Buccaneers' Top 2022 NFL Draft Targets
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' outlook for 2022 greatly changed when Tom Brady announced he was coming out of short-lived retirement and returning to be their quarterback again. Now, the Bucs are once again in a great position to be one of the NFL's top Super Bowl contenders for the upcoming season.
Although Tampa Bay no longer has a hole at quarterback, there are other areas of its roster it still needs to address this offseason. And it will have an opportunity to do that during the 2022 NFL draft, the three-day event that gets underway Thursday.
The Buccaneers own six picks in this year's draft, including the No. 27 overall selection in the first round. That should be a good opportunity for Tampa Bay to add a player who could potentially become a starter immediately in 2022.
Here's a look at several players who should be among the Bucs' top targets in the opening round of the draft.
Devonte Wyatt, DT, Georgia
After spending the past three seasons with Tampa Bay, Ndamukong Suh may not be back in 2022. The defensive tackle is currently a free agent, and considering he's now 35, the Buccaneers may decide it's the time to get a bit younger on their D-line.
If that's the route that the Bucs want to take, then they may use their first-round pick to draft Suh's replacement and find somebody who can form a strong interior duo with Vita Vea on their defensive front. And Georgia's Devonte Wyatt could be the perfect player to fill that role.
Wyatt was part of a dominant Bulldogs defense that powered the team to a national title this past season. He contributed for four years at Georgia, but he took his play to another level in 2021, when he set career highs in tackles (39), tackles for a loss (seven), sacks (2.5) and forced fumbles (two) over 14 games.
The Athletic's Dane Brugler noted that the 24-year-old Wyatt is "older than ideal for a first-round player," but he added that the former Bulldogs standout could "step in from day one and give Tampa a disruptive presence." That could make Wyatt quite an enticing option for the Bucs on Thursday.
Zion Johnson, OG, Boston College
One of the biggest surprises of the offseason came when Buccaneers guard Ali Marpet decided to retire, as the 2021 Pro Bowler is only 29. However, that's the choice he made, and that left Tampa Bay without a clear starting left guard going into the 2022 season.
So it wouldn't be a surprise if the Buccaneers opt to find Marpet's potential replacement in the first round of the draft. Among the top offensive linemen for Tampa Bay to consider will be Boston College's Zion Johnson.
After spending his first two college seasons at Davidson, Johnson transferred to Boston College, where he showcased skills that greatly improved his draft stock. He has experience at both tackle and guard, but he played the latter in 11 of his 12 starts for the Eagles last year.
"He'll need to fit into the right scheme that takes advantage of what he does well and diminishes the athletic limitations," NFL.com's Lance Zierlein wrote in a scouting report.
Johnson could fit well with Tampa Bay, which already has a strong offensive line in place at the other spots. So if Johnson is still on the board at No. 27, he could be the top guard for the Bucs to consider taking.
Kenyon Green, OG, Texas A&M
Johnson won't be the only guard for Tampa Bay to consider in the first round, though. Texas A&M's Kenyon Green will likely be on the board at that point, and if he and Johnson are still available, the Buccaneers would have to decide between the two, if they're set on taking an offensive lineman.
Green was a three-year starter for the Aggies, as he provided stability up front throughout his college career. Not only that, but he showcased his versatility in 2021 by starting at four of the five spots on the offensive line (all but center). But he started 17 games at left guard over the past two seasons, so that's where he has the most experience.
Tampa Bay needs somebody who can step in and immediately help protect Brady, and there's little doubt that Green could do that. That's why he could be a strong addition for the Buccaneers for both their short- and long-term futures.
Both Johnson and Green are solid potential fits, and Tampa Bay may have a tough time picking between the two, if that's what ends up needing to happen. So it will need to weigh the positives and negatives of each and decide who is the better choice if it wants to add a starting guard at No. 27.