Yes, the Buccaneers offensive line is a huge question mark heading into the 2017 season. No, the Buccaneers aren’t going to supplement that offensive line in the draft.
One of the most polarizing topics in the Buccaneer fan community is offensive line. There are two camps of thought. The first argues that the Bucs offensive line was pretty solid last year, held back by a struggling Doug Martin and long pass patterns that gave pass rushers an extra second to get past their blocker. Then there’s the second camp that saw the offensive line get overwhelmed frequently, often times letting defenses set up shop in the Buccaneer back-field. I’m among the latter group and think that people are justified in having reservations about the Bucs current group of linemen.
In my view, the Buccaneers had just one consistently solid offensive lineman in 2016. Right guard Ali Marpet was successfully able to build upon his impressive rookie campaign and passed both the eye test and the grading test (Pro Football Focus’s 13th ranked interior lineman). Beyond Marpet however, who else strikes fear into the hearts of opposing defensive linemen? The Bucs believe that Donovan Smith could become that guy, but through two seasons he has shown little in the way of consistency and has developed a gross habit of holding. Like Smith, the Bucs also have high hopes for Kevin Pamphile and Caleb Benenoch, but again, neither are quite there yet. The same applies for J.R. Sweezy who, while talented, hasn’t made plays as a healthy Buccaneer yet.
More from The Pewter Plank
- Devin White posts cryptic message to Lavonte David on Twitter
- ESPN predicts surprising outcome to Devin White trade saga
- Updated Buccaneers depth chart after signing two players from rookie minicamp
- Todd Bowles sends clear message about Baker Mayfield’s role with Bucs
- The Athletic is wrong about Bucs one ‘must-watch’ game in 2023
On top of general talent concerns, the Bucs appear prepared to play musical chairs with their offensive line. Ali Marpet will open the off-season working at center in order to get J.R. Sweezy into his natural right guard spot and Kevin Pamphile into the left guard slot. It’s a sound strategy to get your best linemen out there, but do you really want your only proven linemen to be changing positions?
So, if the Buccaneers offensive line is such a worrisome question mark, they’ll surely invest some draft picks in it, right? Not necessarily. In fact, this concerned observer believes you won’t see a single significant Bucs draft pick go towards the offensive line this year. The sixth and seventh rounds are tough to predict, but those first five rounds are almost certain to be some mix of defensive back, running back, defensive line, tight end and receiver.
Two key factors led me to this belief, the first being that the Bucs are stuck in a “prove it” phase with several of their linemen. Donovan Smith, Kevin Pamphile and Caleb Benenoch are all recent draft picks that the team needs to see in prolonged action before replacing. Demar Dotson and J.R. Sweezy both have contracts that, if healthy, essentially guarantee them roster spots and the opportunity to start this season. Evan Smith and Joe Hawley, while not guaranteed to make the roster, are veteran glue guys that can step in and start in a pinch. Though the team has publicly heaped praise on their current line, they’re stuck with this group for this season, regardless of how they really feel.
Now, what if a talented offensive lineman falls into the Buccaneers’ lap at some point during the draft? Talent can always trump strategy, but that’s where my second factor comes into play; the weak link of this draft class is universally considered to be offensive line. Names like Wisconsin tackle Ryan Ramczyk, Alabama tackle Cam Robinson, Utah tackle Garett Bolles, and Western Kentucky guard Forrest Lamp will all go in the first two rounds, but none are the generational talents that could make the Bucs abandon other more glaring needs. The mid to late rounds will of course have linemen with upside available, but do the Bucs want to swap a project in progress for a brand new one?
I could be wrong (I’m the guy who felt positive they wouldn’t draft Vernon Hargreaves last season), but my brain and gut tell me that, while I disagree with them, the Bucs are relatively content with their current group of offensive linemen for this coming season. Since 2014 the Buccaneers have used five draft picks on offensive linemen, and of those five, four remain on the roster. I believe that the Bucs want to see what they have in those players before spending even more draft capital on the group.
What say you, Buccaneer fans? Do you see the Buccaneers standing pat with their offensive line, or do you think this is another one of my Vernon Hargreaves draft takes? Sound off in the comments!