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:
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FAB 1. WINSTON IS THE REAL DEAL
There is no way this guy is just 22 years old. His wide eyes, big smile and Southern drawl makes you think the Bessemer, Alabama native is a big kid at first glance – perhaps even under the age of 22.
But then you see the gears start shifting in his mind and you realize Jameis Winston is wise beyond his years. Not only is he the quarterback of the Buccaneers, he’s already asserted himself as a legitimate franchise quarterback – definitely worthy of last year’s first overall draft pick.
But not only is he a franchise quarterback in Tampa Bay fresh off a 4,000-yard season and his first Pro Bowl, I believe that Winston will be a future Hall of Fame QB if he can avoid injury and stay with the Buccaneers throughout his career.
Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Getty Images
That’s right. Jameis Winston will be a perennial Pro Bowl quarterback and a future Hall of Fame quarterback.
I’ve covered the NFL for 22 years and I’ll stake my professional reputation on it. I think Winston will be more like Tom Brady or Joe Montana when it’s all said and done than Peyton Manning or Drew Brees, meaning that I think Winston will be more of a 4,000-yard passer than a 5,000-yard passer year in and year out. But he’ll be winner. A winner of Super Bowls during his career.
I know that’s lofty praise for a quarterback entering his second NFL season with exactly six wins under his belt, but that’s the Hall of Fame company Winston envisions himself in when his pro career is finished. If this highly motivated and driven individual thinks it’s going to happen, why should I doubt him?
Winston is not Vinny Testaverde, Trent Dilfer, Josh Freeman or any other quarterback the Bucs have drafted. He’s better than all of them combined.
Winston’s leadership ability is off the charts. He’s always been a fiery leader of men and made the Buccaneers his team halfway through his rookie season.
Winston has an uncanny knack for making plays with his right arm – did you see his two jaw-dropping touchdowns in the Pro Bowl? – or his feet, evidenced by his heroic 20-yard scramble on third-and-19 against Atlanta and his leaping touchdown versus the New York Giants.
Winston’s recall is amazing in the film room and on the field. He’s literally a football savant.
Will opposing defensive coordinators use this offseason to try to figure him out? Sure, but Winston is doing the same thing this offseason and figuring out their defenses.
Scott Reynolds, Jameis Winston and Mark Cook – Photo by: the Buccaneers
With PewterReport.com having a luxury suite at Raymond James Stadium for our business to host advertising partners and guests, Mark Cook and I were invited to a private dinner at One Buccaneer Place that featured Winston as the guest speaker along with Bucs chief operating officer Brian Ford. Winston’s charisma immediately overtook the room. He has a presence that some of the legendary Buccaneers had back in the day. I’m talking about players like Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks – guys with gold jackets – and future Hall of Famers like Ronde Barber and John Lynch.
Winston had a greater understanding of why he was there aside from just taking pictures and signing autographs with the companies that write the really big checks for luxury suites. He was there as a salesman to sell them on the stadium renovations as a reason why the luxury suite owners should renew. It was a role that Winston wholeheartedly embraced and took to another level on Wednesday night.
“Mr. Ford first called me up to his office to tell me about the renovations, but the most exciting part was him telling me I was going to get a play clock in the back of the end zone so I can see the play clock and don’t get so many delay of games this year!” Winston said with a laugh. “Bigger scoreboards just bring more excitement to the game. I remember playing Oklahoma State in Dallas’ stadium my last year at Florida State and I just loved when I was in the huddle and just took a peek at that big scoreboard and see myself in huddle with my guys. Having a bigger scoreboard is going to be so exciting.”
I could envision Ford telling Winston to follow his lead with the scoreboard and replay angle in front of the luxury suite owners, and I could envision Winston interrupting him to say, “Hey, Brian, I got this!”
During the half hour question-and-answer session with Winston, Ford started in with some of the details about the stadium renovations.
Renovated Raymond James Stadium
“So for the last 18 years we have had about 4,400 square feet of digital space,” Ford said. “That’s 4,400 between the two scoreboards. Next year we will have over 28,000 square feet of digital space. Think about that – from 4,400 to 28,000. The corner tri-visions that used to be static just billboards now will be video quality, the same video quality as the scoreboards on all four sides. Besides that, not many people realize there has only been one speaker in all of Raymond James Stadium, and it is in the south end zone. Just one speaker on top of scoreboard. In the north end zone, that has always kind of been a phony box up there. Next year we are going to have surround sound throughout the stadium. When I say surround sound, you are going to be able to hear the cannons fire.
