The 2019 NFL Draft is here and PewterReport.com has completed its 2019 NFL Draft Previews + Bucs’ Best Bets series. PewterReport.com is widely regarded as the authority on the Bucs draft, accurately forecasting the selection of three Bucs’ Best Bets last year with first-round defensive tackle, Vita Vea, third-round offensive lineman Alex Cappa, and wide receiver Justin Watson, who was selected in the fifth round.
The Bucs’ Best Bets are predictions made by the PewterReport.com staff at each position, forecasting a selection if the team were to draft a player at that position in Rounds 1-3, and another selection at that same position in Rounds 4-7. For the sake of ease, PewterReport.com has complied a list of all of this year’s Bucs’ Best Bets and put them in one article – just in time for the draft.
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Bucs’ Best Bets: Quarterback
Bucs’ Best Bet – Rounds 1-3: West Virginia QB Will Grier
Tampa Bay head coach Bruce Arians likes big, strong-armed quarterbacks that have swagger and can lead a team. At 6-foot-2, 217 pounds, Grier isn’t the biggest, nor does he have the strongest arm. Physically, he’s closer to Ryan Fitzpatrick than he is Jameis Winston, but Grier did throw for 7,354 yards with 71 touchdowns and just 20 interceptions over the past two seasons at West Virginia. And more importantly, he led the Mountaineers to some key wins and finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy race.
Grier finished his college career with a disappointing showing at the Senior Bowl and at the NFL Scouting Combine, which will hurt his draft stock. Once thought of as a possible second-round pick, Grier, who met with Bucs offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich at the NFL Scouting Combine, is now likely a third-round pick. While it’s unlikely Tampa Bay would draft a quarterback as high as the third round this year, the Bucs did spend a third-round pick on Mike Glennon when former first-rounder Josh Freeman was in his fifth-year option. The Bucs have Blaine Gabbert and Ryan Griffin and neither should be viewed as a long-term backup, nor a potential future starter in case something happens to Winston. If he’s there in the third round, Arians and general manager Jason Licht may consider drafting Grier.
Bucs’ Best Bet – Rounds 4-7: Buffalo QB Tyree Jackson
Jackson, a junior entry, is the biggest quarterback in the draft at 6-foot-7, 249 pounds. That’s the type of stature that Arians wants in his pocket passer, and the fact that Jackson is extremely mobile, running a 4.59 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine only adds value. Jackson might have the strongest arm in the draft, and is accurate hitting the deep ball. He showed well at the Senior Bowl and may have increased his draft stock to the fourth round, especially after a junior season at Buffalo where he passed for 3,131 yards with 28 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
The biggest challenge for Jackson is improving his accuracy on short and intermediate throws. He completed 60.3 percent of his passes as a sophomore, but saw his completion percentage fall to 55.3 percent last year, which hurts him. The Bucs might not consider Jackson in the fourth round with more pressing needs elsewhere, but if the former Bulls star is around in the fifth or sixth round, Tampa Bay may pull the trigger.
Bucs’ Best Bets: Running Back
Bucs’ Best Bet – Rounds 1-3: Memphis RB Darrell Henderson
The Bucs have more pressing needs than running back in this year’s draft, and likely won’t address the position before the third round. That means passing on likely second-round picks in Alabama’s Josh Jacobs as well as Penn State’s Miles Sanders, whom the team really likes. Henderson is right up there with Sanders, and it’s his 5-foot-8, 208-pound size that will cause him to slip to the third round where the Bucs might pounce. Henderson, a junior, is one of the most productive and explosive rushers in this year’s draft, rushing for 3,545 yards and 36 touchdowns in his three years at Memphis while averaging 8.2 yards per carry.
The Tigers star is like a faster version of Kareem Hunt and does a great job of slipping tackles for extra yardage. Henderson had a career-high 1,909 yards and 22 TDs last year with his 4.49 speed, while catching 22 passes for 295 yards (15.5 avg.) and three more scores. Henderson would be ideal in Bruce Arians’ offense as he has tremendous hands. He posted 63 career receptions for 758 yards (12 avg.) and eight TDs at Memphis. With Peyton Barber’s contract up after this year and Ronald Jones possibly being a bust, Tampa Bay needs a long-term playmaker at the running back spot and Henderson could be a star at the NFL level.
Bucs’ Best Bet – Rounds 4-7: Memphis RB Tony Pollard
If the Bucs don’t get Henderson in the third round, don’t be surprised if Tampa Bay targets Pollard, his Tigers teammate, on Day 3. Pollard is slightly bigger at 6-foot, 210 pounds, and faster, evidenced by his 4.37 time in the 40-yard dash at his pro day, which the Bucs attended. Pollard was used as a runner, receiver and return specialist at Memphis. He rushed for 941 yards and nine touchdowns while averaging 6.8 yards per carry over his career. Pollard not only caught passes out of the backfield, he also lined up in the slot and ran routes while totaling 104 catches for 1,292 yards (12.4 avg.) and nine TDs.
Last year, he totaled 1,010 yards from scrimmage and scored nine TDs before shining in the Senior Bowl where he scored a touchdown. Pollard is one of the best kick returners in college football history, setting the FBS record with seven touchdowns, including four as a junior, while averaging 30.1 yards per return. Pollard’s speed, versatility on offense and kick return ability would be quite useful in Tampa Bay as a fourth- or fifth-round pick.
