WHAT THE BUCS HAVE AT CORNERBACK
The Buccaneers have two starting-caliber cornerbacks in Alterraun Verner and Johnthan Banks. Verner was a free agent addition last year after making the Pro Bowl with Tennessee in 2013, but failed to live up to expectations and only produced two interceptions and two forced fumbles. Banks was not the starter coming out of training camp, but a season-ending injury to veteran Mike Jenkins in Week 1 forced Banks into the starting lineup where he responded with a team-high four interceptions, including one for a touchdown, in addition to a team-best 10 pass breakups. Jenkins was re-signed this offseason, giving the Bucs depth at the cornerback position along with up-and-coming performer Brandon Dixon, Jocquel Skinner and C.J. Wilson. The Bucs re-signed starting nickel cornerback Leonard Johnson and added Sterling Moore from Dallas in free agency to compete for the role along with Isaiah Frey.
WHAT THE BUCS NEED AT CORNERBACK
Tampa Bay can get by with the personnel it has at the cornerback position this year as Verner, Banks and Jenkins are all veterans, and Dixon received a lot of quality playing time and picked off his first pass defending Bengals Pro Bowler A.J. Green in the end zone. The nickel cornerback position is another story, however. It wasn’t until Week 17 against New Orleans that the nickel cornerback spot produced an interception when Johnson picked off Drew Brees. Both Johnson and Frey were targeted in the red zone and gave up multiple touchdowns last year. A ball-hawking nickel cornerback should be drafted to compete with Moore, who signed a one-year deal, Johnson and Frey.
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.
TOP 10 CORNERBACKS 1. CB Trae Waynes – Michigan State – Junior – 6-0, 186 – 4.31
Waynes is considered to be the best cover corner in this year’s draft. With a great combination of long arms and blazing speed, Waynes picked off three passes in each of the last two seasons, in addition to recording 13 pass breakups, 101 tackles and 1.5 sacks. Some scouts believe he’s better than his former teammate, Darqueze Dennard, who was a first-rounder last year. Waynes is projected to be a top-15 pick.
2. CB Kevin Johnson – Wake Forest – Senior – 6-0, 188 – 4.52
A four-year starter for the Demon Deacons, Johnson comes to the NFL with plenty of experience. In addition to 190 tackles, the rangy Johnson posted 35 passes defensed with seven interceptions, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and a sack. Johnson has put on 20 pounds since entering college and his frame may be maxed out. Johnson figures to be a late first-round pick.
3. CB Byron Jones – Connecticut – Senior – 6-1, 199 – 4.43
Jones is a rising star that could find his way into the bottom of the first round or the early part of the second round. With 37 starts under his belt, Jones recorded 223 tackles, 18 pass breakups and eight interceptions in his Huskies career. Jones is a big, physically imposing cornerback that matches up with tall receivers and excels in run support.
4. CB Marcus Peters – Washington – Junior – 6-0, 197 – 4.53
Peters was dismissed from the Huskies for insubordination with the coaching staff, which will hurt his draft stock. With 11 interceptions in 34 games, Peters is probably the most talented cornerback in this year’s draft class, but his attitude is considered to turn off some teams and will likely keep the junior out of the first round.
5. CB Jalen Collins – LSU – Junior – 6-1, 203 – 4.48
Some teams like Collins’ size-speed ratio and have him as a late first-rounder, but he could fall into the second or third round due to reports of multiple failed drug tests at LSU. While Collins had 25 pass breakups in his three years at LSU, including 17 last year as a junior, he only recorded three interceptions, including one in 2014, which is a sign that he’s not a big-time ballhawk.
6. CB Ronald Darby – Florida State – Junior – 5-11, 193 – 4.38
An incredibly fast, athletic cornerback, Darby only had two interceptions at Florida State – both of which came as a sophomore in 2013. In fact, during the national championship season for the Seminoles, Darby only allowed nine completions and no touchdowns the entire season. While not as polished as some NFL teams would like, Darby is likely viewed as a second-round pick.
7. CB Eric Rowe – Utah – Senior – 6-1, 205 – 4.45
A lot of teams are buzzing over Rowe, who has the ability to play cornerback or safety in the NFL. Rowe played safety his first three seasons before moving to cornerback as a senior. Although Rowe only had three interceptions at Utah, he did breakup 34 passes and teams love his size and ability to match up with big receivers. Rowe will likely be a second-round pick.
8. CB Quinten Rollins – Miami (OH) – Senior – 5-11, 195 – 4.57
Rollins only played one year of football at Miami after being a star guard on the basketball team, but he was the MAC Defensive Player of the Year, which is a remarkable feat. The hard-hitting Rollins recorded 72 tackles, nine pass breakups, seven interceptions and a forced fumble. He fared well at the Senior Bowl and will figures to be a second-rounder.
