With the 12th pick in the 2018 NFL Draft acquired after trading with Buffalo, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers made a bit of a surprise selection and drafted mammoth Washington defensive tackle Vita Vea, who was featured in PewterReport.com’s second and third 2018 Bucs’ 7-Round Mock Drafts earlier this offseason.

The reason why choosing Vea is an eye-opener is because Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht passed over defensive back  Florida State strong safety Derwin James to draft a player where he already spent a lot of resources bolstering the team’s defensive line, adding nose tackle Beau Allen, versatile lineman Mitch Unrein, defensive end Vinny Curry and trading a third-round pick for defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul.

Not to mention the fact that the Bucs already have one of the best defensive tackles in the game in six-time Pro Bowler Gerald McCoy.

Yet McCoy turned 30 this offseason and his sack numbers have been in decline in each of the last three seasons, so Licht, who began doing his homework on Vea two years ago at a visit to Washington, needs to draft for the future at the three-technique position. And keep in mind that McCoy has a $13 million cap value for next year, which could be pricey for a 31-year old defensive tackle. Drafting a player who could be McCoy’s eventual replacement this year makes sense.

It also makes sense to keep adding talented defensive linemen, especially a year after the Bucs simply didn’t have enough up front. Tampa Bay had a league-low 22 sacks last year and Licht is determined to never allow that to happen again, which is why he took the top-rated defensive tackle on the board in Vea.

The loss of Clinton McDonald, who was second on the team in sacks with five last year, leaves the team thin at defensive tackle from a pass-rush standpoint behind McCoy. Who will provide the interior pass rush in Tampa Bay if McCoy, who has missed at least one game in each of the last four seasons, succumbs to another injury?

That’s where Vea comes in.

He is a physical freak at 6-foot-4, 347 pounds with tremendous movement ability, running a 5.10 in the 40-yard dash, and strength, benching 41 reps of 225 pounds at the NFL Scouting Combine. Vea has the skill set to make a huge impact on the Bucs’ pass rusher despite only having 9.5 sacks in his three years with the Huskies.

Washington DT Vita Vea - Photo courtesy of the Univ. of Washington

Washington DT Vita Vea – Photo courtesy of the Univ. of Washington

That’s because Vea is a hulk that can toss aside guards like rag dolls to rush the passer, and sends quarterbacks running for their lives and often into the waiting arms of defensive ends and blitzing linebackers. At the Senior Bowl PewterReport.com spoke with Washington State quarterback Luke Falk, who Vea terrorized for years in college.

“That guy – you watch him on film and you understand how good he is, and then you play him and you realize he’s even better than you thought,” Falk said. “Their game plan was really, rush three and drop eight into coverage. Vita made it feel like we were getting rushed by six guys. He’s an incredible player and I have nothing but respect for him. I think he’s going to be great in the NFL. He’s special. You don’t find guys like him that can move like he does. It’s only once in a long while that you see guys like him.”

Cole Madison, one of the Cougars linemen charged with the responsibility of protecting Falk, talked about the challenge he faced going against Vea in Washington’s 42-14 rout of Washington State. Falk threw three interceptions, fumbled once and was sacked five times. Vea had half a sack.

“He’s a force,” said Madison. “He’s a big guy that can move really well. He’s unbelievably strong. Whenever you went against him you had to really man up. He’s a really good player. I respect him a lot.

“The first play of our game he lined up as a five technique, so I had to block him right away. Throughout the game he moved around all over the place. That’s how good he is and how versatile of a player he is.”

Vea is not just a space-eating nose tackle. He’s not Vince Wilfork, or Danny Shelton, a former Washington nose tackle that was drafted 12th overall by Cleveland. Vea can play the nose tackle spot in a 4-3 or 3-4 defense, a 4-3 three-tech spot like Pro Bowler Gerald McCoy plays, or even the five-tech defensive end position in a 3-4 scheme.

PewterReport.com spoke with Huskies defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake, who was a former defensive backs coach in Tampa Bay under Jon Gruden and Raheem Morris, for some insight prior to the draft.

Washington DT Vita Vea - Photo by: Getty Images

Washington DT Vita Vea – Photo by: Getty Images

“Vita is a freak athlete,” Lake said. “6-foot-4 and change, and 340 pounds does not grow on trees, and with how athletic he is, I think he’s a top 5 player due to the way he plays and how fast he plays. He’s so big. He’s hard to move. He plays with his hands. He’s physical and he’s fast, too.

