Links to discussions for other teams:
The Buccaneers are perennially among the league's better defenses, 2021 was no exception. Tampa Bay finished second only to the Bills in yards per pass, piled up 47 sacks, 29 takeaways, and allowed the fifth-fewest rushing touchdowns. They were middle of the pack in passing yards and scores through the air but that can be a little misleading. The Buccaneers faced more pass attempts than any other team in 2022. The 680 pass play run against them was 22 more than the Seahawks, who were second in that category. To put that into perspective, Chicago faced the fewest at 477.
With the retirement of Bruce Arians, the team promoted last year’s defensive coordinator, Todd Bowles, to head coach. Kacy Rodgers and Larry Foote were named co-defensive coordinators in a corresponding move that will not disrupt the continuity of the unit. There will, however, be a few significant personnel changes.
Ndamukong Suh has expressed interest in re-signing with the team but the chances of that happening are slim after the team added Akiem Hicks in free agency and then used a first-round pick on Logan Hall. Hicks is penciled in as the immediate starter and should be a great fit providing he can stay healthy. At 6’5” and 332 pounds, Hicks is huge for a defensive end, even in a 3-4. He can anchor the run game as well as anyone at the position and is capable of providing some pass rush.
Over three seasons starting in 2016, Hicks averaged 40 tackles and 15 assists while accumulating 23 sacks, forcing 8 turnovers, and knocking down 7 passes. During those years he was a solid DL2 with a career-best rank of 14th in 2018. In 2019, the wheels fell off. It started with a knee sprain in September followed by a dislocated elbow in October and an aggravation of that injury when he came back in December.
Hicks has never been the same since. He was relatively healthy in 2020, missing just one game with a hamstring issue, but the numbers slipped to 32-22-3.5 with a fumble recovery. Last year he scattered nine missed games across the schedule while battling groin and ankle injuries. On the positive side, Hicks still managed 25 combined tackles and 3.5 sacks, proving that at age 32, the truck still runs well if they can keep the air in the tires.
Hicks is the now but Hall is the future for Tampa Bay. The rookie checks in at a long 6’6” but trim 260 pounds. He should have a role right away but will need to add some muscle and girth to hold up as an every-down 3-4 end. Hall played tackle for Houston, starting 19 games over the past two seasons. His numbers are not flashy at 70 combined tackles and 7 sacks over the two seasons, but Hall has the skill set and work ethic to be highly successful. He may never be a 300-pounder but has the frame to get up into the 285 range without sacrificing other important traits. There are no grand expectations for IDP value this season, but Hall may prove to be one of the more productive 3-4 ends over the next several years.
Williams Gholston is locked in as the other starting end. The ten-year veteran has been with the Buccaneers his entire career and a starter for most of it. Until recently, he was a serviceable starter at defensive end in the team’s 4-3, reducing inside or leaving the field on passing downs. When Tampa Bay moved to the 3-4, Gholston found his best fit. While he is not as big as many 3-4 ends, the strength of Gholston’s game is against the run. He is a hard-working contributor that will help his team win but is not going to do much to help yours. Gholston had a bit of IDP relevance early in his career. His best production was a mark of 47-20-3 way back in 2015. He has 20.5 career sacks with a personal best of 4.5 just a year ago but has not finished with more than 26 solo stops in a season since 2016.
The Buccaneers got everything they expected when they made 347-pound space-eating nose tackle, Vita Vea, the 12th overall pick in 2018. He is a nearly immovable object at the center of the run defense, with a bull rush that can collapse the pocket on passing downs, and enough quickness, power, and athleticism to make plays despite being double-teamed on virtually every snap. For all the impact he makes on the field, however, Vea’s statistical production is lacking in IDP terms. The best production of his young career came in 2021 at 22-10-4.5 with a fumble recovery. He is roster worth as depth in leagues starting two tackles but probably has a ceiling in the low DT2 range.
The Buccaneers are not a team that rotates a lot of players along the defensive line. Rakeem Nunez-Roches, Patrick O’Connor, and Deadrin Senat are projected to fill out the roster. All three are journeyman types but bring some experience if needed.
- DE William Gholston – Marginal impact at best
- DE Akiem Hicks – Potential DL2 but likely a solid DL3 if he stays healthy
- DE Rakeem Nunez-Roches – No impact
- DE Logan Hall – Dynasty watchlist with good long-term upside
- DE Patrick O’Connor -No impact
- NT Vita Vea – Possible DT2 but more likely good depth in leagues starting two tackles
- NT/DE Deadrin Senat - No impact
Continue reading this content with a ELITE subscription.
"Footballguys is the best premium
fantasy football only site on the planet."
Matthew Berry, ESPN