PewterReport.com analyzes the top players in the 2019 NFL Draft with its position previews. Matt Matera previews the cornerback position with a comprehensive look at what the Bucs have and what they need at corner, a detailed list of this year’s top outside cornerbacks, and Scott Reynolds 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 Cornerback
Tampa Bay will once again have one of the youngest secondary groups that the NFL has to offer. Cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III is considered to be the leader of this bunch despite only playing in three seasons, and this includes missing seven games in 2017, and 15 games last season after tearing the labrum in his shoulder in Week One. What will help out Hargreaves now though is he will go from the slot back to outside corner, playing press man coverage up at the line in Todd Bowles defense. Hargreaves feels most comfortable in this position, as it is what he did best in college.
Second-year player Carlton Davis will be the No. 2 cornerback on the other side of the field. Davis had his growing pains as a rookie, but got a great deal of experience and improved towards the end of the year. The Bucs’ top two corners have a combined one interception between Hargreaves and Davis. It could be a live and learn kind ordeal once again.
The nickel position in the slot starts to get a little dicey for the Bucs here. Fellow rookie M.J. Stewart was given the first crack at it, but he had a rough go of it. He’s a hard working player, but his athleticism couldn’t keep up to the point that Jason Licht said this offseason that Stewart will be moved to safety.
That leaves the technical elder statesmen of the group, Ryan Smith, and along with the recently re-signed DeVante Harris to be play in that role. At 25, Smith is the oldest corner in the Bucs group, though has only played in three seasons. Smith has been put into important roles before because of team injuries, starting six games last season while playing in all 16. He had one interception and six passes defended last year.
Harris got one start last year, played in 10 games and recorded one pass defense with nine tackles. Both players will be put in an elevated role in this 2019 season. Rounding out the corner position is David Rivers, who played in two games.
Departing Tampa Bay from last year is veteran Brent Grimes. For the Bucs, this is addition by subtraction as Grimes, who was already on the fence about retiring last season, mailed it in. He then bad mouthed the team after the season on his wife Miko’s “I Heart Miko Podcast” citing his unhappiness about defending the opponent’s top receiver, despite his role despite his role as the top corner on the team.
Cornerback Javier Elliott still has not been signed by the Bucs yet, and is a restricted free agent. He was important to the Bucs and had one interception last year, though don’t rule out a return from him.
It’s going to take a great deal of coaching from Bruce Arians, Todd Bowles, and company to get this young corner group up to par. The Bucs secondary was one of the worst last year, but with a new scheme and players being put where they are best utilized, there’s a good shot that they can improve.
What The Bucs Need At Cornerback
Tampa Bay definitely could use a ball-hawking corner with a knack for finding the football. The Bucs had just nine interceptions on the previous season and only two came from the cornerback position. This team desperately needs a player that can create turnovers off the jump with high amounts of athleticism, because they might be put in the slot based on team needs.
The Bucs should also keep in mind having this player ready to be put in an elevated role. Hargreaves has been injured in two straight seasons and is free agent after this year, while the jury is still out on Davis. There could be a situation in 2020 where Hargreaves is gone and the Bucs are starting from scratch again. Having, only one interception between their top two corners, it’s a precedent that they get more this season at this position.
Keep an eye players such as Amani Oruwariye from Penn State or Jimmy Moreland out of James Madison. The Bucs normally like having a local Florida player on the team and Oruwariye would be that, as he is a Tampa Bay native that also had 8 career interceptions at Penn State. Moreland is trash talking player that provides a spark for his team. He recorded 14 interceptions in three years for James Madison, making the type of plays that the Bucs would want.
This year’s PewterReport.com’s 2019 Draft Previews + Bucs’ Best Bets and Draft Videocast are presented by Edmonson Electric & Security – the official smart home and security company of PewterReport.com.
Watch Pewter Reporters Scott Reynolds, Mark Cook, Taylor Jenkins and Matt Matera, as well as other special guests, live on-air via PewterReport.com from the team’s headquarters at One Buccaneer Place beginning on Day 1 of the 2019 NFL Draft at 7:00 p.m. ET.
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