Pewter Report continues its annual draft preview listing the top players at each position and also offers up two Bucs’ Best Bets, one in the early rounds and one in the late rounds. See where Pewter Report ranks the players and who they think makes the most sense for the Buccaneers. Up next are the defensive backs.
WHAT THE BUCS HAVE AT DEFENSIVE BACKAt cornerback, the Buccaneers made the decision to let go of Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis and ended up replacing him with another Pro Bowler in Alterraun Verner. Currently starting across from him is 2012 third-round pick Johnthan Banks, who performed well as a rookie. Tampa Bay will have a battle for the nickel and dime cornerback jobs in training camp. The players that will be included in that battle are Mike Jenkins, Danny Gorrer, Rashaan Melvin, D.J. Moore, Anthony Gaitor, and Bobby Felder.
Tampa Bay is pretty set at the safety position heading into the draft, having safeties Dashon Goldson and Mark Barron penciled in as their starters heading into the draft. Behind the big two are Major Wright, Kelcie McCray, Keith Tandy, and Bradley McDougald.
WHAT THE BUCS NEED AT DEFENSIVE BACKDefensive back isn’t a huge need for Tampa Bay heading into the draft, but if the value is right and the right player is available they could pull the trigger. Finding some more cornerback talent shouldn’t be out of the question in the first three rounds. If the right prospect falls to them in the second round, it could be too enticing for general manager Jason Licht to pass up. If the Buccaneers draft a safety it will likely be a developmental prospect that can contribute as a special teamer.
BUCS BEST BET EARLY (1-3) – Kyle FullerIt’s unlikely the Buccaneers will select a cornerback with their seventh-overall selection, but if the Buccaneers find a partner and trade down in the first round, Fuller could be the highest player on their board. Fuller is an aggressive cornerback that would fit nicely in the Buccaneers new Cover-2 scheme. It’s also interesting to note that the Buccaneers worked out Fuller in April.
BUCS BEST BET LATE (4-7) – Phillip GainesLovie Smith has said that he wants to increase the team’s speed at every position and Gaines is a speedy underrated cornerback that the Buccaneers have shown interest in. At 6-foot, 195 pounds and clocking a 40-yard dash time of 4.34, Gaines is the type of cornerback that the Buccaneers could bring in and develop behind Alterraun Verner and Johnthan Banks.
TOP TEN DEFENSIVE BACKS1. Darqueze Dennard – Michigan State – Senior – 5-11, 199 – 4.43Dennard was one of the top cornerbacks in college football in 2013, notching 62 tackles, 10 pass breakups, and four interceptions. His ability to press receivers and jam them at the line will be a huge plus for NFL teams that like to play bump-and-run man schemes. Dennard’s a chippy player with good size and athleticism that should be selected in the first round.
2. Kyler Fuller – Virginia Tech – Senior – 5-11, 190 – 4.42 Fuller is an aggressive cornerback that brings a complete game to the next level. The Virginia Tech corner has great instincts, which allows him to make plays that others can’t. He’d fit best with a team that utilizes zone coverage regularly. Fuller should end up a first-round pick. The senior recorded 24 tackles, 10 pass breakups, and two interceptions in 2013.
3. Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix – Alabama – Junior – 6-1, 208 – 4.59 In a relatively weak safety class, Clinton-Dix is the top safety and should be selected in the first round. He’s a good tackler that plays aggressively against the run and pass, while also showing good explosion and pursuit angles on tape. Clinton-Dix recorded 52 tackles, four pass breakups, and two interceptions in 2013.
4. Justin Gilbert – Oklahoma State – Senior – 6-0, 202 – 4.35 Gilbert is a tremendous athlete with wonderful ball skills, which is why he draws comparisons to Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson. Gilbert projects as a potential shutdown corner and should be a first-round pick. He still has some rough edges to his game, but with some time and experience he could become a great NFL cornerback. Gilbert recorded 42 tackles, seven interceptions, and seven pass breakups in 2013.
5. Jason Verrett – TCU – Senior – 5-9, 189 – 4.37 Verrett is a talented cornerback that would be rated much higher if he were taller. His complete game featuring great movement ability and ball skills are traits that NFL scouts love and will stand on the table for. It’s too bad that he’s not taller, but he could still sneak into the end of the first round. In 2013, Verrett recorded 39 tackles, 14 pass breakups, and two interceptions.
6. Jimmie Ward – Northern Illinois – Senior – 5-10, 193 – 4.48 Ward is a talented safety prospect that could crack the first round on Thursday. His best attributes are his instincts and smarts, which put him in position to make big plays. Ward would be a nice fit as a free safety that can play center field and make plays in zone coverage. The Nortern Illinois senior was extremely productive in 2013, totaling 92 tackles, 10 pass breakups, and seven interceptions.
