As Day 3 concludes the 2018 NFL Draft, here is a final Bucs Draft Insider column for you that features some of the players Tampa Bay will be targeting in the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds of the NFL Draft where the team has three picks.
An Unbelievable Bucs Draft So Far
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Time will tell if Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht’s 2018 draft class measures up to his 2015 draft haul, which produced quarterback Jameis Winston, left tackle Donovan Smith, guard Ali Marpet and middle linebacker Kwon Alexander. Winston and Alexander are team captains and have been to a Pro Bowl, while Marpet has Pro Bowl-caliber ability.
But so far, this year’s draft class is already shaping up to be better than expected as Licht trading down twice – once in the first round and again in the second round – has turned two Tampa Bay picks entering the draft into five. When Day 2 was over, Licht had selected Washington defensive tackle Vita Vea in the first round, USC running back Ronald Jones II, North Carolina cornerback M.J. Stewart and Auburn cornerback Carlton Davis in the second round, and Humboldt State’s Alex Cappa, who can play guard and tackle and was acquired in the third round when Licht traded up from the fourth round.
“It’s great – because of the trade yesterday, we were able to get five picks in the top 94,” Licht said. “I can’t remember a draft that I’ve been a part of with that many, which is awesome, it’s great. I think we’re getting five guys that can help us either in the immediate future or at some point down the road. Adding them, especially at positions that we felt – today it’s commonly known as the need round – getting some guys that we needed, guys to compete against the guys we already have or compete for a starting job. Competition always brings out the best so we’re excited about all of these guys. …
“To get give picks in the first two days because of it, we’re going to take advantage of it. To pick up the players we did, it feels like it’s a bonus, bonus hour. Right now we have confidence that all of these guys are going to help us but you do the numbers, some of them may not. Right now we have confidence that they’re all going to make it.”
Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter was pleased with the job his general manager did in filling several needs at running back, cornerback and guard through the first two days.
“We thought we were going to get three good football players and we got four,” Koetter said. “Jason did an awesome job of working the trades – yesterday and today. To go into the draft with a first, a second and no third and come out with a first, three seconds and a third – that’s pretty darn good. We’re real happy with the guys we got. We addressed our needs [and] we didn’t have to give up much. We just had to give up a sixth to move back up to get [Alex] Cappa. Fired up about it.”
RoJo Is The RB The Bucs Wanted All Along
There was a reason why PewterReport.com used a picture of Jones on the front of the Friday SR’s Bucs Draft Insider And Day 2 Targets column and wrote about him extensively in that editorial. We knew that the Bucs were zeroing in on him.
While Tampa Bay liked Georgia’s Nick Chubb and he was a viable option, the team knew that he would likely go ahead of the 38th overall pick, which he did, going to Cleveland at No. 35. That was just fine as Jones was just as fine selecting Jones, the electric halfback with an aggressive running style.
“Ronald is a guy that, he’s a real explosive runner,” Licht said. “He’s a lot faster than the times that are out there in the public. This guy ran a 10.3 [second] 100-meter at one point in high school. A couple 10.5’s. Not that we’re out there timing 100-meter dashes on him but you can see it on the tape. He makes a lot of plays with his speed, his burst, his quickness and for a 208-pound guy, he runs very hard and escapes tackles. He can run through tackles. He’s just a violent runner. He’s a playmaker. He’s been a starter for a year-and-a-half but he’s rushed for 2,500 yards in the last two years roughly in a rotation there which says something about him. He’s a kid that’s very tough and our kind of guy. We just liked him on tape and liked him after all the work we did on him.”
PewterReport.com knew that the Bucs had brought in LSU running back Derrius Guice for a pre-draft visit and had also worked him out. The team likes the played, but has question marks around the person. As it turns out, the extra time Tampa Bay’s scouts and coaches spent around Guice was an effort to try to warm up to Guice’s character, but that never occurred.
In a draft with so many talented runners, Guice’s personal make-up ranked way below several backs, including Chubb and Jones in the second round. Drafting Jones was a no-brainer when the Bucs were on the clock with the 38th overall pick.
“You know, when you study all of those backs – and this was a good draft class for backs – all of those guys averaged between 6.1-6.3 [yards per] carry and they all had a ton of carries,” Koetter said. “It wasn’t a small sample size of like 100 carries. Both of the Georgia guys, the LSU guy, the San Diego State guy, Ronald Jones – they all had a ton of carries, just a bunch, and they all averaged over six yards per carry. [Jones] is explosive, he’s got track [speed], the guy ran a 10.3 [second] 100-meter [dash], multiple 10.5 [second 100-meter dashes], ran on [USC’s] 4×100 a couple of times in the relays.
“He did a good job from two years ago to 2017, breaking more tackles this year. He runs hard. He’s not as big as some of those other guys that are in the 230 [pound] range, he’s in the 210-209 – that’s what Maurice Jones-Drew was. When we had him in Jacksonville, 209 was when he played his best. Jones is explosive and he’s going to help. You need four runners. Four backs are going to be up for you on gameday. And then you’re always going to have some guys get banged up, so he’s going to bring something to our group.”
Cappa Is Another Bucs’ Best Bet
Cappa might have been the biggest no-brainer Bucs pick from PewterReport.com’s perspective. Ever since the Senior Bowl, PewterReport.com has had Cappa, a versatile lineman from Humboldt State, who had a great week in Mobile, Ala. in four of our five mock drafts, ranging from the third round to the fifth round, which were the rounds he was projected to go. PewterReport.com also had Cappa as a Bucs’ Best Bet at offensive tackle – we were that convinced he was the offensive lineman Tampa Bay was targeting.