“We clocked him at running 20 miles per hour chasing down a screen against USC. We had him in one of those Catapult vests you put on the players, and he was running 20 miles per hour chasing down a screen. That’s 340 pounds really moving. On top of all that he is an unbelievable person.

“He’s a great teammate. There are no red flags with this guy at all. I was here with Danny Shelton, who ended up going top 12 overall to the Cleveland Browns, and this is a bigger and more athletic version than him. If Danny was No. 12, this guy should be No. 5 in my opinion.”

The Bucs ran a 4-3 base defense last year, but also sprinkled in a good deal of 3-4 defense and 3-3-5 defense in nickel situations. If Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Mike Smith continues experimenting with a 3-4 front or at least continuing to be multiple with his defensive schemes, Vea would allow the Bucs to quite flexible with their alignments.

“We are a multiple front and he’ll play the three technique, which Gerald plays, he’ll play a straight up zero technique over the center in our 3-4,” Lake said. “Shoot, we’ve had him play our end, and rush a tackle and come inside. He’s very, very smart and he’s so athletic. It just depends on what the team is doing schematically. I think he can play in a 3-4 or a 4-3 front.”

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

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: sr@pewterreport.com
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Alldaway 2.0
3 years ago

Fixing the trenches! I love the trade back and value. Welcome to the Bucs Vea!

Darin
3 years ago

Didnt pass over ward. I love the pick! Keep building the lines baby. Trade back got them 2 more starters. Cant believe all 3 of you bought into the James hype. Would have been dissapointed if it were james. Licht watched and is copying the super bowl champs, even taking their players. Copycat league. Now get a rb, og, and corner in the 2nd baby!! Yeaahhhhh

Charlie
Reply to  Darin
3 years ago

Totally agree with you Darin, try for Hernandez and guice Josh Jackson, should be a great haul! Love the Vea pick! Go Bucs!

bucinkorea
3 years ago

I think both Ward and Fitzpatrick were gone. But picked over James, which I kind of agree with based on attitude at the FSU pro day. Trade and pick kind of remind me of the Sapp deal, which turned out pretty well for the Bucs.

AlexanderNascimento
3 years ago

Great analysis but I believe the following isn’t accurate “The reason why choosing Vea is an eye-opener is because Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht passed over several defensive backs – Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward, Florida State strong safety Derwin James and Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick to name a few”. There was only James on the board when we selected Vita Vea.

Go Bucs!

PS Loving the coverage

Robert
Reply to  AlexanderNascimento
3 years ago

I’m sure this was one of the pre-packaged stories they talked about at the beginning of the coverage.

scubog
Reply to  AlexanderNascimento
3 years ago

Ward was taken by Cleveland at 4, before the 7th pick.

Bucsfan1983
3 years ago

Booooooooooo. Derwin James was still there for us at 12. #FireJasonLicht

BigSombrero
Reply to  Bucsfan1983
3 years ago

Are you crazy?! This guy is EXACTLY what the Bucs needed. An ass kicker. Safeties do not turn defenses around, defensive linemen do. Great pick! Plus Licht added a couple of 2nd round picks to make up for the loss of a 3rd rounded being traded for JPP.

Day1-76
Reply to  BucWild02
3 years ago

Safeties CAN turn the game around, especially when you have already acquired several dl’s in fa. If you believe what you wrote, please don’t complain when receivers are running wild downfield.

kram0789
3 years ago

Typical Lite. He made a great move to trade back, but blows it by not picking the best player available that also fixes a glaring need. The pick had to be Derwin James.

geno711
Reply to  kram0789
3 years ago

If James was clearly the best player why did all those other teams pass on him.

Daba
Reply to  geno711
3 years ago

Not sure you, should ask Aaron Rodegers and Tom Brady.

Day1-76
Reply to  geno711
3 years ago

Because it was not a position of need for those teams. How many times would the Bucs have passed on Mayfield, Darnold, Allen, Rosen ….and the list goes on.

Bradenton BucFan
3 years ago

Great pick. big man’s game

hamilton
3 years ago

bad pick,not a every down player.

BigSombrero
Reply to  hamilton
3 years ago

Even the great Ed Reed didn’t change Baltimore into an elite team when he was drafted in 2002. His career in Baltimore amounts to a 9-7 record. By the way, Baltimore averaged a 9-7 record before he got there though. Safeties don’t change the game, defensive lines do.

toofamiliar17
Reply to  BucWild02
3 years ago

Good or great defensive lines do*

The doubt for me is that Vea is a good defensive lineman. Yes, all things being equal, you’d rather have a great defensive lineman than a great defensive back. But you’d rather have a great defensive back than a mediocre defensive lineman.

skipper
skipper
3 years ago

It’s a good pick but after the Bucs free agent acquisitions on the DLine, did not feel it was an immediate position of need. We are desperate for secondary help.

buddah
3 years ago

Great pick. James production didn’t justify a top 15 pick.

toofamiliar17
Reply to  buddah
3 years ago

That’s a rough reason not to draft someone. Here, let’s compare two prospects. Tell me what you think of both of them as prospects to be taken in the top 15.

