• Round 1, Pick 7: EDGE Laiatu Latu, UCLA — The Buccaneers' edge defender unit ranks 20th in sacks, 28th in pressures and 28th in pass-rush win percentage this season. Latu would quickly help change those figures.
• Round 2, Pick 39: QB Shedeur Sanders, Colorado — He doesn’t have top-tier arm talent, but it is good enough for him to be a starter in the NFL if he declares this year.
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The longer the 2023 NFL season goes on, the higher the Tampa Bay Buccaneers seem to climb in the 2024 NFL Draft order. It feels like big changes are coming for the team, at both the coaching and roster levels.
ROUND 1, PICK 7: EDGE LAIATU LATU, UCLA
Fans might be reading this clamoring for a quarterback with the team's top pick, but the Buccaneers are currently outside of the Caleb Williams/Drake Maye range, and there isn’t a slam-dunk quarterback prospect in the rest of the top 10.
The Buccaneers' edge defender unit ranks 20th in sacks, 28th in pressures and 28th in pass-rush win percentage this season. Shaq Barrett is three years and an Achilles injury removed from his 19.5-sack season, Joe Tryon-Shoyinka has been fine but hasn't taken that impactful step and Logan Hall and Anthony Nelson have not recorded pass-rush win percentages above 10.0% in either of the past two years. This team is in desperate need of a difference-maker on the edge.
Latu’s overall draft stock might be lowered due to a serious neck injury he suffered in 2020 that caused him to medically retire from the game. But his injury has since healed, and over the past two seasons, he has been one of the most consistently disruptive pass-rushers in all of college football. The 6-foot-5, 265-pound edge rusher has posted elite pass-rush grades above 90.0 in each of the past two seasons and boasts a pass-rush win rate above 24% this season with 14 sacks.
ROUND 2, PICK 39: QB SHEDEUR SANDERS, COLORADO
How aggressive Tampa Bay ends up being on draft weekend will depend on how they handle the quarterback position in free agency. If they end up signing Baker Mayfield to a longer-term deal, they might brush it off for a year. But even if they re-sign Mayfield, I think they’ll do plenty of research on this class.
Sanders is an interesting case because of how unsuccessful Colorado’s season ended up being and his remaining eligibility. It feels the most realistic path for him is to stay another year at Colorado with his dad as head coach to make a run at being one of the top quarterbacks drafted in 2025. For now, though, he is eligible and engineered impressive moments this season when dealing with pressure (209 dropbacks under pressure, second most in the FBS) and hitting passes with great touch and timing. He doesn’t have top-tier arm talent, but it is good enough for him to be a starter in the NFL.
ROUND 3, PICK 71: OG CHRISTIAN HAYNES, UCONN
Tampa Bay has solidified its two offensive tackle spots with Tristan Wirfs on the left side and Luke Goedeke on the right. But the interior offensive line needs a lot of work. The Buccaneers drafted Cody Mauch in the second round in 2023. He played left tackle at North Dakota State and became a starter at right guard this past season. It was going to take some time for him to get acclimated to the pro level and that new position, but he does seem to be progressing to hold down one of those spots going into next year.
Haynes currently plays left guard for the Huskies, and his future position in the league projects to be either at guard or center — both of which Tampa Bay needs. Haynes fires off the ball with NFL-caliber athleticism. He has an 84.8 overall grade this season with an 84.0 run-blocking grade and an 87.9 pass-blocking grade.
ROUND 4, PICK 107: S JADEN HICKS, WASHINGTON STATE
I was high on the Ryan Neal signing for Tampa Bay this past offseason, but that has proven to be one of the major weak spots of the team's secondary. Antoine Winfield Jr. is a do-it-all, All-Pro-caliber player, but the Buccaneers need an upgrade next to him.
Hicks really struggled in his first year at Washington State but has since blossomed into a versatile safety. At 6-foot-3 and 212 pounds, he does most of his work from a box safety role, which would complement what Winfield does as a free safety. Hicks has graded well in second-level production this season, with an 84.6 pass-rush grade and an 82.8 run-defense grade.