FAB 2. Would The Bucs Draft A Receiver?

I saw Tampa Bay tight ends coach Ben Steele and wide receivers coach Todd Monken sitting in the stands watching one of the East-West Shrine practices in St. Petersburg, Fla. back in September – before Monken was moved to the full-time role of offensive coordinator – and approached them.

“What are you guys doing here? Ben, you’ve got all the tight ends you need, and Todd, you guys are stacked at receiver,” I joked. “Go home or hit the beach.”

They laughed and continued to watch practice, as did I.

Last year, PewterReport.com was among the few media outlets that reported that the Bucs needed another tight end – despite the fact that they had Cameron Brate – but few wanted to believe us. Those fans – and other media outlets – suggested that Brate is the starter and an emerging star. Drafting another tight end, especially early, as we had Tampa Bay drafting O.J. Howard in the first round of PewterReport.com’s second Bucs’ 7-Round Mock Draft, didn’t make sense to them.

Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter, TE O.J. Howard & GM Jason Licht - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter, TE O.J. Howard & GM Jason Licht – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

But general manager Jason Licht and head coach Dirk Koetter told PewterReport.com on the record that the team would like to get another tight end that could block and catch the ball. So we put Howard in at No. 19 in our mock draft, and a lot of folks howled at the pick. Howard never appeared in our mock draft again because the PR staff believed he would be a top 10-15 pick, which is what the Bucs front office believed, too.

I haven’t had anyone at One Buccaneer Place tell me this year that wide receiver was a need. But then again, no one in the organization gave me a heads up that Tampa Bay was going to draft a strongside linebacker in the third round, as the team traded up to do last year with Kendell Beckwith.

The Bucs ignored some more obvious team needs by drafting Beckwith last year, such as defensive end, running back and cornerback, but Beckwith was a good pick, and Licht was intent on taking the best player available. Tampa Bay had a very high grade on Beckwith, which is why it moved up into the third round after the Bucs drafted wide receiver Chris Godwin earlier in the third.

I’m not stating that Tampa Bay is going to draft a wide receiver this year, but I’m not ruling it out, either. Licht has overlooked more pressing, obvious needs before to take what he believes are the best players available. That approach led to the short-term suffering at defensive end, cornerback and running back last year, but may pay off in the long run as Beckwith is on his way to possibly being an outstanding player, and he’s already shown a knack of playing both strongside and middle linebacker.

To suggest that the Bucs may draft a wide receiver, let’s take a look at the current depth chart at the position.

WR1 Mike Evans
WR2 DeSean Jackson
WR3A Adam Humphries
WR3B Chris Godwin

WR5 Bobo Wilson
WR6 Freddie Martino
WR7 Jake Lampman
WR8 Devin Lucien

The first four look solid, right? With Evans, Jackson, Godwin and Humphries the Bucs have a quartet of experienced receivers in 2018. But what about next year?

Jackson will be 32 and on the books for $10 million during the final year of his contract. And Humphries, the team’s slot receiver, signed a one-year tender as a restricted free agent and will make $2.914 million this season. If the team elects to keep Humphries past this year and sign him to a long-term contract extension it will likely average north of $3 million per year.

Bucs WRs Adam Humphries and Chris Godwin - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs WRs Adam Humphries and Chris Godwin – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Meanwhile, Godwin, who is entering the second year of his four-year rookie deal, will only account for $875,041 in 2019, which is a little less than a third of what Humphries would likely get. The team believes Godwin is ready to take on an even larger role next year and will likely take some snaps away from both Jackson and Humphries in the process.

Now let’s remember that the Bucs will be doing contract extensions for middle linebacker Kwon Alexander, left tackle Donovan Smith and left guard Ali Marpet this summer. Those contracts could cost the Bucs a collective $26-$30 million next year in salary cap room, and Tampa Bay director of football operations Mike Greenberg will need over $23 million in salary cap room for Jameis Winston’s fifth-year option salary in 2019. That’s a combined $49-$53 million in salary cap space that will need to be carved out somehow.