Player A: 26 games, 186 tackles, 15 TFL, 5.5 sacks, 3 INT, 2 FF, 2 FR.
Player B: 41 games, 181 tackles, 15.5 TFL, 5 sacks, 3 INT, 4 FF, 2 FR.

Which one would you want in the top 15, based on their production? Or do you like both of them? Or would you prefer not to take either one?

surferdudes
3 years ago

Disagree, Vea is the biggest, baddest man in this draft. It’s about time we drafted from the front back.

Dman
3 years ago

Love the trade, love the pick!

geno711
Reply to  Dman
3 years ago

Agree – great move

SaskBucs
3 years ago

Would have been fine with James at 12, didn’t feel great about him at 7 but love the trade back and pick. Front 7 is fierce now! Go Bucs!

Andy Ely
3 years ago

Sorry, nope couldn’t disagree with this pick any more. The pick should have been Derwin James

toofamiliar17
Reply to  Andy Ely
3 years ago

It didn’t need to be Derwin. But it shouldn’t have been this. I liked Derwin, and I’d have been happy to have gotten him, but there were a couple handfuls of prospects I liked better on the board than Vea. I’d have been genuinely happy with a few of them. Vea was far, far down my list.

fl0nase
3 years ago

Could not be happier with round one for the Pirates… Parrots, er, Jeff Garcia’s. Loved that they traded down and gathered picks and loved that they went interior line either O or D line and that it’s Double V. Run D going from worst to first next year! I know nothing about D James but all I could think of drafting a SS was Mark Barron 2.0.

toofamiliar17
Reply to  fl0nase
3 years ago

Other than James and Barron being totally different prospects with very different strengths, yea, definitely the same thing. I mean, really, shouldn’t we just view ALL drafted strong safeties as Mark Barron clones? That definitely makes the most sense.

macabee
3 years ago

No Sour grapes here. DT Vita Vea makes our defense better – way better and our depth enviable. This is an active D-Lineman that must be double teamed. Can’t double him and McCoy. Somebody is going to be loose and free to eat. I wanted one of the Big 3, but who didn’t as we saw them gobbled up. With the additional 2nd round picks, in retrospect, this could turn out to be a better deal. Never look back. He’s my guy now and I’m happy with the pick. Go Bucs!

toofamiliar17
Reply to  macabee
3 years ago

Vea isn’t a 3 tech, and his presence won’t have a big impact on whether or not McCoy gets extra attention from opposing offenses. I won’t repeat everything I’ve already said here, but I replied to some similar trains of thought lower in the thread if you’d like to hear my thoughts here.

macabee
Reply to  toofamiliar17
3 years ago

I did read your following comments on the Vea pick and they were good. Like you and most I assume, I wanted OG Quenton Nelson. But that was not to be. Were there better choices than Vea at 12? I think so, but you know me, I’m not going to bad mouth the pick after the fact. I privately questioned the pick given the DTs we had already taken in FA and the Bucs seemed enamored with DT P.J. Hall in the later rounds. I know Vea isn’t a 3 tech and I don’t see him being a replacement for… Read more »

Dave
Reply to  macabee
3 years ago

Exactly my point on why this was the right pick. Him and McCoy are both automatic doubles. Well you can’t double both. One of those 2 is gonna be singled, along with JPP. Sk now you’re talking about 3 guys that have been doubled their entire careers. This is how you fix a bad pass defense. I don’t care if the secondary consists of Sherman, Rhodes, and Earl Thomas, if you get 22 sacks again( god that’s the most putrid sack total I’ve ever heard) even that group would get shredded left and right. Now add in the fact that… Read more »

alan skelly
3 years ago

What happened the last time that we traded out 7 down to12 and picked a DT?

rocky
Reply to  alan skelly
3 years ago

what happened the last time we drafted a safety at 7?

BigSombrero
Reply to  rocky
3 years ago

You’re both right! Sapp is a HOFer and Mark Barron was a bust at safety.

Jake from state farm
3 years ago

That was a dumb fuckin pick, but so “Bucs” I can’t even be mad. It’s expected for dumb shit to happen. Everyone was bitching about paying Gholston 6 million to chill, now we’re fuckin paying Allen and Unrein $10 million to join him on the fuckin bench! I just hope this is Licht and Kotteerts last fuckin year.