The reason? With long hair, toughness, an ability to finish with an ass-kicking style of play, Cappa will fit in great with an offensive line that has similar interior linemen like Ryan Jensen and Ali Marpet that also have those traits.
Although Cappa seemed likely to fall to the fourth round, Licht didn’t want to take any chances and packaged one of the team’s two sixth round picks with one of Tampa Bay’s two fourth-rounders to move up in the third round to make sure he got Cappa, who will start inside at right guard while he cross-trains at right tackle.
“You know, I couldn’t help myself there,” Licht said. “I love that dude. I think Mike Mayock called him a ‘bouncer’ or something like that. Those are some words that have been used when we talked about him through this process. He’s a great guy, our kind of guy. We feel he’s a versatile guy. We’re going to have him compete there at guard and eventually train him to play, we feel like he can play all five spots at some point. He’s a small school guy, D-II. You have to drive through some Redwood trees like Tony Kinkela, our west coast scout had to do to get there. It’s a long way from San Francisco but it was worth the trip for him.”
PewterReport.com absolutely loves the Cappa pick. We’ve been high on him since seeing him in person at the Senior Bowl. It will take some time for him to adjust to playing against far better talent at the NFL level, but he has the skills and the mental make-up to become an NFL starter.
So far PewterReport.com has accurately forecasted two of the team’s Bucs’ Best Bets in Vea and Cappa in Tampa Bay’s 2018 draft class. Will we nail another one on Day 3? The Bucs have three picks on Saturday – one in the fourth round, one in the fifth round and one in the sixth round. The Bucs have the 117th overall pick, the 144th overall pick and pick No. 202 left in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Bucs’ Day 3 Targets
The Buccaneers could use another strong safety to pair with free safety Justin Evans and compete with veterans Chris Conte and Keith Tandy. That could happen in the fourth round as there are a couple of players remaining that the team likes Penn State’s Troy Apke, who is a Bucs’ Best Bet, West Virginia’s Kyzir White, Wisconsin’s Natrell Jamerson and Texas A&M’s Armani Watts, who played along Evans for the Aggies. Wouldn’t it be something if Evans and Watts were reunited in Tampa Bay? Those are some names to keep in mind, in addition to a dark horse in Jacksonville State’s Siran Neal.
The Bucs like a pair of linebackers in UCF’s Shaquem Griffin, who will likely be a fifth-round pick by some team on Saturday, and Wisconsin’s speedy Leon Jacobs. Griffin wants to stay instate and play in Tampa Bay, and the Bucs had him in for a pre-draft visit.
Would the Bucs be tempted to draft an edge rusher? There are a couple of talented players still on the board in Oklahoma’s Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Wake Forest’s Duke Ejiofor and Florida State’s Josh Sweat. Tampa Bay also likes SMU’s Justin Lawler, who could go undrafted and be targeted as a priority free agent signing shortly after the draft.
Tampa Bay needs a wide receiver to compete with Bobo Wilson and Freddie Martino for the fifth spot behind Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Chris Godwin and Adam Humphries. Penn’s Justin Watson, who is a Bucs’ Best Bet and was a Top 30 pre-draft visit, could be a Day 3 target, as could Penn State’s DaeSean Hamilton, Notre Dame’s Equanimeous St. Brown and Kansas State’s Byron Pringle, who is a Tampa native and could help on kick returns.
With Jones in the fold, the Bucs need another running back to compete with Jacquizz Rodgers and Charles Sims for the third-down back role. Tampa Bay is high on North Carolina State’s Nyheim Hines, who is a Bucs’ Best Bet, and the team has also shown interest in Miami’s Mark Walton, Tennessee’s John Kelly and Fordham’s Chase Edmonds, our Day 3 Bucs’ Best Bet. Hines, who is the fastest running back in the draft with 4.38 speed, is an explosive kick and punt returner, too.
Don’t rule out Arizona State’s Kalen Ballage as a late-round pick, either. A couple of guys that might go undrafted that could fit in Tampa Bay as priority free agents include Grambling State’s Martez Carter and Southern Miss’ Ito Smith, who played for Todd Monken in college.
And last but not least, don’t be surprised to see Tampa Bay draft a quarterback on Day 3. Ryan Fitzpatrick is 35 and is likely playing his final season in the NFL. The Bucs aren’t sold on Ryan Griffin as the team’s long-term backup behind Jameis Winston, either.
Richmond’s Kyle Lauletta and Washington State’s Luke Falk are our Bucs’ Best Bets, but don’t rule of Western Kentucky’s Mike White, either. The former USF quarterback has the prototype size the team likes at 6-foot-5, 224 pounds, and he has a stronger arm than either Lauletta or Falk.
Bucs’ Best Bets Still Available
PewterReport.com has seen Tampa Bay select two of its Bucs’ Best Bets thus far with Vea and Cappa. Will there be another chosen on Day 3? there are a few of them left. Here’s a quick run down:
QB Round 1-3: Richmond’s Kyle Lauletta QB Round 4-7: Washington State QB Luke Falk
PewterReport.com’s Live Streaming Videocast Continues
PewterReport.com will once again be live streaming with a Day 3 videocast from One Buccaneer Place. Trevor Sikkema and Scott Reynolds will begin broadcasting at noon ET on Saturday and will have complete coverage of the Day 3 of 2018 NFL Draft. The official start time of Day 3 of the NFL Draft is noon ET.
Live Day 3 coverage from One Buccaneer Place will feature special guests, including Mark Cook, Tampa Bay Times Bucs’ beat writers Rick Stroud and Greg Auman, and Auman’s son Riley. We encourage all PewterReport.com readers to watch the live videocast on the front page of PewterReport.com.
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com 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 line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org