Bucs MLB Kwon Alexander - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
SR’s Fab 5 is a collection of inside scoop, analysis and insight from yours truly, PewterReport.com publisher and Bucs beat writer Scott Reynolds. Here are a few things that caught my attention this week at One Buc Place and around the NFL:
FAB 1. ALEXANDER WILL BE A NIGHTMARE FOR BUCS’ FOES
What a difference a year has made for Buccaneers middle linebacker Kwon Alexander.
Last April, he was on the verge of being disappointed by falling to the third day of the 2015 NFL Draft where Alexander would be scooped up by Tampa Bay in the fourth round after a savvy trade by general manager Jason Licht.
This April, Alexander is coming off a rookie season in which he started the first 12 games before being stung with a four-game suspension for a banned substance found in an energy drink he consumed. Not only did he beat out veteran Bruce Carter for the starting Mike linebacker job, Alexander still finished as the Bucs’ second-leading tackler with 93 stops despite missing the final four contests.
Bucs MLB Kwon Alexander – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Alexander is far from being satisfied. While he accomplished a lot during his rookie season, the fact that the Bucs were 6-6 with him in the lineup and 0-4 without him left him with a bitter taste in his mouth heading into 2016.
“I take all the heat for that,” Alexander said. “I was supposed to have been there; that’s my fault. But it won’t happen again, though. That’s one thing, it won’t happen again. I’ve never been in trouble [before] or anything, so that surprised me when that happened and it hurt me so bad, to the point like, every game I was still there, watching it and calling plays so I was making sure that I stayed on my game regardless. That’s why I just can’t wait to get back to the field and let everything out.”
Alexander’s Twitter handle is @Showtime17Kwon under the moniker Alexander the Great. He’s often tweeting his feelings out on social media, including how anxious he is to get the Bucs offseason program going.
On April 9, Alexander tweeted out:
“Can we start the season already!”
“Currently watching @DBrooks55 highlights!”
“Gotta get up with @DBrooks55 to pick his brain!”
“Man all I think about is ball!”
Bucs MLB Kwon Alexander & QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Alexander is always talking. In just his second NFL season, Alexander has become the fiery defensive leader that the Bucs defense has been missing for quite some time. While Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and Pro Bowl linebacker Lavonte David have lots of talent and wear C’s on their chests as team captains, they lead in a different way. They often lead by example.
What Alexander brings is a different kind of leadership. He brings a spark to the defense with his brash talk and his swagger and backs it up with blazing speed and big-time hitting ability that helped him register nine passes defensed, three sacks, two interceptions, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery as a rookie.
“He is ultra-passionate,” Licht said of Alexander on the Move The Sticks podcast with NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah. “He’s a lot like Jameis [Winston] in a lot of ways. They want to win at all costs. It means everything to them. It’s team-first. Leadership – he happens to be a very explosive athlete as well. As you can tell by the way I’m talking right now, I hold him in very high regard and his future is very bright.”
Licht not only drafted the quarterback for the offense last year in Winston, but he also found the quarterback for Tampa Bay’s defense in the same draft class. Alexander has a real edginess about him and has become the vocal leader of the Bucs defense the way that Hardy Nickerson and Warren Sapp were back in the day.
“There’s no question,” Bucs cornerback Alterraun Verner said. “I would agree with that 100 percent. He wasn’t the type of leader that wasn’t just yelling in people’s faces or anything. It was his play – his play was so energetic. You can obviously tell how much we missed him in the last four games. Would we have won those games if he were playing? Hopefully we would have if Kwon were playing. I think you saw the difference in our defense when Kwon plays and when he doesn’t. To me, that speaks volumes about his energy and what he means to us.
Bucs LBs Lavont David & Kwon Alexander, CB Alterraun Verner – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
“With me being the nickel I was probably more involved with him than I was when I was a corner. He and I and Lavonte would talk constantly about ways we could try to make plays in this defense and get things going. We had a lot of dialogue. He was very detailed in his craft and he really wants to win. When we lose, you don’t talk to Kwon. That’s how much he can’t stand losing. He wants to win so bad. When you go to LSU and some of those big-time programs you aren’t used to losing. That’s just how Kwon is.”
Somebody must have pissed in Alexander’s bowl of Cheerios on April 19 because he took to Twitter with a furious rant after his daily workout. He clearly was motivated by a lack of respect from somebody.
“I love all my doubters!!”
“I think about my doubters every time I work out and run sprints! Just add fuel to my fire!”
“Call me nightmare from now on! Lol!”
“I will be your biggest nightmare!!”
“I’m tryna be the best within myself!”
At a recent press conference, Alexander was asked about the workouts he rants about on Twitter.
“That’s just how I work, period,” Alexander said. “I’m really just kicking it in an extra gear this year. I’ve just been doing extra workouts. I’ve been trying to get my teammates involved, too. Most of them have been coming in working out with me, trying to get better. I’m trying to make this defense the No. 1 defense in the league, so I’ve got big expectations and how I work, everybody is going to work like me. I like to bring excitement, have fun, and that’s how it’s going to be around here.”
Alexander plans on making the 2016 season fun if you’re a Buccaneer, and a nightmare if you’re wearing a different jersey.
“There are a lot of young guys who are working out every day, battling their butts off, trying to learn as much as they can to get us to that level, so it’s very important,” David said. “[Kwon] is the main one. You can’t even get him to shut up. He’s talking all day, all day. We’re always around each other so I have to hear him talk all day and sometimes I tell him, ‘You have to chill. I’m tired of you talking, you talk too much!’ But that’s just how he is. That’s the excitement that we have. I’m sure he’s probably the same way about me, but that’s the excitement we have. The sky is the limit for us this year.”
Bucs MLB Kwon Alexander – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
Bring on the doubters. Alexander has been using them as fuel for his fire since he entered the league this time last year as a fourth-round pick.
“I don’t even worry about the draft anymore,” Alexander said. “I’m way past that. To tell you the truth, I don’t know why I fell that far down, but whoever missed me, that’s their fault and they’ve got to see me every game, so I can’t wait to play again.”
Licht believes Alexander’s lack of ideal size was partly to blame for him sliding into Day 3 last year. The LSU product is 6-foot-1, 227 pounds.