BigSombrero
Reply to  Jake from state farm
3 years ago

I think you need to stop hitting yourself in the head with that hammer!

Jake from state farm
Reply to  BucWild02
3 years ago

Look at the economics of the team, dick head. It’s not a smart move. Sixteen million on the dline NOT starting. You’re an idiot if you think this was a good idea.

martinii
3 years ago

Like Mayock said, really great trade picking up 53 and 56. As far as Vea I’ll admit I was shocked at first because of all the James Hype. Once I thought it through it really made since. Good pick and now we have 3 more tomorrow which could equate to starting talent. Go Buc’s

toofamiliar17
Reply to  martinii
3 years ago

Really LOVE the trade back. It was, IMO, the single best possible outcome for us with the 7th pick. I was salivating when Nelson was still on the board one pick before us, and I’d have been ecstatic to have landed him, but at the end of the day, picks 12, 53, and 56 are far more valuable than pick 7 by itself. That was an absolute master move by Licht. Even better is that he didn’t follow that up by burning through those acquired picks by trading back up later in the first round.

plopes808
3 years ago

For all those complaining about this pick, I fail to see your point. First off, Vea has to be double teamed, so lining him up next to GMC on passing downs creates a HUGE problem for O-Lines. Second is the fact that GMC is getting up there in mileage and is injury prone. We have his replacement ready to go already. As far as Allen and Unrein “sitting on the bench” these guys are more run stuffers and will likely not be making big plays in the passing game anyway so it’s apples to oranges my friend. I would’ve been… Read more »

toofamiliar17
Reply to  plopes808
3 years ago

First things first – every 1 tech demands has to be double teamed. There are a few centers in the league that are quick enough to move laterally across the formation at the snap to help the guard lined up against the 3 tech, but they’re rare. Generally speaking, it’s the alignment of the defensive line that determines who is double teamed. The one tech is the DT lined up between the center and the guard. He shoots that gap, forcing the guard AND center to block him. Centers are generally too physically weak to block NT’s one on one,… Read more »

Dude
Reply to  toofamiliar17
3 years ago

I think you missed the point. Sure, O-lines are going to double team someone on the D-line, but they can’t double team two guys at once. So either Vea, or GMC will be left with a one on one. Usually GMC is getting double teamed because we haven’t had a good enough 1 technique to make a difference. That is until now. So now, O-lines are going to be forced into a tough decision on every passing play. Which will leave one of our guys with a one on one to beat. We know GMC can do it, and from… Read more »

plopes808
Reply to  toofamiliar17
3 years ago

We’ll just have to agree to disagree on this one my friend. As far as Vea playing 3-tech, I believe he has the tools to do so. I mean, he couldn’t possibly be in a better position to learn than where he is….this kid is gonna be learning from GMC himself and even more importantly, Buckner.

I firmly believe that championship defenses are built from front to back, and I feel this draft addressed both in said order.

Freeman Strickland
3 years ago

Liked the film of James better than that of Fitzpatrick or Ward, and would like to have him on the team. But, DL rotations that do not let up have been a key to recent Super Bowls. McCoy ran a 5.04 40 with 23 reps on the bench. Weighing fifty pounds more, Vea ran a 5.10 40 with 41 reps on the bench. Wearing a telemetry vest in practice, he was clocked at 20 mph. He played NT, 3 tech like McCoy and 3-4 DE. Tremendous capability and versatility. Go OL next, then RB and DB. Hoping for Hernandez for… Read more »

toofamiliar17
Reply to  Freeman Strickland
3 years ago

I don’t think he can play 3 tech in the NFL. I get that he could in college, but his first step is slow, and he isn’t quick, by NFL standards. In an attacking 4-3 front, you need your 3 tech to be shooting gaps all day every day. That just isn’t what Vea can do or who he is as a player. I can’t figure out why any NFL front office employee or coach would think that he projects to be able to be an asset as a 3 technique. He’s strictly a 4-3 one tech, a 3-4 NT,… Read more »

cgmaster27
3 years ago

Not a big fan of the pick. When you pick in the top 15 you draft a starter. Here we didn’t. Depth is always a good thing but if this guy is such a freak, how come he only had 5.5 tackles for a loss last year? Love the trade back, but with derwin sitting there, and fitting a need, just cant like this pick. Our secondary is still swiss cheese. But vita is a buc now andi hope he proves me wrong, but unless this guy is the second coming of Vince wilfork, it wasnt worth it to me.

