For the past few years, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been very successful in picking players in the Draft. Will that success continue in 2021?
In 2019, the Buccaneers picked most of their secondary, along with Ronald Jones. That year, the Bucs kept seven of their eight picks. As hard-pressed as the team was for talent, especially in the backfield, it’s maybe not so surprising that they would have kept that many. Again, it points to the astuteness of the draft team to be able to identify that many players who truly could help the team.
Then, last year, the Buccaneers only kept six of their eight chosen players. Losing one additional draft pick wouldn’t exactly constitute a trend, but it does get one to thinking about how things might pan out for these potential Buccaneers when the team already has a set roster for the ones and likely pretty much all of the backups in pretty good shape. Where does that leave the new guys?
So, this year, against odds like those detailed above, there are not a lot of vacant roster spots. True, if the right player came along to fill a particularly weak spot, or who was an exceptional special teams player that the Bucs wouldn’t sacrifice a “known” good player for someone with maybe a bit less position talent, but a lot more of what it takes for special teams. Yes, that could happen, and probably has happened.
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With this crop of recruits, we can probably expect the Bucs to lose more than the one or two that didn’t make the cut in 2019 and 2020. Still, it’s a sure bet that the Bucs’ draft team has made some key choices. For the record, the Bucs had seven picks: one each in the first five rounds skipped round six and dipped back into the draft for two seventh-round choices. While it’s a sure bet that they are all very happy to have been drafted, it’s just as sure a bet that some of them won’t be on hand when the Dallas Cowboys show up for the season opener.
It may be best to start with those the Buccaneers are almost certainly going to keep: first-round pick Joe Tryon is a shoo-in to make the roster, as is second-rounder Kyle Trask, who is bound to be a Tampa favorite as a reserve quarterback. Robert Hainsey, the third-rounder out of Notre Dame, is already being trained to work at center. Is he going anywhere other than the roster? Nope, not a chance. The same stands for Jaelon Darden, who most of the local writers have already penned in as the next Buccaneers’ return man.
Now is when it starts to get a bit dicey for these draftees. A fifth-round pick is, well, a fifth-round pick, and K.J. Britt has his work cut out for him to make this team as a linebacker. That’s not saying he can’t play, but there are only so many position slots open. From all accounts, he has a good chance to hold on, but who knows and who knows what happens once the pads get put on, and the players have to put on a show against a foreign foe, like the AFC.
But wait there’s more…
The Bucs actually sat out the sixth round this year but made up for it with two selections from round seven. It almost sounds like a dinner selection at a local Chinese restaurant. It’s an even bet that at least one of these players will end up out of the NFL, or be picked up by some other team.
Chris Wilcox is a cornerback trying to latch on in a cornerback room that is already pretty crowded with some talent. Does he have a chance to make the roster? Maybe yes and maybe no. That’s part of the challenge.
Then, we have linebacker Grant Stuard, the very last selection in the 2021 draft. Mr. Irrelevant. Is he irrelevant though? Perhaps he is a sleeper who is just waiting for a chance to show all those NFL coaches what they missed out on by letting him slip to dead last in the selection process.
The thing is, every player on this list was praised by the Bucs and by the local media during the minicamp and OTAs. It’s understandable that people and coaches will want to give them a little rah-rah, even if it’s just for encouragement. In the end, the roster is only so many players. In order for this seven to make the roster, seven others already on the roster will have to find another job. Still, we all know that they are not all going to make it.
So here it is. This season only five of the players will end up on the roster. Others will likely make it to the practice squad, but at least three of them will be looking up when all is said and done and the last coach clever nips the list. Which three is a different question, but the farther you are down on the list the greater the chance you may not make it. Get motivated or get moved out.