“The replays, let me tell you a little bit about that. In the past we had six cameras, which is pretty standard in the NFL, a six-camera recording. So if there was a play we wanted to show the coaches, or wanted to put back up or challenge, we had six cameras. Next year we are going to have 18 – 18 that will be recordable and we will be able to replay and show back on 28,000 square feet of video space.”
In a scene out of an infomercial, Winston, who was on a stool next to Ford, began to “ooh and ahh” like a seasoned sales professional, adding to the exciting news about the renovation. It was at that point that I said to myself, “Winston just gets it. He’s executing Ford’s play perfectly.”
And Winston does get it. He’s wise beyond his years, and the Florida State product is just scratching the surface as a quarterback and the face of the franchise that he’ll continue to become. My only hope is that he doesn’t get too full of himself as he becomes more successful. But Winston is a strong man of faith, having been baptized this offseason, and he’s pretty darn genuine. I think he’ll remain humble and here’s why.
Bucs COO Brian Ford & QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Mark Cook/PR
Along with Mike Evans, Mike Glennon and Mike Alstott, Winston is one of several Buccaneers that have been hired as a spokesperson for Bill Currie Ford in Tampa. I’ve heard that Winston has stopped in – unscheduled and unannounced – to walk through the building to shake hands with all of the employees – just because.
Who does that? Have you ever heard of a spokesperson doing that?
Most athletes have those appearances written into their contracts and they only do what is required. Winston – a 22-year old kid – goes above and beyond the call of duty in pretty much everything he does. He just gets it.
Because Winston has played against several of the defensive ends that are available in this year’s draft – Oklahoma State’s Emmanuel Ogbah, Oregon’s DeForest Buckner and Clemson’s Shaq Lawson – I asked him to give a scouting report on each player during Ford’s Q&A session as one of them could wind up as a Buccaneer.
“I think not only me, but a guy like Gerald McCoy would be very happy to have those defensive ends as a part of this team,” Winston said. “I know Jason Licht is going to make the right decision. I know because he drafted me. One thing mentioned about the offense, is we had five rookies at one point starting of the season. There are only 11 people on the field. We had five rookies starting. So I know it is the beginning. I know Jason Licht upstairs – I know he is going to make some great decisions.”
Wanting not to get into specifics that could tip the team’s intentions, Winston deftly dodged my question like a pro. Bravo, Jameis.
Seeing Winston operate as smoothly and intelligently off the field and away from the traditional press conference setting only reinforced my belief that this guy is destined for greatness. I have to imagine Winston’s Zig Ziglar-like sales skills even impressed Ford, as well as the Bucs marketing and sales staff that were in attendance.
Bucs COO Brian Ford & Jameis Winston – Photo by: Mark Cook/PR
“The most important part about the suites is you get to see us play – professional football players – okay, whoop-dee-do, but you get to see the game live … and those scoreboards!” Winston said upon exiting the cafeteria at One Buccaneer Place as the evening drew to a close. “I know you get tired of turning and squinting your eyes – I know because I squint a lot, trying to see the replay myself – but now you get this big old board from the suites. You’re going to be looking at that board way better than everyone else at that stadium, so I am excited about that. And the replays? I am excited about the replays, too!”
Winston owned the room full of luxury suite owners, just like he owns the locker room, the huddle and the sidelines with his teammates. When Winston was done speaking you’d swear the cannons had already fired at Raymond “Jameis” Stadium given the excited look on the faces of the Bucs fans in attendances.
Winston became a Pro Bowl salesman and helped Ford and the Buccaneers make a lot of money on Wednesday night. Even in a suit and tie, Winston got his team in the end zone. He’s the real deal.
FAB 2. TRADING DOWN MAKES SENSE FOR TAMPA BAY
CBS NFL Draft analyst Will Brinson had an interesting scenario for Tampa Bay in his latest mock draft. He forecasted the Los Angeles Rams moving up from the 15th overall pick to the ninth overall pick that the Bucs currently own to snag California quarterback Jared Goff. While I could definitely see that trade scenario happening, Brinson has Georgia linebacker Leonard Floyd going to Tampa Bay at No. 15, which won’t happen.
Floyd is an athlete like Dion Jordan or Barkevious Mingo that lacks ability to translate speed to power. He’s ideally suited to be a 3-4 rush linebacker rather than a 4-3 outside linebacker or a 4-3 defensive end.
