The PewterReport.com Roundtable features the opinions of the PR staff as it tackles a topic that involves the Bucs.
This week’s topic: Which Bucs Draft Pick Excites You The Most?
Scott Reynolds: Winfield Is The Playmaking Safety The Bucs Need
Tampa Bay needs a playmaking safety in the worst way, as a defensive-minded guy, the team’s selection of Minnesota’s Antoine Winfield, Jr. excites me the most. The fact that Iowa right tackle Tristan Wirfs fell to within reach of the Buccaneers was a surprise, but so was the fact that Winfield lasted until the 45th overall pick. I thought for sure he would be gone by the top of the second round.
If Winfield was 5-foot-11 instead of 5-foot-9, I think the 203-pounder would have been a late first-round pick for sure. The unanimous All-American ran a 4.45 in the 40-yard dash and was very productive when healthy, totaling 172 tackles, seven tackles for loss, nine interceptions, six pass breakups, four sacks, three fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles and two defensive scores in his four years with the Golden Gophers. Winfield missed eight games in each of the 2017 and 2018 campaigns, but played in 12 games last year.
Winfield’s seven interceptions were the third-most in the FBS last year, and including two forced fumbles, the son of NFL cornerback Antoine Winfield, Sr., had a hand in creating nine takeaways. The Bucs only had 12 interceptions last year, including just nine from the secondary. Tampa Bay used four different players at safety last year, including Jordan Whitehead, Andrew Adams, Mike Edwards and Darian Stewart and only recorded two interceptions.
The Bucs are being talked about as a playoff team and a potential Super Bowl contender in 2020 with the addition of quarterback Tom Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski. But the last time Tampa Bay made it to the Super Bowl the Bucs had a franchise-record 31 interceptions from the defense. They won’t necessarily need that many INTs this year, as Tampa Bay recorded 21 in 1999 and had 16 in 2007, which was the last year the team made the playoffs. Stick the instinctive Winfield in the secondary as a starter at safety and my guess is that he’ll get two to four picks as a rookie and help get the Bucs around 20 interceptions this season.
Mark Cook: Vaughn Could Be The Surprise Of This Class
Tampa Bay did a solid job of addressing its needs in this year’s draft. I love the Tristan Wirfs pick, and was impressed with Antoine Winfield, Jr. as well. I think most Bucs fans, and even some media members, would have preferred to see one of the more household names at running back be drafted, but the team obviously felt the need to add help at tackle and safety were more important pieces to the puzzle. That tells me two things – Tampa Bay is still going to be a pass heavy team in 2020, but also that the team really likes Ronald Jones II.
With that said, Ke’Shawn Vaughn is no slouch. And the Buccaneers really believe he can contribute, and do so right away.
The former Vandy standout rushed for 1,244 yards as a junior in 2018 with 12 touchdowns and averaged a whopping 7.9 yards per carry – in the SEC. Not the Pac-12, nor the ACC, but in the best conference in college football – the SEC. While his numbers dropped last season (1,028 yards, nine touchdowns and 5.3 yards per carry) that is still not an easy feat considering the competition Vaughn faced week in and week out. And he did this playing for Vanderbilt, the doormat of the conference. Put Vaughn behind Alabama’s, Wisconsin’s or Clemson’s offensive line and the nation would know the name Ke’Shawn Vaughn.
Getting up to speed without what looks to be be an offseason program before training camp won’t be easy. Vaughn will have to come in and earn head coach Bruce Arians’ trust early to see the field, but from listening to some former players and coaches – and even Vaughn himself – work ethic and dedication aren’t an issue. The Bucs are all in for making a Super Bowl run for the next two years with Tom Brady. Now fingers crossed we get a football season and can see how good Vaughn and this draft class actually are.
Jon Ledyard: Wirfs’ Potential Is Sky-High
Acting like Tampa Bay’s new right tackle, Tristan Wirfs, is a sure thing would be a mistake, but the same can be said for almost every draft prospect. Yes, he needs to find consistency in his set points, strike timing and finishing at the next level. He isn’t your typical Iowa offensive line prospect, but in this case I’m fine with that.
With the exception of a few elites over the years, most of Iowa’s recent top offensive line prospects have had good tape, but limited physical and athletic ceilings for the NFL. That’s not the case with Wirfs, who starred at the NFL Scouting Combine and blazed a 4.85 in the 40-yard dash at 320 pounds. With good coaching and a rigorous commitment to his craft, the Iowa right tackle has the ability to match up with speed and power in the NFL, something he showed on tape against top college competition. With Wirfs, the Bucs are getting all the ability in the world at the position, and he already started showing signs of stringing together dominant play during the second half of his junior season.
