Round 5: Jacksonville State SS Siran Neal – 6-0, 200 – 4.56– Senior

Previous pick: South Carolina State LB Darius Leonard
With Neal, Tampa Bay adds a strong safety to the mix to compete with Chris Conte for the right to start next to free safety Justin Evans. Neal has played all over the back seven for the Gamecocks, playing strong safety and nickel cornerback his first two years, then linebacker in 2016 before moving to cornerback last season as a senior.

Neal is a very good athlete with 4.56 speed in the 40-yard dash (Evans ran 4.6), a 4.28 time in the 20-yard short shuttle, a 7-second time in the three-cone drill, and had one of the highest vertical leaps at the NFL Scouting Combine at 40.5 inches. Neal got an invite to the Senior Bowl where he fared well in practice and in the game, where he logged three tackles before missing the second half with an injury.

Despite playing at a small school, Neal has faced big-time talent before and played well in games at Michigan State as a freshman, and at LSU and against Carson Wentz and North Dakota State in the FCS Championship Game in 2016, and Georgia Tech last year. Neal’s transition to the NFL should go smoothly, and he’ll be an instant impact player in coverage on special teams.

Neal’s Jacksonville State Career Defensive Stats
2017: 39 tackles, 11 PBUs, 1 INT, 1 FF
2016: 80 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, 4 PBUs, 1 INT, 1 sack
2015: 40 tackles, 3 PBUs, 1 INT, 1 FF
2014: 32 tackles, 3 PBUs

Neal is a big hitter and plays better closer to the line of scrimmage, although his experience and coverage ability at cornerback allows him to have the range to play free safety, too. Defensive coordinator Mike Smith likes to move his safeties around to help disguise the defensive play call, placing Conte as the single high free safety and moving Evans down to strong safety on one play, and then switching those roles on the next. Neal has the athletic traits and capability to do that.

Neal takes good angles as a tackler and arrives at ballcarriers with a fury. He smack you, and plays with a good deal of confidence. That’s the type of attitude that Evans plays with and Tampa Bay needs more of that in its secondary. Combine that with his ability to stick to receivers like glue and the Bucs may be able to find a starting-caliber safety on Day 3 like they’ve done before with the likes of Dexter Jackson, Jermaine Phillips and Tanard Jackson over the years.

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

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

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: sr@pewterreport.com
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Sheldon
Sheldon(@lovelace24)
3 years ago

This is terrible, it’s like you don’t know how Jason drafts by now. A DT in the 1st round makes no sense because it’s not what we need most, either DE,SS, CB or RB in the first round.

FLBoy84
FLBoy84(@flboy84)
Reply to  Sheldon
3 years ago

Accidentally hit thumbs up, definitely a mistake. Count me as -2.

Horse
Horse(@horse)
Reply to  Sheldon
3 years ago

Sheldon, So agree!!!

Honey Bear
Honey Bear(@honeybear)
Reply to  Sheldon
3 years ago

We need talent in the trenches. But with Chubb most likely not slipping to us, there is not another DE worth a top-10 pick. Same goes for Barkley, who will likely be gone. Yes we need another safety, but we need help in the trenches the most. If the Bucs believe Vita Vea is a top-10 talent, he is worth the pick over the highly-rated safeties (Fitzpatrick and James). Vita Vea is a disruptor who will make the players around him on the line better and the entire defense better. If we give QBs too much time (like we did… Read more »

FLBoy84
FLBoy84(@flboy84)
Reply to  Honey Bear
3 years ago

Agree HB, but hopefully we can add some much needed talent to the DL in the next week or two where we can go BPA if a trade down doesn’t present itself. In that case, maybe a guy like Fitzpatrick isn’t so much of a reach and we could possibly lock up, what could be, one of the best starting safety tandems in the league for the foreseeable future.

wnb0395
wnb0395(@wnb0395)
Reply to  FLBoy84
3 years ago

Many Mocks have Cleveland taking Barkley 1st and Fitzpatrick 4th with Chubb falling to 3rd to Indy. Then who do we take?

seat26
seat26(@seat26)
Reply to  Sheldon
3 years ago

Actually, we do need a DT every bit as much as DE. Baker is gone. This draft addresses both of those concerns. My only problem with it is that I don’t think Chubb will last to the 3rd round. And we definitely need help at RB too. The truth is we have too many positions to address in this draft alone. I think this is a pretty good sound mock, but it all comes down to who falls into your lap at #7. If Nelson or Fitzpatrick is there at #7 I think Bucs will have a hard time passing… Read more »

seat26
seat26(@seat26)
Reply to  seat26
3 years ago

Vea.

