FAB 4. Sleeper Pass Rushers On Bucs’ Radar
While Tampa Bay likely needs to spend a first- or second-round on an edge rusher next year to help the team’s ailing pass rush it would be wise for general manager Jason Licht to consider doubling up at the defensive end position later in the draft. Not just to hedge his bet on the first-rounder but also to add more weapons to restock Tampa Bay’s pass rushing arsenal.
In hindsight, the Bucs should have drafted former Georgia defensive end Leonard Floyd with the ninth overall pick instead of trading down to No. 11 with Chicago to select cornerback Vernon Hargreaves. Floyd has four sacks this season and has 11 in 19 games, along with two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery for a touchdown and a safety. Hargreaves has just one interception in 22 games and was demoted to nickel cornerback last year in Tampa Bay’s loss at Buffalo.
The long, explosive pass rusher was deemed to be too lanky and not powerful enough to play defensive end in the NFL. But Floyd has bulked up to 251 pounds, which is 10 pounds heavier than Tampa Bay’s Noah Spence and is playing outside linebacker in Chicago’s 3-4 defensive scheme. That’s the type of edge rusher that the Bucs have lacked since Simeon Rice was released in 2006, and the kind of defensive end the team thought it was getting in Gaines Adams, Tampa Bay’s first-round pick in 2007.
There are a couple of intriguing athletic edge rushers that are climbing the draft boards of many NFL teams this fall.
University of Texas-San Antonio senior defensive end Marcus Davenport is a late bloomer and has drawn some physical comparisons to Dallas’ David Irving. He’s 6-foot-6, 250 pounds with a long wingspan that enables him to extend his sack and tackle radius. Davenport has 162 tackles, 32 tackles for loss, 19.5 sacks, eight pass breakups, five forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in his Roadrunners career.
Davenport showed promise in a 10-tackle, two-sack effort against Rice as a sophomore and finished 2015 with 49 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, four sacks and three pass breakups. Last year, the Roadrunners’ leading sacker had 67 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a pass breakup. Against Texas A&M, he had 11 tackles and a sack in a 23-10 loss.
Davenport has matched that sack total already this season. He’s got 32 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 6.5 tackles for loss, four pass breakups, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. UTSA scored a major upset of Baylor in Week 1 and Davenport had four tackles and two sacks. He had eight tackles, 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble in a 29-26 win over North Texas and 11 tackles, two sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery for a touchdown versus Rice in a 20-7 win.
Davenport will likely be invited to the Senior Bowl and could be this year’s big riser, as Tampa Bay’s Noah Spence was in 2016 and Kansas City’s Tanoh Kpassagnon was this past January. Spence and Kpassagnon were both drafted in the second round after starring in Mobile, Ala.
Georgia senior Lorenzo Carter is similar to Floyd, and not just because he played with him on the Bulldogs defense. Carter is 6-foot-6, 243 pounds and has 18.5 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks with six fumble recoveries and five forced fumbles in his career. Carter had 4.5 sacks as a freshman and another five last year as a junior, in addition to two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries, including one he returned for a touchdown, as a defensive end-outside linebacker hybrid.
This year, Carter has 5.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, three fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles for the undefeated Bulldogs. Like Floyd was last year, Carter could be a late riser and may wind up in the first round if he tests well at the NFL Scouting Combine after the Senior Bowl.
“I played against him, but I can’t really remember much about him, but I do remember playing against him,” said Bucs tight end O.J. Howard, who played against Carter two years ago when he was at Alabama. “I just remember he was a fast, physical guy. That’s what he was. He seemed like a really good player, I’m not sure what kind of season he is having this year, but I remember him being a really good player.”
Wyoming junior defensive end Carl Granderson is a big, athletic defensive end that is starting to appear on scouts’ radars. At 6-foot-5, 243 pounds, Granderson has recorded 101 tackles, 23.5 tackles for loss, 11 sacks, three forced fumbles, one interception and one safety in his time with the Cowboys.
Granderson has 46 tackles, a career-high six sacks and two forced fumbles this year. In a 24-3 loss at Iowa in the season opener, Granderson had 10 tackles, one sack and a forced fumble. In a 28-23 win at Utah State, Granderson had six tackles, a sack for a safety and an interception. In last week’s loss to 24-14 loss at Boise State, Granderson had 12 tackles and two sacks. Those are impressive tackle numbers for a defensive end that speaks to how active he is.
Granderson is coming off a torn ACL in 2016 that caused him to miss the last seven games of the season. But he was off to a great start during his sophomore year, recording a sack in four of his first six games, including one against Northern Illinois in a 40-34 overtime win and against Nebraska in a 52-17 loss.
There may be a few other pass rushers that emerge as the college football season winds down, but Davenport, Carter and Granderson are three names to know for next April. They are already on the Bucs’ radar.