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PewterReport.com analyzes the top players in the 2018 NFL Draft with its position previews. Trevor Sikkema previews the safety position with a comprehensive look at what the Bucs have and what they need from the DB spot, a detailed list of this year’s top players 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 Safety

It wasn’t just the cornerbacks that helped produce the worst secondary in the NFL last year — oh, no, the safeties were part of that, too.

Without a surprising rookie performance from Justin Evans, the safety position would have been even worse for the Buccaneers in 2017. Likely the best safety player from the team in 2016, Keith Tandy, had injuries that he had to fight through all year. Chris Conte was fine, but still struggled. T.J. Ward was thought to be one of the team’s key additions before the season began and yet he never got comfortable with the scheme or himself in Tampa Bay, it seemed.

Ward is no longer with the team so if you figure Evans will man that starting free safety role to start the 2018 season, there then becomes an open competition between the hopefully now healthy Tandy and veteran Conte. At least, before the draft, that is.

What The Bucs Need At Safety

Though we seem to be higher on Tandy than the Buccaneers apparently were in 2017, the fact of the matter is they can’t have much faith in him or Conte right now — or at least the coaching staff didn’t show it. That leaves a hole to be fill in a draft pick.

The problem for the Buccaneers is that they also have other positions they need to fill in the draft that might take precedent over another safety player. In mike Smith’s scheme, or at least for the last two years, his safeties have been interchangeable. He likes both of his safety players to be able to drop back into coverage or play man to man or blitz or occupy a zone on any given play. That kind of versatility sounds good, in theory, but it came back to bite them when often their safeties were just caught in the middle of the field occupying space instead of a player.

What the Bucs need at safety more than talent is a better plan. They need to have a better idea of how to use their safeties moving forward with hopefully a better pass rush in front of them. Perhaps that allows them to target a more aggressive safety in the draft and pay a different style than we’ve seen yet in a Smith-Tampa defense.

Click Page 2 For The Safety Rankings

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About the Author: Trevor Sikkema

Trevor Sikkema is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat reporter and NFL Draft analyst for PewterReport.com. Sikkema, an alumnus of the University of Florida, has covered both college and professional football for much of his career. As a native of the Sunshine State, when he's not buried in social media, Sikkema can be found out and active, attempting to be the best athlete he never was. Sikkema can be reached at: trevor@pewterreport.com
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24/7BucFan
3 years ago

I would take S james over G Nelson. Other sites say… you don’t take a safety at 7. But they would take a Guard at 7? SMH . gonna be some mad Bucs fans when we pass on Nelson and take James. Either way i’ll trust Licht over some lame posters. GO BUCS!!!

Schwifty9
Reply to  WinstonMVP
3 years ago

Or maybe it’s you that will be mad when the Bucs take the best O-line prospect since, who some scouts say is better than, Zac Martin, a first year All-pro. Bucs can draft Nelson at 7, a Corner at 38, and the best available Dline/ DB prospects for the rest of the draft, and then sign Eric Reid, a proven NFL starter at SS who is just 27 and went to the probowl as a rookie. After that we can sign C.J. Anderson to improve our RB group. Much better haul in my Opinion than passing up on one of… Read more »

Sneedy16
Reply to  Schwifty9
3 years ago

The problem with Reid is he noticeably struggled in man to man coverage against tight ends, and was rarely used in the deeper roles that Smith does a lot of since he rotates he safeties between free and strong. He lacks the recovery ability due to his knee injuries and durability is a concern as he has multiple concussions.

Schwifty9
Reply to  Sneedy16
3 years ago

He’d be better than Ward was for us and it wouldn’t cost a 1st rounder to bring him in.

Sneedy16
Reply to  Schwifty9
3 years ago

He’d be the same as Ward from what I’ve seen, to be honest. Can tackle, but can’t cover deep so he would be limited just like Ward. That’s why Ward ended up playing less. It would basically be signing a younger version of Ward. lol

https://www.ninersnation.com/2018/2/6/16974116/eric-reid-film-breakdown-49ers-free-agents-2018

AlexanderNascimento
3 years ago

Morning, Trevor.
I know it’s off the subject but I’d like to know your mind in the following.
Would you be ok if the Bucs signed CJ Anderson and say a RB on the 3rd day of the draft?

sunshineben
3 years ago

With so many holes on the team has Licht done a good job as gm after so many years???

FLBoy84
Reply to  sunshineben
3 years ago

Practically every team out there has holes that develop each year due to player departure, injury or under-performance. Not just a Buc thing. While he has had a few misses both with FA’s and in the draft (like every other GM), think overall Licht has done a solid job.

Dude
Reply to  FLBoy84
3 years ago

I agree with you, well said FLBoy84.

FLBoy84
Reply to  sunshineben
3 years ago

A team like Jacksonville has a pretty solid starting lineup on both sides of the ball (depending on how you view Bortles), but they’re also $18M+ over the projected salary cap next year even before signing any of this years draft picks. They’ll have to fill holes next year like everyone else when they’re forced to make moves due to money.

