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Will Graham Barton, Jalen McMillan Boost Bucs’ Super Bowl Hopes?

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are looking to defend as NFC South champs, but the franchise could be in for a fight as other teams improve within the division. Tampa Bay used the NFL draft to get Baker Mayfield’s help in a variety of ways. The Bucs’ betting lines offer good value to return to the playoffs at +140 odds.

Five of the Bucs’ seven draft selections were offensive players, including three skill-position playmakers. Tampa Bay started by solidifying the player closest to Mayfield, adding Duke center Graham Barton with the No. 26 selection in the first round.

Will Graham Barton, Jalen McMillan Boost Bucs’ Super Bowl Hopes?
Jalen McMillan #11/Maddie Meyer/Getty Images/AFP

Instead of doing a deep dive on center techniques, let’s take a look at why The Athletic’s Dane Brugler labeled Barton a “home run” pick for the Buccaneers.

“Though I have mixed feelings about Tampa’s overall haul, the Buccaneers hit a home run with Barton, who should be the immediate starter at left guard,” Brugler detailed. “Aside from locking down a starting role, his value will be felt in his versatility, which will help Tampa get its best five linemen on the field — even if injuries happen.”

Here’s how the rest of the Bucs draft shaked out.

 

Chris Braswell, Tykee Smith: SEC Talent on Defense

Tampa Bay leaned on the SEC to bolster their defense with the next two selections on day two. The Buccaneers added Bama linebacker Chris Braswell (No. 57) and Georgia safety Tykee Smith (No. 89).


These selections likely put a smile on head coach Todd Bowles’ face. Prior to the promotion, Bowles was a longtime defensive coordinator across the NFL, including with Tampa Bay. Braswell knows how to get to the quarterback and projects to be an “immediate starter.”

The Buccaneers pick up a consistent power-based outside linebacker in Chris Braswell,” Pro Football Focus’ Trevor Sikkema explained. “He isn’t as explosive as his Alabama teammate Dallas Turner, but he led the SEC in pressures in 2023 and provides a solid anchor on the edge in the run game. He is likely to be an immediate starter for the Buccaneers.”

 

Running Back Help? Bucs Draft Bucky Irving to Complement Backfield

The Bucs added some playmakers for Mayfield but none are exactly locks to make the roster outside of Washington receiver Jalen McMillan (No. 92). Tampa Bay landed McMillan in the third round after playing a key role in Washington’s high-potent offense the past two seasons.


Oregon standout running back Bucky Irving (No. 125) was added in the fourth round while adding another Huskies standout Devin Culp (No. 246). Both will be fighting for a roster spot, but there is reason for optimism given their college production.


Irving posted 186 carries for 1,180 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns in 2023. The running back is particularly effective in the passing game adding 56 catches for 413 yards and 2 touchdowns last season. Questions surround his size and speed which explains the former Ducks playmaker falling to day three.

“Compact and willful, Irving is deeply committed to each run his play-caller trusts him with,” NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein detailed in his pre-draft profile of Irving. “He punches above his weight class with excellent contact balance and leg drive to fight through tackles and squeeze every yard out of the run.

“However, Irving showed a concerning lack of explosiveness at the NFL Scouting Combine. … Irving isn’t ready for NFL protection duties and is a little tight as a route runner, but he catches the ball cleanly.”

 

The Bucs Earned a B Grade for Their Draft

The Buccaneers earned a B grade from ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. Tampa Bay’s draft was not flashy as the team waited until the later rounds to mostly add playmakers. Yet, it is hard to argue with the positions the Bucs addressed.

“The Bucs had a balanced first two days of the draft,” Kiper wrote. “Graham Barton (26) is my top-ranked center, and he’ll immediately help a run game that ranked 32nd in yards per attempt (3.4) last season.

“While he played left tackle at Duke, he has All-Pro upside at the pivot. Chris Braswell (57) has been underrated for the past few months. The edge rusher isn’t the flashiest player, but he is an all-around defender with an interesting skill set as a pass-rusher. Tampa Bay has to get better on the edge in 2024.”

Despite making the playoffs, the Bucs are still viewed as a longshot to be a Super Bowl contender. Tampa Bay is listed at +6500 in odds to win the Super Bowl.

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Questions Of The Day

What are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers odds to win the Super Bowl?


The Buccaneers have +6500 odds to win the Super Bowl.

What are the Bucs odds to make the NFL playoffs?


Tampa Bay is listed at +140 to return to the NFL playoffs in 2024.

 

 

The odds and predictions in the article are based on the time of writing and publication. They may differ as to when the actual event takes place.

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