Bucs’ Best Bet – Rounds 1-3: Florida State SS Derwin James
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The Bucs will have the chance to take one of the most athletic and energetic defensive backs in this year’s NFL Draft in James with the seventh overall pick. Tampa Bay believes the physical, hard-hitting James has Pro Bowl-caliber ability as an in-the-box strong safety with tremendous run-stopping ability, in addition to the range and playmaking skills necessary to play free safety when defensive coordinator Mike Smith wants to rotate free safety Justin Evans down into the box to give opposing offenses different looks. Perhaps just as important, the 6-foot-3, 215-pound James also brings tremendous leadership ability to the table. The Bucs have great leaders in the front seven with middle linebacker Kwon Alexander, outside linebacker Lavonte David and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, but don’t really have a vocal leader in the secondary. James, whose fiery personality is akin to Alexander’s, could fill that role in Tampa Bay for years to come.
Bucs’ Best Bet – Rounds 4-7: Penn State SS Troy Apke
The Bucs need to find a strong safety to pair with Evans, the free safety who was the team’s second-round pick a year ago, and may have to wait until Day 3 to do so if Tampa Bay doesn’t draft James in the first round. A great Day 3 option would be Apke, who stunned scouts by running a 4.35 time in the 40-yard dash, which was the fastest time of any safety at the NFL Scouting Combine. Apke is a bit of a late bloomer, only starting during his senior year and having just two career interceptions. He has good size at 6-foot-1, 200 pounds and is a willing hitter, but needs more experience and development before being a finished product capable of starting in Tampa Bay’s secondary. Yet Apke could learn under Chris Conte and Keith Tandy for a year while starring on special teams and could perhaps assume the starting mantle in 2019 opposite Evans.
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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