The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had quite the haul during the 2018 NFL Draft, selecting eight players after general manager Jason Licht traded down twice – once in the first round and again in the second round. Now it’s time for PewterReport.com’s Scott Reynolds to review the 2018 Bucs draft class and assign some initial grades based on the players’ attributes and value based on the round they were selected.
Strong safety Jordan Whitehead, the team’s fourth-round pick, is up next, followed by wide receiver Justin Watson, who was Tampa Bay’s fifth-round pick.
Round 4: Pittsburgh S Jordan Whitehead
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Whitehead was an interesting draft pick because he was not one of the more prominent names in this draft at the safety position. Originally a top-20 cornerback prospect coming out of high school, Whitehead was moved to safety as a freshman due to his toughness and he led Pitt with 109 tackles to go along with six pass breakups and an interception. He would finish with just three career interceptions in three years, including a pick six, and 12 pass breakups.
Pitt S Jordan Whitehead – Photo courtesy of Pitt
Whitehead is not afraid of contact, evidenced by 235 career tackles, two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries, including one for a touchdown in his Panthers career. The Aliquippa, Pa. native has a cornerback’s build at 5-foot-11, 195 pounds and good ability to cover tight ends and slot receivers, although he bites too often on play-action, and hasn’t shown much improvement in terms of production over the last two years. In fact, some scouts suggest his best year was his freshman season.
In addition to being a hard-hitting, undersized strong safety, Whitehead’s athleticism was also used on offense at Pitt where he rushed for 362 yards and three touchdowns on 42 carries (8.4 avg.), in addition to catching four passes for 17 yards. If the Bucs get into a pinch at running back from an injury standpoint as the team has over the past two years, it’s good to know that Whitehead could provide some emergency depth. A football team can never have enough good football players.
The Question Marks
Bucs free safety Justin Evans was not known as a consistent tackler coming out of Texas A&M and Whitehead has the same struggles. He needs to be more consistent, especially for being undersized a safety. While Whitehead has the athleticism to cover, he made very few plays on the ball during his time at Pitt, evidenced by just three interceptions. Does he have any star potential, or is he just another player that can happen to start a la Chris Conte or Keith Tandy? With West Virginia’s Kyzir White and Texas A&M’s Armani Watts going later in the fourth round, did the Bucs pick the right strong safety?
The Rookie Season Expectations
Whitehead has 4.5 speed and good athleticism. He’ll be in the mix for the starting strong safety position because of his draft status and the fact that neither Conte nor Tandy are the future at the position. If Whitehead performs well in camp and the preseason he could eventually start at some point during his rookie year, or it might take him a year to develop behind the scenes and his rookie season is relegated to special teams play.
The Grade: C+
While he likely won’t be cut due to his draft status and the fact that the Bucs needed another safety to compete with Conte and Tandy for the right to start opposite Evans, Whitehead needs to look out for undrafted strong safety Godwin Igwebuike, who had a draftable grade by Tampa Bay. Igwebuike is faster and is a good athlete and it should be fun to watch these two rookies battle it out for a spot on the depth chart.
Scott Reynolds is in his 27th 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 spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive coordinator/defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]
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