The 2021 NFL Draft class for the Buccaneers didn’t feel great in the moment, and it feels even worse now with the benefit of hindsight.
The Buccaneers didn’t have pressing needs going in to the 2021 Draft. We know it. We’ve heard it over and over again. But that still doesn’t justify a class of special teamers for a team that just won the Super Bowl.
Tampa was terrible on special teams leading up to this class and they didn’t get any better afterwards. While there is still time for some of these forward-thinking picks to pan out, that class did show that Jason Licht and company aren’t infallible on the draft front.
Licht is one of the best in the business at maximizing picks and putting a young core together. The 2020 Super Bowl team has numerous rookies and second-year players in huge roles. However, there are still some clear areas for this front office to get better in their evaluation process.
For starters, the last draft class felt like a team that was content with what it had. The Bucs won the Super Bowl with that roster and brought everyone back. Why make a change?
Well, we saw first hand that perhaps that roster wasn’t the best in the NFL, even if injuries did slow a lot of the production down.
Regardless, drafting special teamers is a massive red flag, and that was essentially all the Bucs came away with from that class. Joe Tryon-Shoyinka looks like a starter in the NFL, but there is a legitimate chance that none of the other players from that group ever become consistent starters in the NFL.
Teams should always anticipate injuries, and drafting without that in mind did have an impact on Tampa’s abilities to compete in the short term.
The other failure of this front office in the draft is a bit more egregious. This front office is incapable of drafting quality running backs. Or, they are unable to cultivate talent in the backs they draft. Which is worse?
Looking in free agency never hurts for a position that cycles out more than any other in the league, but the list of misses at the position is rising at a concerning pace. Either the Bucs need too change how they look at running backs in the draft, or they need to figure out how to maximize the talent of their young backs.
One way or another, the Bucs are still one of the best teams in the league in the draft, we just need to see a bit more of the magic this season to get back on track after a disappointing class and some head-scratching misses over the past few years.
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