7. Calvin Pryor – Louisville – Junior – 5-11, 207 – 4.59 Pryor is an aggressive safety with a great deal of upside. He has the athleticism to get to the sideline and make plays as a center fielder. Pryor is a stout run defender from his safety position and is never afraid to make a big hit. The Louisville safety amassed 69 tackles, three interceptions, and two forced fumbles as a junior.
8. Bashaud Breeland – Clemson – Junior – 5-11, 197 – 4.59 Breeland is a cornerback with good size and physicality. The junior ended his 2013 season with 74 tackles, 10 pass breakups, and four interceptions. Breeland’s game lacks speed, which hurts when he’s asked to turn and run with receivers downfield. He should at worst be a good nickel corner that excels at covering short and intermediate routes.
9. Bradley Roby – Ohio State – Junior – 5-11, 194 – 4.35 Roby is a tremendous athlete that possesses the tools needed to become a great NFL cornerback. The Ohio State standout is a smooth mover that has great long speed. He had a disappointing junior season, but his tools should warrant a day two draft grade. Roby posted 69 tackles, 13 pass breakups, and three interceptions in 2013.
10. Terrance Brooks – Florida State – Senior – 5-11, 198 – 4.39 Brooks is a well-rounded safety that possesses tremendous athleticism. He’s very aggressive and is always looking to lay a huge hit on the opposition. It would be nice to see him play more instinctively, but he can make plays in the passing game with his current game. Brooks recorded 56 tackles last season and has picked off three balls over the last two years.
BEST OF THE RESTPhillip Gaines – Rice – Senior – 6-0, 193 – 4.34 Gaines is a ridiculously fast cornerback that could be a great value on day three of the draft. He’s a lengthy defensive back with good instincts, short-area quickness, and ball skills. He’d fit great in man or zone schemes. Gaines finished his senior season with 36 tackles, 9 pass breakups, and four picks.
Lamarcus Joyner – Florida State – Senior – 5-8, 184 – 4.55 Joyner is a talented, gritty defender that lacks the size needed to be a top prospect. He played safety at Florida State but his home in the NFL will likely be at cornerback. Joyner posted 69 tackles, two interceptions, and two pass breakups.
Deone Bucannon – Washington State – Senior – 6-1, 211 – 4.49 Bucannon is a safety with ideal size and instincts, but his athleticism could hold him back from being a second-round selection. Bucannon was extremely productive as a senior, as he amassed 114 tackles and picked off six passes.
Pierre Desir – Lindenwood – Senior – 6-1, 198 – 4.53 Desir has the frame that is coveted by NFL teams these days and also has the athleticism to supplement his game. He has good movement skills and fluid hips that are usually rare in taller cornerbacks. Desir racked up 60 tackles, 18 pass breakups, and 9 interceptions for Lindenwood in 2012.
Jaylen Watkins – Florida – Senior – 5-11, 194 – 4.44 Heading into last season, most thought that Louchiez Purifoy and Marcus Roberson would be the Florida cornerbacks to watch but the one who could be drafted the highest is Jaylen Watkins. Watkins has good size and athleticism to go with his ability to make plays on the ball. He’d be a great fit as a nickel corner in a man scheme. In 2013, Watkins recorded 52 tackles and seven pass breakups.
Stanley Jean-Baptiste – Nebraska – Senior – 6-2, 218 – 4.56 Jean-Baptiste is a massive cornerback with solid athleticism, a combination that is becoming more and more popular in today’s NFL game. He is a little tight in the hips, but his recovery speed and burst helps him stick with receivers. The Nebraska product recorded 41 tackles, 12 pass breakups, and four interceptions as a senior.
Rashaad Reynolds – Oregon State – Senior – 5-10, 189 – 4.50 Reynolds is an instinctive cornerback that plays with aggressiveness. He looks like an ideal fit as a nickel cornerback at the NFL level. Reynolds was very productive for Oregon State over the last two seasons. As a junior, he notched 75 tackles and 16 pass breakups, and followed that up with a senior season with 61 tackles and six interceptions.
Ahmad Dixon – Baylor – Senior – 6-0, 212 – 4.57 On tape, Dixon is all over the field and is constantly making tackles. He recorded 102 tackles as a junior and finished his career with 81 as a senior. Dixon had a good Senior Bowl week and could be a true sleeper on day three of the draft However, he has some off the field concerns that could push his draft stock down.
Aaron Colvin – Oklahoma – Senior – 5-11, 177 – 4.50 Colvin is a talented prospect that had bad luck in Mobile, Alabama at the Senior Bowl, where he tore his ACL in practice. The injury has killed his draft stock, but if he can come back from the injury and show he’s healthy he could be a draft steal. Colvin picked off four passes and recorded 61 tackles as a junior in 2012.
Dion Bailey – USC – Junior – 5-11, 201 – 4.65 Dion Bailey is an underrated prospect that plays with an aggressive style. His complete game can sometimes be held back by his lack of great athleticism. Bailey racked up 61 tackles, six pass breakups, and five interceptions as a junior.
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