Buc 1976
Buc 1976(@robmckenz17gmail-com)
Reply to  seat26
3 years ago

Absolutely agree Chubb had a very good combine.
His knee seems to be fine.

wnb0395
wnb0395(@wnb0395)
Reply to  Sheldon
3 years ago

Sheldon who would you pick in this spot if Barkley, Chubb, Fitzpatrick,and James are all off the board and no one wants to trasde with us?

wnb0395
wnb0395(@wnb0395)
Reply to  Sheldon
3 years ago

Sheldon, who would you pick at 7 if Barkley, Chubb, Fitzpatrick, and James are all off the board and no one wants to trade with us?

Brooks Dunn-Winston
Brooks Dunn-Winston(@brooksdunn-winston)
3 years ago

I really like this draft. Vea and Okoronkwo would REALLY help our pass rush and, in Vea’s case, our run defense. Chubb and Cappa would help our running game. Neal and Shelton are both gamers and I love Carter. Thumbs up, Scott.

Day1-76
Day1-76(@day1-76)
3 years ago

Please stop trying to sell Vea at #7. He will be around later if we were to trade down.

FLBoy84
FLBoy84(@flboy84)
Reply to  Kevin
3 years ago

You may well be right, but if a suitable offer doesn’t emerge, someone has to be selected.

FLBoy84
FLBoy84(@flboy84)
3 years ago

Come on Jenna (SR), don’t go throwing out that Baker release as a massive surprise to anyone. :) Like the draft, very uncertain how the top three picks go though. Like most, have preferences as to which players we select, though can’t argue with any of the above. Especially like the Martez Carter flier in the 7th. Was curious where the speed factor would come in to play in a RB corp uf Chubb, Barber and Rodgers, though I hope we add another RB as a FA that can outperform Rodgers at least and add more speed as well.

Mike Wright
Mike Wright(@defenser)
3 years ago

Many say no on Vea. But tell me who else would you go with Defensively If Chubb is gone? Maybe you guys were not watching the same Buc games as me last year. We need BIGTIME help along our D line..anyway we can get it! I’d definitely go D-line with my first 2 choices in this draft. Hell. maybe even the 1st 3rds. I like Scott’s picks here. You can score all day long in this league..throw beautiful Spirals. But you’d better be able to stop somebody and get of the field. We could/can not! It starts up front. Solidy… Read more »

Darin
Darin(@darinhigh)
3 years ago

You’re getting closer to what should happen. Theyve gota go Dline with first 2 picks, maybe first 3. I’d love it if they could trade back and pick up picks but its unlikely. I looked at Lichts entire draft history this morning in detail. He just doesnt go back, very little when so. If he trades back somehow and Veas gone I’d be just as happy with Nathan Shepherd, wether in rounds 1 or 2. I’d personally sign 2 RBs, a guard, a DB and a DE in free agency, then draft all defense. I dont think Chubb will be… Read more »

FLBoy84
FLBoy84(@flboy84)
Reply to  Darin
3 years ago

Gonna need more than just one G between FA’s and the draft. Depending on where you’re putting Marpet, you’re either going to need another G or C at the minimum. Agree though that the D needs some massive attention at DL and DB.

jordyn
jordyn(@bucsballbaby84)
3 years ago

I say no to waiting till the third round to get a running back. Second round Derrius Guice or Sony Michel.

Horse
Horse(@horse)
3 years ago

Scott; not bad, but Round 2 pick Okorowkwo is just too small! Surely we have learned our lesson? We need CB’s so take one there if we can’t find a DE. Hope RB Chubb is still there at Round 3, doubt it though. Why are you selecting small DE’s, CB, SS? That might be okay if we already had a good Defense, which we don’t. Would love to understand your thought process here Scott?

scubog
scubog(@scubog)
Reply to  Horse
3 years ago

Horse: You always think players are “too small”. You should look at the typical sizes by respective positions currently playing in the NFL and available in the Draft. I think you’ll conclude that those dimensions are the norm.

Horse
Horse(@horse)
3 years ago

Just another thought here? Just don’t like where we going as I don’t see much of anything GM & Coaches are changing, but same ole same ole. The three other HC’s in our Division are aggressive, proven, and have much better Defenses; how does this type of draft selecting catch up with them Scott? It doesn’t in my opinion.

FLBoy84
FLBoy84(@flboy84)
3 years ago

Would be a very solid DT rotation of McCoy, Poe, Vea and McDonald (assuming he’s re-signed), though possibly might try to find a more penetrating DT than McDonald to spell McCoy at the 3T. Maybe even double-up at DT in Rnds 1 & 2 with Vea and Shepherd to protect for McCoy’s eventual decline. Just a thought, not sure what the quality of the DT class is coming out in the next couple of years though. Anybody know?

Charlie
Charlie(@crossbonesbombs)
3 years ago

Love Vea 1st, and Chubb 3rd if he’s there, but I’d much rather have another trench player that isn’t smaller than a flea and preferably not from Oklahoma since they’re probably a damn whiner.

jerseybucsfan
jerseybucsfan(@jerseybucsfan)
3 years ago

Best mock you’ve done so far SR. Agree that they should go heavy on the lines.

