I understand that not everyone is as crazy about the NFL Draft as I am.
To the casual football fan, the East-West Shrine Game is a lower-tier all-star game where later-round draft prospects can show off their stuff, since most would assume their game tape wasn’t that good.
Let me break that train of thought for you right now.
The East-West Shrine Game – held in our own backyard, St. Petersburg, Florida – is not just a place to find draft gems no one has heard of. NFL starters like Atlanta’s Brian Poole, Pittsburgh’s Javon Hargreave and Washington’s Josh Norman are all alums of the East-West Shrine Game. And don’t think the Buccaneers take the Shrine Game lightly either. Both of their starting safeties, Bradley McDougald and Keith Tandy, are alumni of the Shrine Game, too.
PewterReport.com will have boots on the ground all week next week during Shrine Game practices for both teams. There are plenty of names worth nothing in this year’s batch, but here are our 10 prospects that will likely be scouted hard by the Buccaneers during Shrine Week.
LOUISIANA TECH S XAVIER WOODS – 5-11, 205 – EAST When I think of the perfect football player, regardless of the position, there is one trait they must be: dynamic.
Louisiana Tech SS Xavier Woods – Photo courtesy of LA Tech
Woods reminds me a lot of West Virginia’s Karl Joseph from last year’s draft. He’s a smaller but powerful player who displays great range in coverage, and also isn’t afraid to lay the hammer on a running back charging up the field. Woods also has the production to match the potential. In 2015, he recorded 56 tackles, 7.5 for loss, three interceptions, three pass breakups, and in 2016, he brought in another 89 tackles, 6.5 for loss, five interceptions and six pass breakups. He’s a bit of a sleeper, but not for long.
COLORADO S TEDRIC THOMPSON – 6-1, 206 – WEST You’re going to read this a lot over the next few months, but this is a deep safety class. With Ohio State’s Malik Hooker, LSU’s Jamal Adams and Washington Budda Baker almost locks for three first-round safeties, players like Florida’s Marcus Maye, Texas A&M Justin Evans and Utah’s Marcus Williams as second-rounders solidify the ability for a team to pick a starting safety outside of the top 32.
One of those potential starting safeties no one seems to be talking about is Colorado’s Thompson.
The quintessential safety must be instinctive. At other positions, players can sometimes get away with not always being the first to react to something. With safety play, it’s everything. Thompson has those instincts. Whether it’s deep in coverage, or up playing man-on-man against a slot receiver, Thompson is first-round caliber player. He’ll likely be the top defensive guy to watch during Shrine Week and the Bucs will be interested.
FLORIDA DE BRYAN COX, JR. – 6-3, 269 – EAST With the Buccaneers in a struggle to contain the run this season, a player like Cox should certainly be on their radar.
Even if the team brings back Williams Gholston as the primary run stopping defensive end, having a suitable rotation man isn’t just a luxury, it’s almost necessary in today’s NFL. At 6-foot-3, 269 pounds, Cox is the perfect candidate in this Shrine Game to watch for if the Bucs are looking to bolster that run stopping defensive end play. Cox is never going to be a guy who gets a big amount of sack production, but we’re learning that’s not always a must. Some guys are juts power guys on the defensive end. Cox is one of them.
FLORIDA NT JOEY IVIE – 6-3, 298 – EAST If the Bucs are going to upgrade their defensive line in the later rounds, it’s most likely going to be as a compliment to Gerald McCoy on the inside.
Unlike in Madden, you can’t just take any kind of defensive tackle and put him on a team next to any other defensive tackle – each has their own positions, or gaps. With the Buccaneers, Gerald McCoy plays the 3-tech defensive tackle position. This is where he lines up on the outside shoulder of the guard, which allows him to use either speed or power to collapse the pocket. So the Bucs aren’t going to compliment him with another 3-tech defensive tackle. Instead, it would be with a player who can take on multiple blocks and make sure McCoy gets those one-on-ones.
In comes Florida’s Ivie.
Ivie play more of a gap-stuffing, 1-tech nose tackle position who would be a great addition to the rotation to alleviate pressure on McCoy. Depending on what the team does with Akeem Spence, this could be a high position of need.
