The 2015 NFL Draft is approaching and the Buccaneers have the first overall selection for the first time in 27 years. The Buccaneers finished with an abysmal 2-14 record, so the team will look to the draft for an influx of young talent. PewterReport.com draft analyst Eric Dellaratta takes a look at five players that could be draft possibilities for Tampa Bay this spring.
It’s a rare occurrence to find a tight end prospect with 6-foot-7, 250-pound size. It’s even rarer to find a tight end prospect with elite athletic qualities. Massachusetts tight end Jean Sifrin is a rare tight end prospect that offers both.
Sifrin is a match-up nightmare that makes defensive coordinators sleep with one eye open. At 6-foot-7, 250 pounds, it’s hard to ask for anything more as far as size is concerned. He has the frame to dominate defensive backs and is too fast for linebackers. Sifrin is incredibly quick off of the snap and his athleticism makes it hard for defenders to keep up with him down the seam. It’s been rumored that Sifrin runs the 40-yard dash in the mid-4.5 range, which is absolutely incredible for a tight end of his stature.
The massive tight end’s best quality is his ability to win in contested situations with his excellent hands and leaping ability. Sifrin makes highlight reel catches on a consistent basis and was one of the most productive tight ends in all of college football in 2014. Sifrin’s 642 receiving yards were the fourth most of all FBS tight ends and he also added six touchdowns to his 2014 stat line.
Sifrin’s story is quite amazing. The standout tight end’s ability to work with the team was delay because of his JUCO transfer from El Camino Community College. Because of NCAA rules, the Minutemen tight end wasn’t even allowed to practice with the team until a week before their first game. He missed the team’s first game and got his first game action against Colorado, where he caught four passes for 40 yards and two touchdowns.
Sifrin’s biggest drawback is the fact that he’s already 27 years old, which is a result of him taking time off from football to take care of his son. That means he won’t have the same amount of time to develop as younger options at the tight end position, but he offers athletic skills and size that nobody else in the draft can. Sifrin needs to improve as a run-blocker but he certainly has the measurables and strength needed to play inline at the NFL level. Every NFL team looks for ways to add playmakers to their offense and Sifrin could be a plug-and-play red zone option for a team that’s willing to invest a late-round draft pick.
The Buccaneers added two huge options to their passing attack last year when they drafted wide receiver Mike Evans and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Adding another massive target to their passing attack would make life extremely hard for defensive coordinators, and they could do it without spending a premium draft selection. Sifrin is a rare breed that is worth a gamble near the end of the draft.
WHAT CAN BROWN DO FOR TAMPA BAY?
There is no denying that the Buccaneers running game was abysmal in 2014. Tampa Bay’s leading rusher was Doug Martin, who totaled just 494 yards on 134 carries. Martin, who hasn’t rushed for more than 500 yards since his rookie season, is entering an offseason where he may be deemed expendable by the Buccaneers’ front office. His ability to return to his 2012 form is certainly in question. Bobby Rainey was arguably the best of the Buccaneers backs, racking up 406 yards on 94 carries, but he will be a restricted free agent when the Buccaneers head into free agency in March.
Rainey and Martin may be expendable this offseason because the team has high hopes for 2014 third-round draft pick Charles Sims. The former West Virginia rusher has a lot of potential as a three-down back because of his excellent hands and ability to make defenders miss in the open field. An injury halted Sims’ plan to take over the starting job early on in the season, but he flashed ability in the limited amount of playing time he got towards the end of the year. That was highlighted by an devastating juke move that nearly broke the ankles of Carolina Panthers star linebacker Luke Kuechly. While he made some highlight reel-type plays, he lacked consistency, which led to a horrendous 2.8 yards per carry statistic.
Sims isn’t an overly powerful back. He instead uses his quickness and agility to create big plays. But when the Buccaneers get into third-and-short and goalline situations, Sims isn’t an ideal fit to handle those duties. Adding a bigger back that can grind out tough yards and help out as a blocker would be beneficial to Dirk Koetter’s new offense. PewterReport’s Scott Reynolds has already pointed out that Northern Iowa running back David Johnson would be a great fit to fill that role in the fifth round of his most recent mock draft. If the Buccaneers want an even cheaper option, they could take a long look at Louisville running back Dominique Brown.