Bucs’ Best Bets: Wide Receiver
Bucs’ Best Bet – Rounds 1-3: Ohio State WR Terry McLaurin
Tampa Bay has more pressing needs on defense rather than addressing wide receiver in the second or third round, although Oklahoma’s speedster Marquise “Hollywood” Brown may get consideration in the second round. He visited the Bucs on April 8. With Bruce Arians loving speed at the wide receiver position, drafting a player like McLaurin in the third round might make sense as he’s one of the fastest wideouts in the 2019 NFL Draft.
McLaurin was a complementary receiver to Curtis Samuel and Parris Campbell at Ohio State where he caught 75 passes for 1,251 yards (16.7 avg.) and 19 touchdowns, including 35 passes for 701 yards (20 avg.) and 11 TDs as a senior. McLaurin used a great showing at the Senior Bowl where he demonstrated his ability to consistently separate from cornerbacks, in addition to running a 4.35 at the NFL Scouting Combine, to elevate his draft stock. The Bucs had a formal meeting with McLaurin at the Combine and would likely be their pick if they were to draft a receiver in the third round on Day 2.
Bucs’ Best Bet – Rounds 4-7: Baylor WR Jalen Hurd
Hurd is an interesting player because he started as a 6-foot-5, 226-pound running back at Tennessee where he was the starter ahead of Alvin Kamara and John Kelly. Hurd, a five-star recruit, rushed for 2,635 yards and 20 touchdowns while averaging 4.5 yards per carry in his three years with the Volunteers, including a 1,285-yard, 12-touchdown season in 2015, before a concussion limited him to just seven games and prompted a position switch to wide receiver.
Hurd transferred to Baylor to play receiver, and after sitting out 2017, he caught 69 passes for 946 yards and four touchdowns, in addition to rushing for 209 yards and three scores as a situational tailback. Hurd has very good hands, a great work ethic and tremendous size and versatility that would have some appeal to Tampa Bay, which could use him as a situational runner and a big slot receiver or wideout on the perimeter. Only his 4.66 time in the 40-yard dash keeps him out of Rounds 1-4. The Bucs met with Hurd at the NFL Scouting Combine and also had him in for a Top 30 visit at One Buccaneer Place.
Bucs’ Best Bets: Tight End
Bucs’ Best Bet – Rounds 1-3: Texas A&M TE Jace Sternberger
With O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate and Antony Auclair, it’s highly doubtful the Bucs would burn a third-round draft pick on a position that is so fully stocked on the roster. New Bucs head coach Bruce Arians likes to run a lot of three wide receiver sets with one tight end, so drafting another tight end this high doesn’t make much sense. But if the Bucs were going to, Sternberger is a playmaker and would get consideration in the third round.
At 6-foot-4, 250 pounds, Sternberger’s game resembles that of Brate’s. After transferring from Kansas to a JUCO and then to Texas A&M, Sternberger made the most of his lone season with the Aggies, catching 48 passes for 832 yards (17.3 avg.) and 10 touchdowns. Sternberger ran a 4.75 in the 40-yard dash, which isn’t elite, but he has the savvy to get open and very good hands, although he’s not a very good in-line blocker due to his undersized frame.
Bucs’ Best Bet – Rounds 4-7: LSU TE Foster Moreau
If the Bucs are going to draft a tight end to compete with Auclair and possibly replace Brate down the line, it could be Moreau, who shined at the Senior Bowl and is known for his in-line blocking ability. Moreau did a nice job of springing several LSU running backs for big gains on the perimeter over the years, including Leonard Fournette, Derrius Guice and Nick Brossette.
While Moreau was seldom used as a receiver, catching 52 passes for 629 yards (12.1 avg.) and six touchdowns for the Tigers, he does have solid hands and is surprisingly fast for a 6-foot-5, 255-pounder, running a 4.66 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine. Moreau might be a nice pick-up for Tampa Bay in the fifth or sixth round if he’s still on the board – and if the team has already addressed other, more pressing needs.
Bucs’ Best Bets: Offensive Tackle
Bucs’ Best Bet – Rounds 1-3: Kansas State RT Dalton Risner
Risner is a tough, physical right tackle where he was a three-year starter at Kansas State and an All-American as a senior. At 6-foot-5, 312 pounds, Risner has the size and ability to play right tackle and be a solid starter, but there are some in the scouting community that think he could be a Pro Bowl guard if he moved inside like former college tackles Brandon Scherff and Logan Mankins did.
The Bucs interviewed Risner at the Senior Bowl and the NFL Scouting Combine and came away impressed. Risner had good showings at both events. His 110-inch broad jump and 4.52 time in the 20-yard shuttle were among the best times recorded for any offensive lineman. Risner, who has great leadership qualities, is considered to be a late first- or early second-round pick, and could help the Bucs at either right guard or right tackle near the top of the second round. Tampa Bay offensive line coach Joe Gilbert flew to Manhattan to give Risner a private workout in April.
Bucs’ Best Bet – Rounds 4-7: Alabama State RT Tytus Howard
Howard is one of this year’s small school standouts along the offensive line. He impressed NFL scouts enough to warrant a spot at the Senior Bowl where he showed he belonged in the league by performing well against the likes of Montez Sweat and others. Howard, who has a great kick slide in pass protection, ran a 5.05 in the 40-yard dash, which helped his cause, as well as good tape against Auburn during his senior season.
Still, he needs work in an NFL weight room and shouldn’t be considered a candidate to start as a rookie. There’s a good chance that Howard, who visited One Buccaneer Place on April 8, could be drafted in the third round based on his potential, but if he’s available in the fourth round look for Tampa Bay to pounce. Another candidate to keep an eye on in the third or fourth round is Northern Illinois tackle Max Scharping, who was interviewed by the Bucs at both the Senior Bowl and the NFL Scouting Combine.