With the need to get quarterback Jameis Winston some weapons being the most pressing one, this list is going to be filled with a lot of wide receivers who have the capability of making big plays down the field. With running back Doug Martin’s status up in the air, there are also a couple of tail backs who could be late-round targets for general manager Jason Light and his staff.
Stats against teams and coaches you see for four years are one thing, but it’s another to be able to produce against any defender on short notice. That’s when talent really shines, and these are 10 offensive players who have the best chance to do that in St. Petersburg at this year’s East-West Shrine Game.
Stay tuned to PewterReport.com all week as we will have complete East-West Shrine Game coverage.
UTAH RB JOE WILLIAMS – 5-11, 205 – WEST Williams has a very unique story in this draft class, and because of it, he might just be the steal of the draft.
According to his coaches, Williams was exhausted from the game of football both physically and mentally by the time the beginning of his senior season rolled around, and that began to take a toll on his production. He had a couple costly fumbles in his first two games, and his head coach said he could tell he just wasn’t there mentality. But even he didn’t expect to hear Williams tell him after those first two games that he was walking away from the game.
But that’s what happened.
However, after four games went by and injuries riddled the Utes, leaving their running back roster to only freshman and walk-ons, Williams saw his team needed him, so he opted to return – at the acceptance of his teammates.
From that moment on, no other running back in the country had the production Williams had. Over those next seven games, Williams averaged 190 yards per game which included a 332-yard outing against UCLA.
Williams’ commitment to the game will be questioned heavily for the next few months, starting next week at East-West Shrine practices. But if his commitment checks out, he’s a complete back worth having and one the Bucs will consider using a Day 3 selection on.
OLE MISS WR QUINCY ADEBOYEJO – 6-3, 195 – EAST For whatever reason, Ole Miss decided that recruiting players with difficult names to say was going to be their main criteria. We had the Nkemdiche brothers last year, and this year they have Damore’ea Stringfellow and Adeboyejo.
But play-by-play broadcasters aren’t the only ones Adeboyejo gives a hard time to, defenders don’t like him either. Coming from a pass-happy offense that featured quarterback Chad Kelly slinging the ball all over the field for the past two seasons, Adeboyejo had some really nice highlight catches at times. The inconsistency of the offense as a whole capped the kind of production Adeboyejo had, but when given the chance to show his downfield speed, he was able to make his name as a deep threat.
We’ll see how much his speed can separate in St. Pete and the Bucs, who have a need for more speed at the receiver position, will be watching.
FLORIDA STATE KR-WR KERMIT WHITFIELD – 5-8, 178 – EAST If you ask me, the number one player on offense the Buccaneers should make sure they get a thorough look at during Shrine week is Whitfield.
Whitfield is a dynamic return man, something the Buccaneers haven’t had in since Pro Bowler Clifton Smith in 2008. He’s most notably known for taking back a kickoff for a touchdown to take the lead and ultimately win the national championship for Florida State back when Winston was there in 2012.
In the receiving game, Whitfield has been used more and more each year out of the slot or the backfield to create mismatches with his speed, but he’s not a guy I would expect to see the Bucs plug in there right away if they take him. However, you cannot teach the speed he has. In fact, I expect him to break Chris Johnson’s 40-time record at the NFL Combine this February – that’s the kind of speed we’re talking about. It’s Tyreek Hill-caliber.
Winning special teams is huge, as we saw from the Bucs’ punting unit this season. Having a player like Whitfield returning punts and kicks with the chance at becoming a mismatch nightmare on offense is well worth taking a good look at.
LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE RB ELIJAH McGUIRE – 5-9, 205 – WEST If you’re looking for this year’s Kenneth Dixon-type prospect, it’s McGuire.
After three straight 1,000-yard seasons, McGuire is ready to make his jump to the NFL. He’s a smaller, compact prospect, but he uses that to an advantageous skill set. He’s shifty in his movements around the trenches which, combined with his size, make him more difficult to get a hold of and bring down.
McGuire is a good one-cut back who uses vision and small bursts to really get up and down the field. He’s also a solid receiver with 130 catches and 1,394 receiving yards during his four-year career. He could be a candidate to challenge or replace Charles Sims in Tampa Bay.
