The Discount Garage Doors SR’s Fab 5 column returns next Friday, but here is a Bucs Draft Insider column for you that features some of the players Tampa Bay will be targeting in the second round of the NFL Draft where the team has three picks due to its Thursday night trade with Buffalo that picked up two additional second-rounders.
I was pretty sure that Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht wasn’t going to trade down this year because the Bucs really liked Washington defensive tackle Vita Vea and Florida State strong safety Derwin James and wanted to come away with one of those players at No. 7. Obviously the team had Vea rated higher because it chose him over James, which makes sense because he’s an interior defensive lineman and that position is given more of an emphasis than safety.
Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter and GM Jason Licht – Photo courtesy of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
But the way the draft fell with quarterbacks Josh Allen and Josh Rosen still being on the draft board at No. 7, and Buffalo desperate to move up and grab Allen, Licht gambled and pulled the trigger on a trade that would move Tampa Bay back to pick No. 12 where the team still had a chance of landing Vea. The Bucs were hoping that Washington, who picked at No. 13 and was desperate to get a defensive tackle, wouldn’t leapfrog Tampa Bay and select Vea.
Instead, the Redskins stayed put and drafted Alabama defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne one pick after the Bucs drafted Vea.
“When I got the call from Buffalo, and they even made us a great offer after going back and forth a little bit, knew what they were going after,” Licht said. “When you’re going after a quarterback, you can’t say that was a bad deal on their part. You have to be willing to spend a little bit more than you normally would to move up the board.
“So, we got the call, we thought about taking our guy there. He was in play there [at No. 7]. We would have been very happy taking him there. We took a risk moving back. All the work that we did, intel that we did, we knew that there was a pretty good shot [we could get [Vea]. A couple of teams there, we were a little nervous about but we also had other players that we could have taken, too. Fortunately for us, we’re sitting here talking about Vita. I couldn’t be happier.”
The way the draft unfolded with certain teams from No. 7 to No. 11 taking certain players allowed Licht to feel comfortable with his risk to trade back to No. 12 to acquire two second-round picks from Buffalo (No. 53 and No. 56) and still come away with Vea. It was quite a draft day coup for Licht, who now has three second-round picks (No. 38, No. 53 and No. 56) at his disposal on Day 2, which begins at 7:00 p.m. on Friday night.
The Selection Of Vea Was Not A Surprise
The selection of Vea by Tampa Bay was not a surprise to PewterReport.com staff, and shouldn’t have been a surprise to our readers, either. After all, we had Vea going to the Bucs in the first round of two of our 2018 Bucs’ 7-Round Mock Drafts (version 2.0 and version 3.0), and where the first media outlet to mock Vea to Tampa Bay in the first round back on January 29.
Washington DT Vita Vea – Photo courtesy of Univ. of Washington
Plus, PewterReport.com had Vea as its Bucs’ Best Bet at defensive tackle, which extends our streak of Bucs’ Best Bets to six years. PewterReport.com accurately forecasted the selection of former Bucs’ Best Bets quarterback Mike Glennon in 2013, running back Charles Sims in 2014, quarterback Jameis Winton in 2015, cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III in 2016 and wide receiver Chris Godwin last year.
PewterReport.com came perilously close to putting Vea back into the top spot in its final Bucs’ 7-Round Mock Draft, but opted for Florida State safety Derwin James instead. James would have been the alternate pick if Vea had been drafted prior to No. 12. Here’s what we wrote in PewterReport.com’s final 2018 Bucs’ 7-Round Mock Draft.
“The Buccaneers aren’t expecting Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson, North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb or Penn State running back Saquon Barkley to fall to them at No. 7, but would be prepared to take any of those players there in the first round. If all three are gone, as the team anticipates, Tampa Bay’s pick will likely come down to James or Washington defensive tackle Vita Vea.
