The Tampa Bay Buccaneers haven't talked much about the specific roles they're seeing each of their draft picks in, but general manager Jason Licht lifted the veil a little today while talking to Mike Florio on Pro Football Talk Live on NBC Sports Radio. Licht specifically talked about the expectations for first-round pick Vernon Hargreaves as a rookie.
"We expect him to make significant contributions. He's going to compete for a starting role, that's for sure. One way or another he's going to be on the field. We picked him at eleven, we would have taken him at number nine."
The Bucs have refused to commit to Hargreaves as a starting cornerback, and with good reason: cornerbacks tend to struggle as rookies if they do get forced onto the field full-time. We saw that with Aqib Talib in 2008, and Johnthan Banks in 2012, who took about half a season to acclimate to the NFL. Brent Grimes and Alterraun Verner have been the Bucs' starting cornerbacks so far this offseason, with Johnthan Banks in the mix as a potential starter as well.
That doesn't mean Hargreaves won't get on the field, though. As Licht said: he'll contribute significantly, which implies he'll at least be he third cornerback in nickel packages. NFL teams spend more and more time each season fielding nickel defenses, with 63.4% of all defensive snaps in the NFL last year featuring three or more defensive backs, per Pro Football Focus' charting. That's not exactly a minor role, so this should in no way be seen as an indictment of Hargreaves.
Still, Hargreaves should obviously be a starting cornerback in the long term. That's what teams expect with the 11th overall pick, and it fits the Bucs' long-term plans as well. Johnthan Banks is entering the final year of his rookie contract, Verner and Grimes both have two years left on theirs, and Grimes is very close to the end of his career -- he'll be 33 this year.
For now, though, the Bucs will be happy with some part-time contributions.