The 2021 NFL Draft starts on Thursday, April 29. As a lead-up to the draft, we’ll be giving a team-by-team breakdown for positional needs. For each team, we’ll give an overview of the current depth chart and how big of a need each position in the upcoming draft. You can find the rest of the team needs (as they’re updated) and the rest of our draft content in the 2021 NFL Draft hub.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2021 DRAFT PICKS OVERVIEW
Round 1 (32)
Round 2 (64)
Round 3 (95)
Round 4 (137)
Round 5 (176)
Round 6 (217)
Round 7 (251)
Round 7 (259)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Offense
By Rich Hribar
In his first season with Tampa Bay, Tom Brady’s 40 passing touchdowns were tied for second in the league as his 6.6% touchdown rate was his highest in a season since 2011. Brady got better as the season wore on, throwing multiple touchdown passes in each of his final 11 games of the season. Father Time remains undefeated, but still has not claimed Brady, who is under contract through the 2022 season should he desire to keep playing.
2020 backup Blaine Gabbert is still a free agent and could be brought back after the draft. Current depth chart QB2 Ryan Griffin in on the final year of his existing contract. We could see Tampa Bay take a young quarterback on a rookie contract, but with it unlikely that player has future starting quality, they should just bring Gabbert back.
The Tampa Bay backfield ranked 15th in the league in yards from scrimmage per game (126.1 yards) and 18th in yards per touch (4.9 yards) as a collective group in 2020 while ranking 23rd in the league in expected points added via their rushing game (-11.9 points).
Every player that touched the ball out this backfield in 2020 has returned with the exception of LeSean McCoy, who touched the ball just 25 times. The team retained Lombardi Lenny on a one-year contract while adding veteran Giovani Bernard on another one-year contract.
While Tampa Bay has more than enough here for 2020, the only player currently under contract beyond this season is 2020 third-round pick Ke’Shawn Vaughn.
Tampa Bay targeted their wideouts just 57% of the time in 2020 (22nd in the league) but their strong wide receiving corps ranked 10th in the league in receptions (14.9) and sixth in yardage per game (196.9 yards) while collectively scoring 29 touchdowns, which was tied for second in the league. The Bucs averaged 8.9 yards per attempt targeting wideouts, which was ninth in the league.
The team used the franchise tag on Chris Godwin this offseason. The 24-year-old averaged 5.4 receptions (WR22) and 70.0 yards per game (WR17) to go along with seven touchdowns despite missing four games.
Mike Evans is still under contract through the 2023 season. Evans turned in his seventh-straight 1,000-yard season in 2020, catching 70 passes for 1,0006 yards. Evans had a career-high 13 touchdown receptions, but also set career-lows in targets (6.8), receptions (4.4), and yardage (62.9) per game.
It remains to be seen if Tampa Bay also brings back Antonio Brown, but if not, the team received contributions from both Scotty Miller and Tyler Johnson a year ago, who each remain on rookie contracts with multiple seasons left over.
After a modest 13-200-1 line as a sixth-round rookie in 2019, Miller took a step forward in year two, catching 33-of-53 targets for 501 yards and three touchdowns. Prior to Brown joining the team, Miller had run a pass route on 68.5% of the team drop backs and then just 26.5% afterward. Miller has averaged over 15.0 yards per catch in each of his first two seasons in the NFL.
After joining the Bucs for Week 9-17. Brown ranked 25th in targets (62), 18th in receptions (45), and 27th in yardage (483) to go along with four touchdowns.
Given Godwin’s contract status still open for the future, wide receiving depth is still in play here, but not a need with premium capital.
The Bucs were 12th in the league in the rate of targeting their tight ends (23%) while ranking eighth in yards per target (8.0 yards) on those passes to the position.
Returning to the NFL to play with Brady, Rob Gronkowski caught 45-of-77 targets for 623 yards and seven touchdowns. His 2.8 receptions per game were his fewest in a season since he was a rookie in 2010, catching three or fewer passes in 11 games. But Gronk led all tight ends with 14 end zone targets. Gronk is only signed for 2021.
2017 first-round draft pick O.J. Howard is playing 2021 under his fifth-year option. Howard is coming off an Achilles injury that limited him to just four games last season, catching 11-of-19 targets for 146 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but his 2.8 receptions per game were a tick above his 2019 output (2.4 per game).
Veteran and reliable option Cameron Brate is still signed through 2023. Despite both Gronk and Howard potentially being gone next offseason, it is hard to see the Bucs going after a tight end given that player would have no path to immediate playing time.
LT: Donovan Smith/Josh Wells/Brad Seaton
LG: Ali Marpet/John Molchon
C: Ryan Jensen/Donnell Stanley
RG: Alex Cappa/Aaron Stinnie/Nick Leverett
RT: Tristan Wirfs
The Tampa Bay offensive line closed 2020 ranking 17th in both ESPN’s Pass Block Win Rate (57%) and Run Block Win Rate (70%) while checking out 14th and 11th in Pro Football Focus’s collective team pass blocking and run blocking grades.
