Bucs’ Best Bets: Defensive End
Bucs’ Best Bet – Rounds 1-3: Boston College DE Zach Allen
The Bucs have a need for a five-technique defensive end that has the ability to get to the passer, as William Gholston is the current strongside defensive end and is limited as a pass rusher. Allen recorded 199 tackles, 40.5 tackles for loss, and 16.5 sacks in three seasons as a starter at Boston College, in addition to 14 pass breakups, four fumble recoveries and one forced fumble.
Allen, a 6-foot-4, 281-pounder defensive end, had a monster season in 2017 with 100 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss and four sacks. He improved as a pass rusher last year, recording 6.5 sacks, 15 tackles for loss and 61 tackles, in addition to seven pass breakups, two fumble recoveries and a forced fumble. Allen is tough and quick rather than overly athletic, and had a formal interview with the Bucs at the NFL Scouting Combine. He could be an option for Tampa Bay in the second round.
Bucs’ Best Bet – Rounds 4-7: Charleston DE John Cominsky
The 6-foot-5, 286-pound Cominsky is built like Allen and is an ideal five-technique defensive end in Todd Bowles’ 3-4 scheme. But he doesn’t offer the pass rushing ability that Allen does, registering just 12 career sacks and not really dominating at a small school level. Cominsky has a lot to learn about pass rushing, and that’s why he’s considered to be a Day 3 prospect.
However, he did help his draft stock at the NFL Scouting Combine by blazing an impressive 4.69 in the 40-yard dash. Cominsky is tough, as a great work ethic and a nice get-off, but has a ways to go to eventually become an effective NFL starter. The Bucs do need more depth at defensive end and someone to challenge Gholston. Cominsky could be an option in the fifth or sixth rounds.
Bucs’ Best Bets At Defensive Tackle
Bucs’ Best Bet – Rounds 1-3: Alabama DT Quinnen Williams
Tampa Bay has its eye on LSU inside linebacker Devin White with the fifth overall pick, but if Williams slips out of the top four spots and is there when the Bucs are on the clock the team would have a real dilemma. Williams is a game-wrecker along the defensive line and would be the ideal replacement for Gerald McCoy, who just turned 31 years old and is set to make $13 million. The team has attempted to trade McCoy and is looking for his replacement in this draft.
At 6-foot-3, 303 pounds, Williams has the perfect build and quickness to play the three-technique defensive tackle spot, and his game has tremendous polish despite being a one-year starter where he recorded 71 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks last year for the Crimson Tide. In fact, his game is closer to that of Bucs legend Warren Sapp than McCoy due to Williams’ ability to re-direct in the backfield and pursue the ballcarrier or quarterback. Williams, who was at One Buccaneer Place for a Top 30 visit, ran a 4.83 at the NFL Scouting Combine, and it’s believed that he is the top player on Tampa Bay’s draft board.
Bucs’ Best Bet – Rounds 4-7: Maryland DT Byron Cowart
Cowart, a Tampa native, was the top high school player when he committed to Auburn, but wound up as a major disappointment for the Tigers. He registered just 15 tackles and 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble in three seasons at Auburn before transferring to Maryland last year where he finally lived up to his talent became an impact player. The 6-foot-3, 298-pound Cowart recorded 38 tackles, five tackles for loss, three sacks, two interceptions and one forced fumbles for the Terrapins defense. He plays with power and has good pursuit ability.
The Bucs interviewed Cowart at the NFL Scouting Combine and like his versatility to play the five-technique defensive end role as well as the three-technique defensive tackle position. Todd Bowles loves versatility when it comes to player traits, and Cowart has played both inside and on the edge in college. Cowart went to One Buccaneer Place on April 11 for the team’s local pro day, and could be targeted by Tampa Bay in the fourth or fifth round.
Bucs’ Best Bets At Outside Linebacker
Bucs’ Best Bet – Rounds 1-3: Kentucky OLB Josh Allen
Allen is the top edge rusher in the draft behind Ohio State’s Nick Bosa, capable of playing outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme and a defensive end in a 4-3 defense. Allen was considered to be a fringe first-round pick last year and stayed for his senior season to become a Top 5 pick. Allen gained over 10 pounds for his final season in college and recorded 17 sacks in a monster year, helping Kentucky rise in the SEC and record a bowl win over Penn State.
Allen finished his Wildcats career with 220 tackles, 42 tackles for loss, 31.5 sacks, 11 forced fumbles, eight passes defenses, two forced fumbles and an interception. The 6-foot-5, 262-pound edge rusher ran a 4.63 in the 40-yard dash and he interviewed with the Bucs at the Combine as well as on a visit at One Buccaneer Place. If he’s there at No. 5, Tampa Bay probably can’t afford to pass him up. If the Bucs don’t land Allen or a player like Florida State’s Brian Burns in the first round, Louisiana Tech’s Jaylon Ferguson or Florida’s Jachai Polite could be targeted in the second round.
Bucs’ Best Bet – Rounds 4-7: Old Dominion OLB Oshane Ximines
Ximines is a good, but not great edge rushing prospect, which is why he’s viewed as a third- or fourth-round pick. He’s a good athlete with some pretty good production, evidenced by 32.5 career sacks with his sack total increasing each year from five to 7.5 to 8.5 to 11.5 as a senior. Ximines also produced 176 tackles, 51 tackles for loss 12 passes defensed, 11 forced fumbles and one interception.
Ximines isn’t the biggest guy at 6-foot-3, 253 pounds, nor is he the fastest, running a 4.78 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine. But Ximines has good hustle, a good work ethic and good technique combined with very good production, and would be a good pick on Day 3 for Tampa Bay if he slid to the fourth round.
