The East-West Shrine Game and the Reese’s Senior Bowl are over. Now it’s on to the NFL Scouting Combine for Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht, director of player personnel John Spytek, director of college scouting Mike Biehl, head coach Dirk Koetter and the team’s scouts and assistant coaches. The Bucs have spent the fall and winter scouting prospects for the 2018 NFL Draft where Tampa Bay has the 7th overall pick due to a 5-11 finish to the regular season. The focus needs to be on bolstering the Bucs’ defense, especially along the defensive line and in the secondary, in addition to improving Koetter’s running game on offense.

It’s time for the team to move on from oft-injured and ineffective running back Doug Martin, who will be released this offseason, and free agent running back Charles Sims is too one-dimensional and doesn’t make enough plays to be re-signed. We’ll find out if the team agrees.

The offensive line is a concern for many Bucs fans, but offensive tackles Donovan Smith and Demar Dotson are in the top half of the league at their respective positions, and Dotson had one of his best seasons before getting injured in late November. The real issue is in the interior where the guard play was sub-par. That could mean moving Ali Marpet from center back to guard.

The return of J.R. Sweezy from a back injury was supposed to help Tampa Bay’s struggling ground game and prompted the move of Marpet from right guard to center. Marpet was a better guard in 2016 than he was center in 2017, but it is unclear if the plan is to keep him snapping the ball to Jameis Winston or return to right guard, but guard is a top need due to the fact that neither Kevin Pamphile nor Evan Smith played well at left guard despite both being in a contract season. The Bucs’ running game won’t take off until the interior offensive line is settled and is given an upgrade in talent.

Tampa Bay’s defense definitely needs help at defensive end as the team finished dead last in sacks with 22. Noah Spence is coming off his second shoulder surgery in 12 months and can’t be counted on to make the kind of necessary impact the team needs to effectively rush the passer. If he gets five to eight sacks upon his return that should be seen as a bonus. Licht needs address defensive end in both free agency and the draft, as the team is expected to part ways with Robert Ayers, who will be 33 next year, due to ineffectiveness. Licht will also need to get help at defensive tackle where the Bucs will be moving on from Chris Baker, who had half a sack despite getting paid $6 million as a free agent signing last year and failing to beat out Clinton McDonald, who will be a free agent in March.

The Bucs will also need to address cornerback and will try to re-sign Brent Grimes, who turns 35 this year. Tampa Bay had the league’s worst pass defense in 2017 as neither second-year cornerback Ryan Smith nor Vernon Hargreaves III, who was the team’s first-round pick in 2016, played well. Tampa Bay could also use a safety to develop next to Justin Evans, last year’s second-round pick.

PewterReport.com offers up its first edition of the Bucs’ round-by-round draft projection in 2018, focusing mostly on adding players for Tampa Bay’s defense and players to bolster the team’s running game. PewterReport.com’s 2018 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: Washington DT Vita Vea – 6-4, 340 – 4.90 – Junior

Previous pick: Notre Dame G Quenton Nelson
Nelson was the Bucs’ top pick in PewterReport.com’s initial 2018 Bucs’ 7-Round Mock Draft, and for good reason. He’s a 10-year NFL starter and a Pro Bowl player waiting to happen, and Tampa Bay dramatically needs to upgrade its play at the guard position in 2018 to aid its woeful running game and up its point production.

Yet after four years of spending most of the Bucs’ draft picks on the offensive side of the ball, general manager Jason Licht knows he needs to use this draft to select defense, defense and even more defense – if the team is going to have a shot at rebounding in 2018 and making the playoffs. The biggest need is along the defensive line where there will be plenty of change occurring this offseason with the expected departure of defensive tackle Chris Baker, a free agent bust, and potentially 32-year old defensive end Robert Ayers, who struggled to stay healthy and produce in his first two years in Tampa Bay.

