PewterReport.com continues its daily feature previewing the upcoming NFL Draft with position-by-position analysis. PewterReport.com’s Mark Cook analyzes what the Bucs have currently on their roster at each position and Trevor Sikkema provides a comprehensive overall ranking of the top players at that position going into the draft. Scott Reynolds makes his projections for Tampa Bay with PewterReport.com’s Bucs’ Best Bets – one early round pick, and one from the later rounds.
WHAT THE BUCS HAVE AT CORNERBACK
Tampa Bay overhauled their corner position in 2016, drafting Vernon Hargreaves in the first round. Prior to last season’s draft the Bucs added free agent Brent Grimes who proved to be everything the team thought he would be after giving him a two-year deal.
Hargreaves ended his rookie campaign with 76 tackles, one forced fumble and one interception. At times last year, Hargreaves played things safe, but coaches are expecting to see a more aggressive cornerback this season as his confidence level rose over the course of 2016.
Grimes had a great year leading the team with four interceptions, including a key pick-six in Tampa Bay’s 17-16 win over Carolina in Week 17, and could have had at least double that had he been able to hang onto a few more balls that slipped through his hands. Watching Grimes and Hargreaves you could see the difference between an 11-year veteran and a rookie. The good news is, Hargreaves showed many traits that leads fans and management to believe he can get close to Grimes’ effectiveness before his NFL career is over.
Jude Adjei-Barimah started the season as the team’s nickel back, but ended up suspended by the league for four games for performance enhancing substances and was replaced by undrafted free agent Javien Elliott, who surprised many with his play as a rookie. Adjei-Barimah finished his abbreviated season with 22 tackles, two sacks and one forced fumbles, while Elliot added 10 tackles and a pass breakup.
Last year’s rookie safety Ryan Smith made a mid-season switch to cornerback and the Bucs really like his potential there more than at safety. Smith, a fourth-round pick in 2016, has experience at cornerback from his days at North Carolina Central, but it was at a small college against lesser competition than he will face in the NFL.
In reserve, Tampa Bay has Josh Robinson, though mainly a special teams standout, and Cody Riggs a second year player from Notre Dame.
WHAT THE BUCS NEED AT CORNERBACK
The Bucs know that despite his stellar play in 2016, Grimes won’t be able to defy Father Time much longer. Finding someone who can lineup opposite Hargreaves for the next several years is something the team is hoping to find in the near future. Does it come in the form of an early-round draft pick this season or next? Or does Smith develop into a quality replacement down the road or this year? Regardless, look for the Bucs to address cornerback at least with one pick in this draft – possibly in the first round.
Click the next page to see the top projected cornerbacks in this class.
Trevor Sikkema is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat reporter and NFL Draft analyst for PewterReport.com. Sikkema, an alumnus of the University of Florida, has covered both college and professional football for much of his career. As a native of the Sunshine State, when he's not buried in social media, Sikkema can be found out and active, attempting to be the best athlete he never was. Sikkema can be reached at: email@example.com