The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have one real need remaining: safety. In particular, a deep safety who can play a center field role. Their very own Earl Thomas, who can cover for cornerbacks taking some risks while picking off a few passes himself.
Thankfully, the draft is pretty deep in safeties, and even a few true centerfielders make an appearance in the position rankings. See, for instance, Mike Mayock’s latest 2017 NFL draft rankings.
1. Jabrill Peppers, Michigan
2. Jamal Adams, LSU
3. Malik Hooker, Ohio State
4. Obi Melifonwu, Connecticut
T-5. Marcus Williams, Utah
T-5. Marcus Maye, Florida
Placing Peppers that high is pretty controversial — it’s still absolutely unclear how the big hybrid safety will adjust to the NFL, where he can play, and how well he’s suited to playing as a deep safety. Comparisons to Mark Barron have been made.
It’s somewhat academic for the Bucs, though. His style of play makes him a middling fit for the Bucs, as all three of the safeties on their roster can fill similar roles. Instead, they’re more likely to look at a safety who can man the deep end.
Malik Hooker and Obi Melifonwu would be great fits in a role like that, and Budda Baker has some potential there, too — though Mayock lists him as a nickel prospect instead. And with so many names on the board, the Bucs could trade back in the first or up in the second round to grab whoever drops.
The draft is still a ways away and it’s not entirely clear who the Bucs want to target, but don’t be surprised if they end up with a safety — and perhaps one of the safeties Mayock loves.