BucWonder
BucWonder(@bucwonder)
3 years ago

I like this draft and I think it is realistic. If Chubb and Nelson are gone and there is no trade down then Vea makes a ton of sense. Bucs have been trying to fill the spot next to McCoy for several seasons. This would do that very well. I agree on the top need positions too, DL, OL, DB, RB. Of course much depends on free agency. This should be a fun week.

Pit of misery
Pit of misery(@loviesmith)
3 years ago

I also like ward at 7 depending on free agency or Nelson should know our real needs over the next week or so!

Jolly Bucs Fan
Jolly Bucs Fan(@jollybucsfan)
Reply to  Pit of misery
3 years ago

I can live with Ward at 7 if the bucs were to sign Poe in FA.

Julian Jordan
Julian Jordan(@1buczfan)
3 years ago

This is where my head is right now if Chubb, Nelson and Barkley are off the board.

1- Derrius Guice, LSU RB
2- Jaire Alexander, UL CB
3- Lorenzo Carter, Georgia DE
4- Marcell Frazier, MIZZ DE
5- Dante Pettis, WASH WR
6- DJ Reed, KSU CB
7- Salesi Uhatafe, Utah G

Hank Scorpio
Hank Scorpio(@hank-scorpio)
3 years ago

I don’t really pay much attention to mocks until FA is pretty much over, but if this mock were accurate it would mean Licht bombed in FA imo. I like the 2nd rd pick, but the 1st and 3rd… eh. One player I’d love to see us pick up in a late rd (assuming he’s still there) is Antonio Callaway. 1st rd talent but is likely a 5th-7th rd pick. Would be nice to grab/stash/develop while we get 1 more yr from Desean Jackson this year. Then plug him in with Evans and RodGod at WR in 2019 and we’ve… Read more »

pinkstob
pinkstob(@pinkstob)
3 years ago

Vea isn’t a bad pick but he’s not the best player available at #7 if we stay there (and I don’t think we will…I think we’ll trade down). He’s a great NT but NT’s don’t have enough impact on the game to take one at #7 overall. We can’t let our lack of talent on the D-line drive us to take a guy that’s not the BPA. I try to state who I think we’ll take and who we should take in the 1st round. There are too many factors for me to try and guess who will be picked… Read more »

Ron Potter
Ron Potter(@finalsorbust)
3 years ago

You make a great case for Vita Vea!

Gareth
Gareth(@prunetracy)
3 years ago

Man, im here watching the nick chubb highlights really getting into issiah wynn. Big man can move and move people.

Tampa 2.2
Tampa 2.2(@tampa2-2)
3 years ago

I disagree with the pick of Vita Vea. First thing I would say is he didn’t have the sacks in his college career and the lack of sacks is and was the Bucs biggest problem. Vita ran a good 40 time but the 3 cone time is the most important event for DT. There is no way I will even think about drafting Vita until I get his 3 cone time. If and when the Bucs sign Dontari Poe please stop mocking Vita to the Bucs. Just for your info Poe had better numbers at the Combine than Vita Vea.… Read more »

morgan1672
morgan1672(@morgan1672)
3 years ago

This would be excellent draft. I think V Vita is the biggest impact player on the Dline after Chubb. I think he has a higher ceiling regarding the rushing the passer than people think. My favorite pass rusher in this draft after Chubb is DE O Okoronkwo, I think he is a much better against the run then N Spence and is as good of a pass rusher. I think Okoronkwo and a health Spence will improve the pass rush. I like N Chubb but I would rather use the 3rd or move back up to the 2nd if needed… Read more »

SaskBucs
SaskBucs(@saskbucs)
3 years ago

This is a nice mock and best of the 3 imo. Obviously this mock is done without FA in the equation and it should be. In that regard, positions of need as they stand now were addressed. Well done. I have some concerns about the size of a couple players, as others here have mentioned but if you can ball… you can ball. You can’t tell me a good drive and solid pass rushing moves/speed don’t make up for 2 inches and 20 lbs. Chubb in round 3 would be nice, drafting a RB in round 2 would be a… Read more »

Gareth
Gareth(@prunetracy)
3 years ago

I like this draft, I think the bucs will sign Poe in FA making vita redundant and opens the door for best non qb ,lb, wr, te available and not need to reach. Also i am more partial to kerryon johnson but would be cool with chubb.