Outside of the selection of Floyd, Brinson’s suggest trade makes a lot of sense. The Rams desperately need a franchise quarterback, and might have to trade up to No. 9 to get either Goff or Memphis’ Paxton Lynch. Keep an eye on Philadelphia at No. 8. They could very well draft a franchise quarterback as owner Jeffrey Lurie has reportedly been attending pro days of some of the top quarterback prospects this year.
Bucs GM Jason Licht – Photo courtesy of the Buccaneers
Los Angeles can’t miss out on drafting a quarterback in the first round, so trading up ensures that they’ll get one. Rams general manager Les Snead loves to trade, and so does Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht, who would be fine trading down a few spots because it seems that the pool of prospects the Bucs have been scouting hard are actually players in the second half of the first round. I’ll have more on that in a minute.
In Brinson’s scenario, he has the Bucs moving from No. 9 to No. 15 and picking up the Rams’ second of two second-round picks in exchange for Tampa Bay’s third- and fifth-round selections. I don’t like that part of Brinson’s deal.
I think the Bucs can swap first-round picks with the Rams, get Los Angeles’ second second-round pick (No. 45 overall) and only have to give up fourth- and sixth-round picks to do. There is a difference of 300 trade value points from the No. 9 (1,350) pick and the No. 15 selection (1,050). Acquiring the 45th overall pick (450 points) then puts the Bucs in position where they need to give the Rams 150 trade value points.
I agree that Los Angeles would be paying a premium because the Rams would be initiating the trade wanting a franchise quarterback, but I think Licht can negotiate surrendering a fourth-rounder (No. 108 worth 78 points) and the first of Tampa Bay’s two sixth-rounders (No. 183 worth 18.2 points). The Rams would have to eat the 54 points in my scenario.
In Brinson’s scenario, the Bucs are eating 98 points for some reason. I can’t see the motivation for Licht to trade down and reduce Tampa Bay’s number of draft picks by one just for an extra second-rounder while surrendering a third-rounder and a fifth-rounder to do so.
My scenario looks like this: Rams get: first-round pick (9), fourth-round pick (108) and a sixth-round pick (183) Bucs get: first-round pick (15) and a second-round pick (45)
Los Angeles would then have the following picks: First round – No. 9 Second round – No. 43 Third round – No. 76 Fourth round – No. 108 (from Bucs) Fourth round – No. 110 Sixth round – No. 183 (from Rams) Sixth round – No. 190
Tampa Bay would then have the following picks: First round – No. 15 Second round – No. 39 Second round – No. 45 (from Rams) Third round – No. 74 Fifth round – No. 148 Sixth round – No. 197
Bucs QB Jameis Winston & GM Jason Licht – Photo courtesy of the Buccaneers
This trade scenario gives the Bucs four of the first 75 players in the 2016 NFL Draft. Tampa Bay used that formula last year to produce three starters on offense in quarterback Jameis Winston (No. 1), left tackle Donovan Smith (No. 34) and right guard Ali Marpet (No. 61), who was acquired when Licht traded up from the third round and into the second round to get the Hobart College product.
If the Bucs want premium draft picks on Day 1 and Day 2, trading with the Rams would certainly do it. And even if Licht wanted to come away with two first-round picks instead of waiting for the second round he could trade up with good friend and mentor Steve Keim, Arizona’s general manager, who owns the No. 30 overall pick. To move from No. 39 (620 trade value points) to No. 30 overall (510 points) would require the Bucs to swap third-round picks with Arizona (74 for 92). That would account for 88 points out of the 110-point value the Cardinals would be entitled to. Giving up Tampa Bay’s remaining sixth-rounder, which is worth 12.6 points, would all but make up the remaining 22-point trade balance.
After a possible trade with the Cardinals, the Bucs would then have the following picks: First round – No. 15 First round – No. 30 Second round – No. 45 (from Rams) Third round – No. 92 Fifth round – No. 148
What’s the potential value in trading up from the second round to the bottom of the first round? Aside from possibly losing a player the Bucs might be targeting by waiting 10 spots for pick No. 39 to roll around, Tampa Bay would also get the benefit of having two first-round picks, which come with the ability to sign those players to four-year deals with fifth-round options. All other players drafted in rounds 2-7 can only be signed to four-year deals.