Schwifty9
Reply to  sunshineben
3 years ago

He took over one of the absolute worst rosters in the league, and actually has improved the roster significantly since doing so. Although that’s mostly on the offense, but seriously Dominik had this roster in absolute shambles.

Buc 1976
3 years ago

If Bucs stay at 7 and Nelson or maybe Barkley are available take one of the two. Maybe Reid with 2nd pick he has the blood line and is smart. James is DB with a DIVA brain.

FLBoy84
Reply to  Buc 1976
3 years ago

Know James has taken hits for supposedly not working out with the Bucs, but it’s easy for us to call him out when it’s not our money and body on the line. If he gets picked at #7, he’s looking at a $20M+ contract, whereas if he gets injured he’s looking @-- late 1st or, more likely, 2nd or 3rd round money. As an example, pick #32 last year received $9M, so there’s obviously quite a bit riding on a players health and availability leading up to the draft.Not defending James necessarily, just something to consider while we bash people… Read more »

Freeman Strickland
3 years ago

To my mind, until the OL is solid, nothing is solid. Sweezy and Dotson are both recovering from surgeries. So, I cannot see the OL as solid. I would want OL first, and RB second. So, I think that picking Apke in a late round would be a great choice. He should at least be a special contributor on special teams, and he might become an outstanding safety in a couple of years. If Nelson and Barkley and Chubb are gone, I would prefer to trade back. But, if we have to pick at seven with the big three gone,… Read more »

e
e
3 years ago

I still don’t see how Minkah is a complete non-fit for the Bucs? Could it be Scott homerism with James?

geno711
Reply to  e
3 years ago

James is more physical. Minkah has been described as smartest safety that has come along in awhile.
Will Bears trade up to Colts to get Nelson?

Schwifty9
Reply to  geno711
3 years ago

Well if you ask me, Smarts and Instincts are what a differentiate a good safety from a great one.

I think that James would be a fine pick, but I’m really not sure if he’s a better pick and completely better pick than Fitzpatrick.

e
e
Reply to  Schwifty9
3 years ago

Agreed… I think that is what set Lynch apart from other safetys. Smarts, A+ character, multiple position player… I’m not saying that James is not talented, by any means… But, looking at the whole package. I just don’t see the big drop off. I would still rather see Nelson in the fold over either James or Fitzpatrick.

Sneedy16
Reply to  e
3 years ago

It’s mainly due to the fact that Minkah predominantly played Slot CB and FS at Alabama. We already have a slot CB HVIII and FS with Justin Evans. We basically need a Strong Safety. Not saying Minkan can’t play the position, but that’s why I think he would be a better fit.

nybuccguy
3 years ago

Coverage skills for a safety matter more than what they do in the box. James at 7 would be a bad pick.

cgmaster27
Reply to  nybuccguy
3 years ago

You do realize james was the highest rated cover safety last year? He also allowed a college low of 44% catch rate when thrown at him. Not sure why everyone thinks james cant cover.

surferdudes
3 years ago

What did James have one interception last year? If Licht drafts a safety with the 7th pick and he doesn’t work out, he’ll be working with Dominick on ESPN. I’d rather we drafted the first line of defense instead of the last. I’ll go on record, I don’t trust Licht like some of you do.

Horse
3 years ago

Whoever is drafted, has to be ineffective starter immediately.

Horse
3 years ago

effective

surferdudes
3 years ago

Trump is having trouble building his wall, but here’s an idea on how the Bucs can build theirs. I went back to look at Bucs best bets for offensive tackle, and I think people are missing on how big a need we really have there. Dotson is done. He misses more time each year, and currently isn’t able to work out. Hopefully he’s ready for camp. D. Smith is our only solid starter, and some question his ability. What happens if Smith gets injured? The rest of our O.T.’s may be best suited for working a loading dock at Lowes.… Read more »

Sneedy16
Reply to  surferdudes
3 years ago

They won’t touch an offensive tackle with the 7th pick maybe in the 2nd round. Caleb Benenoch can play any position on the offensive line except center. McGlinchey would be the pick if they trade down, but I don’t see them going anyone, but Nelson at 7th.

BUC-ASS-BOB
3 years ago

james comes from a winning program, he does not want be drafted by a team not serious about winning , for him it is not about the money he wants a winning team. Bucs sat on thumbs during free agency this year that red flag for James.

Dude
Reply to  BUC-ASS-BOB
3 years ago

As if James is going to have a choice. To me, it would be a red flag for a kid to complain that there isn’t the right people around to help him do his part. I wouldn’t want a kid with a diva attitude like that on my team. I would rather see the Bucs get someone whose a scrapper and ready to go anytime anywhere, and who doesn’t care where they play, as long as they are playing. That’s a guy who is willing to help a losing team become a winner. This kind of player will lay it… Read more »

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