Grading every Buccaneers NFL Draft class under Jason Licht
By Andrew Olson
2020 NFL Draft
Notable Picks: Tristan Wirfs (13), Antoine Winfield (45)
What else can be said about Wirfs and Winfield that hasn’t already? What other praises can be sung for them? Since the moment Jason Licht drafted them in the first and second rounds of the 2020 NFL Draft they have been easily top-5 players at their respective positions. Tristan Wirfs might genuinely be the best LT in the game already, that’s how absurdly dominant he is.
The rest of the 2020 draft is a bit of a letdown after the infusion of talent from 2018-2019 (Ke’Shawn Vaughn is a non-factor, though Tyler Johnson made a couple splash plays) but getting a HOF player in the first and a guy who could also be at that level in the second is a wonderful job by Licht.
2021 NFL Draft
Notable Picks: Joe Tryon-Shoyinka (32), Kyle Trask (64), Robert Hainsey (95)
Finally, the absurd run of phenomenal drafts comes to an end. Though even this class isn’t as bad as many Bucs fans believe. Picking later in the first round is a legitimate obstacle, as player evaluation gets exponentially more difficult, and picking 32nd overall is a tough way to land truly elite players.
That being true, it still can’t be said that Joe Tryon-Shoyinka has lived up to expectations. As expected, he has flashed athleticism and talent, but hasn’t been able to turn that into consistent production for the Buccaneers. Granted, he’s only had one year as a starter, and that marred by the injury to fellow edge rusher Shaq Barrett, but there hasn’t been enough signs of improvement yet for the Buccaneers to see him as a long-term starter. This is proven true by Licht’s decision to pull the trigger on yet another pass rusher the next draft.
Fellow draftmates with JTS include Kyle Trask, who has looked terrible in very few opportunities, and Robert Hainsey, who has looked surprisingly solid in an unexpectedly large number of snaps. Not Licht’s best, but a few low-level starting talents isn’t catastrophic by any means.
2022 NFL Draft
Notable Picks: Logan Hall (33), Rachaad White (91), Cade Otton (106)
Logan Hall is the pick that makes the previous JTS pick somewhat galling. Double-dipping at a position of need and having neither player become particularly impactful seems like bad process. Now, to be fair, neither has gotten much chance to show their skills yet. But the fact that Hall was picked presumably because of the organizations doubt in JTS, and then couldn’t even win the starting job, is worrisome.
Elsewhere, though, Licht keeps on bringing in decent pieces for a roster that suddenly needs depth help. Rachaad White was a solid day 2 pickup, and has earned the right to the starting job in 2023. Cade Otton has flashed potential, sporadic though it is. Honestly, the best player from this draft class might be punter Jake Camarda, who showed off an absolutely booming leg in his first season with the team.
Making no challenge for the top spot are Luke Goedeke, Zyon McCollum, and Ko Kieft – none of whom showed any indication in their rookie seasons of being around for very long.
So, overall, the breakdown shows a bit of a scattered data set. A few incredible drafts, one truly terrible one, and a few of them that were just…alright. Averaging out to about a B- grade. But the good news for Tampa Bay fans is that the clear outlier seems to be the atrocious showing in a weak draft class in 2016.
There have been many more very good drafts from Licht than the single bad one, and removing the outlier bumps his score to around an A-/B+ rating. This feels more in-line with how he’s done as GM, especially in situations like this year where he gets to pick higher than the very end of the first round.
Overall, Jason Licht has put together a strong resume as a team-builder for the Buccaneers and, regardless of personal preference regarding the draft strategy this year, he has earned the benefit of the doubt from Bucs fans when pick #19 comes around in just a few short weeks.