As the NFL Draft inches closer, teams are beginning to take a closer look at players by inviting them to their facility as part of the league’s 30 allotted visits. Who the teams’ decide to host – sometimes twice –can often be a strong indication as to what their plans are at the end of the month, such as the case with Tampa Bay.
Speculated to go defense-heavy after only drafting one over the last two years, all 13 of the Buccaneers’ reported visits to this point are with defensive players.
Here is the list of draftees scheduled for a trip to One Buc Place in the coming days:
Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida: A native of Tampa, Hargreaves has often been pegged to Tampa Bay in mock drafts. Many analysts consider the former Gator as the best cornerback prospect (if Jalen Ramsey is considered a safety), but the knock on him has always been size, at 5-foot-10, 192-pounds. Hargreaves III, known for his athleticism and strong play against SEC competition, had an impressive Combine and pro day performance and is believed to be a sure-fire Top 10 pick. If Tampa Bay selects him, Hargreaves would presumably start opposite Brent Grimes, whom he listed as one of the cornerbacks he looks up to in the NFL.
Myles Jack, LB, UCLA: Jack, a running back-turned-linebacker in college, is seen as one of, if not the, most athletic players in the draft. A knee surgery last September sidelined him through most of the 2015 season and the Combine, but the 6-foot-1, 245-pound backer is still widely projected as a Top 5 pick. In Tampa Bay, he would likely play Sam linebacker, next to Lavonte David at Will and Kwon Alexander in the middle. Given that the Sam linebacker doesn’t play every snap, and David and Alexander won’t be taken off the field, it might not be a realistic option for the Bucs, if Jack is even available.
Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State: It’s no secret the Bucs will be taking an especially close look at pass rushers this April, but No. 9 overall might be high for Ogbah, who’s dropped out of the Top 5 of defensive ends in many experts’ opinion. His college stats, however, speak for themselves, as he finished with 12.5 sacks and 17 tackles for loss in 2015.
Noah Spence, DE, Eastern Kentucky: The darling of the Senior Bowl in January, Spence cooled off a bit in Indianapolis. But the former Buckeye, who’s looking to convince teams that his off-field issues are in the past, is still a likely first-rounder. Before transferring to Eastern Kentucky, where he dominated the competition, Spence recorded 7.5 sacks as a sophomore at Ohio State. Spence stands 6-foot-2, 251-pounds.
Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville: PewterReport.com’s prediction for the Bucs in its last three mock drafts, Rankins would give Tampa Bay a dominant interior front, along with Gerald McCoy. The 6-foot-1, 299-pound tackle tallied 14 sacks and 26 tackles for loss over 2014 and 2015, and showed his superior athleticism by running a 5.03 40-yard dash and vertical jumping 34.5 inches at the Combine. Read about Rankins and how he fits the Bucs’ scheme in SR’s latest mock draft.
Vonn Bell, S, Ohio State: Bell, known for having a little too much confidence at times, finished his career at Ohio State with nine interceptions, including six during their Championship run in 2014. His instincts and tacking ability are often criticized, but he’s been described as a natural in coverage. Bell, projected as a second or third-round pick, would contrast Chris Conte and Bradley McDougald, two in-the-box safeties, if taken by Tampa Bay.
Cyrus Jones, CB, Alabama: If you listened to the way SEC wide receivers described Jones at the Combine in Indianapolis, you’d think he was hands down the best cornerback in the draft. Despite their praise, however, the wide receiver-turned-cornerback is seen as a late-round pick. And even then, many still consider him to be a kick returner at the next level, a position he thrived at in college with four punt-return TDs in 2015. The Bucs haven’t re-signed Bobby Rainey, so it’s conceivable that they’ll look for a return man in the later rounds.
Xavien Howard, CB, Baylor: The Bucs were well represented at Baylor’s pro day, and while that was likely more to see defensive linemen Andrew Billings and Shawn Oakman, they took note of Howard enough to bring him in for a visit. The 6-foot-0, 200-pound cornerback picked off nine passes and had 23 deflections in his last two seasons with the Bears. His lack of speed – 4.58 40-yard dash – will likely make him a Day 2 pick.
Robert Nkemdiche, DL, Ole Miss: Like Spence, Nkemdiche comes with off-field concerns but high upside and exceptional athleticism. The 6-foot-3, 294 defensive end recorded seven sacks in 2015, along with 26 quarterback pressures.
Aaron Wallace, LB, UCLA: The other, less-touted linebacker at UCLA, Wallace had limited starting experience in college and is seen as a late-round option. Though in 2015, when injuries to other players allowed him his chance, Wallace recorded 65 tackles with 12 for a loss, and seven sacks.The 6-foot-3, 240-pounds prospect also ran an impressive 4.57 at his pro day with a vertical jump of 36 inches. If Tampa Bay wants to go the route of speed linebacker and can’t land the other UCLA linebacker, Wallace could be a reasonable late-round pick.
Antwione Williams, LB, Georgia Southern: Another possible late-round option at Sam linebacker, Williams finished his senior year with four sacks, 10 tackles for a loss and four forced fumbles. In Tampa Bay the position is currently held by 34-year old Daryl Smith, so it’s no surprise that the Bucs are exploring late-round projects as a possible replacement.
Jonathan Jones, CB, Auburn: At 5-foot-9, 186-pounds, Jones’ size alone would definitely throw some teams off. The former Tiger did, however, post an impressive 13 pass breakups in 2015 despite only one interception. Jones, who would likely compete at nickel corner in Tampa Bay, has track-star speed, running a 4.33 40-yard dash at the Combine. He’s seen by most as a Day 3 pick this April.
Ryan Smith, CB, N.C. Central: Another small-school prospect (remember the Bucs success taking Hobart’s Ali Marpet), Smith impressed at the Combine with a 4.47 40-time and 36 inch vertical. Subpar competition in college and a 5-foot-11 stature will make him a late-round target, though. Like Jones, if selected by the Bucs, one would presume that it would be to compete at nickel cornerback.
Zach is entering his 3rd year covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a writer for PewterReport.com. Since 2014, he's handled a large part of the beat reporting responsibilities at PR, attending all media gatherings and publishing and promoting content daily. Zach is a native of Sarasota, FL, and a graduate of the University of Tampa. He has also covered high school football for the Tampa Tribune and the NFL for Pro Player Insiders.
Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
PewterReport.com prides itself on being the most complete, comprehensive news source covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and delivering inside scoop on the team found nowhere else.