“Maybe a little,” Licht said. “We took Kwon last year. Although we took him in the fourth round, we feel like he’s a first-round type of player. He’s an undersized guy, but it’s more about the physicality and the ability to make tackles and the ability to run and play good football than it is size.”
Alexander proved last year that he’s certainly big enough to be an impact player in the NFL. Yet the doubters are still out there, doubting him and the Buccaneers. No one has yet to predict a winning record for Tampa Bay this year, in part due to a much more challenging schedule.
“It doesn’t matter how big or small you are, it’s all about heart,” Alexander said. “That’s why I don’t get into all the how big [talk]. You can be 235, but you can be slow and not get to where you need to be. So it doesn’t matter. I’m an athletic guy and I might look small, but I will hit you.”
Pro Football Focus is one of his biggest doubters and had Alexander rated as one of the worst linebackers in the NFL last year for the tackles he missed and his lapses in pass coverage. The Bucs’ brass laughs at that notion and recognizes that Alexander is in fact one of the building blocks of Tampa Bay’s defense.
“I saw those guys [on defense] every day in practice, so it’s not like I never looked at them before, but you know we had two players in the Pro Bowl, Lavonte David and Gerald McCoy and of course Kwon Alexander – the outstanding rookie linebacker that we had, middle linebacker,” Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter said. “Those will be the guys that we build around.”
Alexander shares David’s physical skill set in terms of speed, athleticism and striking ability. Perhaps more importantly, Alexander shares Winston’s ultra-competitive nature and inner drive to be the best.
“Kwon is just a football player,” Bucs nose tackle Akeem Spence said. “You can tell that God gave him the ability to play football. His speed and the way he covers ground, the way he hits and the way he studies the game is special. He’s learning from one of the best in the game in Lavonte David. I think he’s got a bright future. He’s just scratching the surface. He missed those four games and we missed him down the stretch. We couldn’t really fill that void and we needed him. Our defense will be real special when we have all the pieces in place.
“You could see the burning desire he has in the Atlanta game up there. I don’t think anybody could have played a better game, especially dealing with what he had to deal with after losing his brother. That was very hard to do. He came up with stops and he came up with turnovers. He came up with some big hits and he just took over. It was definitely something special to see and be a part of. I think after that game he meant something more to us. Our leaders on defense are Gerald and Lavonte, but Kwon is our heartbeat. Definitely our heartbeat.”
Alexander is on the road to joining McCoy and David as a Pro Bowl-caliber player. In time I believe Alexander has the ability to surpass Shelton Quarles and even Nickerson to become the greatest middle linebacker in Tampa Bay history.
That’s really saying something as I hold Nickerson in the highest of regards as one of the franchise’s all-time greats. Yet I have no doubt that Alexander is destined for greatness.
But go ahead and doubt Alexander if you want to. Just do so at your own peril because he’s ready to become your nightmare if you do.
FAB 2. IT’S TIME FOR BUCS TO GET MAXIMUM VALUE FOR GLENNON
It’s time to deal Mike Glennon.
I’ve bought into Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht’s line of thinking, but it’s time for the Buccaneers to get the maximum value for the team’s backup quarterback, who enters a contract year and is poised to hit free agency next winter. I understand that Licht has seen Arizona lose Carson Palmer in 2014 and have their Super Bowl dreams dashed, and seen Dallas lose Tony Romo last year and have their playoff aspirations crushed.
I understand that there is a value to having a quality backup quarterback in the NFL. I understand that nothing can derail an NFL season like a team losing its starting quarterback to a significant or season-ending injury.
Bucs QB Mike Glennon – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
I also understand that Glennon’s value will likely never be higher than it is right now. Letting him walk in free agency will fetch a compensatory pick for Tampa Bay, but not until the 2018 NFL Draft.
Licht shouldn’t give Glennon away, but he should do whatever he can to convince Cleveland or the New York Jets that Glennon could contend to be that team’s quarterback of the future. That may mean asking for the Jets’ second-round pick, which is the 51st overall selection, or asking for Cleveland’s third- and fourth-round picks, especially since the Browns have two picks in the third round and two in the fourth after Wednesday’s mega-trade with Philadelphia that moved the Eagles up to the second overall spot and the Browns down to the eighth selection – right ahead of Tampa Bay.
The Jets have yet to re-sign Ryan Fitzpatrick, who apparently wants more money than he’s worth because he’s unsigned. New York has Geno Smith and Bryce Petty on the roster, but doesn’t appear to be enamored with either given the fact that Fitzpatrick was chosen as the starter last year. Smith, a two-year starter in New York, has completed 57.9 percent of his passes with 27 touchdowns and 35 interceptions and a 72.3 QB rating.
In 19 NFL starts, Glennon has completed 58.8 percent of his throws with 29 touchdowns and only 15 interceptions and has a QB rating of 83.7. He’s the same type of pocket passer that likes to throw downfield that the Jets had last year with Fitzpatrick.
In Cleveland, the Browns obviously didn’t see the value of landing a top quarterback in this year’s draft after trading out of the No. 2 spot. Cleveland has four quarterbacks on the roster in veteran Josh McCown, the newly acquired Robert Griffin III, in addition to Austin Davis and Connor Shaw after releasing Johnny Manziel this offseason. Davis is a journeyman, Shaw is a long shot to make the roster, McCown is 36 years old and RGIII is still a project that is trying to resuscitate his NFL career.
New Browns head coach Hue Jackson had a great deal of success in Cincinnati with Andy Dalton, a pocket passer. Trading for Glennon would give the Browns two options for the future in case RGIII doesn’t pan out.
If Licht could fetch a second-round pick from the Jets for Glennon that could land the Buccaneers another potential starter on defense. The Jets’ 51st overall pick, which is valued at 390 points on the draft trade chart, could be used to select a safety like West Virginia’s Karl Joseph or Ohio State’s Vonn Bell, a defensive end like Michigan State’s Shilique Calhoun, a cornerback like Miami’s Artie Burns, or a speedy slot receiver like Oklahoma’s Sterling Shepard.