UTSA DE Marcus Davenport - Photo by: Jeff Heuhn
UTSA DE Marcus Davenport – Photo by: Jeff Heuhn

While there will be a temptation to select UTSA (University of Texas-San Antonio) defensive end Marcus Davenport with the seventh overall pick to address an area of glaring need, he’s simply not one of the top 10 players in this draft. Licht knows that this is not a great class for edge rushers, but he does the right thing by selecting Vea to make an immediate impact on Tampa Bay’s defensive line with the seventh overall pick. Davenport would take a year or two to develop as a defensive end, and Licht and the Tampa Bay coaching staff literally have one year to turn the Bucs into winners and show the Glazers that they are the right men for the job of the 2019 season going forward.

So the pick is Vea, a massive, 6-foot-4, 340-pound defensive tackle with cat-like quickness and agility and rhino-like strength and size. Vea helps the Bucs defense in several ways. The first is as a run-stuffer. Washington had the fourth-ranked run defense in the FBS last year and Vea was a big reason why.

Yes, the Bucs need to upgrade their pass rush this year and boost their sack totals from a dismal 22 last year, but having more pass-rushing opportunities due to stopping the run on the first two downs and setting up third-and-long situations helps, too. Vea played nose tackle, defensive tackle and defensive end in Washington’s 3-4 defense and the Huskies often rushed three and dropped eight defenders into coverage due to Vea’s presence and ability to collapse the pocket and still managed to rank 17th in the FBS with 38 sacks in 13 games.

At first glance, Vea’s career stats are not much to get excited about. In three years with the Huskies he totaled 99 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, five passes defensed and two forced fumbles. But he is a one-man wrecking crew upfront and the disruption he causes by collapsing the pocket resulted in an awful lot of clean-up sacks for Washington’s other defensive linemen and linebackers.

“I’ve coached in the National Football League, and I’ve never seen a guy of his size play with that explosiveness,” said Huskies co-defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake, who used to be a defensive backs coach in Tampa Bay under Jon Gruden and Raheem Morris. “He’s pretty special.”

Vea draws comparisons to both former Washington defensive tackle Danny Shelton and former Oregon defensive tackle Haloti Ngata – both of whom were drafted 12th overall in 2015 and 2006, respectively. The 6-foot-2, 335-pound Shelton and the 6-foot-4, 345-pound Ngata are both similar-sized to Vea, but lack Vea’s speed and quickness.

“Shelton was a top 12 pick selected a couple years ago by the Cleveland Browns and that’s about where I expect Vita Vea to go as well,” said NFL Draft analyst Rob Rang on KOMO’s Thursday Night Dawg House show. “He’s one of the freaks of the 2018 NFL Draft, and I use the term ‘freak’ in as kind of a way as possible.

“You’re talking about a man who is 344 pounds, so there will be some plays where he might need to rest and get a second breath. You’re really picking at nits. We’re talking about a player who is physically dominating and in my opinion, still just scratching the surface of his technique.”

Vea’s Washington Career Defensive Stats
2017: 43 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, 4 PBUs, 1 punt block
2016: 39 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, 5 sacks, 1 PBU, 1 FF
2015: 17 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 1 FF, 1 FG block

Vea’s presence would not only increase the production of Tampa Bay’s defensive ends, he would also occupy a double team on most plays, which would allow Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy to get freed up for even more one-on-one pass rush situations. Because of his movement ability, Vea could also be moved around the line to play three-technique defensive tackle or even defensive end in some situations if the Bucs wanted to go with a big defensive line that consisted of Vea, McCoy, 340-pound defensive tackle Stevie Tu’ikolovatu and 295-pound defensive end Will Gholston.

Vea’s experience playing nose tackle in a 3-4 scheme also gives defensive coordinator Mike Smith the ability to switch Tampa Bay to a 3-4 defense in 2018, or at least play more multiple fronts consisting of both 3-4 and 3-3-5 schemes in addition to a 4-3 front. For those Bucs fans that want the team to embrace the trend of the 3-4 defense, having a chess piece like Vea is key to making that happen due to the importance of the zero-technique nose tackle in that scheme.

While Vea has NFL-caliber size and a rare combination of size and speed – he’s been timed as fast as 4.8 in the 40-yard dash – his technique still needs plenty of refinement. Bucs defensive line coach Jay Hayes helped develop 6-foot-3, 325-pound nose tackle Peko Domata in Cincinnati where he had an 11-year career before moving on to Denver in 2017.

