WHAT THE BUCS HAVE AT SAFETY
Tampa Bay has overhauled the safety position, parting ways with last year’s starting tandem of Mark Barron and Dashon Goldson – both of whom failed to make enough plays for head coach Lovie Smith and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier. Barron was traded to St. Louis at midseason, while Goldson was traded to Washington this offseason. The emergence of Bradley McDougald, who had 50 tackles, seven pass breakups and an interception of Drew Brees, at strong safety led to Barron’s departure. The tandem of Major Wright, who was re-signed this offseason, and newcomer Chris Conte will vie to replace Goldson at free safety. Both Wright and Conte have experience playing for Smith in the Tampa 2 scheme in Chicago. The Bucs also return capable backup Keith Tandy, who has four career interceptions, including a Week 17 pick against Brees, in addition to reserves M.D. Jennings and Shelton Johnson.
WHAT THE BUCS NEED AT SAFETY
McDougald showed plenty of promise last year and has the organization excited about his potential as a full-time starter in 2015. While Conte and Wright bring experience to Tampa Bay, Conte was only signed to a one-year deal, while Wright signed a two-year contract but the team can walk away after one year without any cap penalties. Both Conte and Wright are considered to be stop-gap players. The one troubling aspect of the Bucs’ safeties is the fact that it wasn’t until Week 17 that the position recorded an interception. McDougald and Tandy each picked off Brees in the season finale, but Tampa Bay can no longer go 15 straight weeks without an interception at the safety position and expect to be successful on defense. The Bucs need to draft a playmaking safety that can create takeways.
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.
TOP 10 SAFETIES
1. SS Landon Collins – Alabama – Junior – 6-0, 228 – 4.53
This big, fast defensive back is the only safety that carries a first-round grade. Collins’ aggressive, physical play is what excites scouts, but he needs to work on his hands as he’s dropped too many interceptions. Collins only had five picks in the past three years as a starter, while breaking up over 20 passes. Some NFL teams are wary about Alabama defensive backs as many of them have not panned out in the NFL, including former Crimson Tide first-rounders Mark Barron, Dre Kirkpatrick and Dee Milliner.
2. FS Damarious Randall – Arizona State – Senior – 5-11, 196 – 4.46
Randall has worked his way into the second round with an impressive offseason. He posted 177 tackles, including 106 as a senior, in addition to 12 pass breakups and six interceptions, including two returned for touchdowns, four forced fumbles and a sack. Including the nine interceptions that he had at Mesa Community College, Randall had 15 picks in college. The Bucs love him, but he’s a lock to be a second-round pick.
3. SS Jaquiski Tartt – Samford – Senior – 6-1, 221 – 4.50
The hard-hitting Tartt notched 277 tackles, 20 passes defensed, six interceptions, including two pick-sixes and two forced fumbles at Samford and played in the Senior Bowl in his hometown of Mobile, Ala. Tartt had two 17-tackle games in 2013 when he recorded a career-high 98 tackles. Tarrt suffered a leg injury that limited him in 11 games last year, but he’ll be drafted in the second or third round.
4. SS James Sample – Louisville – Junior – 6-2, 209 – 4.56
Sample was a one-year starter at Louisville and was an impressive tackler, notching 88 tackles (74 solo) while picking off four passes and breaking up eight more. He was overshadowed by free safety Gerod Holliman, who notched a school-record and tied an NCAA record with 14 interceptions last year, but Sample is regarded as the better safety prospect in the NFL due to his size-speed combination and his tackling prowess. Sample is viewed as a third-rounder.
5. FS Derron Smith – Fresno State – Senior – 5-10, 200 – 4.61
Smith was a four-year starter at Fresno State, recording 304 tackles, 18 pass breakups, 15 interceptions, including two he returned for touchdowns, four sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. After six interceptions as a sophomore followed by seven as a junior, Smith was a marked man in 2014 with quarterbacks staying away from his area of the field. The senior safety only had one interception and seven pass breakups to go along with 93 tackles. The playmaking Smith is considered to be a third- or fourth-round prospect.