Instead of having four picks inside the top 75 selections, it might be even more advantageous for Licht and head coach Dirk Koetter to have the Browns’ third- and fourth-round picks in what is considered to be a deep defensive draft. Licht would be smart to ask for the 65th and 99th overall picks, which add up to 369 points on the draft trade chart.
Having an extra third-round pick would allow the Bucs to select Baylor cornerback Xavien Howard, Ohio State wide receiver Braxton Miller, Penn State defensive end Carl Nassib, South Carolina State defensive tackle Javon Hargrave or Notre Dame defensive tackle Sheldon Day. Tampa Bay could even use it to draft a future starting offensive tackle like Texas Tech’s Le’Raven Clark, or take a chance on injured Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith.
With an extra fourth-round pick from the Browns, the Bucs could grab a safety like Southern Utah’s Miles Killebrew, a cornerback and return specialist like Alabama’s Cyrus Jones or a defensive end like Grand Valley State’s Matt Judon or Maryland’s Yannick Ngakoue.
Keeping Glennon wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world as he gives Tampa Bay a reliable, experienced and talented backup quarterback that has been battle-tested. But with the addition of Ryan Griffin last year and Dan LeFevour this week, Licht and the personnel staff have created a favorable environment for Glennon to be traded.
Bucs coach Dirk Koetter & QB Ryan Griffin – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Griffin spent the 2015 season learning Koetter’s offense after being acquired last September from New Orleans and will have the entire OTAs, mini-camp and training camp to execute the plays after being a scout team quarterback. LeFevour was coached by Bucs quarterbacks coach Mike Bajakian at Central Michigan, and also spent a year with Koetter in Jacksonville in 2011.
Neither may be as good or as talented as Glennon, but then again, Jameis Winston was able to take every snap from center during his rookie season, so the Bucs may not have to worry about it. Tampa Bay could always use a fifth- or a sixth-round pick on Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan or Arkansas’s Brandon Allen if the team feels like Griffin or LeFevour are ideally No. 3 quarterbacks in the NFL.
Glennon is a No. 2 QB who aspires to be a No. 1 for another team. The time is now to have him realize his NFL dream, and for Licht to add another starter on defense by trading away a backup quarterback. Licht told PewterReport.com at the Senior Bowl that Glennon was too valuable to trade, but has since changed his mind and is listening to offers.
The mega-trades by Los Angeles and Philadelphia, and the tens of millions Houston paid to Brock Osweiler, who has just seven NFL starts, illustrate just how crazy NFL teams that don’t have quarterbacks can get. Licht needs to find the next desperate team and coerce them into making a sensible trade for an up-and-comer like Glennon.
FAB 3. SR’s PERSONAL PEWTER MOCK DRAFT
The 2016 NFL Draft is less than a week away and my final 2016 Bucs’ 7-Round Mock Draft will arrive on PewterReport.com on Monday. These selections represent the players I believe Tampa Bay will draft based on information PewterReport.com has gathered and evaluations I’ve made.
Seven-round mock drafts are extremely difficult to forecast because of the domino effect that always happens. If the Bucs draft a cornerback in the first round like Florida’s Vernon Hargreaves or Ohio State’s Eli Apple and I forecast general manager Jason Licht drafting a defensive tackle like Louisville’s Sheldon Rankins instead, that could mean that the Bucs won’t draft a cornerback later and instead will draft a defensive tackle in the second, third or fourth rounds. Not nailing the right position in the right round can really wreck a seven-round mock draft.
Bucs RB Charles Sims & QB Mike Glennon – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
That’s why PewterReport.com also puts out its Bucs’ Best Bets for every position in our draft previews each year. What these Bucs’ Best Bets represent is if Tampa Bay were to select a cornerback early (rounds 1-4) in the draft or late (rounds 5-7) in the draft the players we list at that position would be the likeliest candidates. Even forecasting these Bucs’ Best Bets can be challenging because we’re limited to just two selections per position.
PewterReport.com has had a tremendous track record with our Bucs’ Best Bets over the years, accurately forecasting more players to Tampa Bay than any other media outlet, including the likes of quarterbacks Jameis Winston (2015), Mike Glennon (2013), Josh Johnson (2008) and Bruce Gradkowski (2006), running back Charles Sims (2014), safety Ahmad Black (2011), defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (2010), defensive end Gaines Adams (2007), wide receivers Arrelious Benn, Mike Williams (2010), wide receiver Dexter Jackson (2008) and Maurice Stovall (2006), offensive lineman Jeremy Zuttah (2008) and linebackers Quincy Black (2007) and Barrett Ruud (2005) among others.
While it’s our job at PewterReport.com to inform Bucs fans about the players the team is very interested in, I also have some draft prospects that I’ve followed and studied that may not wind up in Tampa Bay because the team may not see a prospect the same way I do. In 2014, I absolutely loved Aaron Donald and would have drafted him in the first round instead of wide receiver Mike Evans.
That’s not a knock on Evans, who has turned out to be a fine receiver, but finding ultra-talented, quick, athletic, one-gap penetrating Pro Bowl defensive tackles like Donald is extremely difficult. Finding wide receivers – even big ones like Evans – is an easier task. Jacksonville’s Allen Hurns, an 6-foot-3 undrafted free agent, is a prime example.
Former KSU WR Tyler Lockett – Photo by: Getty Images
Sometimes the players I really like, such as Kansas State wide receiver and return specialist Tyler Lockett, are the some ones the Bucs like, too. If right guard Ali Marpet wasn’t available in the second round after left tackle Donovan Smith was selected, Tampa Bay would have tried to trade up to get Lockett. So I’ve decided to share with you some of the players that I would personally like the Buccaneers to draft this year at some positions of need for Tampa Bay – regardless of whether the team actually likes the prospect or not.
I’ve coached defensive line on my boys’ Pop Warner for the past five years, so I’m a big believer in winning the line of scrimmage. It starts up front on defense, and that is a philosophy that new Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith shares as well. Having said that, I’m going to break the golden rule of football and address Tampa Bay’s defense from back to front in this mock draft.
Maybe it was all the years spent being around former defensive backs coaches Mike Tomlin and Raheem Morris in Tampa Bay. Or maybe it’s my belief in current defensive tackles Gerald McCoy, Clinton McDonald and Akeem Spence, defensive ends Jacquies Smith and Will Gholston as well as defensive line coaches Jay Hayes and Paul Spicer, combined with the knowledge that this draft is deep along the defensive line.
