The 2016 NFL season has just started. That means draft season is about to start as well. Because before long, a whole lot of fans will be pessimistic about their team’s chances and looking forward to the draft instead.
So this weekend, before Sunday’s games, Dan Kadar put together an early 2017 mock draft. And for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he picked Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers.
Peppers can be a superstar. He's an elite athlete that has been used as a safety, linebacker, cornerback, returner and even running back. His best NFL position is probably as a moneybacker, which takes full advantage of his athleticism.
I like superstars, and I certainly like the Bucs adding a safety. Of course, it would be fairly ironic to draft someone to play a position that Mark Barron fills really well in St. Louis right now. The Bucs may have been ahead of their time with Barron, who simply did not fit Lovie Smith’s scheme.
One problem here is that moneybackers and other box safeties with coverage skills can function mostly because they have very good deep safeties behind them. Kam Chancellor can thrive in Seattle because Earl Thomas is the best single-high safety in the NFL. Deone Bucannon can play moneybacker because Tyrann Mathieu is a really good (and very versatile) safety.
Another problem: the Bucs already have a pair of linebacker-defensive end hybrids who can hit, defend the run, and cover. They’re called Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander. Yes, they’re listed as linebackers, but the way they play the game isn’t all that different from how Mark Barron or Deone Bucannon play it. Everyone just sees them as linebackers rather than hybrid players.
A free safety, someone who can cover the back end consistently, would really be more useful for the Bucs. Chris Conte’s an okay player, but he’s not much more than that — and he can be a lot less than that on a bad day.
Also more useful: a cornerback, given Brent Grimes’ age and Alterraun Verner’s demotion to slot play. Also also more useful: a wide receiver, given the fact that Vincent Jackson is aging, a free agent next year, and increasingly less of a factor in the Bucs offense.
Still, I wouldn’t mind an impact player at strong safety. There’s no doubt that a good strong safety can be very useful for any NFL, especially in the turnover department. Drafting Peppers would make some sense, assuming those other holes were addressed elsewhere.