“Anyone can go out there and play balls to the wall and do well, but it comes to a point in time where that only takes you so far,” Vea said. “That was me [in 2016], and this offseason I really grabbed a hold of actually learning the game … instead of going out there and just bull-rushing every single play.”

There is much more to Vea’s game than just bull rushing, but the Bucs could certainly use his freakish bull rush up front to wreck havoc against the run and collapse the pocket against the pass.

Click below to view Tampa Bay’s second-round pick in 2018.

42 COMMENTS

  1. Like the Vea call if Grubb goes to Colts and the Penny Pick was interesting and like the idea of drafting a DB over 6’0, We are not adding a lot to our sack deficiency but IMO Sacks are overrated. Need for QB pressures huge and it appears that is exactly what we are going to have to settle for in 2018. Long way to APRIL.

    • Other than providing more fodder for the “experts” to discuss to keep themselves employed, see no real-life implications of any of the grades assigned before any of the prospects have even played in a friggin’ NFL game yet.

  2. Poor mock draft for the Bucs! Unless the team is going to transition to a 3-4 as their base defense. Neglecting a true edge rusher in the first two rounds and the interior of their offensive line, this make no sense.

    Understand PewterReport has been pushing the switch to a 3-4 and Vea, however when you look at market share production data for Vea, defensively. His projections of speed score & market share fall short of historical benchmarks, to even be considered a Probowl caliber talent compared to peers since the 1989 NFL draft.

    While many are looking at Vea as a Dontari Poe clone, the two couldn’t be further apart. And if the Bucs are looking for someone like Poe, he is a free agent! Spend free agent dollars to acquire known production versus unknown. Use your draft capital to fill another need.

    Vea is not in the same class as Poe, Ngata, Wilfork from a production standpoint using market share. I just do not see him being worth the 7th overall pick.

    I digress.

    Not my draft , and would be a waste of a top 10 pick to take a space clogging two gapper.

    • I concur, if we are looking at a later first round pick then I would be more comfortable with this pick.

      When considering a top 10 selection, the goal is a perennial Pro Bowler as the greatest share of any drafts Pro Bowl players are taken in that area. You don’t wing it with solid but unlikely to be spectacular players in the hopes that it works out for them.

      Star Lotulelei was a better prospect coming out and while he has played an important role for their defense I think you’d be hard pressed to say his impact has been Pro Bowl worthy or what you hope to get with a top 10 pick.

  3. When you hear 345 lbs you think the guy might be fat like big bellied Baker. Looking at Vea tho the guy is built. Don’t know why some are getting on you Scott, the fan base is to fixed on drafting a D end, they’re being blinded to the fact there just isn’t one worth taking at #7. I believe we have as much need at DT, as DE, and Vea would be an instant up grade. Quizz, Sims, and Martin need to go, and Penny would also be an instant up grade. If you’re first two picks are instant up grades that contribute right away it’s already a decent draft. Thinking you’re going to draft great players in every round is being unrealistic.

    • You should look for a Pro Bowl quality player in the top 10 of the draft. If you don’t get one then your GM has ‘missed’ by historical trends.

      2 gap DT’s aren’t the same premium that a fast twitch DE is, as a result they don’t collect the same paychecks or merit the same draft status. There is a reason you don’t see these players breaking the bank, and you can find adequate replacements for marginal costs. Now if you think Vea is a unicorn of the position and staring down the barrel of multiple pro bowls as a 3 down space stuffer who NFL olines are game planning on how to pass defend, then I’m game.

  4. Yeah I’m not a fan of this one either. Vea could totally be a great player and so could Penny. But I really think one of the top 4 guys (Chubb, Fitzpatrick, Barkley, and Nelson) will fall to us at 7 and I would want that guy for sure. Vea isn’t a top 10 guy right now though so I don’t want him unless we trade down. Also, Sony Michel is a much better running back for the second round than Penny.