Without further adieu, here are the seven players I would like to see in pewter and red.
ROUND 1 (9) – Houston CB William Jackson – 6-0, 189 – Senior
I’ve had Rankins going to Tampa Bay in the last two PewterReport.com 2016 Bucs’ 7-Round Mock Drafts. Will it be a third? Wait and see on Monday. But it won’t be Jackson, as I’ve heard the organization is much higher on Hargreaves and Apple. I prefer Jackson due to his size, length and ability to get his hands on the football.
Jackson, who was in our first two Bucs mock drafts as a second-round pick, is going in the first round after running a blazing 4.37 in the 40-yard dash. He is a big cornerback, who plays big in pass coverage, notching eight interceptions and 40 pass breakups in his three years with the Cougars. As a senior, Jackson was instrumental in leading Houston to the All-American Conference championship and a Peach Bowl win over Florida State where he had a career-high 10 tackles, two interceptions and two passes defensed.
Jackson had two pick-sixes during his senior season, and also had three games in which he had three pass breakups or more. In the AAC Championship Game against Temple, Jackson set a new school record with seven pass breakups in a single game. It was one of the best performances I’ve ever seen by a cornerback. Jackson also recorded a 96-yard touchdown on his first career interception, which came against Texas-San Antonio as a sophomore in 2013. He hasn’t worked out for the Bucs or visited them to my knowledge, but I think he’s going to be a damn good pro. I’d pick him in the top 10.
ROUND 2 (39) – West Virginia SS Karl Joseph – 5-10, 205 – Senior
Joseph was in PewterReport.com’s first Bucs mock draft as a fourth-round pick. Like Jackson, Joseph hasn’t visited with Tampa Bay or worked out for the team to my knowledge. After drafting a cornerback in the first round, the Bucs come back and address safety with a four-year starter for the Mountaineers who was having a fantastic start to his senior season before suffering a season-ending knee injury in October during a non-contract drill in practice. Joseph had notched 15 tackles and five interceptions in the first five games of the 2015 season before the season-ending injury.
Before the injury, Joseph was one of the most intimidating, hard-hitting, playmaking safeties in the country, notching nine interceptions, forcing eight fumbles and scoring two defensive touchdowns for West Virginia. The Orlando native’s size resembles that of Pro Bowlers’ Eric Berry and Earl Thomas, but he hits like a heat-seeking missile. The word is that his recovery has gone well and he should be ready to play during his rookie season.
Tampa Bay’s safeties have only notched six interceptions over the past two years, which isn’t good enough. The Bucs secondary needs another playmaker with good ball skills and Joseph is that guy if he can return to his pre-injury form. He showed at West Virginia that he could step in and start right away, and if he’s healthy enough during training camp there’s no reason to believe he isn’t capable of starting as a rookie in the NFL, either. I think the Bucs like Ohio State’s Vonn Bell and Southern Utah’s Miles Killebrew better, but I would take Joseph.
ROUND 3 (74) – South Carolina State DT Javon Hargrave – 6-1, 309 – Senior
Hargraves has been a mid-round pick in two of PewterReport.com’s earlier mock drafts in February and March. I got my first look at Hargrave at the East-West Shrine practices where he was dominant and unblockable during the one-on-ones and in scrimmages. The Bucs have visited with and worked out a lot of defensive tackles this year, but I haven’t heard if Hargrave was one of them.
Capable of playing either the nose tackle or under tackle positions due to his extremely quick get-off and power, Hargave is an ideal fit for the Bucs defense as Mike Smith likes big defensive tackles. While Hargrave is a bit short at 6-foot-1, he weighs 315 pounds and is a load. But his body type is similar to that of former Bucs defensive tackles Warren Sapp and Booger McFarland, and Hargrave has a quick, explosive first step that reminds some scouts of those two players.
Hargrave is coming off a senior season in which he had 59 tackles, 22 tackles for loss, 13.5 sacks, including five multi-sack games, and two forced fumbles. After recording 8.5 sacks his first two years for the Bulldogs, Hargrave had a breakout season in 2014, recording 16 sacks, 23.5 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery as a junior. Against Bethune Cookman last year, Hargrave took over the game, recording 11 tackles and a school-record six sacks.
ROUND 4 (108) – Grand Valley State DE Matt Judon – 6-3, 275 – Senior
The Buccaneers have worked out Judon, so he’s the first draft prospect in my personal mock that it appears the team has had some public interest in. I’m a late-comer to Judon because he played at a small school and missed the East-West Shrine Game with an injury, but his film, his body type and his athleticism is impressive.
Judon had an incredibly productive college career, dominating smaller school competition with 20 sacks in 2015 to lead all of college football in addition to 23.5 tackles for loss and 81 tackles and three forced fumbles. He had 34 career sacks at Grand Valley State, including 8.5 as a junior with four forced fumbles. Judon, who overcame a torn ACL injury in 2013, ran a blazing fast 4.73 in the 40-yard dash, in addition to a 35-inch vertical. Judon showed off his strength with 30 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press.
Buccaneers defensive line coach Jay Hayes was at Grand Valley State for Judon’s pro day. While Judon needs to refine his technique, but he has a high motor, great size and speed, and tremendous body lean in getting around offensive tackles as an edge rusher. Judon might need some time to adjust to the NFL, but I think he’s a player that can be groomed behind Robert Ayers and Jacquies Smith.
ROUND 5 (148) – North Carolina State OT Joe Thuney – 6-5, 304 – Senior
Thuney is the second player in my mock that has met with the Buccaneers and has the distinction of being one of the highest-graded offensive linemen in 2015 by Pro Football Focus. Capable of playing multiple positions, Thuney has been the Wolfpack’s left tackle for two out of the last three years. Although he doesn’t overwhelm opponents with his size or power, Thuney has surprising strength with 28 reps of 225 pounds at the Combine. He was one of the most athletic linemen in Indianapolis, running a blazing fast 4.95 in the 40-yard dash with an impressive 1.70 split.
