Could Tampa Bay target offensive line with their first round pick?
The Bucs face a second consecutive offseason of major upheaval in the trenches, and it might once again facilitate the use of high-round draft capital.
The team cut long-time starter Donovan Smith, which leaves a gap at left tackle, and traded Shaq Mason, which leaves the right guard position unsecured. Add in the fact that the other guard spot was already in flux, and you have several questions to answer by September.
With the first entry in our draft profile series, we’ll explore Northwestern offensive lineman Peter Skoronski and how he possibly fits with Tampa Bay.
PETER SKORONSKI’S COLLEGIATE CAREER
Skoronski stood out as a highly touted high school prospect from Maine South High School in Illinois, earning four- and five-star grades nationally. He stepped into big-game action immediately as a true freshman once future first-rounder Rashawn Slater opted out in 2020.
In nine starts, he earned All-Big Ten second team honors, and he followed that up with another such nod in 2021. He made the leap to first-team all-conference in 2022, and he also became the first player from Northwestern to be named as a unanimous first-team All-American.
His junior-year accolades are backed up by data. Pro Football Focus gave him the best single-season pass blocking grade recorded over last two years, and he also finished with a 79.1 run-blocking grade, ranking 5th among all qualifying Power 5 tackles.
Peter Skoronski is a can’t miss prospect pic.twitter.com/8wdGGTlJes
— PFF College (@PFF_College) December 27, 2022
With 33 regular season starts at left tackle, Skoronski is a battle-tested player with the resume and athletic profile to succeed anywhere across the offensive line.
PRO DAY AND SCOUTING COMBINE
Within the last five years, the team’s approach to first rounders — Vita Vea, Devin White, Tristan Wirfs, Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, and Logan Hall — is incredibly clear. Draft freak athletes.
Skoronski, who stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 313 pounds, absolutely fits the archetype of what the Bucs look for. He performed fantastically at the NFL Scouting Combine, posting the second-best marks of the OL group in the vertical and broad jumps (34.5” and 9’7”, respectively). He also benched a robust 30 reps on the bench, put up a strong 7.8 seconds in the three cone, and ran an elite 5.16 40-yard dash with a 1.75 10-yard split.
He stood on all of his testing numbers and measurements at the Northwestern Pro Day on March 14 but did on-field workouts.
While he touts extensive experience at tackle, most analysts project a move inside to guard due to his shorter arms (32 1/4”, which rank in the 9th percentile for tackles historically). According to Kent Lee Platte’s Relative Athletic Score (RAS), Skoronski absolutely profiles as a better fit inside.
When comparing this grading to other past profiles, Bucs fans will notice one name in particular.
If anyone is reminiscent of Ali Marpet, you can bet the Bucs front office who drafted the latter will absolutely take notice of that.
WHAT SKORONSKI CAN DO FOR THE Bucs IN 2023
The answer to this question is easy: Skoronski can step in immediately at any spot outside of center and theoretically provide more upside than anyone currently on the roster.
He’s already a top-flight run blocker due to his incredible explosion, strength and technique, and a move inside would likely mitigate some of the concerns he faces as a pass blocker (namely length mismatches). For a team that finished 2022 with a historically terrible run unit, he’d be much-needed upgrade.
OT Peter Skoronski
*Very good balance and movement
*Smooth sets and consistent angles
*Uses Drag hand as eyes
*Impressive Grip strength
*Receives loopers – hands find chest plate
*Pinpoint hand placement
*Gets inside hand leverage and uses drive catch technique to move defender… pic.twitter.com/Qm0IqzEjHJ
— Erik Turner (@ErikJTurner) March 25, 2023
Is he going to match the heights of Marpet or even Mason right away? Difficult to say and likely unreasonable to expect, but at least the team can feel more optimistic about the long-term view when compared to most others currently on the roster.
Skoronski would hopefully join with Wirfs and Robert Hainsey to form the core of the Bucs’ offensive line for the next half-decade. It’s widely expected that Wirfs will become the league’s next highest-paid offensive lineman, and all signs point to Tampa giving him that money, while Hainsey showed demonstrable growth after replacing the injured Ryan Jensen as center last season. If Hainsey wins one of the guard jobs this year and stays productive, the Bucs locking him up long-term also seems likely.
That’s presumptuous, but that’s probably what team will envision if this is an avenue it decides to seriously pursue.
On an individual scale, you’d hope to see Skoronski capitalize on his excellent individual talent to reach those Marpet-like levels of success. Again, he possesses all of the requisite tools, from his strong hands and sound base to his approach angles and understanding of leverage.
NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein goes as far as to compare Skoronski to Zack Martin, another tackle-to-guard convert who has firmly established himself as a Hall of Famer over the last decade. The Draft Network’s Kyle Crabbs was slightly more reserved, comparing Skoronski to Justin Pugh. Pugh was a first-rounder in his own right but has lived more on the plane of very good rather than great, having started 119 out of 120 games over 10 years.
Going from tackle to guard is not the easiest transition that many might think, as 2022 second rounder Luke Goedeke showed Bucs fans last year, so that’s something to keep in mind for the first couple of seasons.
Skoronski has stood out as one of the top 3 best linemen in this draft cycle. He’s the No. 7 overall prospect for NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah, and The Athletic’s Dane Brugler has Skoronski as his No. 4 prospect.
His potential to play either tackle or guard will peak several teams’ interest in the top half of the first round, and it seems like a near lock that he’ll go within the top 15. The NFL Mock Draft Database, which analyzes various mock drafts from across the web, has Skoronski at an average of 14th overall. His ceiling looks to be the Chicago Bears at 9th overall, while his floor likely seems to be the Bucs at 19.
It feels unlikely he’ll fall that far given other teams like the Tennessee Titans, New York Jets, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Washington Commanders all picking ahead of Tampa. While falls do happen on draft day for myriad reasons, the Bucs might need to get aggressive if they really want Skoronski in red and pewter.
ON THE CLOCK…
Well, Bucs Nation, what do you all think? Should the Bucs become aggressive in addressing their offensive line woes by pursuing a versatile, high-ceiling prospect like Skoronski. Let us know in the poll below and discuss in the comments!