11 realistic Buccaneers first round targets, ranked from worst to best

Even picking No. 26 overall, there are so many fantastic options for the Buccaneers to choose from.
Rose Bowl Game - Alabama v Michigan
Rose Bowl Game - Alabama v Michigan / Ryan Kang/GettyImages
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5. Cooper DeJean, CB/Iowa

This one has been all over the place recently, but if Cooper DeJean is on the board when the Bucs go on the clock it's going to be extremely hard to pass on him. Not only is he the best cornerback in the class, but he's a dual threat player who Tampa Bay can use on special teams as a potential game-changing kick returner.

His duality goes beyond that, as he is projected to be an outside corner or safety -- which sounds a lot like what Rondé Barber did patrolling the Bucs secondary all those years.

There isn't much about DeJean's game to dislike, and the Bucs have a pretty good recent history when it comes to landing potential superstar prospects from Iowa.

4. Jared Verse, EDGE/Florida State

If there's one thing Todd Bowles loves, it's guys who are going to pull up their sleeves and put in the work needed to get the job done. That's Jared Verse, a prospect who lacks a bit of physical size but makes up for it with pure grit.

He's arguably the third-best edge rusher in the draft and would be a total steal for the Bucs at No. 26. Los Angeles might sneak in and grab him, and there's a chance the Packers scoop him up a pick ahead of Tampa Bay, but if he's there when the Bucs make their selection it's going to be hard to see it not being Verse.

3. Laiatu Latu, EDGE/UCLA

Jared Verse would be a steal at No. 26 for the Bucs; Laiatu Latu would be a Heat-style bank robbery.

Latu is a Top 10 player in the entire draft class, and the clear cut No. 1 edge rusher. Dallas Turner is shaping up to be the first edge off the board, and Matt Miller has Latu falling all the way to the Bucs at No. 26 for the same reason -- medicals.

A neck injury Latu suffered in 2020 is reportedly starting to scare teams off, which is bad news for them when they have to face him as part of a brooding Buccaneers defensive line. Adding a guy like Latu to a unit that already has Calijah Kancey and Vita Vea feels unfair, but if that's how the board falls then opposing teams will only have themselves to blame for gifting the Bucs such an incredible break.

2. Graham Barton, OL/Duke

A lot has been made about the Bucs potentially zagging again and taking a defensive player at No. 26, but that would mean Jason Licht has been figured out. He did that last year when everyone expected an offensive lineman and he picked an edge rusher, something that could flip around this year.

Barton was a tackle at Duke but he projects to thrive as a center in the NFL, which is exactly what the Bucs need. He graded out at a Top 7 player at his position according to PFF back in 2022, and if that's his floor then Tampa Bay is getting a huge boost at an area of the roster it badly needs to upgrade.

One of criticisms of Rachaad White -- potentially his only one -- was that he was more of a pass-catching threat than a running back. That's a reflection of the interior offensive line being so poor that a talented player like White couldn't even make it work.

Barton could help fix that, and form a nice little duo with Tristan Wirfs upfront.

1. Jackson Powers-Johnson, C/Oregon

If there's one perfect prospect for the Bucs this year, it's Jackson Powers-Johnson.

Since losing Ryan Jensen, there has been a sizable hole at center in terms of both talent and leadership. All indications are that Powers-Johnson brings both of those things and could be exactly who the team needs to carry to torch into the future.

Everything on the offensive line outside of Tristan Wirfs should be up for debate, which means the likelihood Tampa Bay double dips there is high. Taking Powers-Johnson at No. 26 not only give the Bucs a potential franchise center, but it allows them to go for a guy like Mason McCormick or Cooper Beebe later in the draft to further rebuild the line.

It was clear that the offensive line needed to be re-tooled, if not rebuild, and the first big piece next to Wirfs could be Powers-Johnson.

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