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Will Bucs find a protector for Tom Brady in NFL draft?

Offensive tackle might be the Bucs’ biggest need. But if they want an elite one, they might have to trade up.
Louisville offensive lineman Mekhi Becton (73) is the second-ranked offensive tackle in the draft, according to NFL.com.
Louisville offensive lineman Mekhi Becton (73) is the second-ranked offensive tackle in the draft, according to NFL.com. [ TIMOTHY D. EASLEY | AP ]
Published Apr. 20, 2020

Now that they’ve acquired the best quarterback of all time to run their offense, the Bucs need protection for Tom Brady.

Most of the spots along the offensive line are spoken for. But after allowing veteran right tackle Demar Dotson to leave for free agency, the Bucs have one mammoth hole to fill.

Fortunately, there are some elite tackles in this year’s draft. And there have been reports that the Bucs might trade up to ensure they land one of the top four.

Here is a look at how the top 10 tackles in this year’s draft, according to NFL.com, shape up:

Jedrick Wills Jr., Alabama

Alabama's Jedrick Wills Jr.
Alabama's Jedrick Wills Jr. [ VASHA HUNT | AP ]

Height/weight: 6-4, 312

Combine performance

  • Vertical jump: 34.5 inches, second among offensive linemen
  • Broad jump: 113 inches, tied for sixth among offensive linemen
  • 40-yard dash: 5.05 seconds, seventh among offensive linemen
  • 20-yard shuttle: 3.84 seconds, 14th among offensive linemen
Related: Below-average Bucs must build around Tom Brady in NFL draft. Here’s how.

2019 superlatives

  • Second-team Associated Press All-American
  • First-team All-SEC

We say: Wills might be the most polished of the top four tackles, especially when it comes to run blocking — something the Bucs need to ramp up their ground game. He has all the physical tools and would be most able to plug and play right away at right tackle. He’s not likely to still be there at No. 14, though.

Mekhi Becton, Louisville

Louisville's Mekhi Becton
Louisville's Mekhi Becton [ TIMOTHY D. EASLEY | AP ]

Height/weight: 6-7, 364

Combine performance

  • 40-yard dash: 5.10, 13th among offensive linemen
  • Bench press: 23 reps, tied for 25th among offensive linemen
Related: If they want the best of Tom Brady, the Bucs need to trade up in NFL draft

2019 superlatives

  • First-team All-ACC
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We say: Becton has the highest upside of the big four, and his stock rose gradually during the pre-draft process. Physically, he’s huge, which can be an asset but also an issue as NFL teams gauge what his ideal playing weight should be. The Bucs would likely have to trade up to get him, but if he reaches his potential, he could be a huge get. It remains to be seen, however, if recent reports of a flagged drug test at the combine may hurt him. He never failed a drug test at Louisville.

Andrew Thomas, Georgia

Georgia's Andrew Thomas
Georgia's Andrew Thomas [ MARK HUMPHREY | AP ]

Height/weight: 6-5, 315

Combine performance

  • 3-cone drill: 7.58 seconds, fourth among offensive linemen
  • 20-yard shuttle: 4.66 seconds , sixth among offensive linemen
  • Vertical jump: 30.5 inches, 10th among offensive linemen
  • Broad jump: 109 inches, tied for 14th among offensive linemen
  • 40-yard dash: 5.22 seconds, 22nd among offensive linemen
  • Bench press: 21 reps, tied for 31st among offensive linemen
Related: Which offensive tackle would make the Bucs happy? One of these four

2019 superlatives

  • First-team Associated Press All-American
  • First-team All-SEC

We say: Thomas played right tackle earlier in his career but saw action mostly at left tackle in college. Can the Bucs trust that he can make the move back to right tackle after having not played there recently? They have to like the fact that he’s a strong run blocker.

Tristan Wirfs, Iowa

Iowa's Tristan Wirfs
Iowa's Tristan Wirfs [ JUSTIN HAYWORTH | AP ]

Height/weight: 6-5, 320

Combine performance

  • 40-yard dash: 4.85 seconds, first among offensive linemen
  • Vertical jump: 36.5 inches, first among offensive linemen
  • Broad jump: 121 inches, first among offensive linemen
  • 3-cone drill: 7.65 seconds, fifth among offensive linemen
  • 20-yard shuttle: 4.68 seconds, tied for seventh among offensive linemen
  • Bench press: 24 reps, tied for 21st among offensive linemen
Related: Bucs need an offensive lineman. Projecting the position is no exact science.

2019 superlatives

  • Second-team Associated Press All-American
  • Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year

We say: Those who value combine numbers will love Wirfs', because he tested so well across the board. His athleticism alone could make him the first tackle taken, but there’s some question about where he projects to play. Could he end up better suited at guard instead of tackle?