6. FS Adrian Amos – Penn State – Senior – 6-0, 218 – 4.39
Amos was a three-year starter at Penn State who posted 149 tackles, 22 passes defensed, seven interceptions and three sacks. The Senior Bowl participant has ideal NFL size at 6-foot, 218 and helped his draft stock by running a 4.37 in the 40-yard dash at his pro day. Amos is coming off a good senior campaign with a career-high three interceptions and seven pass breakups, but NFL teams want to see him progress in run support. The Nittany Lions star is viewed as a third- or fourth-round pick.
7. SS Ibraheim Campbell – Northwestern – Senior – 5-11, 208 – 4.52
Campbell, who starred at the Senior Bowl, played strong safety for the Wildcats, but will likely switch to free safety at the next level due to his size. He had 316 tackles, 27 pass breakups, 10 interceptions and six forced fumbles as a four-year starter.
Despite only playing in eight games last season, Campbell came away with three interceptions and four forced fumbles after posting a career-high four picks as a junior in 2013. Campbell is regarded as a fourth-round prospect.
8. SS Clayton Geathers – UCF – Senior – 6-2, 218 – 4.55
A four-year starter for the Golden Knights, Geathers come to the NFL with plenty of experience. NFL scouts love his size-speed combination and his hitting ability. Geathers notched 383 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, five forced fumbles and a sack at UCF. He’s good in coverage, evidenced by 30 pass breakups, but needs to work on his hands as he only intercepted three passes despite a lot of opportunities. Geathers is regarded as a fourth- or fifth-round candidate.
9. FS Cody Prewitt – Ole Miss – Senior – 6-2, 208 – 4.52
Despite a big frame, Prewitt is not regarded as a big hitter, and almost seemed to shy away from contact his senior season. With the ability to play in the box or as a single high free safety, Prewitt brings versatility and playmaking ability to the NFL. He notched 12 interceptions for the Rebels, in addition to 13 pass breakups, five forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries as a three-year starter. Prewitt will likely be drafted in the fourth or fifth round.
10. FS Kurtis Drummond – Michigan State – Senior – 6-1, 208 – 4.65
Drummond was a big-time playmaker at Michigan State where he notched 12 interceptions, including one he returned for a touchdown, in addition to forcing three fumbles and recovering two fumbles. Drummond was also a good tackler, racking up 233 stops in three years as a starter for the Spartans, but he’s an average athlete and that may prevent him from becoming a starting-caliber safety in the NFL. Drummond is considered to be a fifth-rounder.
BEST OF THE REST
11. FS Durell Eskridge – Syracuse – Junior – 6-3, 208 – 4.60
A two-year starter at Syracuse, Eskridge notched four interceptions and was stout against the run. NFL teams love his big, rangy frame and his size-speed ratio. Eskridge should have stayed in school one more year for more experience and seasoning, but he has the physical tools to develop in the NFL and can contribute on special teams as a rookie. Eskridge will come off the board in the fifth or sixth round.
12. FS Gerod Holliman – Louisville – Junior – 6-0, 218 – 4.62
Holliman was a one-year starter at Louisville and burst onto the scene with a school-record 14 interceptions, which tied an NCAA record. With such a gaudy INT total one would think that Holliman benefited from a lot of tipped passes, but 12 of Holliman’s picks didn’t come from deflections. Holliman has to work on his tackling technique and taking the correct angles, but his ballhawking skills will prompt a team like Tampa Bay to draft him in the fifth or sixth round.
13. SS Jordan Richards – Stanford – Senior – 5-11, 211 – 4.59
This compact, muscle-bound safety was a two-year starter at Stanford where he notched nine interceptions, including three in each of the last three years. He also forced three fumbles with his hard-hitting style. Richard can be a bit stiff in pass coverage, and that could limit him to being a reserve safety at the next level. The Stanford product is likely a fifth- or sixth-rounder.