Jolly Bucs Fan
Jolly Bucs Fan(@jollybucsfan)
Reply to  Gareth
3 years ago

Perhaps Denzel Ward as a future lockdown CB then?

hamilton
hamilton(@hamilton)
3 years ago

vita only 5 tfl is a bad sign,payne from crimson tide almost had that vs georgia

plopes808
plopes808(@plopes808)
3 years ago

I can’t argue with any of these picks. Pair this draft with some FA pickups and we’ll be good to go

FA Pickups:
DE Okafor/Curry
DT Poe
G/C Sitton/Norwell/Jensen
RB Crowell/Hyde/Mckinnon/Lewis
DB Butler/Johnson/Fuller/Gaines

scubog
scubog(@scubog)
3 years ago

I’ve always thought Mock Drafts were for entertainment purposes only, and not a valid forecast of things to come. Nor is the mocking of the Mock Draft that follows to be taken seriously. It’s so comical that every year at this time we are inundated with one Mock Draft after another including the one from Bill Parcell’s neighbor, yet none will be a credible reflection of reality. Equally entertaining is when we will reflect on it with our “woulda, coulda, shoulda” analysis at the end of April before the players have even stepped on the practice field. We all know… Read more »

martinii
martinii(@martinii)
Reply to  scubog
3 years ago

Yeah Scubog this time of year can definitely become an exercise in Futility. I usually try to predict the top 3 rounds and on years like this when the potential for getting a top need player is questionable BPA really makes sense. Scott must have insider info on some of these guys because 1) they don’t go to combine, 2) they are small school kids, and 3) they are not ranked in the top 300 prospects by any of the major analyst. Unless you are an alumni and travel to these schools and watch your son play, you would never… Read more »

Pete Wood
Pete Wood(@littlebrownjug)
3 years ago

If we can’t get Bradley Chubb or Nelson, we just need to trade down. After those two nobody is worth a number seven pick.

I don’t want a repeat of 2016 where we have a decent draft position and squander the pick on the best available player. We should have traded down then. We should trade down now.

Hello Buffalo!

surferdudes
surferdudes(@surferdudes)
3 years ago

Best player available works if you’re N.E., but if you’re the Bucs, you can’t afford not to come out of this draft without a top D tackle. McCoy, Stevie T., maybe McDonald, that’s it! Vea is rated as a top ten pick, with 3 Q.B.’s rated ahead of him, which means he falls as the 7th pick in the draft. This is close enough to warrant his selection. I would be for trading down with the thought of at least coming away with Payne as my first pick, and another D tackle with the pick I traded down for. Coming… Read more »

majc32
majc32(@majc32)
Reply to  surferdudes
3 years ago

You draft best player available. In 2015 in the 4th round, the bucs did not need a mlb linebacker because they just signed Bruce Carter to be the starting mlb but kwon who they had a 2nd round grade on was still sitting there. The bucs could have still used a defensive end then, but they chose Kwon who went on to start and now is a pro bowler. Last year the bucs did not need a lb but beckwith was still sitting there at the end of the third round and the bucs also had a 2nd round grade… Read more »

majc32
majc32(@majc32)
3 years ago

I am not sure why SR is on this Vita Vea guy. There is no mock draft that has this guy as a top 10 pick. Most I see him as a late teen pick. I get it, his coach sold you on him. He will be a good player if the team around him is good. If not, then you are looking at Shelton who was just traded to the pats from the browns. Derwin James, Nelson, Chubb, Barkley are the players the bucs need to be looking at here at 7. And no, you do not draft for… Read more »

Ja'crispy
Ja'crispy(@buc-a-roo)
3 years ago

This is probably of the best bucs mock drafts ive seen this offseason. The bucs Dline was one of the worst in the nfl last year. I don’t understand how some people can complain about getting the best DT in the draft. DT is just as important as DE. other then Chubb there no other DE worthy of a top 10 pick. So, Mount Vea in the first round would greatly improve our Dline.

Jolly Bucs Fan
Jolly Bucs Fan(@jollybucsfan)
3 years ago

A++. If the draft goes like this, than I couldnt be more happy. I would say that the Bucs need Draft talent at CB earlier than rd 5. But honestly there are just too many holes to fill. Fixing the DL will make the secondary look better. Adding in some “Serviceable” CB talent in FA and then bolstering the DL in the draft will be the most optimal way to turn around the defense. If the Bucs could perhaps trade down a few spots and still pick up VEA that would be fantastic. The other option would be to trade… Read more »

Billy Louis
Billy Louis(@xbl1981x)
3 years ago

I highly dislike the first two round picks. If Barkley, Chubb, and Nelson are gone by 7 I would much rather see us take Fitzpatrick, James or Ward. The only way I would be fine with Vea is if say the Bills traded us their two firsts to jump up to 7 for a quarterback that has slipped. And, in the second Sony Michel, Ronald Jones, Derrius Guice, Arden Key, Sam Hubbard, Jaire Alexander, Harold Landry and Harrison Phillips.

surferdudes
surferdudes(@surferdudes)
3 years ago

McCoy, Stevie T., maybe McDonald, those are our defensive tackles right now. If you don’t fix that any corner, safety you draft will fail.