Josh Jones, Houston

Houston's Josh Jones
Houston's Josh Jones [ BUTCH DILL | AP ]

Height/weight: 6-5, 319

Combine performance

  • Broad jump: 109 inches, tied for 14th among offensive linemen
  • Vertical jump: 28.5 inches, 20th among offensive linemen
  • Bench press: 24 reps, tied for 21st among offensive linemen
  • 40-yard dash: 5.27 seconds, 29th among offensive linemen
Related: As Bucs eye a developmental quarterback in NFL draft, one player stands out

2019 superlatives

  • Second-team All-American Athletic Conference

We say: Jones could be a late first-round pick, but he’s likely to slip into Round 2. There’s some questions about whether he has the physicality to perform right away. The Bucs can’t afford to wait for their right tackle of the future, even if they find him available in the second round.

Isaiah Wilson, Georgia

Georgia's Isaiah Wilson
Georgia's Isaiah Wilson [ MICHAEL CONROY | AP ]

Height/weight: 6-6, 350

Combine performance

  • Broad jump: 110 inches, tied for 11th among offensive linemen
  • Bench press: 26 reps, tied for 12th among offensive linemen
  • Vertical jump: 29 inches, 19th among offensive linemen
  • 3-cone drill: 8.26 seconds, 24th among offensive linemen
  • 20-yard shuttle: 5.07 seconds, 24th among offensive linemen
  • 40-yard dash: 5.32 seconds, 33rd among offensive linemen
Related: NFL draft: Eleven speedy receivers the Bucs should consider on Day 2 or 3

2019 superlatives

  • Second-team Associated Press All-American

We say: Wilson could be a second-round steal, because he has tremendous size and strength that made him a impactful run blocker in college. But his play-to-play consistency leads you to believe he might be a year away from making a mark.

Austin Jackson, USC

USC's Austin Jackson
USC's Austin Jackson [ RICK SCUTERI | AP ]

Height/weight: 6-5, 322

Combine performance

  • Broad jump: 115 inches, tied for third among offensive linemen
  • Bench press: 27 reps, tied for eighth among offensive linemen
  • Vertical jump: 31 inches, eighth among offensive linemen
  • 40-yard dash: 5.07 seconds, ninth among offensive linemen
  • 3-cone drill: 7.95 seconds, 14th among offensive linemen

2019 superlatives

  • First-team All-Pac-12

We say: Mock drafts have Jackson all over the place, including the first round. We like him a little later, but he’s a high upside player. He’s only 20 years old and has a lot to learn. But he has the physical makings of a player who could become a presence with a little time and grooming.

Ezra Cleveland, Boise State

Boise State's Ezra Cleveland
Boise State's Ezra Cleveland [ STEVE CONNER | ASSOCIATED PRESS ]

Height/weight: 6-6, 311

Combine performance

  • 3-cone drill: 7.26 seconds, first among offensive linemen
  • 20-yard shuttle: 4.46 seconds, first among offensive linemen
  • 40-yard dash: 4.93 seconds, third among offensive linemen
  • Bench press: 30 reps, fifth among offensive linemen
  • Broad jump: 111 inches, 10th among offensive linemen
  • Vertical jump: 30 inches, 11th among offensive linemen

2019 superlatives

  • First-team All-Mountain West Conference

We say: Cleveland raised his stock at the combine, showing great agility and burst. The question is whether he can utilize that to make up for a lack of strength. If he falls to the fourth round, where the Bucs have two picks, he might be an interesting developmental project for them.

Lucas Niang, TCU

TCU's Lucas Niang
TCU's Lucas Niang [ MICHAEL CONROY | AP ]

Height/weight: 6-6, 315

Combine performance: Did not participate

2019 superlatives

  • A second-team All-Big 12 pick in 2018, Niang’s senior season ended after seven games due to a hip injury.

We say: The hip labrum tear that ended Niang’s senior season is a concern, but a team that takes a shot on him in the middle rounds could get rewarded with an eventual starter. He didn’t allow any sacks during his junior season and is a big-time pass blocker.

Robert Hunt, Louisiana-Lafayette

Louisiana-Lafayette's Robert Hunt
Louisiana-Lafayette's Robert Hunt [ TYLER KAUFMAN | AP ]

Height/weight: 6-5, 323

Combine performance: Hunt started only the first seven games of his senior season due to a groin injury and did not participate in the combine.

2019 superlatives

  • First-team All-Sun Belt Conference

We say: The groin injury that prevented Hunt from testing and participating in all-star games makes his health an unknown. A solid run blocker in a run-heavy offense in college, he has skills. But it’s easy to be unsold on his future as a tackle. He could end up being a guard.