3 Buccaneers players who can't afford to take a step back in 2024

These three players may be nearing the end of the road in Tampa Bay if they have a disappointing 2024 season.
NFC Wild Card Playoffs - Philadelphia Eagles v Tampa Bay Buccaneers
NFC Wild Card Playoffs - Philadelphia Eagles v Tampa Bay Buccaneers / Perry Knotts/GettyImages
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Cody Mauch, OG

Over the past five years, general manager Jason Licht has had a knack for drafting offensive linemen with one of their top picks in the draft. Dating back to the 2020 draft, Licht and the front office have selected an offensive lineman with one of their top three picks in the last five drafts.

Overall, Licht has had pretty notable success in doing so, landing three-time Pro Bowl left tackle Tristan Wirfs in 2020 and promising left guard Luke Goedeke in 2022. That said, Licht has had his fair share of questionable picks at the position, with none bigger than Cody Mauch.

Mauch, the No. 48 pick in 2023 from North Dakota State, was the eighth offensive lineman taken in the draft. Starting in 2019, Mauch emerged as an integral piece to the Bisons' offensive line, starting in 39 consecutive games at left tackle over three years. During his time at North Dakota State, Mauch was a two-time All-American and a three-time All-Mountain West conference selection, including first team in 2021 and 2022.

That said, Mauch struggled mightily in his first season as a Buccaneer in the NFL. Taking 1102 snaps in 17 starts, Mauch allowed five penalties and seven sacks for a poor 44.7 PFF grade. Of all active offensive linemen with 100+ snaps, Mauch's seven sacks were the third-most in the NFL.

Of course, thrusting a rookie like Mauch into a starting role on a poor offensive line isn't a recipe for success. Unlike Wirfs and Goedeke, however, there wasn't any notable performance or excitement to note from Mauch's rookie season. Mauch is a multi-year project, but he needs to show real progress this season to avoid being replaced next offseason, especially with the additions of first-round pick Graham Barton and sixth-round pick Elijah Klein in the draft.