PURDUE WR DEANGELO YANCY – 6-2, 215 – EAST Some players aren’t the fastest or the strongest, but they still make an aspect of their position just look so easy. That’s Yancy as a downfield receiver.
Yancy is the Boilermakers’ deep threat receiver who has had moderate success up until this year where he had career highs in catches, yards, averages and touchdowns. He’s a player who knows how to separate from defenders without being a 4.3-speed guy. He averaged 19.4 yards per catch this season to go along with his double-digit touchdowns of 10. We’ll see if he has the speed to be a full-time receiver in the NFL, but he does have the skill to stick somewhere in at least a fill-in roll on four and five wide receiver sets. There’s no reason why Tampa Bay couldn’t be one of his possible destinations.
MIDDLE TENNESSEE RB I’TAVIUS MATHERS – 5-11, 205 – EAST Before you ask, yes, that’s his real name, it’s not a typo.
Mathers, a former Ole Miss back, only played one year at Middle Tennessee State, but made it count. As the starting running back, he accumulated over 2,000 all-purpose rushing and receiving yards with 20 all-purpose touchdowns. He comes from a very fast-paced spread offense, but if you like Alvin Kamara from Tennessee, Mathers seems like he could be Kamara-lite.
ARKANSAS OT DAN SKIPPER – 6-10, 325 – EAST Again, yes, you read that right, Skipper is 6-foot-10.
Skipper has improved by leaps and bounds over the last few years – as was needed for a player with that size being a raw talent – but it’s still hard to think he’s going to have consistent enough success in the NFL to pay a full time roll. Leverage is king when winning battles in the trenches, and though Skipper has good strength to hold his ground, being 6-foot-10 will always leave him vulnerable to losing a leverage battle, and that’s tough to make up for, even with an anchor of size.
That fact will likely keep him as a mid-Day 3 pick, but if the Bucs are looking to take a chance on a guy at right tackle, they could give Skipper a good look this week. After all, the 6-foot-9 Demar Dotson has had a successful career in Tampa Bay.
TOLEDO TE MICHAEL ROBERTS – 6-5, 270 – EAST What’s another tight end to the Bucs’ plethora of tight ends, am I right?
Roberts is of the Luke Stocker-mold more than say the Cameron Brate-mold. He’s a big-bodied tight end with good strength, but shows more speed and quickness than Stocker does. He led all tight ends in college football this season with 15 touchdowns, and anytime you can add a player who has a knack for scoring in the red zone, it’s never a bad idea.
Roberts will be at both the East-West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl, so the Bucs will get two good chances to see what he can do.
WYOMING C CHASE ROULLIER – 6-4, 315 – WEST If you’re constantly monitoring what draft writers are saying about prospects, you probably noticed that Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen was gaining a ton of hype before announcing he was returning to school for his senior season.
The man doing a big portion of the blocking for his Allen in the middle was their center Roullier. He was a starter at guard for two seasons before being bumped over to center for this past year. He has the versatility, and also has some very high grades from the folks over at Pro Football Focus, and he helped NFL-caliber running back Brian Hill become Wyoming’s all-time leading rusher, too.
AIR FORCE WR JALEN ROBINETTE – 6-4, 220 – WEST Anytime you find a guy who is 6-foot-4 and has a two seasons with more than 20 yards-per-catch averages, you take notice.
Robinette doesn’t have a ton of catches in Air Force’s run-happy option offense, but when he is involved in the game plan, he shines. He averaged 24.7 yards per catch as a junior last year, and if that isn’t crazy enough, he averaged 27.4 yards per catch this season. If he can fly past defenders at the East-West Shrine Game like he did at Air Force, he’ll be a big-play guy the Buccaneers will certainly have on their radar as they look for another receiver to step in opposite Mike Evans.
Trevor Sikkema is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat reporter and NFL Draft analyst for PewterReport.com. Sikkema, an alumnus of the University of Florida, has covered both college and professional football for much of his career. As a native of the Sunshine State, when he's not buried in social media, Sikkema can be found out and active, attempting to be the best athlete he never was. Sikkema can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org