Thuney, who was in PewterReport.com’s mock in March, has short arms at 32 1/4, and that may prompt NFL teams to move inside to guard where he does have experience. In fact, Thuney has experience at all five positions and his versatility is a plus for NFL teams like Tampa Bay. Thuney is incredibly bright and graduated from N.C. State after just three years with a degree in accounting and he is pursuing Master’s degree in international studies.
He’ll need some time to hit the weight room and add some bulk, but Thuney’s size and athleticism compares favorably to a poor man’s Logan Mankins and his NFL future may ultimately be at guard or center depending on his development. Thuney’s athleticism is just a small step below that of Indiana’s Jason Spriggs, who has an outside chance of being a late first-rounder. Thuney is smart, tough and athletic. Those are three traits the Bucs like in offensive linemen.
ROUND 6 (183) – East Carolina OLB Montese Overton – 6-2, 223 – Senior
The Buccaneers haven’t shown any interest in Overton to my knowledge, and he’s regarded as a seventh-round pick on some of the draft websites I’ve seen. Overton was one of the most athletic linebackers at the NFL Scouting Combine, running a 4.61 with a 1.59, which was the second-fastest time in his position group.
Overton was a two-year starter for the Pirates that saw heavy action for three years at East Carolina as a strongside linebacker. He could be groomed as an eventual replacement for Daryl Smith, who signed a one-year deal, while starring on special teams.
Overton, who had 217 tackles at East Carolina, was used in space as a coverage linebacker where his athleticism was often matched up against slot receivers. He had 14 pass breakups in college, including seven as a senior. The Pirates also used Overton as a blitzer off the edge, evidenced by his 17.5 career sacks, including 7.5 as a senior. The Bucs like fast, athletic linebackers with juice. I would think Overton would be a natural fit in Tampa Bay.
ROUND 6 (197 from Washington) – Texas Tech WR Jakeem Grant – 5-6, 165 – Senior
My final pick for Tampa Bay is Grant, yet another player that the Bucs haven’t expressed any public interest in. I would think that Licht would want to steal a page out of the playbook of his good friends – Arizona G.M. Steve Keim and head coach Bruce Arians – and draft a small, shifty speed receiver like Grant to bring explosive plays to both the Bucs’ offense and special teams.
Most NFL teams would overlook Grant’s diminutive frame, but the Cardinals drafted 5-foot-10, 160-pound wide receiver J.J. Nelson out of UAB last year and he had a pair of touchdowns during his rookie season. Grant, who could be the next Darren Sproles in the NFL, was an ultra-productive receiver at Texas Tech where he caught 254 passes for 3,286 yards and 27 touchdowns, including 90 catches for 1,268 yards and 10 scores as a senior. Grant resembled St. Louis’ Tavon Austin by routinely made defenders look silly with his ability to start and stop on a dime. He has the speed to go deep and the shiftiness to work inside at the slot receiver position and pick up first downs on wide receiver screens.
Grant is also an electrifying kick returner with four touchdowns in his college career – two as a freshman and two as a senior. He may seem like a luxury pick and an NFL long shot given his lack of ideal size, but the same thing was said about Sproles, who has made the Pro Bowl in each of his last two years. I would think that Koetter could have a lot of fun with the explosive Grant in his offense.
FAB 4. RANKING THE BUCS’ BEST DRAFT CLASSES
The 2015 draft class quickly proved to be one of the best and most promising draft classes in Tampa Bay history with general manager Jason Licht hitting on his first four draft picks, headlined by Pro Bowl quarterback Jameis Winston. That’s a rare accomplishment for any NFL team, but Licht wants to do it again in 2016 and perhaps find five rookie starters.
“We always strive for that,” Licht said. “I want to do better than we did last year, so does my staff. Mike Biehl and John Spytek now, they do a great job leading these scouts, doing a lot of work, trying to unearth these guys that we think that maybe have some sort of arbitrage that they’ll be available later for one reason or another. We’re confident that we can do it. To get four starters out of a draft is pretty good, hats off to those guys for everything they did. We strive every year to do better than we did the year before.”
So where does the instant impact draft class of 2015 rank among Tampa Bay’s 40 draft classes? I did some research and ranked the top five drafts in Bucs history.
Bucs legends Derrick Brooks & Warren Sapp – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
1. Tampa Bay’s 1995 Draft
The best draft in Tampa Bay history features two out of the franchise’s three Hall of Famers in defensive tackle Warren Sapp and linebacker Derrick Brooks, who were both first-rounders. Safety Melvin Johnson, cornerbacks Jerry Wilson and Clifton Abraham, linebacker Wardell Rouse, tackle Steve Ingram and defensive end Jeff Rodgers were all non-descript players, but Sapp and Brooks alone make this draft special.
Sapp was one of the best pass-rushing interior linemen of all time and Brooks is the prototype for a 4-3 coverage linebacker and one of the greatest outside linebackers in NFL history. Sapp is the Tampa Bay’s second all-time leading sacker, while Brooks is the team’s all-time leading tackler and has been to more Pro Bowls (11) than any other Buccaneer. Until Tampa Bay has another draft class that produces two Hall of Famers, nothing tops the Bucs drafting Sapp and Brooks – two players that spearheaded the team’s Super Bowl championship – in 1995.
2. Tampa Bay’s 1997 Draft
The key to Tampa Bay ending a 13-year postseason drought and making the playoffs in 1997 was the 1997 draft class. The first pick was running back Warrick Dunn, who became the franchise’s third all-time leading rusher. Wide receiver Reidel Anthony, another first-rounder, was a serviceable weapon that helped the Bucs earn a Wild Card playoff berth. Second-round pick Jerry Wunsch became the starting right tackle as a rookie, while third-rounder Frank Middleton was the starting right guard. Both helped pave the way for Dunn and fullback Mike Alstott.
But the real gem was Tampa Bay’s second third-round pick, cornerback Ronde Barber, who is a future Hall of Famer and the best defensive back in team history. Barber’s 92-yard interception return for a touchdown at Philadelphia in the NFC Championship Game sent the Bucs to the Super Bowl in 2002. Linebacker Alshermond Singleton, a fourth-rounder, was also a starter on the Super Bowl team. Cornerback Al Harris, a sixth-round pick, was cut by the Bucs, but had a Pro Bowl career in Green Bay. Tight end Patrick Hape, wide receiver Nigea Carter and defensive tackle Anthony DeGrate never amounted to much, but Barber and Dunn made this draft class special.