Bucs’ Best Bets At Inside Linebacker
Bucs’ Best Bet – Rounds 1-3: LSU ILB Devin White
White is an alpha male leader and a culture changer, and that has tremendous appeal for a Tampa Bay defense that has struggled to form an identity over the years and become a good unit. White is a load at 6-foot-1, 241 pounds, running a 4.42 at the NFL Scouting Combine, which was the fastest time for any linebacker in Indianapolis. The 2018 Butkus Award winner was mega-productive for LSU, recording 133 tackles in 2017 and 123 tackles last year to go along with 25.5 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and an interception over the past two years combined.
The Bucs covet White, who interviewed with the team at the NFL Scouting Combine and visited One Buccaneer Place in early April. He’s the front-runner for the No. 5 overall pick. Unless Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams or Kentucky outside linebacker Josh Allen slips to the fifth overall selection, it’s a safe bet to assume that Tampa Bay will draft White there, or perhaps trade down a few spots and try to get him with a later pick and acquiring another draft pick or two in the process.
Bucs’ Best Bet – Rounds 4-7: N.C. State ILB Germaine Pratt
Pratt is a big, fast, well put together linebacker at 6-foot-2, 240 pounds and running a 4.57 in the 40-yard dash. Pratt began his Wolfpack career at safety before moving to linebacker during his junior season. Tampa Bay wants to add speed to its defense, and if the Bucs pass on White or Michigan’s Devin Bush in the first round, Pratt would be in the mix later in the draft.
Pratt totaled 235 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, nine pass breakups, six sacks, four interceptions, three forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and one defensive touchdown at N.C. State, including 104 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, six sacks and two forced fumbles as a senior. Pratt has the ability to play all three linebacker spots due to his coverage ability, and can star on special teams as a rookie. Pratt could be an option for the Bucs in the fourth round.
Bucs’ Best Bets At Cornerback
Bucs’ Best Bet – Rounds 1-3: Auburn CB Jamel Dean
Tampa Bay general manager drafted an Auburn cornerback last year in Carlton Davis, and might head back to the Tigers for another cornerback who played opposite him in 2017. Dean had 17 pass breakups over the past two years, and came up with the first two interceptions of his career in 2018. Dean has great size at 6-foot-1, 206 pounds, and really turned heads at the NFL Scouting Combine with a blazing 4.30 time in the 40-yard dash.
The Bucs had Dean in for a Top 30 pre-draft visit and like his size, speed and physicality, which fit well in Todd Bowles’ aggressive press man scheme. Tampa Bay needs help at cornerback as both Vernon Hargreaves III and Ryan Smith are both entering contract years. Dean and Davis played together two years and reuniting the former Auburn duo could help the Bucs for years to come. Tampa Bay likes Central Michigan cornerback Sean Bunting, but he’ll likely go in the third round. Dean could be had in the third round, allowing the Bucs to draft a position of a greater need in the second round.
Bucs’ Best Bet – Rounds 4-7: Michigan CB David Long
Long left Michigan after his junior year, but only had modest production with 12 pass breakups and three interceptions over the past two seasons. David helped himself at the NFL Scouting Combine by running a 4.45 in the 40-yard dash, but he has average size at 5-foot-11, 198 pounds. Those measurables and the average stats will likely keep him out of Day 2, but he could be a steal on Day 3 in the fourth round.
The Bucs had Long in for a Top 30 pre-draft visit and like his ability to play press-man coverage. Long is super aggressive at the line of scrimmage and that style of play is what is needed in Bowles’ scheme. While Long doesn’t have great length, that could work in his favor as he could have the ability to play inside at nickel cornerback, in addition to playing outside.
Bucs’ Best Bets At Safety
Bucs’ Best Bet – Rounds 1-3: Maryland SS Darnell Savage, Jr.
Tampa Bay could use more play-making ability at the safety position as the team’s current group of safeties have just six collective interceptions – with free safety Justin Evans having four of them. Savage recorded eight interceptions in college, including seven over the past two years with two pick-sixes. He’s great in coverage, whether it’s from the slot as a strong safety in the box or in centerfield as a single-high free safety.
The Bucs like Savage and had him in for a Top 30 pre-draft visit. Tampa Bay loves his 4.30 speed and striking ability, and would play him in the slot at strong safety due to his ability to cover one-on-one, as well as his physicality in run support. Bruce Arians drafted safety Deone Bucannon in the first round in 2014, and Jason Licht drafted Evans in the second round in 2017. Both Bucs leaders know the value of good play at the safety position and could select Savage on Day 2.
Bucs’ Best Bet – Rounds 4-7: USC SS Iman Marshall
Marshall spent all four years at cornerback for the Trojans where he made an instant impact recording three interceptions as a freshman and three more the next year as a sophomore. He failed to record another pick over his last two years, which has diminished his stock a bit, and some NFL scouts believe he’ll need to make the transition to safety to succeed at the next level due to his lack of twitchy athleticism and the speed to go deep and hang with fast wide receivers.
Marshall is similarly built to M.J. Stewart, who was over-drafted by the Bucs last year in the second round when he should have been a fourth-rounder, and Marshall might even be a better prospect because he’s better in coverage. Tampa Bay is looking for a player capable of playing in the slot, and that’s an area that Marshall excelled at for the Trojans. At 6-foot-1, 207 pounds, Marshall is a big, physical press defensive back that could thrive in Todd Bowles’ defense drafted as a strong safety in the box or a slot cornerback in the fourth round.