The Bucs have two stars in Ali Marpet and Tristan Wirfs locked up through 2023. Marpet allowed a pressure on just 1.8% of his pass blocking snaps in 2020, which was second in the league. Tampa used their first round pick on Wirfs last offseason, who took every single offensive snap and allowed just one sack.
Starting left tackle Donovan Smith is also signed through the 2023 season, leaving the Buccaneers with two starting offensive lineman in Ryan Jensen and Alex Cappa playing 2021 on the final season of their current contracts. The only depth signed beyond 2021 is Brad Seaton and Nick Leverett, who are each signed through 2022, but have not played an NFL snap to this point of their careers. Interior depth at center and right guard should be focal points for additions to this offensive line.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense
By Dan Pizzuta
Interior Defensive Line
Vita Vea turned into one of the most dominant interior defenders during the 2020 season while he was on the field. Vea was fifth in pressure rate among defensive tackles, per Sports Info Solutions. A broken ankle kept Vea off the field for most of the season, but he returned for the NFC Championship Game and Super Bowl. Vea just had his fifth-year option picked up for 2022.
Ndamukong Suh returned on a one-year deal for his age-34 season. Suh has started 16 games every year of his career except for 2011 when he started 14. Suh was 14th in pressure rate among defensive tackles last season with 19 quarterback hits, which ranked tied for 19th among defenders in 2020.
With Vea out for most of the regular season. William Gholston stepped in the most for 57% of the defensive snaps played. Gholston was one of three interior defenders, along with Quinnen Williams and Grady Jarrett, to rank in the top-10 in both ESPN’s Pass Rush Win Rate and Run Stop Win Rate.
There’s even more depth here with the likes of Rakeem Nunez-Roches and Steve McLendon.
Shaq Barrett played 77% of the defensive snaps and Jason Pierre-Paul played 88% during the regular season for the Bucs last year. Barrett ranked 12th among edge rushers in pressure rate and remained a top pass rushing threat, even though his sack total dropped from 19.5 to 8.0. Barrett signed a massive four-year deal to stay in Tampa Bay this offseason.
Pierre-Paul was only 102nd in pressure rate but still managed 9.5 sacks. Pierre-Paul was still an impact player and his big plays were worth it, even if the down-to-down consistently was not up to his previous years’ work. He will turn 32 years old this season and 2021 is the final year of his contract. The Buccaneers could add a pass rusher early in the draft to both spell Pierre-Paul so he doesn’t have to play as many snaps, which could help improve his pressure rate, as well as be his eventual replacement.
Lavonte David was another surprise re-signing for this defense. David remains one of the league’s best all-around linebackers and his two-year deal will keep him through his age-32 season. David played 99.3% of the team’s defensive snaps in 2020.
Devin White emerged as a postseason force but he is still developing in his game. White ranked 43rd in yards per target among 59 linebackers with at least 20 targets charted in their coverage, per SIS. He was 50th among that group in yards allowed per coverage snap. If White can handle some of those coverage issues, he could develop into a top-tier linebacker to add to his ability to blitz and play downhill. White played 93.2% of the defensive snaps last season.
The Buccaneers had at least two linebackers on the field for 99% of their defensive snaps last season. This could be an area where they add depth and potentially prepare for David’s replacement.
Tampa Bay has consistently thrown darts at cornerback in the draft and the volume play worked out with a number of developed prospects. Carlton Davis finished 78th among 148 cornerbacks in adjusted yards allowed per coverage snap, though one bad half against Tyreek Hill in the regular season did damage on those numbers. Jamel Dean was 52nd in that group. Dean’s high-end play flashed the potential to be a top corner in the league.
The weak link in the secondary was slot corner Sean Murphy-Bunting. He ranked 93rd in adjusted yards allowed per coverage snap despite not being a highly targeted corner. The former second-round pick in 2019 will enter Year 3 of his four-year rookie deal.
Ross Cockrell played in 12 regular season games for the Buccaneers and ranked 10th in adjusted yards allowed per coverage snap. Cockrell, who will turn 30 years old in August, has been one of the league’s most underrated cornerbacks. He’s played plus coverage over the past few seasons but continually has to sign one-year deals. He did just that to stay in Tampa Bay this offseason.
Antoine Winfield Jr.
Antoine Winfield Jr. stepped in and immediately became an impact safety as a rookie. He played 97.3% of the defensive snaps. Winfield played most of his snaps as a deep safety but was able to move around with snaps in the box and the slot.
Jordan Whitehead played 86.7% of the defensive snaps and nearly split them evenly between playing deep and in the box. His play in the box really took off with nine tackles for loss after eight combined in his first two seasons to go along with his first two career sacks. Whitehead is another player in the final year of his rookie deal.
After starting seven games as a rookie, 2019 third-round pick Mike Edwards only played 17% of the defensive snaps in 2020 but he still flashed the ability to play on the ball with five passes defensed (he had six in 2019) with two interceptions.