FLORIDA ATLANTIC EDGE TREY HENDRICKSON – 6-4, 265 – EAST Production thy name is Hendrickson.
FAU DE Trey Hendrickson – Photo courtesy of FAU
In his three years as a starter, Hendricks notched 39.5 tackles for loss with 28 sacks. He’s 6-foot-4, 265 pounds, so he checks the physical box as well. So why is a guy with that size and production considered a late-round prospect? Well, when you hear people describe the best edge rushers, you’ll probably hear them say they’re “twitched up.” That simply means they have the ability to violently change directions, power or speed in an instant. Hendrickson was a great producer against Florida Atlantic competition, but he isn’t exactly “twitched up.” He produced with effort, energy and hustle.
Seeing how he does against new competition will tell a lot about his transition to the NFL. Tampa Bay is always looking to upgrade its pass rush and Hendrickson will have the attention of the team’s scouts.
MISSOURI NT JOSH AUGUSTA – 6-4, 360 – WEST If the Bucs are looking for another player to draft at the nose tackle position who isn’t Joey Ivie, they should probably take good, hard look at Augusta.
At 6-foot-4, 360-pounds, Augusta is a force in the middle. But his size isn’t the only thing about him that’s impressive. In Missouri’s game versus the Florida Gators this season, there was a play where Gators running back Lamichal Perine was running down the sideline and Augusta was staying stride-for-stride with him. That’s a 360-pound man keeping up with a running back for 20 yards!
Anytime you see a guy with that size and that athleticism, he’s worth taking a flyer on. I’m excited to see what he can do during Shrine practices.
AIR FORCE SS WESTON STEELHAMMER – 6-1, 195 – WEST Other than bringing what has to be the best name in the draft class to the table, Steelhammer can flat out play.
Steelhammer led Air Force with 75 tackles this season, and his six interceptions tied him for fifth in the country. He was the first player in school history to earn first-team All-Mountain West honors three times.
He has the production, he has the name, now it’s time for him to showcase both. The Bucs need help at safety, so they’ll be eyeing this guy at practice.
MISSOURI CB AARION PENTON – 5-10, 195 – WEST The cornerbacks at this year’s East-West Shine Game aren’t really the Buccaneers normal cup of tea. Most of the cornerback are over 6-feet tall and are built for more of a man-on-an-island type of coverage, which the Bucs don’t often play. Tampa prefers more of the shorter (ish) corners who can really backpedal and make quick breaks on the ball.
If that’s still their preference, Penton is their guy to watch in St. Pete. He was Missouri’s lockdown defender this season, and went up against the toughest assignments in the SEC. He’s a guy I think Tampa Bay’s front office will notice.
UTAH DE HUNTER DIMICK – 6-4, 279 – WEST If you believe in the all mighty production stat column as indicators of NFL production, you’re going to like Dimick.
After earning honorable mention accolades as a sophomore, Dimick injured his shoulder in 2015, missing six games (14 tackles, seven tackles for loss and three sacks for the season). But 2016 was a real comeback year for him. He finished third in the country with 14.5 sacks and was a first-team All-Pac-12 selection.
Although limited athletically, he’s another pass rusher worth keeping an eye on. The Bucs will see if he’s a one-year wonder in person.
UCLA CB FABIAN MOREAU – 6-0, 205 – WEST If the Bucs are going to get out of their comfort zone and take a look at a cornerback that stands over 6-foot tall, my guess is they’re going to hone in on Moreau.
The 2016 season was a big year for Moreau. Coming off a Lisfranc foot injury that ended his 2015 season, he received honorable mention for the All-Pac-12 team by leading the Bruins with 10 pass breakups, to go along with two interceptions.
He’s a former offensive player turned cornerback, and the reason that was possible was due to his great athleticism for his size. Tampa Bay doesn’t have a pressing need at cornerback, but is always on the lookout for talent playing in a division with Atlanta’s Matt Ryan, New Orleans’ Drew Brees and Carolina’s Cam Newton.
COMING ON SUNDAY: Top 10 Bucs’ Targets At 2017 East-West Shrine Game: Offense
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: email@example.com