Buccaneers: Kenneth Gainwell is the missing piece on offense
By Rob Leeds
The Buccaneers need to add Kenneth Gainwell in the draft.
Tom Brady and the Buccaneers aren’t done yet. Another Super Bowl is great and has changed the modern era of the franchise for the foreseeable future, but the team is focused on repeating.
The first step on this journey towards history is retaining all of the big-name free agents, which isn’t entirely out of the question. The Bucs do have the cap space and willing players, so almost all of the familiar faces will be back next year.
Even if the Buccaneers can keep every free agent, though, there will still be one glaring hole on the offense. The Bucs never found a consistent third-down back during the season, and while they won a Super Bowl without one, addressing the position before next season is vital.
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Given the likelihood that the Bucs keep Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette as the early-down guys, the free-agent options disappear quickly, so the best bet for Tampa Bay is to look towards the draft. Fortunately for Tampa, Kenneth Gainwell is everything they need and more.
Gainwell is just the next in line of the impressive NFL-ready running backs to come from Memphis, and he looks as good on paper as he does in his tape.
Stats don’t tell the whole story, but Gainwell’s are more than impressive. In 2019, his last season playing before he opted out of the 2020 season, Gainwell had 1,459 rushing yards on 231 attempts (6.3 ypc), 610 receiving yards on 51 receptions (12.0 yr), and 16 total touchdowns.
Gainwell was next to unstoppable on the ground and through the air, and a player that had success as a receiver in college has a much easier time with the higher volume in NFL offenses.
Kenneth Gainwell has the traits to be a perfect fit for the Buccaneers
While stats can be deceiving, physical traits are not. Gainwell looks comfortable as a receiver and as a route runner, which is a huge plus for a third-down back in the NFL. The Bucs can get their running back the ball out of the backfield, or he can line up on the outside in an empty set like Alvin Kamara. Gainwell has plenty of experience doing both.
In addition to his prowess as a receiver, Kenneth Gainwell also shows good patience and vision running the ball. Gainwell is smaller than Jones and Fournette, but his ability to wait for holes to open up and then hit them with a burst of speed is exactly what the Buccaneers need in a consistent change of pace option.
The Buccaneers are likely apprehensive about spending another early pick on a running back after taking Ke’Shawn Vaughn last season. Still, Gainwell is going to be like Antonio Gibson in that many teams will wish they have him.
Tampa Bay won’t need Gainwell to shoulder a heavy workload in 2021, but his day-two draft status mixed with his NFL-specific skillset as a running back should make him a no-brainer for the Buccaneers to draft.
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