Tampa Bay Bucs Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

Solid Starter

Cody Mauch, G, North Dakota State – Round 2
A sub-par offensive line was one of the big reasons why the Buccaneers had a disappointing 2022 season in their final year with Tom Brady. Left tackle Donovan Smith really struggled, and he earned being cut this offseason. That opened up a starting spot on the offensive line, where the team will try shuffling things around like moving Tristan Wirfs to left tackle, projecting Luke Goedeke to start at right tackle. Tampa Bay then also picked up Mauch from the 2023 NFL Draft to be a starter at guard.

Mauch has good run-blocking technique. When he gets his hands on defenders, he stalls them out and keeps them from making plays. However, NFL team sources said they felt that the 6-foot-6, 300-pound Mauch needs to get stronger, which was evident at the Senior Bowl. Mauch already put on a ton of weight during his college career, so some sources believe his frame was maxed out.

In pass protection, Mauch is reliable. He was steady for North Dakota State over the past few seasons, and he held his own at the Senior Bowl one-on-ones. Mauch could get into trouble when powerful defensive tackles knock him off track. That could give him some issues early in his career, but he is quick and athletic to block speed rushers. With his size and athleticism, he should be a good interior pass protector in the NFL.

Bucs general manager Jason Licht loves small-school offensive linemen, and he keeps his trend alive with Mauch. While Mauch may be maxed out and lack the strength to be a force, I think he definitely has the ability to be a solid NFL starter.

2022: Logan Hall, DE
2021: Kyle Trask, QB
2020: Antoine Winfield Jr, S
2019: Mike Edwards, S
2018: Vita Vea, DT
2017: Chris Godwin, WR
2016: Roberto Aquayo, K
2015: Ali Marpet, G/C
2014: Mike Evans, WR
2013: Akeem Spence, DT

Most Likely To Bust

YaYa Diaby, DE, Louisville – Round 3
The Bucs were in need of more pass-rushing talent. Jason Pierre-Paul left the team, and Joe Tryon-Shoyinka has been a big disappointment. Tampa Bay badly needs Tryon-Shoyinka and/or Logan Hall to break out in 2023. However, the team still decided to fortify its options at the position by selecting Diaby. While he has some serious speed off the edge, Diaby is undersized at 6-foot-3, 263 pounds. From a skill-set perspective, Diaby is similar to former Bucs end Noah Spence. Diaby, like Spence, could have a hard time getting off blocks due to lacking length, weight and strength. Of Tampa Bay’s early-round picks, Diaby could be the riskiest.

2022: Rachaad White, RB
2021: Robert Hainsey, OT
2020: Ke’Shawn Vaughn, RB
2019: Sean Murphy-Bunting, CB
2018: Alex Cappa, G
2017: Justin Evans, S
2016: Noah Spence, DE
2015: Donovan Smith, OT
2014: Charles Sims, RB
2013: William Gholston, DE

Potential Boom Pick

Calijah Kancey, DT, Pittsburgh – Round 1
The Buccaneers needed to improve their pass rush, and they were able to do that by landing perhaps the best pure inside pass-rusher in the 2023 NFL Draft with Kancey. While Kancey is very undersized, he is a fast gap-shooter who can really harass the quarterback.

What makes Kancey stand out is his interior pass-rush ability. He is extremely explosive off the snap, displaying phenomenal first-step quickness. Kancey is like a lightning bolt, firing through his gap to get upfield, and his speed to penetrate takes guards by surprise. With that crazy burst putting guards on their heels, Kancey is able to generate speed to power to push them out of the way to keep them from locking him up.

Kancey is an extremely fast interior defender who can fire upfield to get penetration into the pocket. He uses active hands to keep guards from getting a hold of him, and his natural pad level keeps him low with good leverage. Aided by his good athleticism, agility, and loose hips, Kancey can contort his body to dip underneath blockers and keep gaining on the quarterback. Kancey’s speed and athleticism to contribute in the pass rush are his calling card to make a career in the NFL.

