Buccaneers 2023 Draft Class Receives C+ Grade

YaYa Diaby

Getty Tampa Bay Buccaneers outside linebacker YaYa Diaby sacks San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy.

Only time will tell, but for right now the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will have to live with its 2023 NFL draft class only receiving a “C+” grade in a recent article from The Athletic.

The Athletic’s Diante Lee handed out grades and placed the Buccaneers in the sub-category of “Small short-term gains, high long-term potential” alongside the Buffalo Bills, Seattle Seahawks, Arizona Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers.

“Tampa Bay has taken several draft swings at finding front-seven talent, and it looks like the Bucs finally landed a couple of playmakers,” Lee wrote. “Edge rusher YaYa Diaby (No. 82) used his explosiveness and speed to put up 12 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks, and defensive tackle Calijah Kancey (No 19)  added 10 TFLs and four sacks. Cody Mauch (No. 48) also looks like a solid starter at guard.”

Was Tampa Bay’s 2023 Draft Class Grade Too Low?

A closer look at Tampa Bay’s 2023 draft class might indicate the C+ grade might be a little lower than it should have been.

Of the eight players drafted by the Buccaneers in 2023, five of them started multiple games, led by Mauch, who started all 17 games in the regular season. Kancey, the team’s first-round pick, started all 14 games he played in. Diaby played in all 17 games and made 7 starts.

Tight end Payne Durham (2 starts) and wide receiver Trey Palmer (8 starts) also found their way to the starting lineup throughout the season. Palmer played in all 17 games and finished with 38 receptions for 385 yards and 3 touchdowns but also led the Buccaneers with 3 fumbles.

Diaby was perhaps the most surprising in the class as far as production, leading the team in sacks and finishing second in tackles for loss behind Lavonte David.

Diaby, 6-foot-3 and 263 pounds, turned heads at the 2023 NFL combine when he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.51 seconds.

“(Diaby) is a power rusher lacking an instinctive approach to beat better NFL tackles, but his lateral quickness and short-area burst make Diaby perfect for a twisting/gaming front,” NFL analyst Lance Zierlein wrote in his pre-draft profile of Diaby. “His frame and skill set could attract attention as an odd- or even-front end with his ceiling being defined by how much he’s able to improve his creativity as a rusher.”

Diaby’s Role Should Grow in 2024 with Shaquil Barrett Gone

No player on Tampa Bay’s defense will be counted on to have a bigger role in 2024 than Diaby after two-time Pro Bowler and two-time Super Bowl champion Shaquil Barrett left the Buccaneers for a one-year, $7 million contract with the Miami Dolphins.

Diaby will be in the second year of a four-year, $5.4 million contract and seems ready for the challenge.

“For those who doesn’t know Yaya Diaby trust me you will know this year,” Diaby wrote on his X account on Feb. 8.

Kancey and Diaby formed a bond as rookies, which might be based on some perceived mutual disprespect from the media. Despite standout seasons and winning the NFC South, both players were not among the finalists for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, which Diaby made sure to point out on social media.

“Great rookie season twin,” Kancey wrote on his X account on Jan. 25. “The future is bright for us.”