Now let’s talk about the players the Buccaneers could possibly be targeting to further bolster the reasoning for trading down. Tampa Bay has either scheduled private workouts or visits with the following players or had scouts and coaches out to their pro days:
Louisville DT Sheldon Rankins Baylor DT Andrew Billings Ole Miss DT Robert Nkemdiche Ohio State CB Eli Apple Eastern Kentucky DE Noah Spence Oklahoma State DE Emmanuel Ogbah
The fact that the Bucs have really scouted three first-round defensive tackles reinforces our selection of Rankins as Tampa Bay’s first-round pick. The Bucs only have three proven defensive tackles on their current roster in Pro Bowler Gerald McCoy, Clinton McDonald, who is coming off a season-ending pectoral injury, and Akeem Spence, who is entering a contract year. It’s no surprise that the Bucs appear to be moving on from veterans Henry Melton and Tony McDaniel. That makes defensive tackle, which is one of the strongest positions in this year’s draft, a position of need.
Baylor DT Andrew Billings – Photo by: Getty Images
Rankins has appeared in mock drafts anywhere from No. 9 to around No. 20, while Billings and Nkemdiche typically get drafted from No. 19 to No. 30 in the first round. Apple’s name appears in most mock drafts from No. 14 to No. 28, while Spence and Ogbah find their names typically called from No. 20 to No. 40.
If these are indeed the players the Bucs are targeting – with Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey, Ole Miss left tackle Laremy Tunsil, Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa and Notre Dame left tackle Ronnie Stanley likely off the board before Tampa Bay picks at No. 9 – it makes sense to trade down to acquire them and more picks (or higher Day 2 picks).
So if the Bucs were to follow through with trades with the Rams and the Cardinals, here is what their 2016 draft class could like depending on what round Tampa Bay addresses the positions of defensive tackle, defensive end, cornerback and safety, which are believed to be the team’s top four needs. Every player except for Ochi and Hargrave has been mentioned as someone the Bucs have either scheduled for a visit or have worked out at a pro day.
Possible Bucs Draft Following Trade-Down Scenarios First Round – No. 15 – DTs Rankins or Billings or Nkemdiche or CB Apple First Round – No. 30 – DEs Ogbah or Spence or Clemson CB Mackenzie Alexander Second Round – No. 45 – Ohio State S Vonn Bell or Baylor CB Xavien Howard Third Round – No. 92 – Alabama CB Cyrus Jones or Auburn CB Jonathan Jones or Southern Utah SS Miles Killebrew or South Carolina State DT Javon Hargrave Fifth Round – No. 148 – Stony Brook DE Victor Ochi or Grand Valley State DE Matt Judon
With just five picks, Tampa Bay can fill each of its needs and do so with premium players. Consider the team had throwaway picks last year in the sixth round (wide receiver Kaelin Clay) and seventh round (fullback Joey Iosefa), and five picks may be all Licht needs to have another great draft class.
Bucs QB Mike Glennon – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
So why didn’t I mention Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves, who could be available with the ninth overall pick, or Clemson defensive end Shaq Lawson? From what I understand, neither one is worth a top 10 pick in Tampa Bay’s eyes – unless something has recently changed in the war room. The Bucs will do their due diligence and bring in Hargreaves for a pre-draft visit because he’s a local product as a Tampa native, but I get the feeling the team likes Apple better.
Don’t like the fact that the Buccaneers come away with just five players in the draft? Licht could deal backup quarterback Mike Glennon for an additional second-round pick or trade down from the team’s existing second- or third-round selections to acquire more draft picks.
Aside from the heightened anticipation of the season kickoff games in early September, nothing in the NFL beats the pre-draft speculation in the month of April.
FAB 3. BUCKNER ISN’T THE RIGHT FIT FOR BUCS
A month ago right before Joey Bosa underwhelmed at the NFL Scouting Combine, I wrote about the Ohio State defensive end possibly sliding to Tampa Bay, which owns the ninth overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. If Bosa somehow slips by Dallas, Jacksonville and Baltimore, which I don’t believe he will, the Bucs would be glad to scoop up the top edge rusher, who had 26 sacks for the Buckeyes in three years.
I’ve had sources in the NFL scouting community tell me that likely won’t happen, and those sources tell me that another defensive end, Oregon’s DeForest Buckner, won’t fall to the Bucs at No. 9 either, despite Buckner being the flavor of the month to Tampa Bay in a slew of recent mock drafts. In fact, good friend Luke Easterling, NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks and CBSSportsline.com’s Rob Rang, Will Brinson and Jared Dubin all had Buckner going to Tampa Bay at No. 9 recently.
So would the Bucs draft Buckner if he fell to them?
Oregon DE DeForest Buckner – Photo by: Getty Images
First, let’s look at what type of player Buckner is. Ideally, he’s a five-technique defensive end in a 3-4 scheme. That’s what he played at Oregon and made him successful enough to be the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year last year as a senior. Buckner made the wise decision to stay in school as he put up a monster year statistically in 2015, recording career highs in tackles (83), tackles for loss (17), sacks (10.5) and passes defensed (five).
