The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had somewhat of a surprise season last year. Going down to the wire to finish at 9-8, they held off the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons to capture their third consecutive NFC South division title. They'll hope to do the same next season, becoming the first team since the Saints from 2017-2020 to win four straight in the division.

The Buccaneers have to be feeling pretty good about their chances of that. They're still in what is considered a fairly weak division that is full of inconsistent play, even from themselves. But re-signing the quarterback/wide receiver duo of Baker Mayfield and Mike Evans puts the team in a good position to vie for the division crown again.

That alone is a good group of veteran leadership that did more than just win a division crown; it helped win a playoff game and make it all the way to the NFC Divisional Round. Those are two veterans that shouldn't be tested in the upcoming season by incoming rookies, as they are well secured in their respective positions. But there's some obvious rookies from the Buccaneers' 2024 NFL Draft class that are bound to ruffle the feathers of some veterans on the team.

Robert Hainsey is set to be challenged by first-round pick Graham Barton

It should come as no surprise that out of all the rookies coming in, Graham Barton will likely be the most challenging to a veteran at their position. The Buccaneers chose to pick their center of the future in Graham Barton at No. 26 overall.

Long-time center Ryan Jensen retired after last season, leaving the center duties up to Robert Hainsey, who did fill in some at the position last year. In total, he has 1,236 snaps at the position in his four-year career. But when filling in for Jensen last season, he gave up a total of 11 sacks. With Barton, the Buccaneers now believe they have the right guy with the right size to snap the ball to the quarterback.

“We haven't had the bulk in there since [Ali] Marpet [retired], obviously, and Ryan left and [Alex] Cappa left,” Buccaneers head coach Todd Bowles told ESPN. “Bringing size in there, getting a little bit over 300, 305 [pounds], getting a bigger guy, a taller guy, with some girth in there [and] trying to not let people go up the middle as much. I think it'll help us that way.”

Barton is 6-foot-5 and 314 pounds, so he definitely fits the bill. Depending on how Barton develops, he could be starting early on. Nonetheless, he'll be in direct competition with Hainsey, who he's right behind on in the depth chart, per CBS Sports.

Jalen McMillan will be pushing Chris Godwin for WR2

The Buccaneers made sure to keep Mike Evans as their clear No. 1 after the success he and Baker Mayfield had with each other, but the team felt it was still time to look toward the future at the wideout position.

With Evans on contract for another two years, it's Chris Godwin who may eventually be out. Godwin has been a staple of the Buccaneers' offense going back to 2017, but he's on the last year of his deal this year.

That's why Tampa Bay thought it best to go out and draft Washington receiver Jalen McMillan in the third round at No. 92 overall. McMillan seemed maybe the least significant out of the Husky receivers, given he was on a team with Rome Odunze and Ja'Lynn Polk, but Mel Kiper called him “a steal at the end of Round 3.”

This isn't necessarily saying that McMillan is going to outright take the WR2 position out from under Godwin. He's still just 28 and has been a 1,000-plus yard receiver in four out of the last five years. But McMillan has a definite chance to push the seven-year veteran, if for nothing else, because the Buccaneers' staff want him to be Godwin's replacement next year.

Rachaad White will be challenged by Bucky Irving

Jan 15, 2024; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Rachaad White (1) runs the ball against the Philadelphia Eagles during the first half of a 2024 NFC wild card game at Raymond James Stadium.
Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

It's no secret how bad the Buccaneers' running game has been over the last couple of seasons. They averaged just 82.9 yards per game the past two seasons, which is the worst in the NFL in that span. Bad offensive line play and scheme changes or not, that was something that had to be addressed in the offseason. And it was, including drafting former Oregon running back Bucky Irving in the fourth round.

This year's draft was nothing special in the running back department, but Irving seemed overlooked, at least to some degree. He's coming out of a high-powered Ducks offense that had him not only making runs but catching out of the backfield, leading Power 5 running backs in receiving yards (413) and receptions (56). He's an elusive back that made defenders miss 144 tackles the last two seasons. Sure, his speed may not be anything to write home about (4.55 40-yard dash at the combine), but he'll be a bona fide No. 2 in Tampa Bay.

Now, this isn't saying that Rachaad White is going anywhere. All things considered, White had a career year and just missed racking up 1,000 yards (990) with nine total touchdowns from scrimmage. But with as bad as the running game has been the last couple seasons, Irving could turn out to be a spark that challenges for RB1.