The Rookies (Of 2023)

June 5th, 2024

Edge rusher YaYa Diaby.

Maybe Joe has tunnel vision because of spending so much time watching the Bucs, researching the Bucs and typing about the Bucs and spending time at One Buc Palace.

Only so many hours in a day, so Joe can’t study every NFL team in depth.

Now Joe thinks the Bucs’ rookie class of 2023 was really good. And it seems one of the sharper football minds in the Fourth Estate agrees.

Aaron Schatz, the inventor of “DVOA” and founder of Football Outsiders (RIP), analyzed each team’s 2023 rookie class. Per Schatz’s calculation, the Bucs’ class ranked No. 5.

Christian Izien was Tampa Bay’s main nickelback since the start of the season and was the most valuable undrafted rookie of 2023 by Total Points. But he’s not the only undrafted player that the Buccaneers received solid play from. Safety Kaevon Merriweather played significant snaps over the second half of the season.

Of course, the Buccaneers’ drafted rookies also stood out. First-round defensive lineman Calijah Kancey was a regular starter and Pro Football Reference lists him with 13 pressures to go with four sacks and 26 combined tackles. Second-round pick Cody Mauch started every game at right guard although he was near the bottom of the league in pass block win rate. Third-round edge rusher Yaya Diaby had 7.5 sacks to go with 38 combined tackles. And sixth-round wide receiver Trey Palmer had 39 catches for 385 yards and three touchdowns, though he was near the bottom of the league in receiving DVOA.

Joe thoughts:

Calijah Kancey: This guy will be a beast if he doesn’t get hurt.

Cody Mauch: After a full offseason to hit an NFL weight room, Joe will be intrigued to see how he is this year. He looked like the rookie wall hit him in the arse.

YaYa Diaby: Showed a lot of promise but Joe is worried that after he was named starter, his production dropped. Did NFL coaches figure out his film? How much can Diaby improve?

Payne Durham: He’s big enough to become a crushing blocker after a year in an NFL weight room. On short passes, he’s solid but he has no speed.

Trey Palmer: Let him use his jets on short passes. That might be better for him than constantly trying to stretch the field. Get him matched up against a linebacker early in his route.

Josh Hayes: Played 279 snaps on special teams and looked like a quality contributor there.

No, Joe did not mention linebacker SirVocea Dennis because what did he do? He’s a complete wild card after playing only 101 snaps. Same for practice squad hero José Ramirez.

Dennis notwithstanding, the Bucs rookie class, even an undrafted free agent like Izien, showed a lot of promise. If those guys can take the next step, that’s a fantastic draft class.

21 Responses to “The Rookies (Of 2023)”

  1. Tbbucs3 Says:

    Can somebody get Diaby a real # this year?

  2. BA’s Red Pen Says:

    Agree 100%.

  3. Booger Says:

    It’s the cool number nowadays. 💯 he wanted it. Now I don’t know if it was his #1 choice or not, but he definitely picked it himself, 💯. I’m good with it and like it, too!

  4. ocala Says:

    Good write up Joe. So far last year’s draft class looks extremely good. They all need to take that next step though.

  5. geno711 Says:

    I went to the link.
    They had Tampa at 6th,

    1. Houston
    2. LA Rams
    3. Green Bay
    4. Detroit
    5. Chicago

    6. Tampa

    8. Atlanta
    23. New Orleans
    29. Carolina

    With a minus-1,078 passing DYAR, Young put up one of the five (5) worst quarterback seasons since 1981. Jonathan Mingo set a new record for the worst DYAR season by a rookie wide receiver, averaging fewer than 10 yards per reception with no touchdowns.

    31. Denver
    32. Dallas

  6. SlyPirate Says:

    geno711 Says:

    8. Atlanta
    23. New Orleans
    29. Carolina


    I don’t think any of them had good drafts this year. NO got a good OL and CB but Rattler?

  7. Pewter Power Says:

    Trey Palmer
    Did you just put him in that little box based on what he did as a rookie 6th round pick. He can develop into an all around wide receiver thank you very much. He’s not a Deven Thompkins.

  8. Louis Friend Says:

    For what it’s worth the NFL’s website had them as the 16th ranked rookie class in production. One year out it’s good to see so many of them get reps – but you don’t really know enough until after year 3. Let’s see how Dialby and Mauch evolve this year before calling it a good or great draft. Kancey already seems like the real deal.

