Meet the Buccaneers 2024 NFL Draft Class

The Bucs had two more picks late in the third round on Friday night and they went back to some of the most powerful college programs, tabbing Georgia safety Tykee Smith at number 89 and Washington wide receiver Jalen McMillan at number 92. Smith originally played safety at West Virginia, and had four picks in two seasons, before transferring to Alabama and settling into slot role. With Antoine Winfield Jr. and Jordan Whitehead expected to start at safety in 2024, Smith’s best path to early playing time would be to compete for the nickel job.

“We would expect him to come in here and compete right away,” said Spytek, citing Georgia’s high-level defensive preparation. “Tykee is way ahead of a lot of kids that would enter the NFL, and in a defense where we ask a lot of our secondary – they have to know a lot of things, they have to be versatile, they have to think really fast, think on the fly – to me that’s always the biggest hurdle. These guys that you pick on Day One and Day Two, they’re usually really good athletes. It’s really the mental stuff that will slow them down.”

If anything, McMillan was in an even more crowded situation at his position at Washington. After topping 1,000 yards for the Huskies in 2022 he dealt with an injury last season and fell behind in the pecking order to two highly-drafted Washington receivers this weekend – Rome Odunze (#9) and Ja’Lynn Polk (#37).

“On a team with two really good receivers – obviously one that went in the top 10 and another one that went really early in [Round] Two – it was still really easy to see him,” said Spytek. “A lot of times that guy can be forgotten about. His athleticism, the way he runs routes – he plays like the game makes sense to him. There’s a smoothness and an easiness to his game that you really appreciate. He makes some of the things that are more challenging for the receiver position look fairly simple.

“Had it not been for the injury this year, I think there would have been no chance to be where we picked him. He missed some games this year with an injury, tried to fight through it. He had a thousand yards last year, which is pretty impressive. When you talk to the people in that building, they had a high level of respect for Jalen and thought that he was really similar and close to the level of player that Rome and the other Ja’Lynn were.”

To begin Day Three of the draft, the Buccaneers selected Oregon running back Bucky Irving late in the fourth round. Irving gives Tampa Bay’s rushing attack some much needed depth after Rachaad White led all NFL runners in offensive snaps in 2023. He’s a smaller back than White but he is surprisingly difficult to get to the ground, averaging 6.2 yards per carry in his college career.

“When we had him for a visit, he told us the first guy doesn’t tackle him,” said Spytek. “I think that’s what you’re looking for as a running back, especially when they’re not the biggest running back. It’s no secret that Bucky isn’t Christian Okoye. He’s not going to run through people’s faces all the time. But you look at his production, whether it was at Minnesota or Oregon, he’s six yards a carry. He’s hard to get on the ground, and for a man that’s less than 200 pounds, when you do hit him – which is hard to do – he’s hard to knock off his feet. He has a lot of qualities that we look for in a running back.”

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