3. Tampa Bay’s 1976 Draft
The Bucs hit it out of the park in the franchise’s initial draft with the selection of defensive end Lee Roy Selmon, who would become Tampa Bay’s first Hall of Famer. Selmon, who also became Tampa Bay’s leading sacker, helped lead the Bucs to the NFC Championship in 1976 just four years after the birth of the franchise. That was unheard of for an expansion team, especially without free agency in the 1970s.
Unfortunately for the Bucs, they blew most of the 20 picks they had in the 17-round draft in their first season. Tampa Bay did draft Selmon’s brother, Dewey, who was a solid linebacker on the league’s top defense in 1979, in the second round. Finding Steve Wilson, who became the starting center during its early playoff run, in the fifth round was a solid draft pick, too. But the 1976 draft was all about Lee Roy, and that’s what made it special.
Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
4. Tampa Bay’s 2015 Draft
I know it’s early, but the 2015 draft class has the makings to be absolutely special. Winston, the first overall pick last year, made the Pro Bowl in his first NFL season and became just the third rookie quarterback to throw for 4,000 yards. I think he has the chance to not just be a perennial Pro Bowler, but also a future Hall of Famer if he stays healthy and in the same system for an extended period of time. Winston’s leadership and competitiveness are extraordinary and he will have the Bucs in the playoffs sooner rather than later.
Left tackle Donovan Smith and right guard Ali Marpet were second-round picks and instant starters. Both have Pro Bowl potential, especially Marpet, who is slightly ahead in his development. The same can be said of fiery middle linebacker Kwon Alexander, who also has Pro Bowl potential as a fourth-round pick. Wide receiver Kenny Bell, Tampa Bay’s fifth-rounder, also has a chance to make the team after spending his rookie season on injured reserve. For a team to find four starters in its first four picks is quite rare. It last happened in Tampa Bay in 1997, but the 2015 draft class has a chance to be even better. In fact, this draft class could be quite special and move up the rankings in time.
5. Tampa Bay’s 1996 Draft
This draft class gets the slight edge over Tampa Bay’s 2012 draft class, which features two Pro Bowlers in running back Doug Martin and linebacker Lavonte David. The reason is that after the Bucs selected a pair of decent defensive linemen in Regan Upshaw and Marcus Jones Tampa Bay pulled the trigger on fullback Mike Alstott in the second round and cornerback Donnie Abraham in the third round. Alstott, a six-time Pro Bowler who was inducted into the Bucs Ring of Honor last year, is Tampa Bay’s second all-time leading rusher and the franchise’s all-time leading touchdown producer. Alstott scored the first touchdown in the NFC Championship Game and then the first touchdown in Super Bowl XXXVII.
The A-Train was always a fan favorite – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Abraham is the second-best cornerback in Bucs history behind Barber and has the second most interceptions in team history, too. Abraham started as a rookie in 1996 and set the Bucs rookie record with five interceptions. He went on to become the team’s shutdown cornerback and paired with Barber to form one of the best cornerback tandems in the late 1990s. Right tackle Jason Odom, safety Eric Austin, defensive tackle Jason Maniecki, punt returner Nilo Silvan and cornerback Reggie Rusk didn’t do much in Tampa Bay, but Alstott and Abraham, a Pro Bowler in 2000, headline this draft class with Upshaw and Jones also helping get the Bucs to the playoffs in 1997. However, a few more Pro Bowls by David and Martin will push the 2012 draft class ahead of this one in time.
FAB 5. SR’s BUC SHOTS
• Tampa Bay’s defensive players believe that the team’s new personnel and new scheme under defensive coordinator Mike Smith will not only help their side of the ball, but also help improve the offense. The Tampa 2 defense under Lovie Smith was too predictable and too soft last year, and not only did that have a negative affect during game days, it also didn’t help rookie quarterback Jameis Winston effectively prepare for the start of the season due to its vanilla looks in practice.
Winston had a shaky start to his pro career as his first NFL pass was a pick-six against Tennessee, and he suffered a career-high four interceptions against Carolina in Week 4.
“I’m excited about the additions of Brent Grimes and Josh Robinson because it is going to add to our competition and I think there are going to be a lot of plays made,” Bucs cornerback Alterraun Verner said. “Not only is it going to help us, I think it’s going to help our offense out. I think we’re going to be able to challenge Jameis a lot more in practice and show him different looks and get him more prepared for the season.
Fellow Tampa Bay cornerback Johnthan Banks agrees with Verner wholeheartedly.
“Man, it was great seeing Jameis from Day One having that ‘deer lost in the headlights’ look at the beginning of the season, and then ending the season looking like a young Peyton Manning,” Banks said. “Jameis is a great quarterback. I’m excited to see what he’s going to do for us this year and how we’re going to help him on defense by giving him better looks [in practice]. He’ll be another year older, knowing the game even more. It’s going to be exciting seeing Jameis grow.”
• One of the buzz-worthy players around One Buccaneer Place this offseason is second-year wide receiver Kenny Bell, otherwise known as “Afro Thunder.” With 4.37 speed, Bell is the fastest receiver in Tampa Bay and missed his rookie season due to a hamstring injury he suffered in the preseason.
Bucs WR Kenny Bell – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
“Kenny Bell is a really good receiver,” Bucs cornerback Johnthan Banks said. “He really impressed me last year. He’s not just a fast guy. He was out there trying to block everybody – safeties and corners. He’s a tough guy. I’m excited to see him back out there competing.”
Bucs cornerback Alterraun Verner admires Bell’s work ethic and sees a hunger in his eye to not only win a roster spot, but to help out on special teams as a gunner and a kick returner, as well as contending for time on offense at wide receiver or slot receiver.
“You definitely saw the speed and explosion before he got hurt,” Verner said. “He’s another guy that is a sponge. I felt like he hung around Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson a lot and really soaked it in. With him on injured reserve last year you can tell that he was taking that year to learn. I love his work ethic. I’m a big guy on work ethic. If you come in and you work hard I don’t think there is anything that can stop you. Kenny is another guy that is like that. I’m expecting him to come back and have a big year.