Bucs general manager Jason Licht loves big, athletic defensive tackles, and Vea is an agile freak at 6-foot-4, 347 pounds. While it’s tempting to grab Vea to groom behind Gerald McCoy and eventually replace him, Licht spent a lot of resources in free agency bolstering the defensive line, and this is a very deep draft at the defensive tackle position.”
Why Draft A DT With More Pressing Needs In The Secondary?
Tampa Bay acquired four defensive linemen during the free agency period with the signings of nose tackle Beau Allen, defensive lineman Mitch Unrein, defensive end Vinny Curry and the trade for defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul to help the league’s worst pass rush. But when it came to the secondary little was done to upgrade the worst pass defense in the NFL outside of re-signing 35-year old cornerback Brent Grimes and re-signing reserve safety Keith Tandy.
So why did Licht pass up the chance to draft James or another defensive back to acquire a player in Vea, who could be a rotational defensive tackle as a rookie? Licht couldn’t resist temptation and added yet another defensive tackle to a mix that already includes six-time Pro Bowler Gerald McCoy and newly signed Allen and Unrein, in addition to Stevie Tu’ikolovatu, last year’s seventh-round pick.
The reasoning? I truly think Licht was shell-shocked from last year over how undermanned the defensive line was due to injuries to defensive ends Noah Spence and Jacquies Smith, and the ineffectiveness of defensive ends Will Gholston and Robert Ayers and defensive tackle Chris Baker.
Washington DT Vita Vea – Photo courtesy of Univ. of Washington
Tampa Bay’s defensive line lacked pass rushers outside of McCoy and Clinton McDonald, who left via free agency after notching five sacks, and finished dead last in the league with a paltry 22 sacks. Licht wasn’t going to let that happen again, and good for him for taking that approach.
McCoy turned 30, is entering his ninth year in the league and isn’t going to play forever. While he’s still one of the most dominant defensive tackles in the league and his six sacks were the most in Tampa Bay last year, his sack production has dropped in each of the last three years, which is a bit concerning. He also takes up $13 million worth of cap space next year and the Bucs need to do extensions for middle linebacker Kwon Alexander, left tackle Donovan Smith, guard Ali Marpet and quarterback Jameis Winston in the very near future, too.
Because defensive tackles typically take a year or two to develop, Licht was wise to draft McCoy’s eventual replacement and let him learn from a Pro Bowler in the interim without the pressure of being an every down starter right away as a rookie.
Bucs’ Potential Day 2 Targets
Assuming Licht keeps all three second-round picks – Tampa Bay’s own pick (No. 38) and both of Buffalo’s (No. 53 and No. 56) that were acquired in the Day 1 trade – the Bucs should target three positions on Day 2: running back, cornerback and guard.
One of the players the Bucs would have considered in the second round, San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny, was a surprise first-round pick by Seattle. Tampa Bay liked Penny, but had a handful of backs ranked higher on its draft board. So who is in play for the Bucs at running back in Round 2?
For all of the Derrius Guice (LSU) and Nick Chubb (Georgia) fans out there, I think the Bucs like USC running back Ronald Jones II perhaps a bit more. We’ll see. All three running backs are physical tackle-breakers, but Jones is also a game-breaker.
The USC Trojan had 14 100-yard games and 13 explosive plays (12 runs, one catch) of 40 yards or more in college. Seven of those explosive plays traveled 60 yards or more.
We haven’t previewed Jones much this offseason, so here’s a highlight video for you to watch and see if the Jamaal Charles comparisons are accurate (I think they are).
The 5-foot-11, 205-pound Jones showed steady improvement at USC, rushing for 987 yards and eight touchdowns on 153 carries (6.5 avg.) as a freshman, along with seven catches for 39 yards and a touchdown. As a sophomore, Jones rushed for 1,082 yards and 12 TDs on 177 carries (6.1 avg.) to go with 11 catches for 76 yards (6.9 avg.) and one score. Last year as a junior, Jones rushed for 1,550 yards and 19 TDs on 261 carries (5.9 avg.), and had 14 catches for 187 yards (13.4 avg.) and one score.