It’s important to be realistic with Wirfs’ expectations. Almost every rookie tackle in the league struggles, and Bruce Arians’ offense may not protect him much compared to his rookie counterparts at the same position. But the nice thing about Wirfs is that even if he struggles at offensive tackle, it’s hard not to see him at least becoming a real quality starter at guard in the NFL. That might be worst case scenario for the 13th overall pick, which is a nice option to have with an investment that high.
It’s easy to be excited about Wirfs when you’ve seen the high-end reps on tape and you know what he’s capable of doing if his technique continues to improve. He was able to play at a high level as a college true freshman in one of the most physical conferences in college football, and I have no doubt his traits will aid his transition to the NFL as well, so long as he continues to perfect the details that matter so much at his position.
Taylor Jenkins: Vaughn Will See A Big Role In Bucs’ Backfield
Tampa Bay addressed its biggest need in the first round of the draft by selecting Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs to step in at right tackle, and added a play-making safety in the second round with Antoine Winfield, Jr. But the surprise of the Bucs’ draft was when they selected Vanderbilt running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn in the third round.
After transferring to Vanderbilt following two years with Illinois, Vaughn would go on to produce back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons and totaled 21 rushing touchdowns with 2,272 rushing yards on 355 attempts (6.4 yards per carry) with the Commodores. In addition to his work in the run game, Vaughn finished as Vanderbilt’s third-highest producing receiver with 286 receiving yards out of the backfield in 2019.
Standing 5-foot-10 with a 4.51 time in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, Vaughn is a versatile back who can compliment Ronald Jones II and give the Bucs’ a three-down option. He had great production in two years against SEC competition and per Pro Football Focus, 2,208 of his career rushing yards came after contact which highlights his ability to effectively produce when running between the tackles, not just outside on zone runs and catching the ball out of the backfield.
In pass protection, Dare Ogunbowale handled much of the third down work for Tampa Bay last season, and Vaughn now proves to be a threat to take over that role. Per Graham Barfield of FantasyPoints, Vaughn finished third in the 2019 draft class of running backs with a pass protection execution rate of 85 percent, trailing only D’Andre Swift and Zack Moss. While many fans had eyes on running backs like Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor or LSU’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Tampa Bay added a do-it-all option in Vaughn, and he may ultimately prove to be the most underrated selection from the Bucs’ draft class this year.
Matt Matera: Johnson Can Stand Out As Bucs’ Third Receiver
Minnesota’s Tyler Johnson was an excellent value pick for the Bucs, selecting him in the fifth round of a very talented wide receiver class. Fifth-round picks don’t often have an impact on the starting lineup all the time, but Johnson will get the opportunity to have a key role in the Bucs’ offense as the third receiver, competing with Scotty Miller and Justin Watson for playing time. What’s so exciting about Johnson is that one of his best skills is his ability to fight for the ball and win one-on-one battles for contested catches. He’s great at making the catch on a deep ball and has good vertical skills, often adjusting to the ball in-air and completing the reception at its highest trajectory.
Johnson joins a group of stud wide receivers with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin that are also pass catchers that thrive in “playing above the rim” as they say. I’m not saying Johnson is in Evans and Godwin’s class right now, but there are similar traits to love about the comparison. With Godwin having a breakout year in the slot, the Bucs can put Johnson outside and allow him to excel on vertical routes. Between Evans, Godwin and Rob Gronkowski, Johnson should get a lot of one-on-one looks.
Another enjoyable trait about Johnson is that he’s a big-game player. Look no further than his clutch performance in the The Outback Bowl, which happened to take place in a little old place called Raymond James Stadium. In his final college football game, Johnson put up monster numbers with 12 receptions for 204 yards and two touchdowns, while making one of the best catches in college football last year for a key touchdown in a win over Auburn. His tremendous outing earned him the Outback Bowl MVP.
It’s performances such as that in the biggest moments that make me believe he can bring it to the next level. When speaking to Johnson after he was selected by the Bucs, he had a business-like approach to entering the NFL. He took a moment to enjoy the accomplishment, but quickly said it was back to business as he went straight to working towards next season already. Johnson is a player that works hard, has the right mentality, and can fit in with the Bucs immediately as a rookie.