Day two of the 2020 NFL draft is done with and the Tampa Bay Bucs selected Minnesota safety Antoine Winfield Jr. with their 45th pick, followed by drafting Vanderbilt running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn with pick number 76. Both players are considered dynamic in their abilities to have an impact on the game in more ways than one.
With a run on safeties in the beginning of the second round, the Bucs decided to forgo on a running back in order to pick Winfield, but still had Vaughn highly rated on their board in round three.
Bucs general manager Jason Licht spoke with the media towards the end of the draft and discussed what qualities he likes about each player, how the board fell in their favor and what the competition looks like for the starting job at both Winfield’s and Vaughn’s position.
Here is a full transcript of Licht’s press conference over videocast.
On what made him take Antoine Winfield Jr. in the second with the RBs on the board
“Well I guess I would say that we obviously had Antoine Winfield graded pretty high. It’s also a position that we wanted to address in the draft, we felt as the draft rolled around along that we’d be able to hopefully get a running back that we liked that we had graded at a high value and that’s the way we did it. We felt the safeties were coming off pretty quick and if we left Antoine sitting there on the board he wouldn’t be there. We feel very good about the decision we made here and were excited to have Antoine here.”
On how much Todd Bowles can do with Winfield’s versatility
“It’s one of the things we really loved about Antoine. I hate doing comparisons to players in the NFL right now because he hasn’t set foot on the field in the NFL but some of the reasons that we liked Budda Baker and Tyrann Mathieu, and I’m not putting him in that category yet, but we feel that he has the ability to play free and strong. We play interchangeably in our scheme, he’s dropped down to nickel and done a really nice job there too, so you got to safety that can do all those different things that really raises his value. He’s a very smart guy, very intense guy, loves football and we’re just excited to get him here and get rolling.”
On how he envisions using Ke’Shawn Vaughn, if the idea is to have him as a pass catcher or first and second down RB
“The idea is to get him here and see what he does best. We know that he’s got good speed, we know that he can catch the ball, we know that he’s good in space, he’s very productive there. He’s also a very intense person just like Antoine in terms of his demeanor, in terms of his football character and passion. One of the things that we’ve really really loved about him, he’s very smart, I think he’s capable of playing all three downs. You can’t have too many good backs, you can’t just rely on one back, so if you have a guy that can do multiple things, it makes him even more valuable to your team. We’ll see how it goes, we have to get him here and we’ll get him to the mix and see how it all shakes out. We’re excited to have him as well.”
On how important it was to draft a RB now since they don’t have a pick in the 4th round, especially with Vaughn’s skills
“We felt like it was very important. By no stretch of the imagination am I gonna say that we reached at all because he was sitting right there right when we were picking and it just matched up with what we felt like we needed, which was another running back to get in the mix with RoJo. So RoJo and Dare and T.J., we feel like we have a pretty good group right now.”
On if he feels like the board has fell in a way that he can package some later picks to move up in another round since he doesn’t have fourth round right now
“We’ll have to see how it goes. This was a great draft in terms of having players that we liked that fit our needs, that doesn’t always happen that way, starting in the first round. Pretty good group of offensive tackles, very good group, and then at safety and then at running back, there’s still some really good runners out there. It’s a deep group of receivers, there’s still some offensive linemen that we like, there’s still some defensive linemen that we like, we felt like the positions that we wanted to address this year, this draft really matched up with that. We were fortunate in that respect.”
On given if his drop off in 2019 if he was surprised with Vaughn at pick 76 knowing the back he is and playing in the SEC
“Yeah, I was a little surprised. Coming off of his junior year we had even higher grades on him than we did this year. I think that they lost a few players, wasn’t as productive, it’s one of those years that every program goes through that’s a little bit of a retool. There was a lot of backs this year that played behind some..…because of graduating seniors and having to play young guys, their offensive lines weren’t quite what they were at one point. This is no disrespect to this program at all, it just happens everywhere so you have to kind of do your evaluation based off the entire career of the player during the last two years especially. We felt like what we’re getting is what we’ve seen in 2018 and 2019.”
