The NFL Draft is just days away (Thursday, April 30 8 p.m.) and over the last several days PewterReport.com has been publishing our position draft previews and included two Pewter Report Bucs’ Best Bets, one early round player (1-3) and one later round (4-7). Here is a recap of those players that PewterReport.com has determined could be in the Bucs’plans based on our research, which includes film watching, being at the East-West Shrine Game in St. Petersburg, Fla. along with out annual trip to the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. each January and talking to scouts and front office personnel from around the NFL.
BUCS BEST BET AT DT (EARLY 1-3) DT Grady Jarrett – Clemson – Senior – 6-1, 304 – 5.08 Jarrett could bring durability and penetration to the Buccaneers’ defensive line in 2015. The Clemson product has been known to play to the whistle on every play, with the ability to occupy multiple blockers and use his leverage to get past taller centers and guards. Although Jarrett lacks the traditional DT size, he has proven to be great at timing snaps and getting into lineman first. Although it seems unlikely that the Bucs would spend a third-round pick on him, Jarrett could serve as a great disruptor on the Buccaneers line, making it easier for McCoy and company to get through to the quarterback.
BUCS BEST BET AT DT (LATE 4-7) DT Quayshawne Buckley – Idaho – Senior – 6-3, 305 – 5.03 Buckley was a very dominant player while at Idaho, but the lower level of competition lined up across from him hurts his draft stock. Buckley is very athletic for his size, possessing explosive hips and outstanding hand quickness. He works his hands and feet together in unison very well and is able to spin his way out of blocks frequently. Buckley will have to adjust to the talent level of the NFL, but he is athletically gifted and gives the effort that is needed to become an NFL player and could be a seventh-round pick.
BUCS’ BEST BET AT DE (EARLY 1-3) DE Nate Orchard – Utah – Senior – 6-3, 250 – 4.80
The Buccaneers have a need for speed at the defensive end position and could use a productive edge-rusher like Orchard to help put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Orchard’s 18.5 sacks was the most of any player in college football in 2014 and his excellent play earned him the Ted Hendrick’s Award, which is given to the nation’s best defensive end. Adding Orchard to a defensive line that already has McCoy, McDonald, Melton, Smith and Johnson would give Tampa Bay a solid group of defensive linemen heading into the 2015 season. The Buccaneers’ current second round pick may be too high to select Orchard, but if the team trades down in the second round or stays put in the third, the Utah pass-rusher could be name that the Buccaneers turn in to the commissioner.
BUCS’ BEST BET AT DE (LATE 4-7) DE Andrew Hudson – Washington – Senior – 6-2, 246 – 4.98
Hudson is an overlooked defensive end prospect because his lack of size and standout athleticism, but the former Husky was extremely productive as a senior. The Washington product ranked seventh in the nation in 2014 with 12.5 sacks and also recorded three forced fumbles. The Buccaneers brought in Hudson for a visit just over a week ago and the Browns and Redskins have also met with the 6-foot-2, 246-pound lineman. Hudson isn’t expected to be drafted high, but as a late-round pick or an undrafted free agent he makes a lot of sense because of his production and motor.
BUCS’ BEST BETS AT LB (EARLY 1-3) MLB Eric Kendricks – UCLA – Senior – 6-0, 232 – 4.61 UCLA’s stud linebacker capped off his outstanding collegiate career by earning the Butkus Award and Lott IMPACT Trophy in 2014, leading the country with 101 solo tackles to go with 149 total stops. He also recorded three interceptions, returning one for a touchdown. With his speed, instincts and coverage ability, Kendricks has the ideal skill set and style of play to fit the Tampa 2 system. Being that not many teams’ first need is linebacker, combined with Kendricks smaller stature and misplacement in a 3-4 system, it’s conceivable that he’ll slip to the second round. That said, Arizona at 24 and Green Bay at 31 are both potential landing spots for the former Bruin after losing Larry Foote and A.J. Hawk, respectively, this offseason. There have even been recent reports that Dallas, who lost Bruce Carter to the Bucs, could be targeting Kendricks at 27. However, if the versatile backer gets close to the 34th pick, Lovie Smith – a former linebacker coach – could make a move to pair the young stud with Lavonte David and create a Lance Briggs-Urlacher-type tandem in Tampa.
BUCS’ BEST BETS AT LB (LATE 4-7) MLB Ben Heeney – Kansas – Senior – 6-0, 231 – 4.59 Heeney was the NCAA’s second leading tackler in 2014, with 88 solo stops among 127 total while leading the Jayhawks in each of the past three seasons. He’s been described as a high-motor player who has strong instincts and reacts well in any given situation. His ability in coverage is best exemplified by his eight career deflections and four interceptions, as Kansas relied heavily on him even in man coverage situations. Like Kendricks, Heeney lacks size, but again, that’s something that Tampa Bay could overlook if he makes up for it through other facets of his game. There have also been concerns about his natural athleticism and block-shedding technique that could ultimately drop him into the fourth round. Still, a player to keep an eye on for the Buccaneers later in the draft.
BUCS’ BEST BET AT CB (EARLY 1-3) CB Bobby McCain – Memphis – Senior – 5-9, 195 – 4.51
McCain’s stock is rising due to 136 tackles, 15 pass breakups, 12 interceptions, including three he returned for touchdowns, 6.5 tackles for loss, three fumble recoveries, 1.5 sacks and one forced fumble at Memphis. McCain also is a solid special teams player and has experience returning kicks, including a 95-yarder at Memphis. He would be an ideal fit in Tampa Bay, which has privately worked him out, in the third or fourth round.
BUCS’ BEST BET AT CB (LATE 4-7) CB Randall Evans – Kansas State – Senior – 6-0, 195 – 4.44
Evans was snubbed by the NFL Scouting Combine, but had a great pro day in which he ran a 4.44 for NFL scouts, including the Bucs. Evans has the size to play outside, but was K-State’s nickel cornerback for the past three seasons where he intercepted seven passes, including four as a senior, in addition to forcing five fumbles. With good coverage ability and a physical tackling style, Evans would be a late-round steal for the Bucs.
BUCS’ BEST BET AT S (EARLY 1-3) SS James Sample – Louisville – Junior – 6-2, 209 – 4.56
Sample only played one year at Louisville, but showed that he was a potent stopper against the pass and the run. He notched 88 tackles for the stout Cardinals defense, including a team-high 74, and also picked off four passes. He could have had more, and must work on his hands. Sample is an instinctive, hard-hitting player, but needs to work on tackling his opponents lower. If the Bucs draft a safety in the third round, Sample would be a good fit in the Tampa 2.
BUCS’ BEST BET AT S (LATE 4-7) FS Adrian Amos – Penn State – Senior – 6-0, 218 – 4.39
Amos is a former cornerback who hit the weight room hard and developed into a safety. The physical defensive back is known as “The Hulk” at Penn State and was quite a playmaker with 149 stops, 22 passes defensed, seven interceptions and three sacks. His stock is on the rise after running a blistering 4.39 at his pro day and he could be the Buccaneers’ fourth-round pick if they decide to draft a safety that high.
Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, the beach and family time.Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at email@example.com