at 15) and hope the T from Houston is still available.

  12. Bucs Guy Says:

    The other option is to then draft Defensive Line. But then you still need a tackle in the 2nd.