On Tuesday, PewterReport.com outlined the problems facing the NFL and college football with a record 98 underclassmen entering the 2014 NFL Draft. However, if a team drafts the right underclassmen it can pay off some real dividends, as the tandem of defensive linemen Akeem Spence and William Gholston did last year as rookies after being selected in the fourth round by Tampa Bay.
The Bucs have only drafted three underclassmen – Spence, Gholston and Da’Quan Bowers (second round, 2011) in the past three years out of team’s 21 draft picks during that span. Today, PewterReport.com lists five underclassmen projected to be drafted in rounds 2-7 that could help the Buccaneers in 2014.
Tampa Bay needs to address its offense in 2014 and there are five underclassmen at skill positions that could help offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford and the Buccaneers.
5 UNDERCLASSMEN THAT CAN HELP THE BUCCANEERS IN ROUNDS 2-7 OF THE 2014 NFL DRAFTWashington TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins – Second RoundAt 6-foot-6, 276 pounds, Seferian-Jenkins is a monster-sized tight end with great hands and a huge wingspan. He left Washington as the most accomplished tight end in school history, catching 146 passes for 1,840 yards and 21 touchdowns. As a junior, Seferian-Jenkins caught 36 passes for 450 yards and eight touchdowns despite missing the first game of the season after being suspended for an offseason DUI arrest.
Seferian-Jenkins had a breakout sophomore season with 69 receptions for 852 yards and seven touchdowns. Seferian-Jenkins can be a great red zone target and a good complimentary receiving tight end at the next level, but he lacks the elite speed like New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham to become a featured weapon on offense in the NFL.
The Bucs need a complete tight end that can be an effective security blanket for Mike Glennon and a red zone option, in addition to helping as an in-line blocker. Seferian-Jenkins could be a good fit for Tampa Bay in the second round.
Fresno State WR Davante Adams – Second RoundCatching passes from Derek Carr allowed Adams to post some ridiculous receiving stats in 2013. The redshirt sophomore caught 131 balls for 1,718 yards and 24 touchdowns last year, and leaves Fresno State with 233 catches for 3,030 yards and 38 touchdowns in his career. At 6-foot-2, 212 pounds, Adams is an outstanding leaper that allows him to win most jump ball situations in addition to deceptive speed.
In two years, Adams amassed 13 games with 100 yards receiving or more, and had 10 games with two touchdowns or more. The athletic Adams showcased his great hands with eight catches for 221 yards and four scores in a 38-14 win over UNLV before catching nine balls for 246 yards and four touchdowns in a 69-28 win over New Mexico. In Fresno State’s 62-52 loss to San Jose State, Adams had 13 catches for a career-high 264 yards and three TDs.
Adams should be available at the top of the second round for the Buccaneers, and his skill set and size might remind Tedford of former Cal receivers like Marvin Jones and Keenan Allen, both of whom have gone on to have successful careers in the NFL.
LSU WR Odell Beckham – Second RoundBeckam hauled in 59 passes for 1,152 yards and eight touchdowns last year, and posted 143 receptions for 2,340 yards and 12 scores in his Tigers career. What’s important to note is that Beckham used his acceleration and shiftiness to average 19.5 yards per catch as a junior.
The 6-foot, 187-pound receiver had seven games with 100 yards receiving or more and is excellent at getting yards after catch with his ability to juke defenders. Beckham matched up well with TCU cornerback Jason Verrett, a potential first-round NFL draft prospect, and caught five passes for 118 yards in LSU’s 37-27 win.
He also had nine catches for 179 yards and a pair of scores in a 59-26 win over Mississippi State and had six grabs for 204 yards and two TDs against Towson. Because of the depth at the wide receiver position in this draft, Beckham should be around when Tampa Bay picks near the top of the second round, and his speed and agility would fit in well with Tedford’s offense, which puts an emphasis on getting yards after the catch.
Oregon State WR Brandin Cooks – Third RoundAt 5-foot-10, 186 pounds, Cooks will likely play slot receiver in the NFL, and that’s exactly what the Buccaneers need. The speedy Cooks was one of the most prolific receivers in college football last year, catching 128 passes for 1,730 yards and 16 touchdowns.
In his three years with the Beavers, Cooks hauled in 226 passes for 3,272 yards (14.4 avg.) and 24 touchdowns. The Oregon State playmaker had nine catches for 210 yards and three scores in a 51-48 overtime win against Utah, and later had 13 catches for 232 yards and a touchdown in a 49-17 win over Cal.
Cooks had 13 games with 100 yards receiving or more and five games with multiple touchdowns. The Bucs desperately need to upgrade the speed element at wide receiver and Cooks could help out in the late second or third round if Tampa Bay were to trade down and acquire more draft picks.
Oregon RB De’Anthony Thomas – Fifth RoundTedford has said he wants to use the team’s athletes’ “speed in space” in Tampa Bay, and head coach Lovie Smith wants to upgrade the Bucs’ return game. The 5-foot-9, 176-pound Thomas can help in both areas with his speed and athleticism.
Thomas disappointed a bit as a junior, rushing for 594 yards and eight touchdowns after rushing for 701 yards and 11 scores as a sophomore. In his three years at Oregon, the player known as the “Black Mamba” rushed for 1,890 yards and 26 touchdowns on 243 carries. As a receiver, Thomas had 113 catches for 1,276 yards and 15 touchdowns, making him one of the most versatile and dangerous weapons in college football.
He had 12 offensive plays of 40 yards or more at Oregon, in addition to four returns of 70 yards or more. Thomas was also a dangerous return specialist at Oregon, amassing 1,859 yards on 72 kick returns (25.8 avg.) with four touchdowns. Thomas returned 16 punts for 274 yards (17.1 avg.), including one touchdown. While the Bucs appear to be stocked at running back with the likes of Doug Martin, Bobby Rainey, Mike James and Jeff Demps, the versatility that Thomas could bring as a part-time slot receiver and return specialist might warrant his selection late in the draft if he slips that far.
Scott Reynolds is in his 23rd year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds enjoys giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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