The 2019 salary cap will likely increase by $20 million next year, but that’s only half of what the Bucs will need. The rest will have to come from paring off some high salaries for reserves or aging, high-priced players like Jackson and/or defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who is slated to earn $13 million in 2019 at age 31.

Something’s got to give in order to keep the team’s nucleus of young, core players like Winston, Alexander, Marpet and Smith with the Bucs. On paper it looks like a safe bet that Jackson will play his final season in Tampa Bay, as we alluded to last week – and perhaps McCoy, too. Signing Humphries, who the team only views as a No. 3 receiver, to a long-term deal at over $3 million per season might be too rich, so there is a chance that he could depart via free agency after 2018.

If Jackson is cut or traded in a salary cap move, and Humphries walks in free agency, the 2019 depth chart at wide receiver would feature Evans, Godwin, Wilson and Martino based on the existing players on today’s Bucs roster. That’s not nearly as strong of a group as the wide receivers that are slated to take the field this year wearing red and pewter.

Bucs WR DeSean Jackson – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs WR DeSean Jackson – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

So who are some receivers that the Bucs could draft? I’ve got three names for you. The first of which is Penn State’s DaeSean Hamilton, who set records for the most catches in a game (14) and the most receptions in a career (214). At 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, Hamilton is a big slot receiver that played opposite of Tampa Bay’s Chris Godwin for several years with the Nittany Lions.

Hamilton ran a 4.55 in the 40-yard dash at his pro day, and is a good, but not great athlete. However, Hamilton is a very good route runner, and he uses precision rather than speed or quickness to create separation. Because of his frame, Hamilton has the size to play outside, but lacks experience doing so.

Hamilton, who was a team captain, never produced a 1,000-yard season at Penn State, but did amass 2,842 yards on his 214 catches (13.3 avg.) and scored 18 touchdowns. He had a great week of practice in the East-West Shrine Game and was called up to the Senior Bowl the next week as an injury replacement were he also performed well. Hamilton showed that he was the most polished route runner in Mobile, Ala.

The fact that almost 80 percent of Hamilton’s catches went for a first down last year speaks to his production and efficiency, but scouts ding him for being a one-speed player without a second gear. As a result, Hamilton is likely a third- or fourth-round pick. Bucs receivers coach Skyler Fulton met with Hamilton after his pro day workout to watch film, according to Tony Pauline of DraftAnalyst.com.

Another mid-round draft prospect is Washington’s Dante Pettis. He’s slender at 6-foot, 186 pounds, but runs well with a 4.48 times in the 40-yard dash. With a 36-inch vertical, Pettis is a better athlete than Hamilton is, but he lacks some of Hamilton’s polish.

Like Hamilton, Pettis never had a 1,000-yard season for the Huskies, but he too had a productive career with 163 receptions for 2,256 yards (13.8 avg.) and 24 touchdowns. Pettis’ best year came in 2016 when he caught 53 passes for 822 yards (15.5 avg.) and 15 touchdowns during the Huskies’ playoff run playing opposite John Ross. Pettis caught more passes last year (63), but for fewer yards (761) and touchdowns (seven).

An ankle injury he suffered against Washington State in November forced him to miss his pro day and the drills at the NFL Scouting Combine. Yet he met with the Bucs in Seattle in mid-March, presumably with Fulton.

Pettis is more quick than fast, and runs crisp routes and has a good work ethic. He has experience both in the slot and outside and has good hands. Pettis shows great awareness and makes the right adjustments on scramble drills, either by coming back to the quarterback or going deep. Because of his slight frame he can pushed around, and reminds me of former Bucs Karl Williams in more ways than one.

Not only is Pettis a good receiver, he’s a very accomplished punt returner with an NCAA record nine returns for touchdowns, while averaging 14.2 yards per return. Pettis returned one punt for a score during his freshman year, then two TDs in each of his sophomore and junior seasons and then four more TDs as a senior while averaging 20.4 yards per return.

The third receiver is a player PewterReport.com recently featured as a seventh-round pick in our latest Bucs’ 7-Round Mock Draft, Penn’s Justin Watson. But after his pro day, where the 6-foot-3, 215-pound ran a 4.39 in the 40-yard dash, repped 225 pounds 20 times and posted a 40-inch vertical. Had he been invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, those numbers would have made him one of the top performers among wide receivers.

