PewterReport.com analyzes the top players in the 2018 NFL Draft with its position previews. Trevor Sikkema previews the defensive end position with a comprehensive look at what the Bucs have and what they need from the defensive end spot, a detailed list of this year’s top ends and offers up the annual PewterReport.com Bucs’ Best Bets – one early round pick, and a pick from the later rounds.
What The Bucs Have At Defensive End
What do you do with a defensive line unit that was the worst in the NFL in its previous season? You blow it up, that’s what you do.
The Bucs thought they brought in their missing piece last year when they signed defensive tackle Chris Baker, but that didn’t turn out how they wanted. Baker was suppose to bring not only size but also a pass rushing element from the nose tackle position to help out All-Pro defensive tackle Gerald McCoy on the inside. But, that’s not how things worked out. Baker looked lost during the 2017 season, only recording half a sack in 15 games played.
Baker and McCoy’s success on the inside was suppose to help the defensive end players, too. Second-year player Noah Spence was hoping to have an improved year following a rookie season where he recorded 5.5 sacks, but Spence ended up injuring his shoulder just six games into the season. On the other side, William Gholston, who had a nice new contract, failed to record a single sack for the first time in his career. The Bucs also used players like Robert Ayers, Will Clarke and Ryan Russell as their defensive ends, but they weren’t up to starting caliber in terms of the NFL average.
That brought in some big changes — the two biggest changes so far going into 2018. For starters, the team signed former Super Bowl champion pass rusher Vinny Curry after he was cut by the Eagles this offseason. After that move, the Bucs got even more aggressive and traded their third round pick for another former Super Bowl champion, pass rusher Jason Pierre-Paul. For the first time in a long time, with those two additions, the Bucs really do have a pass rush rotation with Spence and Gholston behind those two starters, but they likely aren’t done adding to the defensive line with the draft coming up.
What The Bucs Need At Defensive End
Though the Bucs seem deeper at pass rush than they have been in a while, they still need as much help as they can get — you can never have too many pass rusher. The Bucs could be in a prime spot to add a top-notch pass rusher at the top of the draft, if they choose to do so, but could also pounce on the defensive end class anywhere in the draft, really. Though it’s not as stout at the top outside of N.C. State’s Bradley Chubb, the Bucs could still get a useful rotational player in the draft at a variety of spots. Especially if they trade down, look for Tampa Bay to keep building on their edge presence in the draft.