Buckner had a productive career for the Ducks, recording 232 tackles, 36 tackles for loss, 18 sacks, 10 passes defensed, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. But with his 6-foot-7, 291-pound frame he is not a candidate to play defensive end in a 4-3 scheme like Tampa Bay’s. He just not edge rusher, evidenced by his 5.05 time in the 40-yard dash and his pedestrian 1.77 10-yard split.
Those are okay times for defensive tackles, and that’s only what the Bucs would consider him to be – a full-time interior defender in a 4-3 defense. Could Buckner play left end in a 4-3 as Julius Peppers and Mario Williams did coming out of college? Yes, he could, but Buckner is not nearly as fast or as athletic as those players, as former Buccaneers defensive end Steve White surmised in a great analysis piece on Buckner’s game.
While more athletic than former Oregon teammate Erik Armstead, who was drafted by San Francisco with the 17th overall pick last year, Buckner isn’t a quick-twitch athlete like Cincinnati Pro Bowl defensive end Carlos Dunlap, who is another gigantic lineman at 6-foot-6, 280 pounds. Buckner claims his game is like Arizona defensive end Calais Campbell’s, but Campbell is a faster player and ran a 4.85 in the 40-yard dash with a 1.70 10-yard split. The 6-foot-8, 310-pound Campbell, who plays defensive end in the Cardinals’ 3-4 scheme, can cover ground faster than Buckner, and has developed into a two-time Pro Bowler (2014-15) with 48.5 sacks, 36 passes defensed, six forced fumbles and two interceptions in his eight-year career.
NFL teams hope that Buckner can develop into another Campbell, but there’s also a chance that he could develop into another Adam Carriker, who came into the NFL from Nebraska with 134 tackles, 41 tackles for loss, 19.5 sacks, six pass breakups, one interception, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery – similar stats to Buckner’s.
Carriker was drafted 13th overall by St. Louis in 2007 where he underwhelmed for three years before being traded to Washington. He played five more years for the Redskins before ending his career in 2014 with 125 tackles and just nine sacks. Despite having incredible strength, Carriker was not a natural knee bender and frequently lost leverage at the line of scrimmage. And when a defensive lineman loses his leverage he loses his strength.
The low man wins the battle of the trenches in football – always has, always will. And I’ve got some serious concerns about Buckner being low enough to consistently win battles at the line of scrimmage. If you haven’t watched Buckner play, please watch his highlight reel at Oregon to get a feel for the type of power player he is.
Buckner is a big, strong, physical player who always hustles. He’s a smart defender that has quick hands. Buckner has a good arm-over move and a good swim move, but is lacking a good club-rip and a good long arm move.
The problem is that Buckner’s feet aren’t as fast as his hands, and that’s why I’m not sure the Bucs would draft Buckner over Louisville defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins, who is currently PewterReport.com’s pick for Tampa Bay, at No. 9. Rankins has quick hands and quick feet in the same vein as Warren Sapp, Booger McFarland and Aaron Donald. Buckner doesn’t.
Without suddenness and quick feet, Buckner must rely on power, and when going up against a top-notch offensive tackle that power only goes so far. A very telling video in scouting Buckner was watching him go up against Michigan State junior left tackle Jack Conklin, a fellow first-round pick. Buckner finished that game with five tackles, but was routinely dominated by Conklin and left guard Brian Allen.
Just 15 seconds into the video you see Conklin standing Buckner up and driving him horizontally down the line of scrimmage to open up a running lane. At the 1:53 mark, Conklin absolutely manhandles him as Buckner loses his leverage and is easily toppled on another running play.
At the 3:00 mark on a key fourth-and-1 play, Buckner can’t bend down far enough in a short yardage situation and gets turned and pushed out of the play as the Spartans pick up the first down. At the 3:45 mark, Buckner’s pass rushing ability is showcased on third-and-9 with the Spartans backed up on their own 3-yard line. It’s Buckner versus Conklin one-on-one and the Michigan State left tackle anchors well and stops Buckner’s slow bull rush in his tracks. Connor Cook has time to throw and rifles a pass to Buckner’s side of the field for a key first down.
At the 4:38 mark, Conklin continues to dominate Buckner in the run game, shoving him sideways with ease. At the 5:05 mark, Buckner faces a double team with a tight end and running back, who chips him and prevents him from advancing towards Cook. Conklin rag-dolls Buckner on another run play at the 5:50 mark. Conklin got his outside shoulder and just manhandled Buckner, throwing him to the ground.