“We’ve talked and he felt that he had an opportunity blown with Adam [Humphries] and Donteea [Dye] being able to play as much as they did. If he wasn’t hurt Kenny could have that opportunity, too. I know he’s even hungrier than he was last year. He wants to prove himself. I saw a lot of explosion and a lot of potential in him before he got hurt. He definitely could have helped us out last year, but I know he’ll help us this year.”
• As I mentioned earlier, a final PewterReport.com 2016 Bucs’ 7-Round Mock Draft arrives on Monday, followed by our final PewterReport.com 2016 First-Round Mock Draft later in the week. And remember that the Bucs will get to hold a special pre-draft mini-camp Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week because Dirk Koetter is a new head coach. PewterReport.com will have full coverage in addition to NFL Draft coverage Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Keep your browser open to PewterReport.com all week, Bucs fans!
• Thank you for the tremendous response to the PewterReport.com Day 2 Draft Party at Hard Rock Cafe as next Friday’s event can be labeled a “sell out” – even though it’s free of charge. We have reached capacity and will have 150 Tampa Bay fans in attendance, which is exciting.
If you did not RSVP via e-mail to [email protected]
• If you are looking for something fun to do on Saturday night, join Mrs. Reynolds and I – and hundreds of craft beer enthusiasts – as I celebrate my birthday at the Bad A** Beerfest III at Tampa Bay Brewing Company in Westchase from 7:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m. There will be over 40 different breweries on hand, along with food trucks and live bands.
Tickets are $50 at the door, but you can save money by ordering them online for a discounted price. Click here for more details. There are also plenty of hotels to stay in nearby and you can book a room and ask for the Tampa Bay Brewing Company corporate discount, too. Full details are on the website. Hope to see you Saturday night, Pewter Nation.
• PewterReport.com is perilously close to having 22,000 Twitter followers, which is our company goal by draft day next week. We are less than 200 away, so please follow @PewterReport if you haven’t already and please give us a shout out if you are a current follower. Thank you!
• Like many people that grew up listening to Prince, his sudden death at age 57 rocked me on Thursday. The Purple Rain soundtrack was in some ways a personal soundtrack for my life as I relate a lot of memories growing up to those songs. A lot of musical legends have passed during my life, including the likes of Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, David Bowie and Glenn Frey, but Prince stands above those in my mind because I liked his music more than theirs.
Prince was the only artist to successfully blend funk, rock, soul, pop, dance and gospel music and make it sound so good. His Super Bowl XLI performance in the rain in Miami was the best halftime performance the NFL has ever had. It rained, but Prince didn’t care. He grooved and wailed regardless of the inclement weather. It was almost like he welcomed the challenge, and it was almost fitting considering he ended the halftime show with an amazingly breathtaking performance of “Purple Rain.”
Prince was a gifted songwriter. He was a maestro on the guitar and the piano. Jimi Hendrix, one of Prince’s influences, would have loved jamming with him. Prince paid homage to Hendrix during the Super Bowl halftime show with his own version of “All Along The Watch Tower” and then suddenly morphed it into “The Best Of You” by Foo Fighters like only Prince could.
Prince rocked the Super Bowl XLI halftime show – Photo by: Getty Images
Prince was an electric performer. One of my biggest regrets was never seeing him live in concert. “I’ll see him next time,” I would tell myself. Sadly, there won’t be a next time. He died at the too-young age of 57.
I turn 44 on Saturday, April 23. Prince was 13 years older than I, and what his passing has helped remind me is to not wait until “next time.” Life is too short.
Prince not only shared his songs with his audience, he shared them with fellow artists. Everyone knows that he wrote Sinead O’Connor’s biggest hit, Noting Compares 2 U, but I prefer some of the other songs he wrote for and with others, including “Stand Back” by Stevie Nicks, “Love Bizarre” by Sheila A., “I Feel For You” by Chaka Kahn and “If I Was Your Girlfriend” by TLC.
When it comes to Prince’s own recordings, there were so many hit singles in his career, but I prefer a lot of his tracks that were never released on radio. I’ve spent some time thinking about Prince’s amazing catalog of music and I wanted to share my favorite Top 10 Prince songs with you to close out this Friday’s edition of SR’s Fab 5.
9. Let’s Go Crazy
8. Darling Nikki
7. Little Red Corvette
5. When Doves Cry
4. Let’s Pretend We’re Married
3. The Beautiful Ones
2. Computer Blue
1. Purple Rain
I’ll never forget when Kansas State University, my alma mater, got its first bowl victory in school history during my time there in 1993, beating Wyoming in the Copper Bowl. The headline the next morning in the Manhattan Mercury was “Purple Reign” – an obvious play-on-words to what many believe is Prince’s signature song, “Purple Rain.” His influence has been felt nearly everywhere. Rest in peace, Prince, and thank you for sharing your gift of music with the world.
Scott Reynolds is in his 23rd 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 enjoys 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: [email protected]
What about switching picks 9 for 8 and a third from Cleveland? Extra pick and Cleveland could definitely be taking a similar player as we would want
Fab1-…as long as the piss in his Cheerios doesn’t violate any banned substances- I’m glad it motivates him!
Looking forward to a 16 game season from him w/ playoffs on the line again
1) I agree on getting rid of Glennon now…let’s be honest, if Winston geos down, Glennon (while capable) is not going to lead us through the playoffs or anything.
2) on our bets drafts….notice how all of them involved either multiple 1st round picks, or basically a 1st round pick plus one of the top couple in the 2nd round…I’ll say it again “the probability of getting good talent decreases with every pick in the draft – we want more higher picks, not more lower picks”
EastEndBoy I agree on both points made, especially the 1st one. I was just about to type the same thing. Of course if Glennon isn’t capable of leading us through the playoffs why would anyone give up a high draft pick for him? Which is probably why Licht hasn’t traded him yet. He’s probably not getting offers that are higher than a 4th round pick which is why he hasn’t traded him. Hopefully the offers get higher before or after the draft because A) I would love to gain an extra valuable draft pick and B) I am absolutely sick of hearing about Glennon and sick of watching him play football in a Bucs uniform.
