FAB 2. Bucs Won’t Trade Down From No. 7
With Denver general manager John Elway stating that the No. 5 pick pick is up for sale and that he’s willing to entertain trade down offers, that’s a clear signal that Tampa Bay may not have many offers to move down from No. 7 – especially if three or four quarterbacks are off the board by the time the Bucs are on the clock. Because of his higher draft pick, Elway might be beating Bucs general manager Jason Licht to the punch when it comes to luring a team to hand over a windfall compensation package to trade down.
And that’s okay because Tampa Bay is ready to stick and pick at No. 7. The team feels confident it will be able to draft a Pro Bowl-caliber player with the seventh overall pick. And when a team is drafting in the Top 10, that’s the objective – to draft a Pro Bowler.
“If there’s a player that you really like and you feel very, very confident in, you shouldn’t hesitate to take the player,” Licht said in his pre-draft press conference. “Sometimes getting cute, moving back, can cost you. It goes back to how are you going to feel in bed at night after the first day, the second day? Are you going to feel good or are you going to feel bad that you passed an opportunity to take a guy that you really liked? So, lessons, you learn lessons every year.”
I know that Licht is itching to get another Day 2 selection as he traded away the team’s third-round pick to the New York Giants in exchange for defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, but I think he will resist the temptation to trade down, and instead, pick a damn good player at No. 7.
So who will that be? It could be one of the “Top 3” – and by “Top 3” I mean that he’s one of the top three non-quarterback players in this draft, including Penn State running back, North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb and Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson. There is a chance one of those players slides to Tampa Bay at No. 7.
But there is a chance that all of the “Top 3” players are gone, too. Then what?
Tampa Bay is also very high on two of the players that PewterReport.com had in its previous mock drafts – Washington defensive tackle Vita Vea and Florida State safety Derwin James. Let’s start with Vea.
PewterReport.com raised some eyebrows back in February by having Vea as Tampa Bay’s top pick back in January before anyone else did. The Bucs met the mammoth 6-foot-4, 347-pound defensive tackle at the NFL Scouting Combine and he was one of the Top 30 pre-draft visits that the team used to bring him in to One Buccaneer Plac e earlier this month. The Bucs like big defensive tackles and they don’t come much bigger than Vea, who is an absolute game-wrecker.
Vea bench pressed 41 reps of 225 pounds at the Combine and showed off that strength weekly at Washington where he would demolish guards, split double teams and chase quarterbacks. Although he posted just 9.5 sacks in his three years with the Huskies, it’s the sacks that he created for others by being so disruptive inside that has the Bucs excited.
“I’ve coached in the National Football League, and I’ve never seen a guy of his size play with that explosiveness,” said Huskies co-defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake, who used to be a defensive backs coach in Tampa Bay under Jon Gruden and Raheem Morris. “He’s pretty special.
“We are a multiple front and he’ll play the three technique, which Gerald plays, he’ll play a straight up zero technique over the center in our 3-4. Shoot, we’ve had him play our end, and rush a tackle and come inside. He’s very, very smart and he’s so athletic.”
McCoy ran the 40-yard dash in 4.99 with a 1.68 10-yard split at the Combine back in 2010 at 295 pounds. Weighing 52 more pounds, Vea ran a 5.10 in the 40 with a 1.77 10-yard split, which showed off his athleticism.
So with the Bucs signing two interior defensive players in Beau Allen and Mitch Unrein, why draft another defensive tackle in Vea? Because McCoy just turned 30 and has taken a beating in his eight years in Tampa Bay. Imagine if McCoy suffered a long-term injury early in the season. Where would the Bucs’ interior pass rush come from now that Clinton McDonald has moved on? Allen and Unrein are noted run stuffers – not pass rushers.
McCoy has been a warrior, but injuries have taken their toll and his sack production has slipped in each of the last three years. Granted, he hasn’t had much help up front on the defensive line, especially at defensive end, and is the focal point each week for offensive coordinators who attempt to neutralizing No. 93 first when it comes to game-planning. Drafting his eventual replacement this year makes sense, especially since young defensive tackles usually need a year or two to develop. It even took Bucs’ Hall of Famer Warren Sapp a few years to become a dominant player in Tampa Bay, and Vea could come in and rotate with McCoy at three technique and Allen at nose tackle without the pressure of being an every down starter as a rookie.
James makes an awful lot of sense for the Buccaneers, and PewterReport.com featured him as the No. 7 pick in our most recent 2018 Bucs’ 7-Round Mock Draft. The Bucs have a pair of holdovers in Chris Conte and Keith Tandy, but neither is a Pro Bowl-caliber strong safety like James can become.
James is a big-time hitter with great size at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, and has blazing 4.47 speed to match. Licht attended his pro day workout and had James in for a Top 30 pre-draft visit at One Buccaneer Place.
Not only could James step in as a Day 1 starter at strong safety and pair with Justin Evans to give the Bucs secondary a needed boost for many years to come, he also brings tremendous leadership ability. The Bucs love that he’s accountable and held his other Seminoles teammates accountable, too.
When you look in Tampa Bay’s defensive back room, who is the leader? Cornerback Brent Grimes is the best player in the secondary, but he’s quiet. Evans is just entering his second year in the league and isn’t very vocal. Cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III is the most vocal of the group, but doesn’t have the tape to back up any talk as he has largely been a disappointment for someone drafted with the 11th overall pick in 2016.
James has an aura of confidence and leadership ability about him. He’s an alpha male and his personality is akin to that of Bucs Pro Bowl middle linebacker and team captain Kwon Alexander. Those two young stars could lead Tampa Bay’s defense for years to come and solidify the interior of the defense with tremendous run-stopping ability.
With the potential of having a player like Barkley, Chubb or Nelson slide to Tampa Bay at No. 7, or the chance to draft a player the Bucs feel has top-flight ability like Vea or James, I just can’t see Licht trading down out of the top 10 and risk missing out on a Pro Bowl-caliber player. I don’t think he’ll be trading down this year, and hinted at that during his pre-draft press conference when he was asked to share some of the lessons he’s learned in his first four drafts as Tampa Bay’s general manager.
“My first draft, taking Mike Evans would be the most memorable,” Licht said. “I remember being on the phone and right before our pick, being offered a fairly high, significant pick to come up not too far. We wouldn’t have had to drop back very far and having to make a decision with everybody staring at me and hanging up the phone and saying, ‘No,’ and taking Mike. I’m glad we did that.”
Licht will probably have that same feeling next Thursday evening after the first night of the 2018 NFL Draft.
Which player will be featured at No. 7 in PewterReport.com’s final 2018 Bucs’ 7-Round Mock Draft? Be sure to visit PewterReport.com on Sunday, April 22, to find out.