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 DEFENSIVE END The Bucs have built themselves a strong core of player along the defensive line. Noah Spence, last year’s second-round pick, showed good flashes of production as a rookie and should take on an increased role this coming season. He had 5.5 sacks and three forced fumbles and was named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month in November. Jacquies Smith should also be considered another addition since he missed almost the entire season in 2016 to a torn ACL. He’s a player who has had six and seven-season sacks in back-to-back years when healthy.
Strongside defensive end William Gholston back with a contract extension and that means the Buccaneers should still be solid against the run. When you throw in Robert Ayers, Jr. as a hybrid defensive tackle/defensive end, Tampa Bay is not only solid but also versatile on the edge. This is a unit that may not be known nationally, but is well above average in terms of what they are capable of.
George Johnson, Ryan Russell and Channing Ward all return for depth and competition in training camp.
WHAT THE BUCS NEED AT DEFENSIVE END Depending on what the team decides to do with Ayers in his mixed role, and also depending on how Smith has recovered from his injury, the Bucs could still stand to add a pass rusher off the edge as high as the first round. Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht has said many times that you can never have too many pass rushers. If a top pass rushing defensive end falls to 19, they could pull the trigger.
Click the next page to see the Top 15 projected defensive ends 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