Ya – I hear on ya the expectation of Glennon’s value. My only thought was that while I don’t think he could step in and lead us through the playoffs, if you’re John Elway you might consider that he was good enough to lead Denver through the playoffs (I mean the remains of Peyton was able to do it…surely Glennon is as good as whatever version of Peyton that was last year)…so maybe Denver (or a team on the immediate verge like that might consider Glennon more valuable than we do)…but still I think he’s at very very best a 2nd rounder, and probably more like a 3rd plus a 6th or something…of course I would throw him in (like a bag of used footballs) to whatever deal we could work out for Wilkerson 🙂
I would take Glennon over Oswiler, or Sanchez any day. If Denver was smart, they would too.
I like your picks!! You wonder sometimes if they don’t show interest in a player just to throw off other teams perception. GM’s like to play these mind games. Go Buc’s.
Another enjoyable Fab 5! Totally agree with your Fab 2, trade Mike now while the iron is HOT! As always I hope the BUCS trade down for more picks in this deep defensive draft, In Licht we trust! In the home stretch for the draft, and look forward to seeing Licht’s picks and/or moves. Go BUCS
I LOVE Karl Joseph. Just because they have not visited with him does not mean they aren’t interested. Sometimes you can tell all you need to know about a guy by making a few calls and just seeing what he has done throughout his college career. I could not find the list of visits from last year, but in 2014, we only drafted two players that we visited with prior to the draft. I think you would be better off guessing players that we haven’t visited with that seem like guys Jason Licht would obviously like…Joseph looks like the Kwon Alexander of the Safety position, so I refuse to believe there is not some interest there.
Also, I would really love to see us trade back in the first…as far as possible…and take either Noah Spence or Karl Joseph there. I would rather see us address receiver early than I would cornerback. Sterling Shepard is going to be an absolute stud, we need an elite route runner like that in this offense. Go get em JL!
Scott I love the draft picks they all fits the bucs. I believe if Tampa could trade down to #15 with tenn Tampa may still get one of the prise CB or Safety. and pick up a 3rd &4th or 5th Tampa would be set. Plus trade Qb that would be a great draft. Go Bucs
I think the Bucs will end up moving Glennon on draft day. If the Jets are involved, I have a hard time thinking that Wilkerson wouldn’t be involved in that trade. I think Denver is crazy not to be trading for him. Cleveland is simply to incompetent to trade for a solid QB. As a ‘Canes fan, I wouldn’t go to sleep on safety Deon Bush. He’d be a great late round pick up. It’s been a terrible year for musicians… Must be one hell of concert coming up in the sky.
It’s “Jimi”, not “Jimmy” Hendrix.
Your 1st 3 rounds in the mock are spot on. I think we would be extremely ecstatic if thats how the draft unfolded. The only exception is that I would attempt to trade Glennon and maybe next years 1st for Wilkerson. In your mock we still have added an immediate impact pass rusher as Javon Hargreaves prob wont be ready to step in and play right away as he adjusts to the speed of the game. So trading for Wilkerson or swallowing our pride and revisiting the Greg Hardy situation would be needed to complete the defensive line.
The only problem with the thought giving up our No. 1 usually bites us in the ass as the player selected with our draft pick goes on and has a good to great career. Only the Gruden trade was worth it and he wasn’t a player. Also Al Davis was usually a lousy draft selector so it didn’t hurt us.
I personally would take a chance on Hardy unless we could acquire Wilkerson for something less than a 1st even if it’s next year. McCoy needs another body inside which Hargreaves would fit the bill but we need another starter at DE bc I think J.Smith would be better used in a rotation on obvious passing downs to keep him fresh and hopefully have him last the entire season.
Good Article Scott; lot of thought put in with your Fab 3. I’m not a fan of trading up if it costs us a 1st or 2nd round pick. I see no reason in this draft to move up. I actually hope we stand put in rounds 1 and 2 with a BPA picks. I could see us moving back into the very late part of the 2nd round using our 3rd and 4th round picks.
I just don’t see what many others see in Glennon. He’s proven he’s not a starter; just a solid back up you hope never has to play for more than a game or to just run the clock out in a game. I see no draft value in him this year because he will be an unrestricted free agent in 2017; I just see him as an opportunity to move up several spots in the later rounds.
Fantastic fab 5 as always. I’m glad to hear Kwon is psyched up, we need some extra fire on defense. I have a feeling Glennon will be traded on draft day. If we can get a second, you take it, no matter the slot.
Those top three picks in your mock are perfect to me and I would be hard pressed to be happier. I am a huge fan of William Jackson as well and think he’s clearly the best cover corner in this draft. And the more I reads about Joseph and watch his highlights, the more I like this guy.
Excellent read as always, I’m ready for this draft to get here already.
Could you imagine if Myles Jack fell to us at 9, then matching him up with LD and Kwon? That would be a nightmare linebacking core for any team to face. From the looks of Jack’s workout videos, I think his knee looks fine. It is probably nothing more than mis-information propaganda.
I saw Prince back in 1984 for the “Purple Rain” Tour, and it was one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen. He was a true showman.
I’ve worked in a studio with a guy who was in Prince’s band for the last few years and he told me how Prince was a perfectionist. If anyone, including himself (Prince), missed a note, or a beat, during a show they would be fined. He said Prince never forgot who did, and the exact note they missed. He would call them out the moment they did it on stage telling them “$500.” Or he would call himself out telling the band that he owes $500. He was a musical genius.
A very good Prince song that often gets overlooked and left off ‘favorites’ lists, probably because of it’s provocative lyrics, is “Erotic City.” This song blended pop, punk, funk, and soul, and was always a party favorite for me. RIP Prince, the music industry took a hard hit with this loss!
I’m also intrigued by what Mike Smith may be able to do with Miles Jack. I know some here will say we don’t need a LB. But no one can argue that we do need as many standout players as we can get. Few true top ten players this year but Miles Jack might be one of them.
Scu- I’m with you. I think Myles jack if available should be our pick.
Looking at the highlights of Karl Joseph how could you not be impressed unless you think he is going to be flagged for personal fouls the way he hits.
BTW, hope we get Javon Hargraves in 3rd. He is actually a little bigger than Sheldon Rankins.
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