doesn’t engage in grading the Bucs draft each year. It’s a futile exercise because no one knows how these players will adapt to the next level of NFL football. And no one knows if they’ll stay healthy. Just ask Tampa Bay about Justin Evans and Kendell Beckwith – the second- and third-round picks in 2017. They’re now out of football due to serious injuries.

Pro Football Focus and CBS Sports NFL writer Pete Prisco recently regraded the Bucs’ 2018 draft class, giving Tampa Bay an “elite” mark in hindsight. PFF had originally graded Jason Licht’s draft in 2018 as “good,” which was the second-highest distinction. Now, the Bucs join the Colts, Broncos, Bills and Ravens in the “elite” category.

Tampa Bay’s 2018 draft class consisted of the following selections:

ROUND 1 (12): NT Vita Vea
ROUND 2 (38): RB Ronald Jones II
ROUND 2 (53): CB M.J. Stewart
ROUND 2 (63): CB Carlton Davis III
ROUND 3 (94): G Alex Cappa
ROUND 4 (117): SS Jordan Whitehead
ROUND 5 (144): WR Justin Watson
ROUND 6 (202): ILB Jack Cichy

Bucs CB Carlton Davis III

Bucs CB Carlton Davis III – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Vea, Jones, Davis, Cappa and Whitehead are all starters. Any time a team – let alone the Super Bowl champions – can draft five starters in a single class it’s a huge win. Here is PFF’s analysis:

This was the draft that started general manager Jason Licht’s addiction to attacking the secondary. With three second-round picks, Licht double-dipped at cornerback in M.J. Stewart and Carlton Davis. Even though Stewart wasn’t on the team’s Super Bowl roster this past season, that commitment to bolstering the back end helped land a key cog of their secondary in Davis. And in my opinion, this draft also netted the Buccaneers the best nose tackle in the NFL when healthy in Vita Vea. Tampa Bay secured starting running back Ronald Jones, starting guard Alex Cappa and starting safety Jordan Whitehead, too. That’s a haul.

Prisco was also quite fond of Tampa Bay’s 2018 draft class four years ago. He initially gave the Bucs an “A” after the draft, but improved the grade to “A+” on the heels of their Super Bowl LV championship. Here is what Prisco wrote about Tampa Bay.

The Skinny: They had eight picks in the draft and four will be definite starters in 2021. They are first-round defensive tackle Vita Vea, second-round corner Carlton Davis, third-round guard Alex Cappa and fourth-round safety Jordan Whitehead. Second-round running back Ronald Jones is a rotational player in their scheme who has started games and could again this season. They missed on second-round corner M.J. Stewart, who is now in Cleveland. 

How I did: I wrote that they needed defensive players and landed a bunch of them by trading down. I liked the picks of Vea and Davis a lot, but also said Jones would be a star running back in the future, which hasn’t happened.

Prisco also improved the Colts’ grade from “B+” to “A+.” Indianapolis and Tampa Bay were the only teams that got perfect grades from Prisco’s regrading.

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds is in his 27th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive coordinator/defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]
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1 year ago

Great pic of Vita Vea. He has that maniacal look on his face like he hasn’t eaten in two weeks and Jeff Driskel is a piece of steak.

Reply to  drdneast
1 year ago

If Driskel is steak he’s a cheap one.

1 year ago

Kudos to Jason Licht and the scouting department. I hated the Stewart pick then and I hate it now. Imagine if he did even ok with that pick! Great draft nonetheless!

Reply to  SappAttack
1 year ago

I wasn’t that MJ wasn’t a good player, it was his speed that killed it for us.

1 year ago

Interesting that now three years later, when it actually makes some sense to evaluate a Draft class, the one that many here bemoaned at the time, it getting some positive recognition.