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 now knows they will have 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 lacks speed and big-play ability outside of Mike Evans and occasionally Adam Humphries.
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 aging 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, cornerback, defensive end and possibly 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 may cut overpaid cornerback Alterraun Verner. Bradley McDougald and Chris Conte, who began the 2016 season as starters, are unrestricted free agents, as is defensive end Will Gholston and defensive tackle Akeem Spence.
PewterReport.com offers up its first 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: Western Michigan WR Corey Davis – 6-3, 213 – 4.48 – Senior
With the 19th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be in position to draft the best player available, but the team’s top need – wide receiver – could just coincide with their position in the draft. Opinions are a bit mixed on Davis, who is a mid-first-round pick in some mock drafts and a late first-rounder in others, but there’s no denying his talent and production. Washington wide receiver John Ross also gets consideration here, but will likely be off the draft board earlier due to his freakish 4.25 speed.
Using his 6-foot-3 frame and his deceptive speed to make big plays downfield, Davis finished his Western Michigan career as the all-time leading receiver in college football at the FBS level with 5,285 yards and 52 touchdowns on 332 catches (15.9 avg.). He was the model of consistency for Broncos head coach P.J. Fleck, the former Bucs wide receivers coach under Greg Schiano, catching 67 passes for 941 yards and six touchdowns as a freshman before embarking on three straight seasons with at least 1,400 yards receiving and at least 12 touchdowns.
Davis’ Western Michigan Career Stats 2016: 97 catches for 1,500 yards (15.5 avg.) with 19 TDs and a long of 70 yards 2015: 90 catches for 1,436 yards (16.0 avg.) with 12 TDs and a long of 80 yards 2014: 78 catches for 1,408 yards (18.1 avg.) with 15 TDs and a long of 75 yards 2013: 67 catches for 941 yards (14.0 avg.) with 6 TDs and a long of 75 yards
Davis produced 27 100-yard receiving games for the Broncos and another handful of games in which he topped the 90-yard mark. He had 13 games with multiple touchdowns, including a career-high six as a senior despite being a marked man by opposing defenses. The Wheaton, Ill. native had 22 catches of 40 yards or more, including eight receptions of at least 70 yards.
That would be welcome news in Tampa Bay where the longest pass play last year was a 45-yard reception by Pro Bowl receiver Mike Evans. Bucs head coach and offensive play-caller Dirk Koetter said that the offense’s explosive plays are down from nine per game in 2015 to seven last year.
“We need more speed and when we say playmakers, playmakers and explosive plays are one in the same,” Koetter said. “Guys that can make explosives, guys that can catch a 10-yard pass, break one tackle and turn it into a 30-yard gain. Our run after the catch is not where it needs to be.”
If there is a knock on Davis it’s the fact that he’s played in the MAC and has beat up on the likes of Ball State (12 catches for 272 yards and three TDs in 2016), Buffalo (13 catches for 173 yards and two TDs in 2016) and Ohio (nine catches for 212 yards and two TDs in 2015). But Davis has also fared well against Big 10 schools, too, squaring off against the likes of NFL cornerbacks Eli Apple, Darqueze Dennard and Trae Waynes.
He caught eight passes for 96 yards and a touchdown against Michigan State as a freshman and then had 10 receptions for 154 yards and a touchdown versus the Spartans last year. Davis also had five catches for 112 yards and a touchdown against Northwestern in 2013 and seven catches for 70 yards against the Wildcats in the 2016 season opener. Davis had four catches for 97 yards this year in a win against Illinois, and posted six catches for 73 yards and a touchdown in the team’s 24-17 Cotton Bowl loss against Wisconsin.
“He is selfless,” Fleck told the Detroit Free Press. “This kid is unbelievable. He’s the hardest working wide receiver, besides Vincent Jackson, that I’ve ever been around.”
Davis has the experience and ability to be a Day One starter at wide receiver opposite Evans in Tampa Bay. His size, leaping ability and clutch hands would give Jameis Winston an extra weapon in the red zone. Davis’ long arms and wide wingspan give Winston the big catch radius he needs as he works to become a more accurate passer.
NFL teams need their first-round picks to make an instant impact during their rookie seasons, and wide receivers are often early producers. Pairing Davis and Evans together would give Winston two legitimate big-time receivers and greatly aid Tampa Bay’s passing game.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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