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NFC South 2020 draft recap: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

We take a look at the draft of one of the Saints’ NFC South rivals.

New Orleans Saints v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers finished in third place in the NFC South in 2019 with a 7-9 record. Tampa took their disappointing season, finishing once again below the New Orleans Saints, and used it as an opportunity to make some of the most talked about moves in the offseason, turning the middling Bucs into a Super Bowl favorite on paper. Their biggest move, of course, was moving on from last season’s league leader in passing yards and touchdowns (and yes, interceptions) in Jameis Winston, and replacing him for a quarterback who threw for 1,052 less yards and 9 fewer touchdowns and is 17 years older, in Tom Brady. That, we’re being told is an “upgrade”. It will be interesting to see how Brady fares without Bill Belichick coaching him for the first time in his professional career. Now Tampa boasts a QB who threw a back-breaking, tenure-ending pick-six in his final pass for his only team. Well, that being said, he should fit right in with Tampa’s QB culture.

Not to be outdone, Tampa traded for a retired tight end turned WrestleMania host and current WWE 24/7 Champion, as well Tide Pods enthusiast, in Rob Gronkowski. Despite already being well above average at TE, Tampa clearly felt compelled to bring “Gronk” out of the ring and back to the field in order to get Brady one of “his guys” to feel comfortable in his new, unfamiliar setting. Tampa has weapons, no doubt, but needed to look to the draft to protect the ones they invested in and fortify the rest.

Let’s take a glimpse at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 2020 draft class:

Tristan Wirfs - Offensive Tackle - Iowa

Round 1 - Pick 13

Iowa v Penn State Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Wirfs entered the draft as a top-four offensive tackle prospect and that was exactly where he landed, as the fourth OT taken off the board in the top half of the first round. Wirfs is certainly a dense, corn-fed lineman at 6’5”, 320 lbs and steps into an obvious position of need. Tampa has been above average at the interior line, but the edges have left much to be desired. Bringing in an end of his career Brady just to watch him get obliterated by the likes of Cam Jordan and Marcus Davenport would be dangerously foolish. Enter Wirfs to try to stem the barrage. Although he is talented and raw, some scouts had graded Wirfs out as better suited for guard.

Here’s how CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco graded the pick:

Grade: B. I think it’s a solid pick. I don’t think there’s much difference between the top four tackles. I had Thomas as my top tackle, but not by much.

Antoine Winfield Jr. - Safety - Minnesota

Round 2 - Pick 45

NCAA Football: Rutgers at Minnesota Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Winfield was the fourth safety taken in this draft featuring an astonishingly poor draft class at the position. In fact, not a single safety was taken in the first round of this draft. A top-five safety prospect coming into the draft, Winfield landed right where he was expected. Tampa has been looking for a ballhawk on the back end and Winfield looks to fit the bill. Of course, it’s easier to look like a ballhawk against Big Ten offenses than it is against a Sean Payton-coached offense.

Here’s how CBS Sports’ Chris Trapasso graded the pick:

Grade: A-. Range for days from center field. Crazy route-recognition skills. Flies downhill in run support. Reliable tackler. Just one year of elite production. Buccaneers really needed difference-maker on back end.

Ke’Shawn Vaughn - Running Back - Vanderbilt

Round 3 - Pick 76

Tennessee v Vanderbilt Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Vaughn is the first of two running backs taken by the Bucs in this draft. He was a top-ten RB prospect in this draft and was the eighth RB taken off the board. Vaughn looks to fill the short-yardage power back role for the Bucs following the departure of Peyton Barber. He is a strong back at the point of contact, and the sound that is made when Alex Anzalone stuffs him in the backfield should be tremendous.

Here’s how CBS Sports’ Chris Trapasso graded the pick:

Grade: D+. Vaughn’s 2018 film is much better than 2019. Compact, power-based back with stellar contact balance. Inconsistent elusiveness. Long speed is good, not great. Better RBs were on the board.