But Watson is not just a great athlete. He has the production to back it up, too. Watson had three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons at Penn, and left the school holding records for career receiving TDs (33), career receptions (286), career receiving yards (3,777) and all-purpose yards (4,116), and he scored a touchdown in one out of every 6.5 times he touched the ball.

The Penn star also set several Ivy League records with the most consecutive games with a receiving touchdown (10), most consecutive games with a catch (40), most career record for receiving yards in Ivy League games (2,675) and most career 100-yard games (19). Watson totaled 286 receptions for 3,777 yards and 33 touchdowns for the Quakers.

At 6-foot-3, Watson would add some much needed size to a wide receiving corps that only has one player taller than 6-foot-2, and that’s the 6-foot-5 Evans. With quarterback Jameis Winston not being the most accurate downfield thrower he could use another big receiver like Watson with a wide catch radius.

I’m not necessarily forecasting that the Bucs will draft a wide receiver. I’m just saying don’t be surprised if it happens.

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Scott Reynolds is in his 24th 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 son's Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]

28 COMMENTS

  1. Will Pewter Report be live streaming during the draft like last year?

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    • They announced on the “Bear Necessities” podcast that they will be.

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      • Thanks, I must’ve missed that while listening

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  2. Scott, I’m guessing that the girlfriend didn’t work out if you were going to watch rounds 3-7 in the basement all day? My first draft hook as a Hurricanes fan was Testaverde-to-Tampa and I became fascinated with all things draft after that. Speaking of drafting a wide receiver; my favorite Hurricane entering the draft this year is WR Braxton Berrios. He’s in the 7th-free agent area, but the kid is clutch. He reminds me of Wes Welker. He beat your Seminoles on the last play this year. He did that all year. Great returner as well. I hope the Bucs keep an eye on him.

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    • Agreed. Barrios is the perfect “slot” receiver and runs very good routes. I’d love him in the 7th. And if we go with safety and line in the first two rounds, Mark Walton if available in the fourth would be a great grab. His injury screwed his draft status. Kid can catch out of the back field as well

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      • He may not last until the 7th… I saw a draft board on an NFL board that had him going in the late 5th… I like Walton as a later pick up if they don’t address RB early.

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  3. Scott the WR from USF I can’t remember is name but he is 6″5 and ran 4.4 I think. Do you think the Bucs are interested in him at 6th round or 7th.

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    • WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling/USF 6-5 206 4.37

      Scantling is 6-5 206 has Mike Evans measurables and RAC ability – something the Bucs are missing. Scantling had a blistering 4.37/40 with a good Combine performance. 13 other USF players, but Scantling not at Bucs local workouts today!

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      • I like MVS too. I could see the bucs adding a potential KR/PR late. Could be at WR or maybe a 2nd RB or DB.

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      • Mac that is very surprising!

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  4. Berrios was always making plays for the Canes.

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  5. Been looking at it more objectively lately and hard to see why a team would choose us as a trade up option for a QB. After Denver at #5, the next team that might need a QB is Miami @ #11. If Buffalo @ #12, Arizona @ #15 or NE @ #23 are wanting to move up ahead of Miami, they just simply need to get to anywhere from #6-#10. Obviously the lower they they go the less it costs. Don’t think anything will happen until draft day when we’re on the clock, but depending who’s on the board, think Licht might be working the phones regardless.

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    • Good analysis. I’d maybe add GB at 14 to the mix. What the bucs need is 2 or more of those teams wanting to leap frog each other, and we’re the top lilypad at 7.

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      • If Denver passes on a QB, Indy would really be the top lilypad at #6, but agree on your thought. In a trade down scenario, it would actually help the Bucs if a couple of the top teams passed on QB’s where a couple of them are still sitting there at #7. Seems like one of the more unpredictable drafts in years, should be fun.

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  6. Like Penny as well, but both WalterFootball.com and NFL.com have mentioned Penny might be a bit slow learning the playbook. Know that’s one thing that ultimately doomed McNichols, curious if they’d take a chance on Penny if he has similar issues.

