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Graham Barton may be a difficult prospect for Jason Licht to refuse.

In Tampa Bay, the Bucs are coming off their fourth consecutive winning season. Even a team that has captured three division titles, over the last three seasons, still has holes to fill across their roster. Fingers can be pointed at the largest need on Tampa’s roster— likely edge rusher, but the trenches are just as crucial on offense as they are on defense.

The Bucs have not been able to turn around, hand the ball off, and get consistent production in quite some time. Last year, Tampa Bay finished dead last in yards per game as well as total yards gained on the ground. Two seasons ago, it was more of the same. In our Christian Haynes Draft Profile, we broke down some of Tampa’s woes on the offensive line and why the run game has been such an issue in recent years.

Tampa Bay’s ineffective ground attack has placed all the pressure squarely on their passing game. Luckily the Bucs have been able to survive having a miserable rushing attack, with good quarterback and receiver play. Even with horrendous performances as a rushing offense, the Bucs still finished in the top half of the league in receiving touchdowns in each of the last two seasons.

A poor rushing offense can be attributed to a few things. Simple process of elimination can help pinpoint the cause. Are the Bucs simply deploying ineffective players at the running back position? The position group has been headlined by a highly paid, high-round draft pick and a young rising star who has shown, through his impact in the passing game, what kind of player he is capable of being.

Tampa Bay Bucs v Arizona Cardinals
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That points directly towards the offensive line as the culprit. Tampa Bay does have one premier tackle and a young player who showed promise at the other tackle position. On the interior of their line, Tampa— not that long ago— had a trio of difference makers (Ali Marpet, Ryan Jensen, and Alex Cappa). The team’s current interior iteration has not netted near the results of their previous trio. A new face may be a welcomed addition in Tampa Bay.

Who is Graham Barton?

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Graham Barton is a linemen out of Duke. Barton has started 40 games in his college career and as a Blue Devil, he flexed tremendous positional versatility playing both interior offensive line and tackle.

The Duke prospect is the exact type of lineman Jason Licht loves. Barton embodies the toughness and physicality that Tampa lost with Ryan Jensen’s injury. Ian Cummings of described him as a player who, “Eagerly capitalizes with physicality when defenders give up leverage.”

Cummings did also go on to reference his position versatility saying that even though Barton does have experience as a tackle, his Combine measurables could be a factor in where he fits on an NFL offensive line—

“Arm length… Could force a move inside at the NFL level.”

NFL Scouting Combine.

Barton had a very limited NFL Combine experience, due to his rehab of a lower body injury that did force him to miss some time at the end of last season. He weighed in at 313 lb. He measured 6’5” with 32 ⅞” arms and a nearly 10 inch hand.

How does Graham Barton fit in Tampa Bay?

NFC Wild Card Playoffs - Philadelphia Eagles v Tampa Bay Bucs
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The offensive line in Tampa Bay is an interesting position group to highlight. Tampa would appear to be set on the edges, however, their interior is more flexible. The center position specifically, would be an interesting spot for the Bucs to investigate in this year’s NFL Draft.

Of the Bucs’ three interior linemen, the one with the longest Tampa Bay tenure is center Robert Hainsey. Hainsey took over for Jensen, after a knee injury and has played two full seasons for the Bucs. At right guard, Cody Mauch was a rookie last year and the Bucs’ left guard from a season ago no longer plays for Tampa Bay. In light of that, drafting a center could mean a few different things—

It has the potential to mean the prospect Tampa selects is someone they feel has the capability to play multiple positions and they will move him wherever they see fit (the Bucs have shown a willingness to draft linemen and move them around their front). It also may mean that Tampa is not overly pleased with the level of production Robert Hainsey has given them during his two seasons as a starter. As of right now, the most famous thing on Robert Hainsey’s résumé might be getting yelled at by Tom Brady on the sidelines and then telling the media that the berating was something he enjoyed. There are some in the Bucs’ fans’ community who feel Hainsey would be best suited as a guard, rather than a center. Drafting a true center would free the Bucs up to be able to move Hainsey and see if he is able to find more success at the guard spot.

Tampa has a few different approaches they could take with their interior offensive line this season and it will be interesting to see if they tip their hand on Draft night.

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