Jason Licht Avoids “No. 1 Mistake”

April 28th, 2023

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Jason Licht could have played it safe. He didn’t. He could have gone with the chalk. He didn’t. He could have reached for need. He didn’t.

With the selection of Calijah Kancey at No. 19, Tampa Bay’s GM stayed true to his board and now he hopes that truth sets Todd Bowles free to forge a dynamic pass rush. It’s a rather bold move for Licht, who has now used his top pick in the past three drafts on a front-7 defensive player.

The announcement of Kancey set off a muted reaction at Big Storm Brewery at Centro Ybor last night as a large group of Buc fans gathered to rejoice. Instead, dozens of Buc supporters promptly hit their cell phones to find more information about a disruptive interior lineman from Pitt who will have every chance to start this fall.

Calijah Kancey makes it three years in a row for the Bucs picking players on their defensive front with their first selection in the NFL Draft.

Many of those fans expected Licht to select Georgia edge rusher Nolan Smith or Oklahoma offensive tackle Anton Harrison. Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer, who somehow slipped through the first round, would have given the Bucs a well-rounded tight end who caught 180 passes in three seasons.

Choosing Will Levis or Hendon Hooker would have triggered a frenzied reaction from Buc Nation, but Licht wasn’t trying to cause a stir — he was trying to help this franchise win games.

Instead, the Bucs are banking on Kancey to supply juice up front with a very quick first step and an impressive motor. Although the Bucs chose not to re-sign several defensive linemen, it’s a stretch to characterize Kancey as a “need” pick.

That’s a positive because Hall of Fame executive Ron Wolf told me earlier on Thursday that drafting for need is the No. 1 mistake NFL talent evaluators regret. Wolf said virtually every time he reached and didn’t stick to his board as Green Bay’s GM, the Packers ended up with a lesser player.

Mixed Reviews

Heading into the draft, the Bucs were not in terrible shape at defensive tackle.

Last year’s leading sacker, Vita Vea, is back to anchor the interior and Tampa Bay signed free agent Greg Gaines from the Rams, who utilized Gaines on 72 percent of their defensive snaps in 2022 next to future first-ballot Hall of Famer Aaron Donald.

Licht said it would be unfair to mention Kancey in the same breath as Donald, then joked that Hall of Fame defensive tackle John Randle would be a more apt comparison. While Licht quickly added that he was kidding, he and Bowles surely wouldn’t mind if Kancey proved to be the catalyst for a better pass rush.

Did the Bucs reach?

Kancey isn’t terrible against the run, but he was chosen to move quarterbacks off their spot, rattle their rhythm and put them on the ground.

ESPN’s Todd McShay had Kancey listed as one of his top 20 prospects in this draft class. Here’s what NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah said about Kancey before the first round:

“I’m curious to see where he ends up going,” Jeremiah said. “On my final list, he ended up being my 26th overall player. Ed Oliver (3-year starter in Buffalo) was my comparison for him. I do think he needs to win early. He doesn’t have real long arms. I think he’s a 25-35 type.”

ESPN’s Mel Kiper said Kancey raised his profile in front of NFL GMs with a standout performance at Indianapolis.

“Super quick, ran very well at the Combine,” Kiper said. “He ran better than Aaron Donald, but he doesn’t have the arm length of Donald.”

The 33rd Team, an intriguing NFL website, rated Kancey as the draft’s No. 69 prospect: “Undersized interior lineman who wins with quickness, leverage, technique and effort. Lack of weight and length will cap his overall effectiveness.”

In breaking down the opening round, McShay questioned the choice for Tampa Bay.

“Calijah Kancey is a disruptive player, but where does he fit in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers scheme?” McShay said. “This pick just doesn’t make sense. Maybe they think Vita Vea can protect him. There is no doubt they needed to bolster their pass rush, but this was not the way.”

Time will tell. What’s clear is Bowles is fully on board with the pick and he can’t wait to parlay Kancey’s attributes into a better showing from a defense that faded down the stretch.

As a first-round selection, Kancey is unlikely to ever emerge as the face of this franchise. But if Bowles and his coaching staff have their way, Kancey just might develop into a 280-pound pain in the ass for opponents.

21 Responses to “Jason Licht Avoids “No. 1 Mistake””

  1. Goatfarmer Says:

    Haters gonna hate. Love the kid, love the player, love the lock. Another Leap for Licht.

