The Tampa Bay Buccaneers need a pass rusher. They've needed one ever since they cut Simeon Rice, nearly a decade ago. They haven't been able to find one, but not for a lack of trying. Among the free agency and draft busts since then: Gaines Adams, Adrian Clayborn, Da'Quan Bowers and Michael Johnson. Every year the team tries to find someone, and every year they fail.
This time, things may be the same. It is difficult to find explosive, consistent edge rushers in this draft. You end up looking at players like DeForest Buckner, who's more of a 3-4 end than an explosive edge rusher, or players like Emmanuel Ogbah and Shaq Lawson, who look more methodical and solid than difference-making. The Bucs have had solid for a decade. They need more than that.
Enter Noah Spence. Luke Easterling has been banging his drum for weeks, and he's blowing up at the Senior Bowl practices as we speak. And I have to say that his tape is probably the most intriguing of all the defensive ends I've watched so far. He has a consistently explosive get-off, can turn the corner around an offensive tackle and has the burst to finish toward the quarterback. The Kentucky edge rusher has perfect size at 6'3" 261 lbs., had eight sacks in his sophomore year at Ohio State in 2013, and 11.5 sacks this past season at Eastern Kentucky, plus 22.5 tackles for loss.
There are some concerns, though. He was banned from the Big Ten after failing drug tests, which is why he finished his career at Eastern Kentucky. That's a big problem, though not necessarily insurmountable. The Bucs have had few issues going after players with character concerns over the past couple of years, and Jason Licht was part of the front office that drafted similarly drug-plagued Tyrann Mathieu -- which turned out to be a pretty good decision.
Spence seems like a great candidate for the Bucs' ninth overall pick, assuming his character concerns check out. If they do, though, he may not even fall that far. It's still early in the process, but he's consistently being mentioned as a top-15 prospect and it's not hard to see him vie for a top five selection if all goes well for him.