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Wirfs taken 13th by Tampa Bay

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs with the 13th pick in the NFL draft on Thursday night, trading up one spot in the selection order to ensure they secured more protection for recently acquired quarterback Tom Brady.

Bolstering the offensive line was the team’s top priority after signing the six-time Super Bowl champion in free agency, trading for four-time All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski and spending generously to retain some key components of a defense that made strides the latter part of last season.

With several tackles — Georgia’s Andrew Thomas, Alabama’s Jedrick Wills and Louisville’s Mekhi Becton –off the board, the Bucs swung a deal with the San Francisco 49ers to move up one spot from No. 14 to take Wirfs.

The former Iowa star was rated among the top offensive lineman available in the draft and will be given an opportunity to fill an opening at right tackle created by the departure of long-time starter Demar Dotson, who was not re-signed after being a fixture in Tampa Bay’s lineup since 2012.

Jameis Winston led the NFL in passing yards and threw for 33 touchdowns in 2019, however he also tossed 30 interceptions and was sacked 47 times as the Bucs finished 7-9 and missed the playoffs for the 12th consecutive season.

Brady recentlys signed a two-year, $50 million contract.

For all the uniqueness of this NFL draft, including the angst over a potential communications fiasco, things looked and sounded pretty normal Thursday night.

Quarterbacks were in demand. Ohio State and the Southeastern Conference dominated. The Patriots traded out of the first round.

And Commissioner Roger Goodell even got booed, if only digitally.

“I do believe this draft is going to be the most memorable we have ever had,” said Goodell, noting that it is accompanied by a “Draft-A-Thon” to benefit six organizations on the front lines battling the coronavirus pandemic, which is what forced the NFL to cancel all in-person draft events.

The first round wasn’t all that remarkable for the picks. Beginning with Joe Burrow of national champion LSU, three quarterbacks went in the top six. Hardly unusual.

For months, the Heisman Trophy winner from LSU was linked with the Bengals. Cincinnati began the draft by sending his name to Goodell in the basement of his home.

The NFL canceled all draft activities in Las Vegas when the national shutdown of large gatherings began.

The second overall selection, Ohio State All-America edge rusher Chase Young, also was predictable. Washington fielded several offers for that spot, but many scouts and personnel executives felt Young was the best player in this crop.

At 6-foot-5, 264 pounds, Young led the nation with 16 1/2 sacks and forced fumbles with six last season.

The All-American won the prestigious Bednarik and Nagurski awards in 2019, leading the Buckeyes to the Big Ten title.

He joins a Redskins team that went 3-13 and allowed 435 points.

If not for the NFL’s obsession with finding the latest, greatest quarterback prospect, Young might have been the top overall selection. That QB infatuation led Miami to Tua Tagovailoa and the Los Angeles Chargers to Justin Herbert — no surprises there. But Green Bay took a chance at No. 26 by taking Utah State QB Jordan Love.

Alabama’s Tagovailoa went fifth, followed in the next spot by Oregon’s Herbert. They were preceded by Ohio State’s Jeff Okudah, the highest-rated cornerback, to Detroit, and Georgia tackle Andrew Thomas to the Giants.

Tagovailoa’s health issues didn’t turn off the Dolphins.