Brown offers a nice blend of size, power and versatility, and all three of those are attributes the Buccaneers could make use of. At practices during East-West Shrine week, Brown impressed with his three-down ability and did a nice job in pass protection. At 6-foot-2, 240 pounds, Brown offers a large frame that can hold up against blitzing linebackers and safeties.
The former Cardinal capped of his excellent week of practices with a good Shrine game performance, where he carried the rock 19 times for 70 yards and a touchdown. Brown ripped off a nice 14-yard carry and battered through defenders throughout the game.
After falling behind troubled running back Michael Dyer and emerging sophomore Brandon Radcliffe, Brown posted the worst numbers of his career as a senior, totaling just 378 yards and four touchdowns. His lack of involvement in Louisville’s offense is concerning, but Brown has the talent to be a valuable part of an NFL rushing attack. The Louisville back could be an interesting option near the end of the draft, and he could come even cheaper if he falls into the undrafted ranks.
Every year there are players that are drafted on the third day of the draft (rounds 4-7) that step in as rookies and make a big impact for their team right away. In recent years, some of these players include Martavis Bryant, Bashaud Breeland, Andre Ellington, Zac Stacy, Kenny Stills, Seantrel Henderson, among others. This section will outline potential prospects that appear to be poised to make an immediate impact as rookies.
MISSISSIPPI STATE RB JOSH ROBINSON
The combination of quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Josh Robinson proved to be a very difficult duo to stop in 2014. Robinson ran 190 times for 1203 yards (6.3 avg) and 11 touchdowns. The Mississippi State battering ram had a huge game against a tough LSU defense in 2014. He ran for 197 yards on just 16 carries and scored a touchdown. Robinson also added 28 catches to his totals for 2014, which shows he can make an impact as a receiver.
Robinson has tree trunks for legs and is a handful to tackle with just a single defender. The former Bulldog pin-balls off tacklers and has fantastic balance. His style of play is reminiscent of former Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew, and with three-down ability, Robinson is the type of back that can come into the league and succeed as a rookie in a limited or full-time role.
DELAWARE TE NICK BOYLE
Delaware tight end Nick Boyle went into the Reese’s Senior Bowl with little buzz, but he came left Mobile as one of the most talked about draft prospects. Boyle showed off a well-rounded skill set that was highlighted by his reliable hands as a receiver. The Delaware product was strong in pass-protection drills and was the most consistent receiver for the North team all week. He showed of his athleticism during the game when he hurdled over a defender for about a 15-yard gain.
As a junior in 2013, Boyle caught 42 passes for 474 yards and 7 touchdowns. His numbers decreased as a senior, where he racked up 304 yards and four touchdowns.
With more college teams opting for smaller tight ends who specialize in receiving, true in-line tight ends with strong blocking skills are becoming harder to find. At 6-foot-5, 267 pounds, Boyle has the size to be a valuable blocker for an NFL team and with above average receiving skills he could work his way into a starting lineup relatively quickly.
MIAMI OG/OT JON FELICIANO
Miami offensive lineman Jon Feliciano is an ultra-aggressive blocker with excellent size and strength. At 6-foot-5, 320 pounds, the massive Miami product can engulf defenders as a run blocker. Feliciano had a strong week of practice at the East-West Shrine Game in St. Petersburg, Fla., where he battled hard and showed off the ability to play multiple positions.
On tape, Feliciano struggles with initially engaging defenders, especially in space, but he becomes dominant when engaged. He also needs to work on playing with more control and balance, as he ends up on the ground too often.
Felciano has played both left guard, right tackle and even some left tackle for the Hurricanes, and that versatility will be appealing to NFL teams. He should make an NFL roster and be a backup at guard or right tackle during his first season, making him worthy of a late-round selection.