  9. BigBucsFan Says:

    You wanted that number he wanted to be the first to wear it and the first great player in it he said he got the Jersey part done be a great player will be on him in time

  10. SB~LV Says:

    building blocks are solid

  11. drdneast Says:

    No doubt you are well versed in the abilities of the Bucs since you cover them like a blanket, but the opposite is true for other NFL writers who barely pay attention to the Bucs but then write a piece about where they are projected to be in the upcoming season.
    Many of them think the team is going to be badly missing Devin White when it is the complete opposite. if anyone watches his game tape against the Eagles during the regular season loss, which was indicative of his play all season, they would see a disinterested LB who was mauled and molested by the Eagles offensive line. I’ve seen girl scouts selling cookies who were more aggressive selling cookies than White was in tackling in that game.

  12. Beeej Says:

    We have a LOT of players on rookie contracts, that reflects well on JL

  13. BakerFan Says:

    I bet Coen will figure out how to use Palmer and his acceleration. I expect big plays from that guy with an offensive coordinator who has a clue.

  14. J Says:

    I like the fact our rookies got so much play time last year. Imo it’s those snaps that are paying big dividends right now during OTA’s. Guys are leveling up it seems at many skill positions.

  15. Buc4evr Says:

    What is going with Sirvocea Dennis this off season. Have not heard much about him? Did he disappear?

  16. BillyBucco Says:

    Dennis has already had several picks in OTAs this year. It has been reported on. The nerves for him were an issue, which was a surprise for me to hear. Hopefully not another Darden.
    What’s even more promising than last year’s draft class, is this year’s draft class. I think every player but possibly Klein, plays significant snaps at some point this year. Im not counting Klein out, but a 6th round O Lineman usually needs time.
    The future looks bright to me and media outside TB just can’t see it.

  17. ModHairKen Says:

    Interesting: “Cody Mauch started every game at right guard although he was near the bottom of the league in pass block win rate.”

    How much of that was adjusting to the talent level, him being a little undersized and playing next to a very weak and ineffective Center?

    He is now the leader of the interior line. Can’t wait to see him this year.

  18. drdneast Says:

    ModHairKen, or possibly how much of Hainsey’s play was effected by having to play next to a inexperienced rookie who was learning a new position on the fly. He seemed to play better the year before when he had an established proficient guard playing next to him. Hmmmmmm.

  19. 1#bucsfan Says:

    Fans still raging on hainsey 🤦‍♂️.

  20. garro Says:

    Not a bad haul of players by anybodies “stats”

    Hurray for Jason and the entire scouting department at one Buc! Nailed it!

    Pass block win rate? Sacks is a concrete and verifiable stat. Win rate? Not so much. Cody got battered because he was underweight and he got better as games and the season progressed. He looked a lot like Cappa did in his first season. I predict he will have a big year.

    Dennis reminds me of a safety playing LB… There I said it.

    Go Bucs!

  21. Dude Says:

    “Dennis reminds me of a safety playing LB… There I said it.”


    “When the Washington State star was taken in the first round of the 2014 draft, he was supposed to be a safety. The Cardinals had a deep secondary that season and a void at linebacker following the suspension of Daryl Washington, so in order to get on the field, Bucannon was moved into the box in nickel formations.

    Bucannon excelled from the jump, evading hulking blockers and tracking down running backs like a heat-seeking missile, which gave the Cardinals the confidence to leave him there full-time.

    Thus, the “money linebacker” was born.”

    “Bucannon, 6-foot-1 and 218 pounds, was resistant to the change at first, believing he’d one day move back to safety, but now welcomes his role. He led the Cardinals in tackles a season ago with 127, and added three sacks, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, 17 tackles for loss and an interception he returned for a touchdown.”

    -Per the AZ Card team site from 2016

    we had Bucannon in 2019 trying to play that role, and I suspect Bowles is trying to bring that “$LB” role back

    Agreed on Dennis, but I think above is what they could have planned for he and/or tykee smith(or Deloach) and I’m all for it as it makes it so we wouldn’t be stuck with playing Britt in pass D if he hasn’t improved much. Also can confuse the heck out of opposing QBs pre-snap.