After an eventful week of free agency that saw Tampa Bay extend the contract of wide receiver Mike Evans, re-sign a slew of players, including tight end Cameron Brate and cornerback Brent Grimes, and land center Ryan Jensen, defensive linemen Beau Allen, Mitch Unrein and Vinny Curry, kicker Chandler Catanzaro, Buccaneers general manager Jason is hitting the road this week to visit the pro day workouts of some of the top NFL Draft prospects. Where Licht goes this week could offer a hint as to which direction the Bucs will head in when they are on the clock with the seventh overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Licht attended the pro days of wide receiver Mike Evans and quarterback Jameis Winston, the team’s No. 1 picks in 2014 and ’15 when Tampa Bay was selecting inside the top 10 Licht was at the North Carolina State pro day on Monday, but not just to see Wolfpack defensive end Bradley Chubb work out.
Chubb is believed to be a top 5 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, but could slip to Tampa Bay at No. 7, so it’s important for Licht and the Bucs to do their due diligence. But the Wolfpack has three other defensive linemen that could be intriguing to the Bucs, too. Defensive tackle B.J. Hill had a great week at the Senior Bowl and the 6-foot-3, 311-pounder could be drafted in the second round. Hill has more pass rush ability than fellow N.C. State defensive tackle Justin Jones, who figures to be a Day 3 selection.
And then there is Kentavius Street, who performed well at the East-West Shrine Game. Street is a muscle-bound, 6-foot-2, 280-pound defensive end that played opposite Chubb. Street had 1.5 sacks in the Wolfpack’s bowl win without Chubb, and also had 1.5 sacks in the East-West Shrine Game to go along with four tackles and three quarterback hits.
North Carolina State’s Nyheim Hines is one of the fastest running backs in this year’s draft. The 5-foot-8, 198-pound Hines ran a 4.38 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine.
But Licht is intent on doing as much research as he can and getting to know the Bucs’ potential first-round picks as much as possible. That’s why he was checking out Chubb at North Carolina State on Monday and is expected to travel to Florida State to watch safety Derwin James, a likely top 10 pick, perform at his pro day on Tuesday, March 20.
Tampa Bay could use a safety to compete with Chris Conte at strong safety to play opposite free safety Justin Evans. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound James is big, fast and physical and comes with great leadership qualities.
Also in attendance for the Seminoles will be defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi, an accomplished run stuffer, cornerback Tarvarus McFadden and defensive end Josh Sweat, who ran a 4.53 at the NFL Scouting Combine at 6-foot-5, 251 pounds.
Or Licht may head to Penn State instead of Florida State where running back Saquon Barkley, who figures to be a top 5 pick, will be in attendance. The Bucs drafted wide receiver Chris Godwin from Happy Valley, Pennsylvania last year, and they could opt for another Nittany Lion in 2018. Aside from Barkley, Penn State has safeties Marcus Allen and Troy Apke and Day 3 cornerbacks Grant Haley and Christian Campbell.
Where Licht goes on Wednesday, March 21 could be telling as Georgia and Boston College both have pro days. The appeal at Boston College is defensive end Harold Landry, who measured 6-foot-3, 252 pounds and ran a 4.64 in Indy, had 26 sacks in his final three seasons with the Eagles, including 16.5 as a junior before an ankle injury limited him to just five sacks in nine games last year.
The Bulldogs have a slew of players with appeal to Licht and the Bucs, including running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. The Bucs only have two capable running backs on their roster in Peyton Barber, last year’s leading rusher, and Jacquizz Rodgers. Chubb and Michel are the second- and third-leading rushers in school history behind only Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker.
Isaiah Wynn played left tackle at Georgia, but at 6-foot-3, 313 pounds, he’ll move inside to play guard at the next level. Regarded as a late first- or early second-round pick, Wynn had a fantastic Senior Bowl.
The guess here is that Licht heads to Georgia where he can also check out a pair of defensive tackles in agile 6-foot-3, 288-pound Trenton Thompson and big John Atkins, who is 6-foot-3 and weighs 321 pounds. The Bulldogs also have a pair of edge rushers worth investigating in Lorenzo Carter, who ran a 4.46 at 6-foot-5, 250 pounds, and Davin Bellamy, who didn’t receive an invite to the NFL Scouting Combine and will need to impress NFL scouts in attendance.
The pro days for Notre Dame and Ohio State fall on Thursday, March 22. Will Licht visit South Bend, Indiana to scout guard Quenton Nelson, who is a top 5 pick that could slide to Tampa Bay at No. 7, or will he be in Columbus, Ohio to check out the plethora of defenders the Buckeyes are sending to the NFL this year, including cornerback Denzel Ward, who is a top 10 talent?
Aside from Nelson, the Fighting Irish also have big wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown and running back Josh Adams, who didn’t work out at the NFL Scouting Combine due to a foot injury.
But the guess here is that Licht will be at Ohio State watching Ward, linebacker Jerome Baker and defensive ends Sam Hubbard, Tyquan Lewis and Jalyn Holmes. Offensive tackle Jamarco Jones could draw the Bucs’ interest. Tampa Bay needs help on the defensive side of the ball and could use a cornerback like Ward and one of Ohio State’s defensive ends.
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th 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 line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org