There’s no middle ground for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers right now.
As things currently sit, it looks like the Bucs will either win the NFC South and get a home playoff game as the NFC’s No. 4 seed, or end up with a top-10 pick in the 2023 NFL draft thanks to their uninspiring record.
There’s still an outside chance the Bucs could make the postseason as a wild-card team, but it’s much more likely that they’ll win the lackluster NFC South, or fly up the draft board by losing the division over the final three weeks of the season.
Assuming they remain where they are, currently slated to pick 19th overall in the first round, here’s an updated look at how all seven rounds of next year’s draft could shake out for the Bucs:
1st Round: Oregon CB Christian Gonzalez
Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting are both set to hit free agency, and the Bucs are already way over the salary cap for next year. That means they’ll probably have to find a running mate for Carlton Davis III early in next year’s draft, and Gonzalez has all the traits to be a perfect fit in this defense.
2nd Round: Auburn EDGE Derick Hall
Joe Tryon-Shoyinka has shown flashes of potential over his two seasons in Tampa Bay, but not enough consistency, especially when it comes to setting the edge as a run defender. Shaq Barrett just turned 30, and will be coming off a torn Achilles, so spending an early pick on a promising edge rusher like Hall shouldn’t be out of the question.
3rd Round: Washington State LB Daiyan Henley
Yes, another defender. Lavonte David’s contract is up after this year, and even if he returns, he turns 33 in January. It’s time for the Bucs to start grooming a potential replacement to pair with Devin White, and Henley is one of the most underrated defenders in this year’s class.
5th Round: Mississippi OL Nick Broeker
Tampa Bay’s lack of quality depth in the trenches has been a big reason for their offensive struggles this season. Broeker has tons of experience at both guard and tackle, with a track record of success against tp competition.
5th Round (compensatory): Virginia WR Dontayvion Wicks
Russell Gage was given a hefty contract to be Tampa Bay’s all-important WR3, but he just hasn’t been able to stay healthy. The Bucs should use one of their extra picks to add some receiver depth, and Wicks has the skill set and big-play ability to excel in this vertical passing scheme.
6th Round: Kansas S Kenny Logan Jr.
Mike Edwards is on the final year of his rookie contract, and Logan Ryan is only on a one-year deal, so the Bucs could be looking for some safety depth in this draft. Logan is an experienced leader who could make an immediate impact on special teams, and perhaps grow into a bigger role on defense.
7th Round (from NYJ): Kentucky DL Justin Rogers
Akiem Hicks is on a one-year deal, and the Bucs’ rush defense takes a huge hit when he’s not lined up next to Vita Vea. Rogers is a space-eating interior defender who could take over Hicks’ role on early downs, freeing up 2022 second-round pick Logan Hall to remain a pass-rushing specialist inside.
7th Round: TCU QB Max Duggan
Kyle Trask is the only quarterback currently under contract for the 2023 season in Tampa Bay, so if Tom Brady and Blaine Gabbert don’t return, the Bucs will need to add a couple. This year’s runner-up for the Heisman Trophy, Duggan might not have the physical tools to be an early-round pick, but his competitiveness and intangibles are worth taking a chance on here.
7th Round (compensatory): Ohio State K Noah Ruggles
Ryan Succop has been the Bucs’ most consistent performer so far this season, but he’ll turn 37 next September, so the Bucs might have to find a replacement. A highly touted recruit out of nearby Steinbrenner High just north of Tampa, Ruggles would be worth a seventh-rounder if he can end up replacing the consistency Succop brings to the table.
This content was originally published here.