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Bucs stay put, draft linebacker Joe Tryon at No. 32

With the last pick of the draft on Day 1, the Super Bowl champs take an opt-out from Washington.
Published Apr. 30
Updated Apr. 30

TAMPA — The clock struck midnight, Joe Tryon had a 22nd birthday, but nothing topped the celebration of becoming the Bucs’ first-round pick early Friday morning.

The Washington edge rusher, who opted out of playing football in 2020 due to COVID-19, was Tampa Bay’s selection at No. 32, the final pick on Day 1 of the NFL draft.

“Hey, it’s really crazy,” Tryon said. “I got my 22nd birthday today and I’m also getting drafted. I’m truly blessed and I can’t wait to get started. Being a Buc, that’s the first step. Becoming a pro. I just will enjoy my time with my family and I can’t wait to get started.”

To be clear, the Bucs are in no hurry to rush the 6-foot-5, 259-pound Tryon, who decided to forgo his redshirt junior season to enter the draft.

General manager Jason Licht said the Bucs have the luxury of bringing Tryon along slowly with Shaquil Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul returning at outside linebacker.

“I think he’s going to be a nice piece to have,” Licht said. “Any player we picked this year, I guess we said is going to be what you could call a luxury. But in his particular case, it’s nice to stockpile edge rushers. We have two pretty good ones there at outside linebacker. We like Anthony (Nelson) and Cam Gill shows a lot of promise, but you can’t have too many of those guys. (Tryon’s) big, he’s athletic. He plays very hard.”

In 2019, Tryon had 41 tackles, 12.5 for loss, and eight sacks for the Huskies. Licht believes had he played last season and matched or exceeded that production, he would have improved his draft stock.

But the Bucs were impressed by his athleticism. He ran a 4.68 40-yard dash, had a 35-inch vertical jump and bench pressed 225 pounds 22 times.

“My strengths are getting after the quarterback,” Tryon said. “I can play the run on first and second down and get after the quarterback on third down. I’m an all-around player.’'

Tryon says his game compares favorably to Cardinals Pro Bowl pass rusher Chandler Jones.

“I enjoy his game,” Tryon said. “Long-levered dude. I got some dudes (in Tampa) I can learn from. Jason Pierre-Paul is a long dude, an athletic dude. I can’t wait to get started.”

Tryon is the eighth Washington player drafted by the Bucs and the second under Licht, joining defensive tackle Vita Vea, who was 12th overall in 2018. Vea and defensive tackle Benning Potoa’e were teammates of Tryon in his early days with the Huskies.

The Bucs had to wait until after midnight to make their selection. “I wouldn’t say it was difficult,” Licht said. “We knew it was going to happen. (Tryon) was the top guy we had when we picked. He was over guys that had been picked. He was going to be a situation where if we walked away and we got Joe Tryon, we were going to be elated, so we are.”

Licht had said he believed this draft was stacked with mostly offensive players and that proved to be correct.

A record seven straight offensive players were selected to start, including three consecutive quarterbacks at Nos. 1-3. Jacksonville took Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence No. 1 overall, followed by the Jets choosing BYU’s Zach Wilson second and the 49ers going with North Dakota State’s Trey Lance.

Two other quarterbacks went in the first round. The Bears traded up to No. 11 to take Ohio State’s Justin Fields and Alabama’s Mac Jones fell to the Patriots at No. 15.

It’s possible the Bucs may face three of the five quarterbacks drafted this season. The Jets, Bears and Patriots are on the Bucs’ schedule.

It wasn’t until the Panthers selected South Carolina cornerback Jaycee Horn at No. 8 that a defensive player came off the board. Alabama defensive back Patrick Surtain II went next to the Broncos and Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons was selected 12th overall by the Cowboys, who traded down a couple spots with the Eagles.

It was inevitable that some good players would get pushed to the end of the first round.

With 22 starters returning from their Super Bowl 55 team, the Bucs said they had wants — not needs — when the draft began.

Those wants included help at the interior defensive line and at outside linebacker. Miami’s Jaelan Phillips stayed at home with the Dolphins at No. 18 to become the first edge rusher chosen. He was followed by Michigan’s Kwity Paye three picks later to the Colts. The Saints took Houston defensive end Payton Turner at No. 28.

Miami’s Gregory Rousseau, whose mom was a nurse caring for COVID-19 patients which prompted him to opt out for 2020, went to the Bills at No. 30. Penn State’s Jayson Oweh, an edge rusher who did not have a sack last season, was selected by the Ravens at No. 31.

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