    Finally, Shaquem Griffin in the 6th or 7th round please. 🙂

  5. Bucs 2018 Mock Draft V3

    Draft Strategy

    My draft strategy has been and remains to fix the defense. This draft is almost exclusively dedicated to fixing the defense. I’ve seen the experts prediction that DE Chubb will be taken by the Colts – not buying it yet. Just yesterday, ESPN’s Mike Wells believes Penn State RB Saquon Barkley will be in play for the Colts with the third overall pick (see Rotoworld). Lots of time left for things to change.

    RD1 DE Bradley Chubb/ NC State 6-4 275 4.80
    *This game wrecker needs no introduction. He is the #1 DE in the draft. The alternative pick is OG Quenton Nelson. The Pewter Poll says 71% of you agree.

    RD2 DE Marcus Davenport/UT San Antonio 6-6 251 4.77
    *Never thought he was a first round pick. Had him in the second round in my last mock. Will need development, but too talented to pass up here. DE/DT Taven Bryan/Florida 6-4 295 4.99 is the alternative.

    RD3RB Rashaad Penny/San Diego State 5-11 220 4.52
    *Penny will probably be drafted in the 2nd round, but I put him in the 3rd round because he can’t pass protect and he’s prone to fumble. But he’s such a weapon, you gotta have a threat like him on your team. RB Royce Freeman/Oregon 5-11 238 4.54 is the alternative.

    RD4 DT Nathan Shepherd/Fort Hayes State 6-4 310 5.04
    *Big Nate was impressive at the Senior Bowl until he broke his hand. I know that Trevor Sikkema was impressed with Nathan. DT Deadrin Senat/USF 6-1 305 5.12 is the alternative.

    RD5 FS Natrell Jamerson/Wisconsin 5-11 200 4.49
    *Natrell Jamerson was named Defensive MVP of 2018 East-West Shrine Game. FS/CB Dane Cruikshank/Arizona 6-1 206 4.50 is the alternative.

    RD6 K Eddy Pineiro/Florida 5-11 178 4.84
    *That’s right I said kicker. Lol. The Bucs need a kicker that is accurate and can kick deep – nailed an 81 yarder. This kid can do both (see his stats). He’s got a 4th round grade, but I researched two 7 round mocks (Draftsite and Drafttek) and couldn’t find him. Couldn’t blame Licht if he ran and hid if he were to read this, but ya gotta keep trying til ya get it right! This a low risk pick.

    RD6 OG Matt Gono/Wesley College 6-4 319 5.36
    *Gono was mentioned as the best offensive player at the NFLPA Bowl. This D-III standout (like Ali Marpet/Hobart) is a powerful run blocker with good technique that gets downfield quickly. This big fella is my sleeper pick. Could be another Arron Sears – plays like him.

    RD7 Complementary Pick
    *The Bucs do not have a 7th round pick. We traded our original 7th round pick to move up and select DT Stevie T in the 2017 draft. This is an anticipated comp pick. I did not select a player here as I expect the Bucs to use this pick to trade up as they usually do.

  6. This mock only makes sense if Chubb, Nelson and Barkley are off the board and no one wants to trade up and take our pick. That said the 2nd round pick would definitely have to be either Wynn or Hernandez at guard to make sure the running game gets the help our offense desperately needs. My preference is Wynn because he excelled in the SEC playing LT which would bring much needed versatility to the OL. This is a deep RB class and we should be able to find a very good RB by trading back into the 2nd or seeing if we can wait it out til the 3rd. DE is a need but I have a feeling our FA will land Michael Bennett plus a Kony Ealy type player coupled with the hopeful return of Spence should lessen the glaring need we currently have at DE.

  7. Chubb, Nelson, or Vea are win/win/win to me. If we could trade back and land him even better. I have a feeling after the combine that Vita won’t look so much like a reach at #7. Impressive tape and movement for a huge man. Really digging Rashaad Penny as well, but I’m hoping for him in the 3rd round.. might be wishful thinking.

  8. Free Agency will certainly impact the draft, but I would not be unhappy with Vea in the 1st round. However, Penny seems like a reach with a high 2nd round pick.