  2. Voice of Truth Says:

    It’s a perfect compliment to the two space eating tackles – a one gap penetrator that will blow by guards and centers – dudes swim move is just plain nasty

    This was a very good pick

  3. Lichtie Keith Says:

    With the likelihood of losing Devin White at LB why not go back to the 4/3 and use Kancey as a 3 tech like Sapp.

  4. Goatfarmer Says:

    McShay is an idiot but hits an important point through the back door. Does the player fit the system really means, can the tardated headcoich adjust his scheme to fit his player’s strengths?

  5. Durango95 Says:

    I wouldn’t be too quick to dismiss what McShay has to say. Not convinced this guy’s a fit.

  6. Cometowin2 Says:

    Love the comparisons to Aaron Donald and John Randle. That would work!

  7. Goatfarmer Says:

    It’s up to Bloweszo to create the fit for a talent like this. A long shot, but the next head coach will handle it.

  8. FortMyersDave Says:

    Seems like a solid choice, if he was the best on Licht’s board I have no issues with Bucs getting someone to line up next to Vea, wasn’t that what the bucs were missing when Hicks was hurt half of last year? Yeah I know the Bucs got a solid guy from the Rams in free agency but now they have 3 bodies they can rotate on the DL and that ought to help in the second half when fatigue sets in.

  9. Destinjohnny Says:

    In 11 drafts, who are the defensive lineman he has drafted??
    Ill wait
    And wait
    And wait

  10. Goatfarmer Says:

    Yeah. That Vita Vea really sucks, Dumpsterjohnny.

  11. Jeremy Says:

    Most of you guys talk shet like you could really do any fuggin better. Not a one of us has any real hands on experience in the NFL. We are fans not coaches. STFU and support your team. I hope he does great and the Bucs are contenders this year. A strong defense wins Super Bowls, we have proved this twice. Quit being so critical all the time. If you really are fans then you should be optimistic going into the season not tearing down the HC and telling us how you could do it better

  12. Buc king Says:

    I think he takes gohlstons spot

  13. kyle Says:

    kiper, mcsahy, ira have no idea wtf is going on…lol

  14. Destinjohnny Says:

    So goat farmer in 11 drafts we have one guy who was drafted high?
    11 drafts bro
    One guy ?

  15. teacherman777 Says:

    We need 8 d-lineman/edge players to compete in the NFL.

    1. Shaquille Barrett
    2. JTS
    3. Logan Hall
    4. Vita Vea
    5. Gaines
    6. Kancey
    7. Yaya Diaby
    8. Senat
    9. O’Connor
    10. Cam Gill

    11-13.? Let them compete

    I like our depth so far.

    Go Bucs!

  16. RustyRhinos Says:

    I for one do hope for a successful season for the Buccaneers. I actually do hope this season Coach Bowles gets it right. We win the division and make the playoffs. Just to be rid of the Goatfarmer’s steady negativity.

    I am excited to see Calijah work with Vea & Gaines. Who do you double?

  17. 1#bucsfan Says:

    Great pick. Most don’t understand. With gains n now kacey n vea we have a legit interior line. Stopping the run has bin an issue n getting after the QB. Gains n kacey will do just that. If hall and it’s a BIG if develops into a decent player then we are going to have a very good line for years to come. If Shaq comes back strong a yaya gets going and again another BIG if on JTS we could have a top 3 defense. I still think we should move DW45 as an edge rusher n draft his n LVDs replacement. ALSO we didn’t need to draft a O-line with our 1st pick we have got enough beef that is developing good there n we’re able to add another. Great draft. I for one don’t care what the haters say. They got 1 job n that’s to hate lol

  18. Bojim Says:

    +1 Jeremy.

  19. Goatfarmer Says:

    I guess being ecstatic about the draft is negative. Well, let’s try to be even more ecstatic about Jason Licht’s performance. Like, I can’t wait to see who he interviews to be the Bucs next head coach. That will be a fascinating process and I know Jason will nail it.

  20. Destinjohnny Says:

    No its good to be a homer bro, but he has had 11 drafts…. Tell me who the players are?
    Dont shoot the messenger.

  21. Fred McNeil Says:

    Destinjohnny, meet Vita Via.