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
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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.
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: email@example.com
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