Mel Kiper Jr. hands out his official Buccaneers draft grade

KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 29: A view of the stage during the 2023 NFL Draft at Union Station on April 29, 2023 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 29: A view of the stage during the 2023 NFL Draft at Union Station on April 29, 2023 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images) /

Mel Kiper Jr has officially handed out his Buccaneers Draft grades after Jason Licht and his team put together a sneaky impressive class.

We’re fresh off the NFL Draft concluding on Saturday, and already experts are weighing in on how teams did and what everyone should think about each of the latest classes.

NFL Draft grades are both prominent and weird, as it’s difficult to have an idea of how a prospect will play for a team when he’s barely had time to update his job resume. Still, in the aftermath of the draft guys like ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr are giving fans an early read on how to feel about the guys their team drafted and it seems like he like what the Bucs did.

Coming into the draft the Buccaneers were rumored to be trading up to either draft a quarterback like Will Levis or take a top tackle and avoid striking out on a run at the position. Neither of those things happened, and Tampa Bay ended up with Pittsburgh pass rusher Calijah Kancey at No. 19.

Will Levis was available when the Bucs went on the clock but they opted against taking him. In fact, Tampa Bay avoided taking a quarterback altogether this weekend and instead focused heavily on the defensive side of the ball.

Here’s who the Buccaneers ended up with once all was said and done at the NFL Draft this year:

  • Calijah Kancey, DE/Pittsburgh
  • Cody Mauch, OG/North Dakota State
  • YaYa Diaby, LB/Louisville
  • SirVocea Dennis, LB/Pittsburgh
  • Payne Durham, TE/Purdue
  • Josh Hayes, CB/Kansas State
  • Trey Palmer, WR/Nebraska
  • Jose Ramirez, LB/Eastern Michigan

Five of the team’s eight picks ended up being on the defensive side, with Trey Palmer serving as the only true skill position pick of the weekend. Payne Durham was a Day 3 pick at tight end, coming out of what is being hailed as one of the best tight end classes in years.

The Bucs had opportunities to take guys graded higher than Durham but elected instead to focus on defense. It’s decision-making that seems to tip the team’s hand as to where they want to focus this year after all that was made about the questions at quarterback.

Mel Kiper Jr. hands out Buccaneers draft grades

The latest draft class has barely had any time to settle in yet, but Kiper likes what he sees in Tampa Bay. Kiper gave the Buccaneers a ‘B’ grade, which is puts them in the middle of the pack in terms of how he graded other teams.

For what it’s worth, his lowest grade was a B-, but he had the Bucs graded the same as teams like the Chiefs, Vikings, and Dolphins.

In explaining his grade, Kiper focuses on the Bucs selection of Calijah Kancey with the No. 19 pick, as well as highlighting some of the team’s Day 3 picks as potential sleepers.

Kiper writes:

"This Bucs class isn’t flashy, but it shouldn’t go under the radar. General manager Jason Licht landed three really good players with his top selections. Calijah Kancey (19) is a penetrating defensive tackle with elite first-step quickness who had 7.5 sacks last season. He might have been a top-five pick if he were a couple of inches taller."

He also mentioned Cody Mauch as another excellent selection by the Bucs, and mentioned YaYa Diaby as a potential steal when we look back at this draft class.

It is, of course, a bit strange to slap grades on these players when we haven’t actually seen them in any game action at the next level. This all feels more based on fit and feel, and when looking at it that way it’s hard to not feel great about the Bucs class based on what Kiper thinks.

3 Bucs who are on the roster bubble after NFL Draft. dark. Next