14. FS Chris Hackett – TCU – Junior – 6-0, 195 – 4.68
Hackett was an extremely productive contributor to the stingy TCU defense, picking off 12 passes, including seven his senior year, breaking up 16 passes, forcing five fumbles and recovering four fumbles in his three years as a starter. Hackett also recorded 224 tackles and two sacks, but his lack of speed will hurt his transition to the NFL. He’s viewed as a sixth-rounder.
15. FS Anthony Harris – Virginia – Senior – 6-1, 183 – 4.56
Harris is coming off shoulder surgery and did not work out the NFL Scouting Combine or the Virginia pro day, which hurts his stock. Yet his film is impressive as Harris recorded 11 interceptions at Virginia, including eight in 2013, and he broke up 19 passes in addition to 289 tackles, two forced fumbles and two sacks. Harris could be a steal for some team in the sixth round due to his injury.
16. FS Cedric Thompson – Minnesota – Senior – 5-11, 211 – 4.46
With 205 stops in three years, Thompson has proven to be a good tackler and has some ball skills, evidenced by his five career interceptions for the Golden Gophers. He also forced three fumbles and recovered two others. While he has a good frame and good quickness, Thompson must hone his instincts and is a sixth-rounder as a result.
17. FS Ladarius Gunter – Miami (FL) – Senior – 6-1, 202 – 4.65
Gunter was a starter for the past two and half years in Miami and recorded 111 tackles, 18 pass breakups, six interceptions, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble. Gunter needs to work on his ball awareness and his tackling at the next level, but he does have good size and range to defend the pass. Gunter is viewed as a sixth-round prospect.
18. FS Dean Marlowe – James Madison – Senior – 6-1, 201 – 4.58
Marlowe excelled against a lower level of competition, picking off 12 passes in his career and 321 tackles as a four-year starter. Marlowe was a surprise invite to the NFL Scouting Combine where he showed he could hang with big-school talent. Marlowe is considered a sleeper and could be a Day 3 steal in the sixth or seventh round.
19. SS Kyshoen Jarrett – Virginia Tech – Senior – 5-10, 200 – 4.49
Jarrett is a versatile safety that can play on defense as well as special teams as he was the Hokies’ punt returner during his career. Jarrett picked off five passes for Virginia Tech and recorded 247 tackles. He’s still a work in progress, but due to his measurables, Jarrett may have a future in the NFL as a developmental safety in the seventh round.
20. SS Erick Dargan – Oregon – Senior – 5-11, 211 – 4.72
Dargan was a playmaker for the Ducks defense, evidenced by 188 tackles, 12 interceptions, including seven in 2014, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries, but his lack of speed and athleticism may limit him to just being a good college safety. Dargan’s 4.72 time in the 40-yard dash will limit him to the seventh round.
All photos by: Getty Images
Scott Reynolds is in his 23rd 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 enjoys 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: [email protected]
the more I think about this, the more i like it…Shaq Thompson in the second round makes sense. he can play LB and Safety in the pros. we need help in both positions and more importantly on three receiver sets we wouldn’t have to switch out a LB for a nickel corner. If memory serves me correct, Urlacher and Brooks were both safeties at one point in college that converted to LB’s. He would be a versatile addition for us. Now the bigger question is, would you take him over a TJ Clemmings, Donavan Smith or Eric Fischer? I would take Ogbuehi (first round talent) in a heart beat, but maybe not the others and definitely not over fischer (zone blocking OT). Personally Marpet or tomlinson in the third makes sense for me (Guard>Tackle if Winston is QB, because Inside pressure is what hurt him the most this past year, weak tackle play can be offset with 3-5 set drops and quick outs and slants as outside pass rush takes 3-5 seconds to develop) with Thompson (if available in the second, which I have been seeing him available in other mocks) I think you get a multi-demensional player which Lovie would adore. I don’t see lovie finding much success in the past drafting OL’s early while in Chicago, so my gut feels this way. I guess in my evaluation of thompson, the question remains: is he is big enough to cover slot receivers? Anyways, my two cents…
Oh, in the past I was critical of S reynolds plastering a campaign for K state players…I still believe he does, but after some more research on Lockett, I really like him. I think he’s going to be a special player in the NFL…I just don’t think we will be able to get him…
Well I had to get my two cents in before the draft starts on Thursday. I like that suggestion on what Tampa may do about another safety chosen for the bucs. I agree with the pick what the writer mention. Now I think Tampa will select the correct pick in each of the rounds. Remember the Manning and Leaf decision back a few years. What If Mariota was another Leaf and Winston was the next Manning! Go Bucs. I think the Bucs will get it right! WHY NOT everybody elas has why not the bucs!