9. CB P.J. Williams – Florida State – Junior – 6-0, 194 – 4.57
Williams was the Defensive MVP of the national championship game against Auburn in 2013 and finished his Seminoles career with four interceptions, including three as a sophomore with one being returned for a touchdown, and 21 pass breakups. Williams, who was recently popped for a DUI, is a great athlete and is considered to be a third-round prospect with his arrest.
10. CB D’Joun Smith – Florida Atlantic – Senior – 5-10, 187 – 4.42
With 120 tackles, 29 pass breakups, nine interceptions, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and a sack in his Owls career, Smith has proven to be an all-around corner that excels in covering the pass and supporting the run. Smith has great instincts and recovery speed and figures to be a third-rounder.
BEST OF THE REST 11. CB Josh Shaw – USC – Senior – 6-0, 201 – 4.44
Shaw is a big, rangy cornerback that also has experience at free safety. He combined for 119 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 14 pass deflections, six interceptions and one touchdown. His best season came in 2013 when he had career highs in tackles (67), pass breakups (seven) and interceptions (four). He was suspended for most of the 2014 season due to making up a story to explain an injury and lying to his coaches, but was later reinstated. Shaw is likely a third- or fourth-round pick.
12. CB Doran Grant – Ohio State – Senior – 5-10, 200 – 4.44
Grant had 25 pass breakups and nine interceptions at Ohio State, including five picks as a senior. Grant is a muscular, fast cornerback who might be one of the more underrated prospects in this year’s draft. Grant is a tough cornerback that possesses great leadership skills and will be drafted in the third or fourth round.
13. CB Steven Nelson – Oregon State – Senior – 5-10, 197 – 4.46
With 122 tackles and 24 pass breakups, the Beavers star has a good degree of toughness against the run and the pass. Nelson is one of the few players that have picked off Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, and he recorded eight picks at Oregon State. Nelson, who shined in the Senior Bowl, is considered to be a third- or fourth-round selection.
14. CB Bobby McCain – Memphis – Senior – 5-9, 195 – 4.51
McCain was a playmaker at Memphis against the run and the pass, evidenced by 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. The fact that he can return kicks adds to his versatility and likely propels him into the third or fourth round.
15. CB Kevin White – TCU – Senior – 5-9, 183 – 4.63
White notched 146 tackles, 27 pass breakups, six interceptions, three forced fumbles and 2.5 tackles for loss for a stingy TCU defense. He did a fantastic job against West Virginia wide receiver Kevin White, a potential top 10 pick this year, limiting him to three catches for 28 yards. What hurts the playmaking cornerback is a lack of speed, which will likely push him into fourth round.
16. CB Senquez Golson – Ole Miss – Senior – 5-9, 176 – 4.46
Golson burst onto the scene with a career-high 10 interceptions in 2014, including the game-winner in the upset against Alabama. He finished his Ole Miss career with 16 picks, in addition to 15 pass breakups. NFL scouts are concerned with his smallish frame, but he is tougher than he looks, evidenced by 136 tackles in his Rebels career. Golson is likely a fourth- or fifth-round pick.
17. CB Alex Carter – Stanford – Junior – 6-0, 196 – 4.50
Carter is a big, physical cornerback that forced four fumbles in his two and a half years as a starter. He lacks great ball skills, though, evidenced by 17 pass breakups and only two interceptions. However, one of those picks came against Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, who has proven to be difficult to pick off. Carter figures to be a fifth-round selection.
18. CB Craig Mager – Texas State – Senior – 5-11, 201 – 4.44
Mager was very productive for the Bobcats, recording 39 pass breakups and eight interceptions as a four-year starter. Also showed his playmaking skills by returning a punt 79 yards for a touchdown and returning a fumble 44 yards for a touchdown. Mager is a fast, tough underrated cornerback that could be a steal in the fourth round.
19. CB Charles Gaines – Louisville – Junior – 5-10, 180 – 4.44
Gaines was a two-year starter for the Cardinals and showed good awareness and ball skills, evidenced by 17 pass breakups and seven interceptions, including five as a sophomore. He needs to become bigger, stronger and more physical at the next level or larger receivers will have their way with this wiry cornerback. Gaines is viewed as a fifth-round pick.
20. CB Randall Evans – Kansas State – Senior – 6-0, 195 – 4.44
Evans is considered a sleeper at the cornerback position, but he has a great mix of size, speed, experience and production. He was a three-year starter as the Wildcats’ nickel cornerback where he produced 210 tackles, 35 pass breakups, 10.5 tackles for loss, seven interceptions, five forced fumbles, two sacks and a fumble recovery. Evans is considered to be a sixth-round pick.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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