Buccaneers select Graham Barton with No. 26: Instant grade and analysis

Nov 11, 2023; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA; Duke Blue Devils offensive lineman Graham Barton
Nov 11, 2023; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA; Duke Blue Devils offensive lineman Graham Barton / Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

At one point it was looking like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers might have to trade up to get the player they wanted, but NFL Draft chaos brilliantly prevailed.

It took until the No. 15 overall pick for a defensive player to get picked, with six quarterbacks going off the board before that. Perhaps no pick helped the Buccaneers out more than the Atlanta Falcons drafting Michael Penix Jr., despite paying Kirk Cousins $180 million over the next four seasons.

The move is objectively hilarious, but is a total break for the Bucs who were so close to having to deal with someone like Dallas Turner or Byron Murphy II wrecking the offensive line for the next handful of years.

Minnesota traded up for J.J. McCarthy, the Broncos took Bo Nix, and it wasn't until Laiatu Latu went to the Colts that a defensive player came off the board.

All of that lined up in Tampa Bay's favor.

Buccaneers land a top target at No. 26 without needing to trade up

There were two positions the Buccaneers were likely to target with the No. 26 pick, but a run on edge rushers in the middle of the first round sort of tipped the scales.

Offensive line was something that needed to get addressed this offseason in one way or another, and the draft always made the most sense. With Tristan Wirfs still just entering his prime, the Bucs have a chance to build an offensive line of top young talent that can develop together over the next few years.

That's exactly the direction Jason Licht went, taking Duke offensive tackle Graham Barton.

Barton. . 434. . Graham Barton. . 26. player. OT. Graham Barton

Grade: A-

He played tackle at Duke but he projects to be a center in the NFL which is exactly what the Bucs need. Ever since losing Ryan Jensen to knee injuries that eventually ended his career, there's been a sizable hole in the center of the line -- no pun intended.

Now the Bucs have a young successor who can be taken under Wirfs wing and develop into a key piece of the future.

Cornerback was also a position of need for the Buccaneers, even before trading Carlton Davis III to the Detroit Lions this offseason. The secondary both underperformed and was thin last year, and the run on defensive lineman helped a few top targets fall right into Tampa Bay's lap.

Offensive line was the right move at No. 26, as the Bucs can not only double dip there but also still end up with a top cornerback on Day 2 based on how the board shook out.

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