analyzes the top players in the 2018 NFL Draft with its position previews. Scott Reynolds previews the defensive tackle position with a comprehensive look at what the Bucs have and what they need up front along the interior defensive line, a detailed list of this year’s top defensive tackles and offers up the annual Bucs’ Best Bets – one early round pick, and a pick from the later rounds.

What The Bucs Have At Defensive Tackle

Tampa Bay entered the offseason with just two defensive tackles in Pro Bowler Gerald McCoy and Stevie Tu’ikolovatu, last year’s seventh-round pick, who spent his rookie season on injured reserve. The Bucs also list holdover DaVonte Lambert as a defensive tackle, but he and fellow holdover Channing Ward are swing players that play both end and tackle, but both are long shots to make the 2018 roster.

Bucs DT Gerald McCoy - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs DT Gerald McCoy – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Bucs general manager Jason Licht signed Beau Allen and Mitch Unrein in free agency. Allen is slated to replace Chris Baker and Clinton McDonald at nose tackle. Baker was cut due to poor play, and McDonald wasn’t re-signed due to the fact that the Bucs wanted to get younger and bigger inside. Allen and Unrein are noted run-stuffers, and Unrein has the flexibility to play strongside defensive end in addition to nose tackle.

What The Bucs Need At Defensive Tackle

Tampa Bay kept four defensive tackles on the roster last year in McCoy, McDonald, Baker and Sealver Siliga, who also wasn’t re-signed this year. McCoy, Allen and Unrein are locks to make the roster this year, but they will need another defensive tackle to compete with Tu’ikolovatu and others for the final spot on the roster. With Allen, Unrein and Tu’ikolovatu primarily being run defenders, look for Licht and head coach Dirk Koetter to pursue a pass-rushing defensive tackle in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Whether it’s Washington’s Vita Vea in the first round, Fort Hays State’s Nathan Shepherd in the second round or Sam Houston State’s B.J. Hall in the middle rounds, the Bucs will likely play to the strength of the draft and select a defensive tackle from this year’s crop. McCoy turned 30 this year and despite making his sixth Pro Bowl in 2017, his sack numbers have declined in each of the last three seasons. Finding an heir apparent might be a priority in this draft. Keep in mind that the Bucs like big defensive tackles.

Click Page 2 For The DT Rankings

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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 Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for 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:
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3 years ago

Agree Scott, now’s a great opportunity to find the heir-apparent to McCoy. Plenty of solid choices to choose from during practically any round of the draft. Wouldn’t be disappointed with Vea, Payne, Shepherd, Bryan, Hurst or Hall.

3 years ago

Vea might be a tad slower than McCoy, but he blows him out of the water in strength/size. I’m not saying he’ll be better than Gerald. I have to say I am intrigued with the idea of Vea playing 3-tech. Big 350 lb Ox with major bullrush potential.

3 years ago

We’ll see how this season pans out, but I’ve got my eye on Christian Wilkins as the heir to McCoy. Having a Vea/Wilkins or Payne/Wilkins combo on the inside in the years to come would be very intriguing.

3 years ago

Just noticed the new arrivals have gotten their numbers. Catanzaro-#7, Crossan-#44, Jensen-#66, JPP-#90, Allen-#91, Curry-#97 and Unrein-#98 for those that were curious.

3 years ago

OUTLIER ALERT – I’d love to see us trade McCoy and D Jax for premium picks, add Vea or Chubb and then use additional picks to bolster the tenches on both sides of the ball. Love the DT Hill from NC State as well, but lots of great talent in this draft. Some nice CB’s, RB’s in there as well. P.S. Trade with AFC teams!

Honey Bear
Reply to  Dman
3 years ago

Definitely trade DJax. He did nothing for us last year, and we have 3 WR and 2 TE that are solid weapons for Jameis (and with better chemistry). I do not see him adding enough value this year to warrant his contract, and we need the picks.

Disagree on trading McCoy. He is still dominant, and even with a high draft pick of DT they would not be even close to his level in the first year or two, and maybe not ever. If we trade McCoy, it will be a salary cap move that comes in 2019.

Reply to  Dman
3 years ago

Teams won’t trade for Djax unless it’s a 5th or 6th round pick. At his age and contract no team will take that.