Mcdougald seems to have lots potential. I always liked Tandy and he has nose for the ball. Conte and Wright are exactly what Pewter Report said. Stop gap players that give some depth and may even play average with good pass rush and other pieces functioning properly around them in this defense. Don’t see any upgrades unless we pick early like 2nd or third RD. I would address O line and DE early before entertaining drafting second round safety. Rookie QB and worst O line in league last year isn’t going to be fixed by picking up someone off waivers.
My unsolicited opinion is that we are SO devoid of talent we should play to the draft’s strengths. DL & OL. W/ the 1st overall pick though, we are taking need & ticket sales. I Will support #5. I cringe @ the idea of getting Lovie’s kid a guy w/ a 2nd or 3rd or 4th. I love the player that is a SS that can also show LB ability. I would welcome a hybrid 4/3 guy. But I hear this is a horrible DB draft. We just need talent. I get that. But DE is a Huge weakness. Until I see otherwise, I think it’s next years 1st round pick; yet AGAIN.
The new NFL rules most definitely changed the role of the Safety and past Coaching Staff was way behind what was already happening. I would spend a third round pick on another CB before another Safety as 5 DB’s become the norm. Our lack of a good defensive front rush still screams HELP! We really got neither in free agency no matter how the spin might be. We got rid of some high paying Safeties and Defensive Ends and didn’t get much to cpmpensate for those past mistakes, but a hope and a prayer. Most of us acknowledge we need a QB and another OT and probably another OG too. I know this is not what most of us want to read, but somehow this GM and Head Coach has got to draft 3-4 starting winners and that’s a tough thing to do in one draft. I hope we can pull it off.
We SHOULD have an excellent draft since the first round pick has been a lock for some time.There will certainly be a selection of great players in the second round- do we draft the best player available(serious first round talent who slipped for some reason)/best player at position of greatest need( OL)/ or highest valued player at any of the positions of need( OL/DE/SS /etc)?are we drafting with hopes of winning now or are we drafting to build a franchise and a dynasty?this draft can go many ways- just depends on the architects who have drawn up the plan…
I do support our present staff and coaches and I hope we start winning consistently. I’m just saying that we all have to be reasonable in our expectations and not for head shopping because we do have good coaching; not like Schiano and Morris years. It might take a little longer than just two years; that’s all I’m saying.
I can’t see taking a safety early with the disaster we have on the OL. Maybe late.
Safeties are typically not drafted early…..except by the Bucs (Mark Barron). But, like virtually every other position, it is somewhat of a need. Especially when our pass rush is suspect. Until Brees, Newton and Ryan are in a panic worried about our deep safeties making them pay, it’s a need. No OC is game-planning for our group.
If we even THINK of taking a S in the draft I hope it is Holliman. Seems to be a good all around safety by all different evaluators. Also a GREAT ballhawk!! We need some good ball skills at our FS position, and he can learn from our 2 old stop-gap vets that are experienced in our system. He and McDougled would be a great pair in the secondary. Also, he is a FS and that is what we need, SS would be a luxury that we can not afford to waste a pick on yet.
I agree with Horse and Scubog. Also, I think we can comfortably draft “best available” in every round. We have that many needs. Safety is just not that premier a position. Also, this draft lacks elite talent at S. Let’s see who’s available at the top of the second – i think enough teams will drop the ball (we can always count on the Browns, Raiders, etc. to muck things up) that a few elite talents will plummet for no good reason.
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