Buckner finally breaks out his swim move at the 6:12 mark and has some initial success against the run, and beats Conklin with it badly at the 6:20 mark on a pass rush move. But after executing a great swim move that brought Conklin to his knees, a back steps up to effectively get to Buckner, who doesn’t have the closing speed to get to Cook, who throws a pass for a first down.
At the 6:27 mark, Buckner’s size works against him, as he is double-teamed against the pass. He doesn’t have the fluidity to turn his hips and get skinny to beat the double team. There is no suddenness in his lower body. At the 6:55 mark, Conklin gets Buckner’s outside shoulder with a punch and knocks him off balance and drives him down the line of scrimmage.
Oregon tries to use him in a stunt on third-and-6 at the 7:10 mark, but Buckner’s lack of speed is noticeable as he takes forever to get to the perimeter. Michigan State’s right tackle attacks his inside shoulder and drives him around the QB with ease. Because he is so angular and doesn’t have great knee bend, Buckner doesn’t dip and turn his shoulders fast enough to free him from the block and pursue the quarterback.
At the 7:50 mark, Conklin again gets that outside shoulder, knocks him off balance and drives him to the ground on a touchdown run. Buckner goes back to the swim move at the 8:26 mark when rushing the passer, but Allen gets in his rib cage when Buckner’s arm is extended and pushes him horizontally down the line before shoving him to the ground.
Oregon DE DeForest Buckner – Photo by: Getty Images
After getting manhandled for a good portion of the game, a tired Buckner gets stood up at the 9:13 mark, loses leverage and is easily blocked by Conklin, who drives him out and opens up a running lane. Yes, Buckner made five tackles in a loss to the Spartans, but that’s just five plays. I illustrated 15 plays were Buckner is soundly beaten by a Conklin, an NFL-caliber offensive tackle.
As a defensive lineman it’s okay to have a stalemate with an offensive lineman at the line of scrimmage, especially in the run game. That just clogs running lanes. But what you don’t want to have is a negative 3:1 ratio working against you, and that’s what happened to Buckner against Michigan State. That game illustrates all of my concerns with a tall, angular player like Buckner.
Some tall players can transition inside and pull it off. Tampa Bay’s 6-foot-6 Will Gholston has sufficient knee bend, as does 6-foot-5 Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith had two tall defensive tackles in 6-foot-6, 310-pound Marcus Stroud and 6-foot-7, 335-pound John Henderson. And new Bucs defensive line coach Jay Hayes has specialized in coaching tall players like Dunlap, 6-foot-7 defensive end Michael Johnson and 6-foot-8 defensive end Margus Hunt in Cincinnati. Perhaps the way Smith would use Buckner at defensive tackle and the way Hayes would coach him would help his leverage and his technique and he would be a heck of a complement to McCoy inside.
A month ago, PewterReport.com was the first to identify defensive tackle as the actual area of top need for the Bucs when we inserted Rankins into the third version of our 2016 Bucs’ 7-Round Mock Draft. Tampa Bay has McCoy, nose tackle Clinton McDonald, who is coming off a torn pectoral muscle and Akeem Spence, who is entering a contract year, and that’s it at defensive tackle. Veterans Henry Melton and Tony McDaniel haven’t been re-signed.
Drafting a tackle makes sense, and if that’s where the Bucs see Buckner playing in their scheme his selection at No. 9 can’t be ruled out if he slips to Tampa Bay. But I would proceed with caution if I were general manager Jason Licht based on how Buckner was exposed in the Michigan State game playing his natural position as a 3-4 defensive end. Buckner was playing an ideal position in a defense suited for him and still got exposed. I can’t see him faring better as a 4-3 defensive tackle, especially since he’s never played that position before.
Of course there are plenty of plays where Rankins was used out of position as a 3-4 defensive end at Louisville and he looks terribly ineffective, especially against Auburn left tackle Shon Coleman, who abused him in the run game. But Rankins is a special player inside against guards in a 4-3 scheme, which he played more than half the time for the Cardinals.
In Tampa Bay’s defense, I would go with the 6-foot-1 Rankins over the 6-foot-7 Buckner at defensive tackle due to the natural leverage and suddenness Rankins plays with. Buckner’s size makes him look the part of an NFL monster, but without good leverage the low man always wins in the trenches.
