Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht, director of player personnel John Spyteck and director of college scouting Mike Biehl have spent the fall and winter scouting prospects for the 2017 NFL Draft where Tampa Bay has the 19th overall pick. The focus needs to be making Dirk Koetter’s offense more explosive and finding more weapons for quarterback Jameis Winston.
The suspension of oft-injured starting running back Doug Martin and the injury-prone status of Charles Sims suddenly makes the running back position an area of need, in addition to wide receiver where the team needs to add more big-play ability outside of Mike Evans new free agent addition DeSean Jackson.
Bucs GM Jason Licht and head coach Dirk Koetter – Photo courtesy of the Buccaneers
While the offensive line is a concern for many Bucs fans, this year’s draft class is not strong at tackle, guard or center, and PewterReport.com doesn’t have Licht taking a lineman due to the fact that he’s selected four – guard Kevin Pamphile in 2014, tackle Donovan Smith and guard Ali Marpet in 2015 and guard-tackle Caleb Benenoch in 2016 – in the last three drafts. That may change in future mock drafts as the Bucs need a right tackle to replace retired veteran Gosder Cherilus and eventually starter Demar Dotson, yet the team has three in-house candidates in Pamphile, Benenoch and Leonard Wester.
Tampa Bay’s defense could use help at safety, defensive end and possibly cornerback and defensive tackle, but it will be challenging to fill all of those holes in the 2017 draft given the needs on offense. Brent Grimes will be 34 next season, and the Bucs have cut overpaid cornerback Alterraun Verner. The Bucs signed two safeties in Chris Conte and J.J. Wilcox, and have Keith Tandy as a starting caliber player, too. The Bucs re-signed defensive end Will Gholston and added defensive tackle Chris Baker in free agency to bolster Tampa Bay’s defensive line.
PewterReport.com offers up its final edition of the Bucs’ round-by-round draft projection in 2017, focusing mostly on adding skill position players for Tampa Bay’s offense. PewterReport.com’s 2017 Bucs 7-Round Mock Draft is sponsored by Holliday Karatinos Law Firm – the official personal injury attorney for PewterReport.com. Call attorney Jim Holliday for a free consultation at (813) 868-1887 or visit them on the web at HelpingInjuredPeople.com
Round 1: USC CB Adoreé Jackson – 5-10, 186 – 4.42 – Junior Previous Pick: UConn FS Obi Melifonwu
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers need help in the secondary and take one of the most athletic playmakers in the draft to help shore up the cornerback position in Jackson. The Bucs surrendered 322 yards and 325 yards passing to Atlanta’s Matt Ryan last year, gave up 498 yards in an overtime loss to Oakland’s Derek Carr and allowed rookie Dak Prescott to complete 88.9 percent of his passes.
USC CB Adoreé Jackson – Photo by: Getty Images
In an NFC South division having to face Ryan, New Orleans’ Drew Brees and Carolina’s Cam Newton twice a year, the Bucs need to make sure they can shut down some of the best receivers in the Falcons’ Julio Jones, the Panthers’ Kelvin Benjamin and the Saints’ rising star Michael Thomas. The Bucs drafted Vernon Hargreaves III in the first round last year. He had a decent rookie season and is expected to be a fixture in the secondary at other outside cornerback or in the slot as a nickel cornerback. Veteran cornerback Brent Grimes was tied for the team lead in interceptions with four, but he’ll be 34 in July and is entering the final year of his contract.
With Jackson and Hargreaves, the Bucs would have a pair of young corners that could grow together and solidify the secondary for years to come. The 5-foot-10, 186-pound Jackson ran a 4.42 at the NFL Scouting Combine, but plays even faster on the football field. With his quick hips and quick feet he’s an ideal fit in Mike Smith’s defensive scheme and has the ballhawking skills the Bucs crave with six career interceptions, including five last year and 11 pass breakups as a junior.
Jackson has played against fellow Trojan wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster in practice every day for four years and went toe-to-toe against the likes of Washington’s John Ross, Penn State’s Chris Godwin and Alabama’s duo of Ardarius Stewart and Calvin Riddley this past season en route to earning the Jim Thorpe Award for the best defensive back in college football.
Jackson’s USC Career Defensive Stats 2016: 55 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 5 INTs, 11 PBUs, 1 FF, 1 FR 2015: 35 tackles, 1 INT for TD, 8 PBUs, 1 FF 2014: 49 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 9 PBUs, 1 FF, 1 FR
Jackson’s USC Career Special Teams Stats 2016: 26 kick returns, 29.5 avg., 2 TDs, 20 punt returns, 15.8 avg., 2 TDs 2015: 30 kick returns, 23 avg., 24 punt returns, 10.5 avg., 2 TDs 2014: 23 kick returns, 29.7 avg., 2 TDs, 2 punt returns, 6 avg.
Because he has been a member of USC’s track team during his entire college career, Jackson has yet to have time to really focus on football year-round and hone his game in spring football. He showed dramatic improvement from his sophomore and junior seasons en route to winning the Jim Thorpe Award so imagine how good Jackson could become with 100 percent of his focus on football.
“Just all-around my game,” Jackson said. “Coming up in the run game, making tackles, making plays in the air. When coverage is getting better, working on my technique and developing still. I’ve still got ways to go, but as you’ve seen, only had this for a month – I was only here for August, to being recognized as the top DB in the nation and to be All-American after a month’s work shows that I can’t wait to get out there and have a whole set of months of just training for football in my life. I think I took strides but it’s still more, more strides to go.”
Jackson was a long jumper and sprinter at USC and won the Pac-12 outdoor long jump title in 2015 and ’16 and placed second in the Pac-12 100 meters in ’16 with a 10.38 time. He placed fifth in the NCAA long jump in ’15 and ’16 and was an All-American both seasons.
Whether it is outside on the perimeter or inside as a slot corner, Jackson’s versatility expands past the defensive side of the ball. His speed and athleticism were also used to benefit the Trojans offense where he totaled 628 yards and six touchdowns on 39 catches (16.1 avg.) and rushed 15 times for 92 yards (6.1 avg.).
Aside from a gimmick play or two for Dirk Koetter, where Jackson could help fire the cannons at Raymond James Stadium is on special teams where he was an electrifying return specialist at USC. Jackson had six returns for touchdowns for the Trojans (three kick returns, three punt returns), including four as a junior (two kick returns, two punt returns).
Jackson had three touchdowns in a dynamic performance against Notre Dame last year – a 97-yard kickoff return, a 52-yard TD on a screen pass and a 55-yard punt return in which hurled the Fighting Irish punter down the sidelines for a score.
“He’s a superhero figure,” USC head coach Clay Helton said of Jackson after the win over Notre Dame.
“This probably was the most fun game I’ve been a part of,” Jackson said.
Jackson’s dynamic playmaking ability on defense and on special teams would bring some fun to Tampa Bay where the Bucs had the league’s worst kickoff return unit last year. The Bucs could draft Jackson at No. 19 or trade down a few spots to try to get him or another player – perhaps Washington DB Budda Baker, Kansas State DE Jordan Willis or Missouri DE Charles Harris – and pick up a mid-round draft pick in the process.
Click below to view Tampa Bay’s second-round pick in 2017.
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: email@example.com
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