The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have used the eleventh pick in the 2016 NFL draft to select Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III after trading down from number nine. Hargreaves has been linked to the Bucs for months and was by far the most popular choice in mock drafts. He fits a need and is generally seen as the second-best defensive back in the draft, behind Jalen Ramsey. Hargreaves grew up in Tampa, so he's more than familiar with the area.
Hargreaves was an outstanding cornerback for the Florida Gators the past three years, picking up ten interceptions and 38 passes defensed in his college. He was named All-SEC and All-American in both of his final two seasons. Hargreaves is a tenacious cover corner who has the athleticism to mirror receivers and the explosiveness to break quickly on balls in the air. He's also highly physical in run defense, and will jam receivers at the line.
The one knock on Hargreaves is that he doesn't have the size or speed to hang with physical monsters like Julio Jones and Kelvin Benjamin, which is what he'll have to do in the NFC South. At 5'10" with a 4.5-second 40-yard dash he's on the slow and small side for a top ten pick at his position, and those athletic limitations could make him somewhat of a liability in the NFL.
Then again, we've seen plenty of smaller and slower cornerbacks go on to have highly productive careers -- Brent Grimes isn't slow, but he's smaller than Hargreaves, and Ronde Barber was one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL for years on end. Hargreaves also posted top numbers in the vertical and broad jump and repeatedly demonstrated his ability to go up and outfight bigger receivers in college, so perhaps his height isn't as big of a concern as people would think.
While scouts have voiced some concerns about Hargreaves' size and recovery speed, you won't find anyone who doesn't admire his competitiveness and consistency of production. Hargreaves has a level of suddenness and explosiveness in his movements that should always have him near the ball. With top-notch ball skills and exceptional instincts that drew praise from Alabama's Nick Saban, Hargreaves possesses the football makeup to become a Pro Bowl cornerback.
Hargreaves doesn't necessarily need to start right away, as the Bucs have a fairly solid short-term group of cornerbacks in Brent Grimes, Johnthan Banks, Alterraun Verner and Josh Robinson. Hargreaves is most likely to see work as a third cornerback as a rookie, either in the slot or on the outside, and may get some punt return work as well. Obviously, he should turn into a starter in the long run.
in all, the Bucs got a very good player with some athletic limitations, and he's a local prospect to boot. While he's not a truly dominant prospect of the kind you'd like to see drafted in the top ten, those players weren't on offer in this draft when the Bucs were picking.
In round two, the Bucs should focus on getting a defensive end to complement their pass rush. They may end up trading back into the first round to grab the guy they really want. Stay tuned as we'll be covering the Bucs' draft moves the rest of the way.
Buccaneers 2016 draft picks
Round 1: pick 9 (9th overall)
Round 2: pick 8 (39th overall)
Round 3: pick 11 (74th overall)
Round 4: pick 10 (108th overall)
Round 5: pick 9 (148th overall)
Round 6: pick 8 (183rd overall)
Round 6: pick 22 (197th overall, from Washington)