At the NFL draft on Friday night, the Buccaneers were minutes away from choosing their second-round pick, No. 39 overall, when the news broke.
The team with the No. 40 pick, Buffalo, struck a deal with Oakland to jump in front of Tampa Bay. The Bills’ pick: offensive lineman Cody Ford.
There’s a good chance the Bucs, who ultimately took cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting, were in on Ford. That’s certainly what the Bills believed. “Fortunately, we were able to make that move with Oakland because I know he was about to get taken if we didn’t move there,” their general manager Brandon Beane told buffalobills.com.
Beane acted on more than a hunch. Ford was one of at least four offensive linemen — all tackles — that Tampa Bay met with twice in the months before the draft. And then there was this comment by Bucs offensive line coach Joe Gilbert on Thursday:
“There were certain parts of the draft that were going on where we had the opportunity to possibly get a lineman at a certain time, and those guys got picked just prior to us going. … We were just a pick off from maybe getting a guy or two there, and it just didn’t fall the right way.”
Gilbert didn’t name names, but Ford, one of the premier offensive lineman prospects, would have been a logical fit. Tampa Bay could have slid him in at right guard in place of Alex Cappa (zero career starts) or at right tackle in place of Demar Dotson (zero good knees).
Who else might the Bucs have been interested in? Let’s run through some of the possibilities:
• Tytus Howard, tackle, Alabama State: Howard was one of the linemen that the team met with twice, once during the scouting combine and once during a private workout at One Buccaneer Place, but he doesn’t match Gilbert’s description of a player chosen just before it was Tampa Bay’s turn to pick. He came off the board sooner than expected, No. 23 overall to the Texans.
• Dalton Risner, tackle, Kansas State: The Bucs met with Risner at the combine, but when it came time to make a pick at No. 39, they preferred Murphy-Bunting.
• Bobby Evans, tackle, Oklahoma: Bucs offensive line coaches attended his pro-day workout in March. The Rams took him with the No. 97 pick. Two picks later, Tampa Bay took defensive back Mike Edwards.
• Yodny Cajuste, tackle, West Virginia: The Bucs showed interest in Cajuste during the predraft process and had the chance to take him late in the third round, but they chose Edwards instead.
• Oli Udoh, tackle, Elon: Udoh visited with Tampa Bay twice before the draft (combine meeting and private workout), but considering that he fell to the middle of the sixth round, he probably isn’t one of the “it just didn’t fall the right way” guys.
Contact Thomas Bassinger at email@example.com. Follow @tometrics.