The Tampa Bay Buccaneers could pull off a draft-day steal by snagging the consensus top running back prospect. NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah predicts the Bucs will select Alabama running back Najee Harris with the No. 32 pick.
“Tampa Bay can afford to simply take the best player available,” Jeremiah detailed. “With Giovani Bernard, Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones due to become free agents in 2022, the Bucs find a long-term answer at RB in Harris.”
Harris posted 1,466 rushing yards and 26 touchdowns while adding 43 receptions for 425 yards along with four receiving touchdowns. The Ringer’s Danny Kelly compares Harris to former NFL great Steven Jackson.
“Powerful, old school runner with quick feet, sudden jukes, and a talent for making defenders miss; a natural playmaker in the passing game,” Kelly detailed in his scouting report of Harris.
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Licht on Drafting at No. 32: ‘It’s a Good Problem to Have’
The Buccaneers do not have any glaring holes heading into the draft thanks to general manager Jason Licht’s ability to bring back all of the team’s key free agents. Licht joked that selecting at No. 32 is a “good problem to have.”
“It’s a good problem to have,” Licht noted, per Pro Football Talk. “When we have draft meetings during the fall — November — and we always throw out, ‘Well, if we’re picking at 20, or if we’re picking at 22.’ And this year we were saying, ‘We want to be picking at 32.’ Every year you want to be picking at 32 and here we are at 32. So I’m happy we’re picking here and I want to pick here every year, obviously. But it does make it a little more challenging in terms of predicting what players will be there — for sure.”
The Buccaneers Already Have a Crowded Running Back Group
While the Bucs can select the best player available with their first pick, the front office may have some pause in selecting a running back given the already crowded depth chart. There is also the reality that we are seeing fewer running backs being selected by teams in the first round.
Tampa Bay re-signed Leonard Fournette and added ex-Bengals pass-catching specialist Giovani Bernard in free agency. The Bucs also have Ronald Jones on the roster who began last season as the team’s starter. During a March press conference, Bucs head coach Bruce Arians made it clear he wants active training camp battles for starting positions heading into next season.
“There are no starters,” Arians noted, per Bleacher Report. “This is a new football team. I made that message clear when they left, that that team won the Super Bowl. This team hasn’t done s—. All those things will be defined in practice.”
Harris’ long-term potential may be too much for the Buccaneers to pass up if he is still on the board at No. 32. ESPN’s Mel Kiper believes it is Harris’ pass-catching ability that separates him from the other running backs.
“What I like most about Harris — and why he’s my top-ranked running back — is his receiving ability,” Kiper explained in his final big board. “He caught 70 passes over the past two seasons and had 11 receiving touchdowns. He can be a three-down back in the NFL. He led the FBS with 47 carries of at least 10 yards last season.”