FAB 4. MORE WISDOM FROM WINSTON
Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston got into some more substantive discussions with the Bucs fans and luxury suite owners at One Buc Place on Wednesday night aside from pitching the new high definition scoreboards and replay system. He was asked several questions that elicited some interesting responses.
Naturally, he was asked about offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter taking over as the team’s head coach.
“I can tell you right now that is only the beginning for Coach Koetter,” Winston said. “That man has a mission on his mind and I am with that mission. Anything he wants to do I am going to be right there beside him. Everything this year was clicking. We had some games where we had more passing yards and we had some games where we had more rushing yards than passing yards. But it was equal for the most part because Doug Martin carried his load, and me and Mike Evans did our thing sometimes as well. Coach Koetter always made sure we were in the right position and prepared us well, and I am very excited to have him as the head coach – and not just the OC this year.”
Winston received a couple of light-hearted questions about moving to the area and what he liked to do for fun in the Tampa Bay area.
“Clearwater this past week – the week I was actually able to be off – it was pretty packed with spring break. So I was kind of low key and had to wear my sun hat so people didn’t know it was me. But it was just fun being out there. Being from Bessemer, Alabama we don’t see sand and water at all. So it was good to get out there and rub my feet in the sand and love this Tampa weather. It is beautiful.”
Winston played in the Valspar Pro-Am golf tournament in Tampa Bay last month and mentioned how much he’s getting into the sport.
“Pretty soon I am going to try and get on the (PGA) Tour,” Winston laughed, “So TopGolf has been my place lately. I try and get out there and play a little bit. But it is a lot different playing on that turf then playing on grass. But I will not let golf defeat me! It is a fun spot where I can kick back and chill.”
Speaking of sports, Winston admits he keeps his eye on his fantasy football score each week.
“I don’t play fantasy football a lot, but I love it,” Winston said. “I love getting the fans involved. I love being able to watch my score. Even after the games I go on NFL Network and see my fantasy score. I get a couple tweets from fans – probably even from a few of you guys – saying, ‘Jameis, good job! You did good! You won me the fantasy football game this week!’” When asked what he has been focused on during the offseason, Winston said it’s been his teammates – old and new.
“My main focus this offseason was getting Doug Martin re-signed,” Winston said. “I am so excited we got that monster back. But we also got a new offensive lineman in J.R. Sweezy – you know I love my offensive guys. And a well-known name around the league, Brent Grimes, getting him associated with us makes me happy. Luckily he can’t pick me off [in games]. So hopefully we’ll have some pick-sixes from him at Raymond James Stadium.”
A Bucs fan in attendance noted how Winston’s energy gets his teammates fired up, but wanted to know what fired Winston up.
“Music doesn’t really get me pumped up, mainly because we only had one speaker in the stadium,” Winston said with a laugh. “What gets me motivated is the National Anthem. When I was standing next to Coach, when you look at me – and you’ll be able to see me on the big boards as I am going to standing like this with my hand behind my back, my helmet across my heart – and there is going to be a look like you’ve never seen before. I’ve got this smile right now, but when that National Anthem starts … it just means a lot to me.”
The final question to Winston elicited the best response of the night from a football perspective. The former Heisman Trophy winner was asked what the biggest adjustment was coming from Florida State to the NFL last year.
“My greatest challenge had to be preparing more because the guys on the other side of the field, they prepare a lot as well,” Winston said. “There were multiple instances where I would be up under the center playing against Luke Kuechly, linebacker for the Carolina Panthers, and the middle linebacker for the Altanta Falcons, (Paul) Worrilow, and a couple other middle linebackers. And they knew what the play was before it even started. So you can be kind of intimidated by that because you are telling me the play that I know is coming, but I have to act like the play isn’t coming so I don’t give you the answer!
Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Getty Images
“So that had to be the toughest part. The guys on the other side of the ball are very smart, especially at the middle linebacker position. Actually, we had the honor of having a rookie middle linebacker by the name of Kwon Alexander that has helped us a lot. I got with him last year and said, ‘Hey Kwon, those guys on the other side of the ball, they know the play even before it is coming. Do you know that?’ He said, ‘Nope.’ I said ‘You better get on it, buddy!’ I learned really quickly that I had to prepare even more than I thought I should.”
FAB 5. SR’s BUC SHOTS
• Bucs chief operating officer Brian Ford confirmed what PewterReport.com had heard through the grapevine at One Buccaneer Place – that stadium renovations would affect Tampa Bay’s preseason schedule.
“We do know we will play on the road for the first two weeks of the preseason,” Ford said. “We will be at home in weeks three and four, so I have enough time to get the scoreboard finished. So the first two weeks of preseason we will be on the road. We don’t know where, that will come out with the schedule, and the last two weeks we will be at home and we know we will finish up on the Thursday before Labor Day.”
