Buccaneers last 10 first-round draft picks, ranked from best to bust

Jason Licht has a knack for hitting home runs in the NFL Draft, but not every pick has been a hit.

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Less than three weeks ago, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers entered the offseason with 20 pending free agents, including the big three of superstar wide receiver Mike Evans, free safety Antoine Winfield Jr., and quarterback Baker Mayfield, with about $45 million in cap space to use.

Fast-forward to today and the Buccaneers managed to bring back Evans, Winfield Jr., and Mayfield on contract extensions while adding plenty of notable free agents over the past two weeks. With free agency slowing down and officially coming to a close, all 32 teams have shifted their focus to the upcoming 2024 NFL Draft set for April 25-27.

Based on their 9-8 record and advancement to the NFC Divisional round, the Buccaneers are set to hold the No. 26 pick in the first round in next month's draft with a chance to add a game-changing player to their roster.

While some former first-round picks have panned out and have single-handily changed the trajectory of some team's future, most first-round picks sputter early in their careers and don't live up to the hype. With that said, Tampa Bay has had its fair share of hits and misses in the first round of NFL drafts, as shown below with a ranking of their last ten first-round picks in NFL drafts, dating back to 2014.

10. TE OJ Howard (2017)

Following a solid four-year career at Alabama with 114 catches for 1,726 receiving yards and seven touchdowns in 46 games, Howard entered the 2017 draft as a physically dominating receiver at 6'6, 251 pounds. With the No. 19 pick, the Buccaneers added Howard to a stout receiver room, joining Evans, speedster DeSean Jackson, and incumbent tight end Cameron Brate.

In the following 2017 season, Howard had a good rookie season, catching 26 passes for 432 receving yards and six touchdowns in 14 starts. Howard would follow that up with a decent sophomore season of 34 catches, 565 receiving yards, and five touchdowns in just ten games (eight starts.

Since then, Howard was simply a non-factor in the Buccaneers' offense, failing to eclipse 460 yards or two touchdowns in his final three seasons in Tampa. Howard was subsequently released in the 2021 offseason, and later signed with Houston for the 2022 season.

In his lone season as a Texan, Howard totaled just ten catches, 145 yards, and two touchdowns in 13 games (ten starts). To put it simply, Howard was one of the Buccaneers' biggest draft-day whiffs in the first round, especially considering Tampa Bay managed to add star wide receiver Chris Godwin with their third-round pick later in the draft.