BigSombrero
Reply to  cgmaster27
3 years ago

The big fella will play plenty. Guaranteed. Less time for opposing QBs to pick VH3 apart or beat ageless wonder Brent Grimes deep. This free agency period and 1st round pick have really strengthened the front 7. With three 2nd round picks, the Bucs can draft a CB, S, RB, and/or OL.

rocky
3 years ago

A good pass rush helps any secondary. We helped our secondary before we even pick any day 2 selections which 1 or more will certainly be defensive backs. Can you imagine if we land Josh Jackson?

JPP McCoy Vea Curry

Thats a hell of a line and we got a lot of rotation behind it. For all you naysayers about this pick im trusting in Licht to pull talent as he regularly has. As long as he doesn’t take a kicker.

All in all we are in excellent shape

toofamiliar17
3 years ago

I yelled out in frustration when Nelson was picked right ahead of us. Then I cried out in joy when we traded back. When we picked Vea, I just put my face in my hands and sat quiet for 10 minutes. I had him as a second rounder in this draft. In some drafts, I may have had him in the third round. I think people who see a pass rushing force are just dead wrong. He plays with poor balance, no pass rush moves whatsoever, and questionable pad level and technique. Some of that can be coached up, but… Read more »

scubog
3 years ago

Just as I predicted. I knew our pewternut gallery would be quick to criticize whatever moves were made and whoever the Bucs chose. Unless the Bucs were lucky enough to have one of the so-called “big three” fall to us at #7, there was little doubt the naysayers would be in full force second guessing the choice. It’s just comical how people who probably aren’t even great at their own chosen career, think they know how to evaluate players and develop a Draft strategy equal to a guy who gets paid a heck of a lot of money to do… Read more »

Bucsfan1983
3 years ago

Love the trade, hate the pick. If Licht was smart, he could have taken James at 12, then used two of the
three 2nd round picks he had, to get back into the bottom of round 1 and taken Taven Bryan(who went at 28).

Bucsfan1983
Reply to  Bucsfan1983
3 years ago

Boom! You walk away from round 1 with the best Safety and a top 3 DT.

EastEndBoy
3 years ago

There were 3 superior players in this draft. I will give Licht the benefit of the doubt and assume he was on the phone like a madman with Denver and Indy and they simply wouldn’t sell for any reasonable price. Disappointing for certain.

Every other player is a project with some concerns that will need work (see comments already here re:VV and non-transferability of pass rush skills to NFL). Trading back gave us a couple more lottery tickets to try and find a guy that is fixable. Some will be…most won’t …let’s hope we find one that is.

tnew
3 years ago

I was not a big fan of Vea in the draft. But, at 12, I really like the pick and the thought. Acquiring two additional second round picks, should now yield a running back, guard or right tackle (I’m for the right tackle btw unless Hernandez slips to us, which I don’t see happening) and a CB (the bucs must go corner IMO, Oliver is my choice if available) or Safety. I do not want to hear again about how McCoy is being doubled on every play. Vea will command doubles. If any of you watched any film, you would… Read more »

pinkstob
3 years ago

I’m not a fan of this pick. Vea isn’t a pass rusher no matter how SR tries to spin that Vea will help our other pass rushers. A non-pass rusher won’t help other pass rushers. Vea is a run stopper. But that’s not my main point. It doesn’t matter if Vea is a pass rusher so long as he was the best player available…which he wasn’t. Sony Michel, Rashaad Penny and Josh Johnson are all better players than Vea and two of them are gone now.

chefboho
Reply to  pinkstob
3 years ago

Rashad penny was better than vea? I want what your smoking. Twitter and fans are destroying the Seahawks for picking him and literally all the anylists were talking about how he’s not even a three down back because he’s an absolute liability in pass blocking. A second round/ early third by most experts drafts. Get real with that.

Ja'crispy
3 years ago

I love the pick! Love the trade back even more! Licht said he would have taken Vea at 7 if he couldn’t swing a trade. So we move back and still get our guy and get 2 second rounders! that’s huge! After the big 3 were gone I was crossing my fingers hoping for a trade back. This Dline is looking pretty damn good. Buckner must be smiling ear to ear.

jongruden
3 years ago

I like the pick don’t love it what we got to trade back I love those extra 2nd rounder will be great when trying to fix that secondary. I called my cousin who has Husky Season Tix and he said he is a great player his over all strength and power was impressive to watch he would often get double teamed you literally couldn’t run the ball at him or you would be stopped dead in your tracks he said he does wear down towards end of games. It will be interesting how a guy who played in cold weather… Read more »