The Bucs had Guice in for a Top 30 visit and also privately worked him out. The team also interviewed Chubb at the NFL Scouting Combine. It’s unknown whether or not Tampa Bay had Chubb or Jones in for a Top 30 pre-draft visit, but it’s clear the Bucs have a group of running backs they like.
Also in the mix is North Carolina State’s Nyheim Hines. Keep an eye on him late in the second round or in the third round if the Bucs trade back. Hines shared carries in his first two years with the Wolfpack before carrying the ball 197 times for 1,113 yards (5.6 avg.) and 12 touchdowns as a junior. Hines, who was the fastest running back at the NFL Scouting Combine with a 4.38 time in the 40-yard dash, is also an accomplished return specialist with a pair of 100-yard kickoff returns for touchdowns in his career, in addition to a punt return for a score.
At 5-foot-9, 197 pounds Hines doesn’t have the size to be a feature back in the NFL, but could be used as a third down back as he caught 89 passes for 933 yards (10.5 avg.) and one touchdown in three years at North Carolina State. Hines could compete with Charles Sims and Jacquizz Rodgers for the third down back duties in Tampa Bay this year.
Nevada OL Austin Corbett – Photo courtesy of Nevada
Adding another guard to play next to new center Ryan Jensen and supplant J.R. Sweezy would also help Tampa Bay’s ground game this season. Keep an eye on two players in the second round – UTEP’s Will Hernandez and Nevada’s Austin Corbett. The Bucs love both players, and drafting a starting-caliber guard could solidify the interior of Tampa Bay’s offensive line.
Virginia Tech guard Wyatt Teller could be an option in the fourth round, but he’s gone as high as the third round in some mock drafts, so don’t rule him out. PewterReport.com has Humboldt State offensive lineman Alex Cappa as a fourth- or fifth-round pick, but we believe the Bucs like him and it wouldn’t be out of the question to see him come off the board as high as Round 3.
At cornerback, the Bucs liked UCF’s Mike Hughes and Louisville’s Jaire Alexander, but both of those players were drafted in the second half of the first round. Tampa Bay had Iowa’s Josh Jackson and LSU’s Donte Jackson in for a Top 30 pre-draft visit, and privately worked out Colorado’s Isaiah Oliver. Those are three names to keep in mind at cornerback for Round 2. There’s also a chance that Auburn’s physical cornerback Carlton Davis or Alabama’s speedster Anthony Averett could be in the play in the second or third round – should the Bucs trade down again in the second round to acquire more picks.
A surprise pick on Day 2 could come at wide receiver as the Bucs might be looking for an eventual replacement for DeSean Jackson, whose $10 million salary cap figure in 2019 the team may not be able to afford as the speedster turns 32. Washington’s Dante Pettis, who is one of the most prolific punt returners in college football history, LSU’s D.J. Chark and Penn State’s DaeSean Hamilton are three names to keep in mind in the second or third round for Tampa Bay. Pettis and Chark are outside deep threats, whereas Hamilton is a silky smooth slot receiver that has good size. The Bucs also like Penn’s Justin Watson, but he’s more of a Day 3 wide receiver.
Bucs’ Best Bets Still Available
While some of the Bucs’ Best Bets players PewterReport.com suggested are now off the board – guard Quenton Nelson, tackle Mike McGlinchey, safety Derwin James, cornerback Mike Hughes, and of course defensive tackle Vita Vea – there are still plenty 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 2 videocast from One Buccaneer Place. Trevor Sikkema and Scott Reynolds will begin broadcasting at 6:30 p.m. ET on Friday and will have complete coverage of the second and third rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft. The official start time of Day 2 of the NFL Draft is 7:00 p.m. ET.
Live Day 3 coverage from One Buccaneer Place begins at noon on Saturday. Special guests will include Mark Cook and Riley Auman and perhaps a few more members of the local Bucs media over the next two days. 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
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