Kancey plays hard against the run, but at 6-foot, 280 pounds, he has some limitations from being so undersized. The Bucs coaches will undoubtedly rotate Kancey out of the game in obvious run situations and also look to keep him fresh. Thus, Kancey might end up being more of an interior designated-pass-rusher.

It would not surprise me if Kancey ends up being a superb pro pass-rusher and adds to Tampa Bay’s defensive tackle tradition of dynamic interior rushers that includes Gerald McCoy and Hall of Famer Warren Sapp. Kancey presents real boom-pick potential for the Buccaneers.

2022: Luke Goedeke, G
2021: Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, DE
2020: Tristan Wirfs, RT
2019: Devin White, LB
2018: Ronald Jones, RB
2017: O.J. Howard, TE
2016: Vernon Hargreaves, CB
2015: Jameis Winston, QB
2014: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE
2013: Johnathan Banks, CB

Future Depth Player

Payne Durham, TE, Purdue – Round 5
The Buccaneers could have a nice young starter with Cade Otton, but Tampa Bay could use some depth behind him. Durham was a solid player in college and he really impressed at the Senior Bowl. While Durham might not have elite speed or athleticism, he could be a solid No. 2 tight end for the Bucs behind Otton. In the fifth round, Durham was a good value pick and could in a draft not so strong at tight end, Durham would have gone a round or two higher.

2022: Cade Otton, TE
2021: Jaelon Darden, WR
2020: Tyler Johnson, WR
2019: Anthony Nelson, DE
2018: Justin Watson, WR
2017: Kendell Beckwith, LB
2016: Devante Bond, LB
2015: Kwon Alexander, LB
2014: Robert Herron, S
2013: Mike Glennon, QB

Walt’s 2023 NFL Draft Grades:

19. Calijah Kancey, DT, Pittsburgh – B- Grade
The Buccaneers may have wanted a left tackle, but with all of them off the board, they drafted a replacement for Ndamukong Suh. Calijah Kancey has a huge ceiling with great athleticism, but he wasn’t nearly as productive at Pittsburgh as Aaron Donald was. I understand that this is a tall comparison, but that’s the one player people talk about when discussing Kancey. I think this is a bit too early for Kancey, but I don’t hate this pick.

48. Cody Mauch, G, North Dakota State – B Grade
I’m not sure why the Buccaneers moved ahead of the Steelers for Cody Mauch, given that Pittsburgh drafted an offensive lineman yesterday. Still, this is a solid pick. The Buccaneers had a huge need on the offensive line, and Mauch is a rock-steady, plug-and-play guard.

82. Yaya Diaby, DE, Louisville – B Grade
I had Yaya Diaby in the fourth round, so I don’t mind him going in this range. Diaby is a talented pass rusher, but gets trampled easily in run support. Given that the Buccaneers needed help getting after the quarterback, Diaby will serve an important role for them.

153. SirVocea Dennis, LB, Pittsburgh – C Grade
SirVocea Dennis is not someone I considered for my mock draft. He’s an athletic player, but he’s a small player who doesn’t really have a natural position. Maybe he can play special teams well.

171. Payne Durham, TE, Purdue – B Grade
I had Payne Durham slotted 10 picks later than this, so the range makes sense. Payne Durham should be the Buccaneers’ blocking tight end and a potential red zone threat. There’s limited upside, but Durham should be a solid player for the Buccaneers.

181. Josh Hayes, CB, North Dakota State – C+ Grade
Josh Hayes is a small and limited cornerback, and it’s not even clear if he’ll be able to play defense. However, he’s a sure tackler and a very good special teams player.

191. Trey Palmer, WR, Nebraska – B+ Grade
The Buccaneers needed receiving depth, and Trey Palmer provides good value in the sixth round. Palmer is a solid athlete coming off a breakout campaign. I like this pick a good amount.

196. Jose Ramirez, DE, Eastern Michigan – B Grade
Jose Ramirez would have gone earlier if he didn’t have such size limitations. Still, he could be an explosive situational pass rusher for a team that was looking to improve its lackluster pass rush from a year ago.

2023 NFL Draft Team Grade: B-. Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

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