Tyler Johnson - Wide Receiver - Minnesota

Round 5 - Pick 161

NCAA Football: Minnesota at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Like it or not, Tampa stands with New Orleans and Atlanta as having great receiving corps. Even eliminating Carolina’s group, the NFC South arguably fields the best receivers in the NFL. Johnson looks to keep Tampa’s group among the league’s most difficult to contain, through depth. Johnson was considered a top-20 receiver prospect in this draft and he landed exactly there as the 20th receiver selected. Johnson will look to compete for the third receiver hole left by the departure of Breshad Perriman. With luck, he will avoid having his soul reaped from his body by Malcolm Jenkins.

Here’s how CBS Sports’ Chris Trapasso graded the pick:

Grade: A-. Embarrassment of riches at offensive skill positions for Tampa. Unreal value with Johnson. Good-sized slot extraordinaire. Wiggle to beat press. A running back after the catch. Great ball skills in contested-catch situations. Easy drops are an issue.

Khalil Davis - Defensive Tackle - Nebraska

Round 6 - Pick 194

NCAA Football: Nebraska at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Davis is another dense, corn-fed lineman at 6’2”, 315 lbs, this time along the defensive line for the Bucs. Davis has been drafted to replace Beau Allen, who left via free agency. Tampa is desperate to generate a pass rush up the middle as they fielded a defense that surrendered the third most passing yards-per-game in the NFL last season (270.1). He will likely fill the role of being moved around like a chess piece by Erik McCoy and fellow rookie Cesar Ruiz.

Here’s how CBS Sports’ Chris Trapasso graded the pick:

Grade: C. High-end explosiveness for the DT spot but played out of position at Nebraska. Inside, he’ll threaten as a penetrator. Gets washed out against the run and has no pass-rushing moves to lean on. Purely developmental, athletic defensive tackle.

Chapelle Russell - Linebacker - Temple

Round 7 - Pick 241

NCAA Football: Cincinnati at Temple Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Russell is unlikely to see much action in this crowded linebacker room, which may be for the best, he’ll avoid having to cover the Saints tight ends. Even more significant, he can avoid the sheer embarrassment of being made to look like he’s defying the laws of physics after attempting to stop Alvin Kamara in the open field. All for the best for this young man.

Here’s how CBS Sports’ Chris Trapasso graded the pick:

Grade: C-. Sleek LB with some range but has problems sifting through the trash, but is a fluid athlete and can run with tight ends on occasion.

Raymond Calais - Running Back - Louisiana-Lafayette

Round 7 - Pick 245

Louisiana Lafayette v Tulane Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Calais is the second running back taken by the Bucs in this draft. The 5’8”, 188 lb Breaux Bridge native looks to fill that shifty, scat back role for Tampa and may also be a special teams contributor. Nothing personal against the Louisiana-born back, but expect no mercy from your hometown team, in fact, maybe don't invite the family to the Superdome for the next game in New Orleans, just in case.

Here’s how CBS Sports’ Chris Trapasso graded the pick:

Grade: B+. Small, squatty burner with raw RB qualities but speed to burn defenders down the field. Can be a niche big-play specialist or even a returner in Tampa.

Tampa was pretty balanced in offensive and defensive picks in this draft, realizing despite all the acclaim for their aging signees, they will need a lot more to compete at the top of the NFC South. The Bucs clearly acknowledged that they cannot afford to get their $50 million dollar quarterback smashed to pieces because their offensive tackles are a liability, so it’s easy to see why they addressed that spot first. Their first two picks are clearly their best, but the rest is a mixed bag. We’ll see how this all comes together for Tampa, as on paper and in prognosticators’ minds, Tampa is a favorite in the division, but paper and prognosticators don't win division titles; in the NFC South, for the last three consecutive years, the New Orleans Saints do.

Here’s how SB Nation graded the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 2020 draft class:

The Buccaneers are in win-now mode after bringing in quarterback Tom Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski this offseason. They further proved as much by moving up one pick in the first round ... Tampa aced the second round too... Grade: A

This could easily be one of the most interesting seasons in NFC South history! Who Dat!