Perfect Picks 2024: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

By Lee Wakefield

With just a handful of our Perfect Picks series remaining, I want to say that I hope you’ve enjoyed reading them all as much as I’ve enjoyed being a part of it!

Today I turn my attention toward the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs are a team that surprised many last year; they have seemingly revived Baker Mayfield’s NFL career, won the NFC South, and won a playoff game. The revival of Mayfield’s career probably catapulted Dave Canales into Head Coach reckoning too and it’s always a strong sign for a team when their coaches are being poached away for promotions elsewhere.

The 2024 version of the Bucs is currently loading and the team added a handful of mid-level and cheap free agents over the past few weeks, leaving the main influx of talent for draft weekend… Let’s see how General Manager Jason Licht could navigate the next stage of their team building.

Round 1 - Chop Robinson, Edge, Penn State

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One free agency loss that the Buccaneers suffered was Shaq Barrett leaving town to take his talents to South Beach and sign with the Dolphins. This leaves Joe Tryon-Shoyinka and Yaya Diaby listed as their starting edge rushers, with not a whole lot of depth behind those two.

Tryon-Shoyinka hasn’t lived up to his first-round draft position this far in his career, but he did post a career-high 5 sacks last year, although I’d argue, that this highlights that point even more for a player taken with the 32nd overall pick. Last year, Diaby was a nice surprise as a third-round pick, with his 7.5 sacks, 12 TFLs, and a forced fumble but this group needs a headline act.

Can Chop Robinson be that guy? Robinson is my fourth-ranked edge defender – Something you’ll be able to read in The Touchdown Draft Guide which will be available from Easter Monday.

Robinson is an ultra-athletic edge defender who possesses a lightning-quick first step, elite bend, and lateral quickness to die for, he will cause less athletic tackles issues immediately and if he improves his hands and pass-rushing technique, he could become a huge contributor for any team that drafts him.

Robinson lacks college production and is a shaky run defender – Traits that when mixed with his unbelievable athletic abilities, absolutely scream “Penn State edge rusher” to me. However, even with those warts the ceiling is undeniable and in the later stages of the first round, taking traits and ceiling is a worthy investment.

Round 2 - Max Melton, Cornerback, Rutgers

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The draft isn’t always about replacing who you lost in free agency, sometimes you can continue to build on positions that were strengthened throughout March.

The Buccaneers added Bryce Hall and Tavierre Thomas in recent weeks, but neither are going to be stars of the show in the secondary.

Jamel Dean has stuck around since being drafted with Sean Murphy-Bunting. This was the year after the Bucs used a second-rounder on Carlton Davis and in those two years, Tampa reshaped their cornerback room for the medium term.

Murphy-Bunting left before the 2023 season and Davis was recently traded to the Lions, so a similar remodelling needs to take place.

So the pick here is corner, Max Melton of Rutgers. An athletic cover man with inside-out versatility and scheme flexibility. Melton isn’t the tallest corner but he has speed and explosive jumping ability, with a vertical leap of over 40” jumping off the page in particular, which could mitigate for being under six feet tall.

Melton is both experienced – Having appeared in 41 collegiate games – and productive as a corner. He allowed a 57.2% catch rate and accumulated 8 interceptions throughout his time in college, as well as 22 passes defended.

There’s a lot of evidence that Max Melton can play and that the ceiling is plenty high enough that he will turn into a great value pick in the second round. It should keep Zyon McCollum out of the losers’ column next year, too.

Mid-Round Gem - Jermaine Burton, Wide Receiver, Alabama

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Mike Evans signed a 2-year, $41m contract at the beginning of March to quieten down any fears that Bucs fans may have had about seeing their legendary receiver play out his days in anything other than red, pewter, orange, and black.

In 12 months time, Chris Godwin will be a free agent. Tampa Bay has plenty of cap space looking forward to 2025, but Antoine Winfield Jr. and Tristan Wirfs will also need extensions before they’re due to hit the market. Will it be prudent to extend Godwin going into his age 29 season?

Let’s say the Buccaneers hedge their bets this offseason by drafting Jermaine Burton of Alabama. Burton is a receiver of similar dimensions to Godwin, he’s got speed and good hands.

Burton could improve as a route runner and in his route diversity but he is an explosive play waiting to happen and a “big player player”, per former-Alabama Head Coach, Nick Saban.

Liam Coen will look to carry on the work of former OC, Dave Canales, and since they are both Sean McVay disciples, they’ll run a similar scheme, but with Baker Mayfield they will looking up improve on the meagre 20.5 points per game (20th in the NFL), and the best way of doing so is going big play hunting. Something Burton should help with, because we know Baker Mayfield doesn’t mind sliging the pigskin.

Late Round Sleeper - John Rhys Plumlee, Quarterback, UCF

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Baker Mayfield bet on himself, he had a great season in 2023 and was duly rewarded to the tune of $115m a few weeks ago.

I want to make it very clear that this pick isn’t in any way to replace Mayfield, at any stage of his career. Expecting any seventh-round pick to do so would be ludicrous!

However, as Kyle Trask and John Wolford are both free agents after the 2024 season and, whilst neither will cost much money to re-sign. Having a back up QB on a seventh round rookie contact is cheaper.

Regardless of the few million dollars that this would save and positive that is the re-starting of the timeline of cost-controlled a back up, there is another value elsewhere in this draft pick. John Rhys Plumlee is an athlete!

Plumlee played both football and baseball at Ole Miss, and UCF throughout his college career. Sometimes on the same day!

Plumlee put on a show in Dallas at the Big XII pro day on March 28th; with jumps of 36.5” in the vertical and 10’4 broad (both would have been the best marks for a QB at the Scouting Combine), running a 4.49 40-yard dash and a 4.27 3-cone (which was the second best time at the event in Dallas).

Could Plumlee be a Taysom Hill style offensive weapon and special teams ace for the Bucs?

Maybe. Maybe not. Is it worth the 246th pick of the draft for a chance to find out?


Draft In Full:

Round 1 – Chop Robinson, Edge, Penn State

Round 2 – Max Melton, CB, Rutgers

Round 3 – Tanor Bortolini, IOL, Wisconsin

Round 3 – Jermaine Burton, WR, Alabama

Round 4 – Isaiah Davis, RB, South Dakota State

Round 6 – Clark Barrington, IOL, BYU

Round 7 – John Rhys Plumlee, QB, UCF

Feature Image Credit: Pewter Report

Lee Wakefield

NFL Draft Contributor

Lee Wakefield has covered the NFL and College Football for a number of publications, including Full 10 Yards & First And 10. Chargers Sufferer and defensive line enthusiast. @Wakefield90 on twitter.