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All right, draftniks. You know that Pewter Report is the undisputed king of Tampa Bay Buccaneers draft coverage. We've listed players, such as wide receiver Dexter Jackson (2008), offensive lineman Jeremy Zuttah (2008), quarterback Josh Johnson (2008), defensive end Gaines Adams (2007), linebacker Quincy Black (2007), wide receiver Maurice Stovall (2006), quarterback Bruce Gradkowski (2006), middle linebacker Barrett Ruud (2005), cornerback Torrie Cox (2003) – among others, at their respective positions in the Bucs' Best Bets sections of Pewter Report's annual Bucs Draft Preview.
As the 2009 NFL Draft approaches, Pewter Report's resident draft experts, Scott Reynolds and Charlie Campbell, have spent countless hours watching over 12 college games per week and scouting which prospects would look good wearing red and pewter next year. With over 500 college games to review dating back over the last four years and countless scouting contacts throughout the NFL, Reynolds and Campbell are armed with the inside scoop needed to put together these scouting reports on players who might fit Tampa Bay's schemes on offense and defense.
The casual football fan already has a good deal of knowledge on likely first-round draft prospects, such as USC MLB Rey Maualuga, Georgia QB Matthew Stafford, and Ohio State OLB James Laurinaitis. These regular Pewter Insider features on PewterReport.com will scout out players that are candidates for the Buccaneers to select in next April's draft.
Will one of these players wind up being the next Ruud, Zuttah or Johnson? We'll all find out next April when Tampa Bay is on the clock.
ILLINOIS CORNERBACK VONTAE DAVIS VITAL STATS: Illinois cornerback Vontae Davis measures in at 5-foot-11, 203-pounds and was the second-fastest cornerback at the NFL scouting combine with a 4.49 40-yard dash time. Davis also led all cornerbacks with 25 repetitions on the bench press of 225 pounds. Like his older brother, Vernon, who is a tight end with the 49ers, Vontae has an extremely rare athletic skill set.
CREDENTIALS Davis led all Big-10 cornerbacks in tackles last season with 78, and was second in the conference in forced fumbles with three. The speedy Davis is a legitimate shut-down corner capable of taking a team's number one receiver and shutting them out of a game. Davis plays up to big competition and has had his best collegiate games against the best teams he has faced. RECORDS AND SUPERLATIVES Davis was first-team All Big-10 selection after the past two seasons. He was also a 2008 Playboy All-American and Preseason First-Team All-American for the Sporting News. Davis was a candidate for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, Chuck Bednarik Award, and Jim Thorpe Award.
HIS BIGGEST GAMES 9/1/07 Missouri one blocked punt returned 16 yards for a touchdown, 10 tackles, one tackle for a loss 9/22/07 at Indiana One interception, one punt blocked returned 15 yards, nine tackles, one pass defensed 1/1/08 USC 13 tackles, one tackle for a loss 10/4/08 at Michigan nine tackles, two tackles for a loss, one pass defensed, one forced fumble 11/1/08 Iowa one interception, two kick returns for 39 yards, two tackles
WHY HE COULD BE A RED AND PEWTER PLAYER The Buccaneers are in the market for a young cornerback to form a trio with second-year players Aqib Talib and Elbert Mack. Ronde Barber is 33, and the Bucs have to plan for the day when Barber will no longer be in the lineup. Tampa Bay did not re-sign starting left cornerback Phillip Buchanon, and Talib is set to take his place as the starter. The team would like to add another cornerback to compete with Mack for the nickel spot, and it may do that with a high draft pick.
Other positions on the team are bigger needs then cornerback – defensive end being the most glaring – but if the Bucs do not have an end available that they like at the number 19 overall pick they are thinking of opting to go with a cornerback for the second straight season. New defensive coordinator Jim Bates puts his cornerbacks on islands and expects them to cover receivers in man coverage. That is a lot of pressure on those individuals, so the Buccaneers know they better have shutdown corners otherwise they can expect to be beaten downfield.
That is where Davis could come into play. At One Buc Place, Davis is thought of very highly and grades out similarly to how Aqib Talib did last season. Davis' strengths and skill set are viewed to be on par as Talib. Like Talib, Davis has good size, instincts, great speed, good tackling ability, ball skills, big-play potential, bravado, and the ability to match up with another team's best receiver and take them out of the game.
Davis is pure beast in run support, and is very physical. The Washington, D.C. product is a violent hitter that looks to separate the ball from the ballcarrier. He is good in zone coverage, but really excels in man-to-man because he has loose hips that allow him to turn and run with receivers. As a blitzer, Davis is sound when given the opportunity.
The pre-Combine hype about Davis was warranted as he is a physical specimen that is a workout warrior like his older brother Vernon was prior to being selected in the first round by the 49ers. Vontae had a fabulous Combine performance and undoubtedly has the athletic ability to be a top-flight NFL cornerback.
Davis is not without his flaws as only has seven career interceptions, and never returned an interception for a touchdown. Part of the lack of interceptions is because teams threw away from Davis over the past two seasons, particularly last year. He also has a reputation of taking some plays off and playing down to competition.
A year ago many people were saying the same things about Talib. Tampa Bay believed that then-defensive backs coach Raheem Morris, defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, Talib's teammates, and the challenge of NFL wide receivers would break Talib of that habit. The Bucs feel vindicated in that sense, as Talib had a strong rookie season with four interceptions. Tampa Bay looks at Davis exactly the same. At the NFL, the coaching he will receive combined with the pressure from his teammates and the opposition will coax the best out of Davis on a weekly basis.
Depending on how the draft falls, Davis is a candidate for the Buccaneers first selection. TOUGHEST TRANSITION IN TAMPA BAY Davis will have to prove to teams in the interview process that he will go all out on every play, and will not play down to the competition at the NFL level. He also has to show that he has a passion to play football, which is something that NFL scouts have questioned about his brother. Davis will also need to keep his ego in check. SPECIAL TEAMS FACTOR Davis has a little experience returning kicks in college. He turned nine kickoff returns into 215 yards for an average of 23.9 yards per return. He would definitely be used on coverage units, and Davis has blocked a few punts in his career. With Talib and Mack possibly rising to starting positions this year, the Bucs will need backup corners to play on special teams. DRAFT PROJECTION Davis is projected to be drafted in the second half of round one. THE QUOTE Davis spoke with the IlliniHQ.com after his pro-day workout about the mixed projections in the draft that have him as a top-10 pick or to a late in the first-round pick.
"I don't pay attention because it's all within the National Football League and what they think of people," Davis said. "All the outside world, that's their opinion. But in the long run it's on April 25."