TAMPA — The Bucs entered the NFL draft weekend heavily favored to repeat as NFC South champs, and exited it the same way.
No pick — or collection of choices — during the three-day proceedings poses an immediate threat to Tampa Bay’s position as the divisional front-runner. But down the road’s a different matter.
While the Bucs waited until Day 2 to make a selection, the Falcons, Panthers and Saints combined for four of the first 19 overall picks. Time will determine if any of those first-day dudes evolve into generational talents, but they went off the board early for a reason.
The Bucs’ class, meantime, seems more solid than spectacular on its surface. So while we wait until 2024 or 2025 to see this class’ impact on the division, we offer our knee-jerk assessment, team by team.
(Round, player, overall pick)
2: DE Logan Hall, Houston (33)
2: G Luke Goedeke, Central Michigan (57)
3: RB Rachaad White, Arizona State (91)
4: TE Cade Otton, Washington (106)
4: P Jake Camarda, Georgia (133)
5: CB Zyon McCollum, Sam Houston State (157)
6: TE Ko Kieft, Minnesota (218)
7: DE Andre Anthony, LSU (248)
Though devoid of a first-round pick, posterity might recall this draft as a sneaky-good harvest for Jason Licht and Co. If we’re to believe Hall was the top guy on the Bucs’ board, they came off as shrewd by trading their first-round pick (27th overall) and still snagging Hall at No. 33 while acquiring more draft capital. Goedeke and White can provide depth at two positions in need of it, and Otton — who might have been a Day 2 pick if not for November ankle surgery — helps replenish a tight end room still waiting for Rob Gronkowski to crash it.
Best pick: McCollum. One of the fastest guys at the combine, McCollum could play multiple special-teams roles while providing insurance in the event of another run on cornerback injuries.
Baffling pick: Camarda. The franchise that drafted two kickers (and shanked badly on both) in a four-year span set itself up for more potential ridicule by using a fourth-round pick on a punter. If nothing else, Camarda’s right leg comes equipped with a jet; he ran the 40 in 4.56 seconds.
1: WR Drake London, USC (8)
2: EDGE Arnold Ebiketie, Penn State (38)
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2: LB Troy Andersen, Montana State (58)
3: QB Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati (74)
3: EDGE DeAngelo Malone, Western Kentucky (82)
5: RB Tyler Allgeier, BYU (151)
6: G Justin Shaffer, Georgia (190)
6: TE John FitzPatrick, Georgia (213)
History may look at Ridder as one of Atlanta’s best value picks ever. He started 49 games at Cincinnati, led the Bearcats to the College Football Playoff, and has a chance to evolve into a Pro Bowler. His targets now include London, who should complement tight end Kyle Pitts beautifully. Ebiketie fortifies a pass rush that recorded the NFL’s fewest sacks (18) in 2021.
Best pick: Ridder. Though not a sure thing, Ridder has the talent and moxie to be remembered as the steal of the 2022 draft.
Baffling pick: FitzPatrick. This Atlanta native totaled 17 catches in four college seasons, but projects as a blocking specialist.
1: OT Ickey Ekwonu, North Carolina State (6)
3: QB Matt Corral, Ole Miss (94)
4: LB Brandon Smith, Penn State (120)
6: EDGE Amare’ Barno, Virginia Tech (189)
6: G Cade Mays, Tennessee (199)
7: CB Kalon Barnes, Baylor (242)
Because of two prior trades (including the one for Sam Darnold), Carolina entered this draft with no Day 2 picks. It acquitted itself nicely, however, using the sixth overall selection to land a possible generational talent (Ekwonu) who’s a local guy to boot. The Panthers then dealt a 2023 third-rounder to move up to select Corral, who offers the fan base hope beyond Darnold. This projects as a class of quality if not quantity.
Best pick: Barno. Though unpolished, this rangy edge rusher (6-5, 246) teems with upside, as evidenced by a 4.36-second 40-yard dash and 34-inch arms.
Baffling pick: Mays. A Georgia transfer whose history poses a red flag of sorts; Mays missed a number of games in college due to injuries.
1: WR Chris Olave, Ohio State (11)
1: OT Trevor Penning, Northern Iowa (19)
2: CB/S Alontae Taylor, Tennessee (49)
5: LB D’Marco Jackson, Appalachian State (161)
6: DT Jordan Jackson, Air Force (194)
The NFL’s worst passing offense last year needed another weapon to complement Alvin Kamara, and a left tackle to protect Jameis Winston. By trading to get an extra first-round pick, the Saints got both in Olave and Penning, respectively. Problem is, the draft capital they used to obtain that pair left them tied with the Eagles for the second-fewest picks in the draft. Not that Saints fans are fretting; the team agreed to a deal with three-time all-pro safety (and New Orleans native) Tyrann Mathieu on Monday.
Best pick: Penning. This 325-pound mauler should step in right away for veteran left tackle Terron Armstead, who is now a Dolphin.
Baffling pick: Taylor. This converted quarterback seemed like a second-round stretch. Taylor was the 11th-ranked safety on Mel Kiper Jr.’s big board.
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