On if Winfield’s leadership ability something that attracted him and can he step in and be a leader with his maturity
“Yeah, most definitely. He’s also really a very bright guy and knows that he’s not going to step in and do that, he’s just going to lead through his actions. He is the alpha male of his team and so is Ke’Shawn, but they have to come in and earn their stripes and earn the respect of their teammates. But once their actions on the field start showing up, it’s gonna be pretty easy for everybody to realize that this guy is a leader. We felt today in terms of their ability, we talked about that, we like that, but their leadership and just their presence in the locker room are just a couple things that we love about these guys.”
On how much not taking a prominent RB in the second round is an endorsement of Ronald Jones as a primary back
“We love Ronald, we think Ronald’s gonna take another step this year. In terms of what you’re saying, a more prominent back, I guess that would be the way you see how these guys are ranked in the media and things like that, we try to evaluate our players based on our coaches, our scouts and how we like them sometimes. And I’m not picking on any player in particular, but sometimes everybody thinks a player that is talked about the most is a better player, so right now we’ll see how it goes and we’re happy with the guys that we got. Like I said before, the run on the safeties went pretty quick before and after we took Antoine, we felt like we made a good decision there and we’re excited about him.”
On how challenging it is to balance trying to win now but also considering using a draft pick and roster spot for a developmental quarterback
“If there’s a guy that you really like and you feel has a good chance to develop, you’re going to want to take him. But we feel like we’re going to get some years out of Tom [Brady], we like Blaine [Gabbert] and we like Ryan Griffin too. Like I’ve said before, it’s got to be the right guy and we also had some other parts of our roster that we needed to address. We’ll address that when we feel like we need to, but right now we haven’t so far at this point, but we still have a whole day of drafting left to go.”
On how the COVID-19 situation may have enticed teams to take prospects that have bigger personalities or clear leadership ability
“I think we went about it the same way, trying to engage every player’s personality, but also their intelligence and how they come across when we interview them. That’s just a small part of it. I think we put a little bit more focus on the player on the field, the field evaluation, and our scouts do an incredible job all year gathering information on the other traits of a player that we look for. I have said before that we may have put a little more emphasis on making sure that we are getting guys that can get up to speed quicker, that can adjust and adapt quicker in the NFL environment, but we weren’t going to overlook players that have developmental upside for the future either.”
On if the Buccaneers expect S Justin Evans to be healthy enough to participate in training camp
“We do and we think, if he gets healthy, at that point we’re going to have a hell of a competition there because Justin is an extremely talented guy. We are not writing Justin off whatsoever.”
On how tough it is to put aside the name recognition when evaluating a player who has NFL pedigree
“I think that’s pretty easy. Over the years we’ve all come across guys as we get older in age here, we evaluate players and we evaluate their sons at some point too. Sometimes they’re a player, sometimes they are not as talented. It’s pretty easy. Antoine stood out on the field whether or not his name was Winfield or Smith. That was pretty easy. I will say it is good to have those bloodlines and good to know when a player has a father like Antoine does, that has the experience. It is an asset in his favor that he knows what the NFL is all about.”
On if Winfield Jr. will be used in the return game and if he sees him as a player that can move all over the defense
“Absolutely, yes to both. We like some of the players that we have that have been contributing in the return game, but he’s going to be added to the mix there. Like I said before in terms of his ability as a safety, he is an interchangeable guy that can play both – he can play the high, he can play the post, he can play free [or] strong and he can play the nickel. He’s been making plays, you know, seven interceptions [last season] playing at all of those positions. He’s extremely smart, he’s fast, he’s got great burst and acceleration and he’s a really good foot athlete, and super instinctive. Those are all things for us to be excited about and see when he gets here and we start playing again.”