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  7. I think Pettis would be a great 4th round pick if we have already addressed either running back or corner. He would be able to learn behind Humphries and Djax this year. And just focus on improving our return game for now. Then next year when we need to pay our guys and Djax and humphries are let go I thnk a core of Evans, Godwin, and Pettis would be a great group of guys that can stay together for 3 more years at least for about $7 million a piece on average.

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  8. When I was 16 my big brain would’ve wanted to watch the draft, but if a girl came to my cave looking to please I’m afraid my small brain would’ve took over! Like the kid from Penn. He didn’t let one ball hit his body, strong soft mitts on that boy. I hope it is Barkley, but I’m afraid it will be James. Not that it would be bad, but people don’t pay to watch safeties. Barkley would have much more impact touching the ball over 20 times a game. Good info Scott, nice job.

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  9. I’d still like to see a trade of D. Jackson and even McCoy for more picks. Patriots have perfected maximizing trade value of star players with one or two good years left to get premium draft picks. Both guys are over 30 and will not be part of the team when we are in a position to make a serious playoff run.

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    • Looking at the roster, what’s keeping us from making a serious playoff run this year??

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      • D line might be better but old and still thin. D backfield is weak. On O line – LT , LG are suspect, hoping Dotson can still perform at a high level. Pretty sure we’ll get a good RB this draft and some good additions, but I just think we’ve still got quite a few soft spots. I’ve also been advocating that I’d move on from McCoy, not crazy about D. Jackson in the locker room and we’ve got great young talent in receiving corps. I know I’m the outlier here, but those two guys are just about done and have good trade value today.

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        • IMO Djax is not as good as Godwin!

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  10. Scott
    No wonder it took you so long to get married!

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  11. Scott, you can get drafted twice… Bo Jackson… Rare, but could happen again.

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  12. Great Fab 5 Scott.
    I think there are several other clear options for the Bucs to get some cap space for Winston, Marpet, Alexander and Smith extensions.
    JR Sweezy will most likely be released this year(If Bucs draft Nelson or Hernandez) or next year. Will Gholsten is another almost certain cap casualty after this year.

    So if the Bucs cut/trade the following after the 2018 season:
    Gholsten $3.75M
    Sweezy $5.125M
    Jackson $10.00M
    McCoy $13.00M

    That would free up an additional $31.875M to extend and resign Winston, Alexander, Marpet and Smith.

    Additionally, throw in the $20.922M option the Bucs will give Jameis, $20.00M in additional cap space added and the $9.00M the Bucs have available. All of this would give the Bucs $49.922M available for these four Bucs core players and the 2019 draft picks.

    I know the Bucs do not like to do it, but they may have to do signing bonuses for proration purposes to sign these four core players.

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  13. ANSWER? NO. please NO..Hell NO!!!!!!!! Shore up this pityful Defense. The worst (arguably..visually in the NFL!!) I’d go DE, RB, and the rest Defense. Ok…maybe Hernandez at Guard if he is there. But Nelson? I would not take him with my top pick. Yes, he is a long term solution and he will be good. BUTT..when has a guard ever changed the outcome of a Bucs game? I’m tellin yas all..If koetter and his sidekick, pressbox Smitty do not have a winning season? They will be dumped…like a bad habit!!!!!!!!!!

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  14. I would be shocked if Glazer’s gave a green light to use next year’s 1st,2nd, or 3rd rounds picks for any type of trade tool in this year draft.

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  15. Love Penny.

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  16. Hmmmmmmmm. I’ve always enjoyed the Draft and have watched it from start to finish for the past 35 plus years on ESPN. At 16 years old and a girlfriend wanting to give me a birthday gift; I’m pretty sure that battle between the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other would have been an easy victory for Satan. I could miss a pick or two……….maybe even an entire round.

    I like the current broadcast format whereby the first round is on Thursday evening, the second and third rounds on Friday evening and the remaining four rounds on Saturday afternoon. At least we get a bit of a break to review. Now I flip back and forth between ESPN and NFL network.

    Nothing will top the “Who the Hell is Mel Kiper?” Draft.

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