The Tampa Bay Buccaneers hear your concerns about the backend of the defense, Bucs fans, and are kicking the tires on some of the best secondary prospects in the 2018 NFL draft.
Accordingly to multiple media outlets, including our friends at Pewter Report, Tampa Bay has used some of their allotted 30 private team visits to thoroughly vet prospects that are projected to go on day one or two of the NFL draft.
Who Do They Like?
So far, FSU safety Derwin James, Louiville CB Jaire Alexander, Iowa CB Josh Jackson, UCF CB Mike Hughes and LSU CB Donte Jackson have all had or will have visits with Tampa Bay. The Bucs have also been connected to jack-of-all-trades Minkah Fitzpatrick, Colorado CB Isaiah Oliver and of course, the player considered the top corner in the draft, Ohio State CB Denzel Ward.
It will be interesting to see when the secondary will be addressed. Without a 3rd round pick (surrendered in the trade for pass rusher Jason Pierre-Paul), the Bucs currently have two picks on the first two days of the draft, when most starters are selected. Now, that’s not to say you can’t find a diamond in the rough in the rounds four through seven – but typically, your starters are found on Day One and Two and your depth is built on Day Three.
Draft Day Scenarios
On Day One, there are three non-quarterback blue chip prospects in RB Saquon Barkley, OG Quenton Nelson and DE Bradley Chubb. If any of them are available – they’re going to be a Buccaneer. What if they’re not? Say the expected run on quarterbacks doesn’t come and the big three are gone. What do they do? Obviously, at this point the phone would be ringing off the hook for QB hungry teams looking to move up. However, let’s say that a trade down doesn’t materialize and the Bucs are forced to make a pick.
The Bucs have four areas where they really could use a new starter. Outside corner opposite Brent Grimes, left or right guard depending on where the Bucs move Ali Marpet, strong safety next to 2017 2nd round pick Justin Evans and of course, starting running back. Tampa Bay can’t – simply can’t – wait until the 4th round to draft a running back. So assume one of the two picks are going to be a runner.
If it’s the first round, the Bucs could reach on running back Derrius Guice of LSU, although Pewter Report dishes that there may be some character concerns there and after dealing with the multiple issues with Doug Martin, they may not want to revisit that, so perhaps the Bucs address the secondary with 7th overall selection. Ward is an intriuging prospect with blazing speed – but he’s undersized at 5’10”. The Bucs already have short corners with Grimes and Hargreaves. Grimes can leap out of the gym and that helps him make up for his disadvantage, but Hargreaves hasn’t shown much in his two years in Tampa Bay. Would Ward be an upgrade? That’s what Tampa Bay would need to decide but in a division with Julio Jones and other hulking wide outs, you could use a few guys with a little height or length to them.
Fitzpatrick could be an option but according to some media outlets, the Bucs view him strictly as a safety and don’t know if the value is there at 7th overall. Derwin James is the big hitter and according to Pewter Report, has the alpha dog mentality the Bucs would love to see in the third level. Yet there were questions about his dropoff in play for a really bad Florida State team in 2017. Of course, the Bucs could go out of left field and draft UTEP offensive guard Will Hernandez, a player Tampa Bay seems to covet but no one has as a top ten prospect in the draft. Is an interesting quandry.
Now consider this: Say the QB run happens and Quenton Nelson or Bradley Chubb is the pick. The Bucs are likely to go running back in the second round and barring a trade that garners a 3rd round pick – Tampa Bay will need to wait until round four to get their secondary support. What would be left?
Per Luke Easterling’s Draftwire, NC State’s MJ Stewart and Florida’s Duke Dawson start the Day 3 list of corners, along with Donte Jackson and FSU’s Tavares McFadden (who could sneak into the end of Day 2). Meanwhile, safety is a bit slimmer pickings with Texas’ Deshon Elliot and Quin Blanding of Virginia being some likely targets.
While getting a player the caliber of Saquon Barkley, Quenton Nelson or Bradley Chubb would definitely help the Bucs greatly, the ideal scenario for Tampa Bay would be to have one of the big four quarterbacks available when Tampa Bay drafts and initiate a trade down scenario that would allow the team to find a couple more likely starters in this crucial 2018 draft.
Otherwise, Tampa Bay may be checking the waiver wire to band-aid a hole and get through 2018.