• One last note on Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston, who vowed to get in better shape physically this offseason. He looked very fit at the luxury suite dinner on Wednesday. Winston has said he’s still 235 pounds, but he’s converted fat to muscle and I would agree with that assessment. He looked lean and muscular, but not skinny. Winston just looks more athletic, which was his goal.
• What we’re hearing with regards to the Bucs’ overall approach when it comes to the draft is that Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht and his scouting staff are honing in on players that have a tremendous love for the game of football and a burning desire to win. Licht and director of college scouting Mike Biehl believe that personal interviews are just as important as watching film on draft prospects. It’s one thing to be athletic and be productive in college. But if the passion for the game of football and the work ethic isn’t there, players can eventually coast, collect a check in the NFL, not reach their full potential and become complacent with losing.
That type of complacent attitude is a big reason why changes were made this offseason – including the former head coach and some of his assistant coaches – and it’s a reason why some of the team’s free agents haven’t been re-signed and why some players won’t be back in 2016. Licht is not going to settle for losing and the Glazers back him 100 percent.
Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston wasn’t kidding when he called out his teammates for not all being on board with a winning attitude after the team’s season-ending loss at Carolina. That was music to Licht’s ears and that’s the standard to which he, Biehl, Dirk Koetter John Spytek and the team’s scouts evaluate players. Would this player fit in well in Winston’s locker room? Would Winston approve of this draft prospect’s competitive spirit?
A player’s heart, competitive spirit and passion for the game are things that can’t be measured with 40-yard dash times at the NFL Scouting Combine and sometimes don’t always show up on tape. The personal interviews are a big piece of Tampa Bay’s pre-draft evaluation process. The Bucs want to continue drafting winners to further the culture change in the locker room. That approach is what will make this franchise turn the corner and become playoff contenders, just like it did back in 1995 when Tampa Bay drafted defensive tackle Warren Sapp from Miami and linebacker Derrick Brooks from Florida State – two big-time winners from big-time winning programs.
• If you like mock drafts, you’re in luck. PewterReport.com will unveil two new mock drafts next week. On Monday I’ll roll out the fifth edition of PewterReport.com’s 2016 Bucs’ 7-Round Mock Draft, and on Wednesday Mark Cook will deliver our second NFL First Round Mock Draft for all teams. Will their be a new first-round pick for the Bucs? Be sure to visit PewterReport.com on Monday to find out.
Our next Pewter Pulse, which should film next week, will delve into further explanation regarding our latest 2016 Bucs’ 7-Round Mock Draft. If you haven’t viewed the latest Pewter Pulse, which goes deeper into Cook’s coverage of Dirk Koetter’s and Joel Glazer’s comments at the NFL Owners Meeting, you can do so by clicking here.
• Bucs fans and loyal PewterReport.com readers, please follow us on Twitter and help us get to over 22,000 before the 2016 NFL Draft. We’re just a few hundred Twitter followers away. Please e-mail or text your friends, family and co-workers our @PewterReport Twitter handle and encourage them to follow us. Thank you!
• And finally, PewterReport.com is excited to announce that we’ve taken our partnership with Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino to a new level this year. In addition to hosting our Pewter Watch Parties for Bucs away games again this year, the Hard Rock Cafe will also host our PewterReport.com Day 2 Draft Party on Friday, April 29 to watch Tampa Bay’s selections in the second and third rounds. This is going to be the biggest and best PewterReport.com draft party that we’ve ever done.
This is a FREE event and there will be FREE beer tasting by a local craft brewery on hand. Hard Rock Cafe, which does have free Wi-Fi, will also have food and drink specials for the NFL Draft, which we will announce later this month.
Mark Cook and I will be on hand to conduct a Bucs question and answer session live on stage with former and current Buccaneers players during the hour before the televised draft coverage begins, and there will be autograph and photo opportunities. Cook will leave as the draft begins, but I will remain at the PewterReport.com Day 2 Draft Party to offer live analysis of Tampa Bay’s draft selections that night.
Seating is limited to the first 150 Bucs fans, so an RSVP will be required and there will be a check-in at the door at Hard Rock Cafe the day of the event. Reservations are taken on a first-come, first-serve basis, so e-mail us at Events@PewterReport.com to reserve your spot. Stay tuned to PewterReport.com for more information on our big draft party at the Hard Rock Cafe in the coming weeks.
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: email@example.com