    If the Bucs draft Vea in the first I’d rather the Bucs target in the 2nd round:
    Duke Ejiofor DE Wake Forest
    Sam Hubbard DE Ohio State
    Mike Hughes CB UCF

  9. Ugh. This looks like a Browns draft. Don’t put too much stock into Senior Bowl week OR the Combine. I think that there is going to be a mad rush for teams to grab their future QBs and the Bucs may very well be in a position to trade down. Buffalo makes a lot of sense. Trade down and pick up Billy Price & De’ron Payne.

  10. If the draft fell like this I’d probably be open to trading down if there’s a QB needy team looking to trade up. Can see Buffalo, Baltimore and Arizona as teams that might want to leapfrog Washington, Miami and maybe Cincy in order to grab a QB.

  11. If Jason Licht has this type of draft, we will make the playoffs next year. Its a draft made up of nasty players who love football. I’m happy you left out the H-back crew we seem to draft in the later rounds. The only thing I would do different is draft Nelson first. An interior line of Nelson, Marpet and Cappa would make Penny and Dion Lewis a dynamic duo. Go Bucs!

  12. Ehh… Not really a fan of this mock. But if going with Vea and Penny with the first two picks, I’d do it like,

    Rd 1) DT Vita Vea
    Rd 2) RB Rashaad Penny
    Rd 3) DE Chad Thomas
    Rd 4) OT/OG Brandon Parker
    Rd 5) DE Jalyn Holmes
    Rd 6) K Eddy Pineiro
    Rd 6) RB/KR/PR Braxton Berrios

  13. Everything hinges on FA but a RB in round 2 would be a terrible pick as things stand now. There are 10 runners in this class that could potentially help our backfield, taking one in the 2nd is reaching.

    Steelers- Bell*, Bengals- Mixon, Jaguars- Fournette, Texans- Miller/Foreman, Titans- Murray/Henry, Chiefs- Hunt, Chargers- Gordon, Bills- McCoy, Bears- Howard/Cohen, Vikings-Cook, Panthers- McCaffery, Saints- Ingram/Kamara, Falcons- Freeman/Coleman, Rams-Gurley, Cardinals-DJ, Cowboys-Elliott, Eagles- Ajayi.

    Leaves 15 teams including the Pats who run a stable and are unlikely to draft an RB high, including Browns,Giants,Colts, one of which will draft Barkley, and 2 other teams (Broncos,Redskins,Jets) in need of a QB. I know that is 3 teams but Cousins likely lands on one. At most, 13 teams are looking for a new runner, including the Bucs. 10 legitimate options in the class (or so I read) and with all the Bucs other holes this is my main reason for waiting on drafting an RB.

    Bulletproof logic it is not, obviously any of the teams I listed that have established runners could draft one at any time, but it is unlikely to be high. The Packers spent 2 picks on RBs last year… anyway… 2nd round is REACHING!!! Give me guys for the trenches please!

    And a CB

  14. I’ll give this Mock 2.0 a B grade. We fans need to realize the Bucs can only fill so many gaping holes in one draft. With our 2016 draft not living up to expectations and the OL experiment blowing up in our face, we’re in a sticky situation going into this offseason. Since we need DT, CB, DE, S, RB & OL help, I love the first 2 picks. Like the 3rd and think the 4th can be a solid player in a year or two. I don’t love going LB in the 5th. While I’d like to grab a CB (Jackson/Ward if we can trade down in 1st) in the early rounds, D.J. can play. But I’m a bit weary of his speed on the outside & size in our division. Basically could be another VH3 situation.

    In the end, as long as Bucs draft BPA in every round, we should be fine. Just gotta hope that the BPA also fills a big need. Would like to come out of the draft with a DE, CB, RB & G as top priority. DT and S just a tier below in importance, imo.

  15. Decent mock draft not a lot of complaints, rather see maybe a trade for the Bills two picks 22 and 23 to draft Harold Landry and a guard like Wynn or Will Hernandez to give us some nastiness. I’d like for us to take a look at McKinnon in free agency and draft a bigger back later in the draft like Bo Scarbrough from Bama. Like the pick for having a bigger corner as we could use some height, with that we could hopefully pull Talib in free agency and Edge rushing Bennett in free agency