The Tampa Bay Buccaneers came out of the first two days of the 2017 NFL draft with four new players, all of whom could be immediate starters and should be significant contributors.
Let’s recap what the Bucs did the past couple of days, then.
First round: TE O.J. Howard, Alabama
The Bucs were really excited about Howard falling to them, and they should be. Howard is an all-around tight end who’s an explosive threat as a receiver, and a good run-blocker—a rare combination in today’s NFL, where every tight end appears to be either a receiver who can’t block, or a blocker who can’t run.
Howard should give the Bucs a lot of tactical versatility on offense, and the ability to run explosive passing plays out of run-heavy sets, and run the ball out of pass-heavy sets. Think of the way the New England Patriots use Rob Gronkowski, and you know how the Bucs want to use Howard.
Second round: S Justin Evans, Texas A&M
This dude is a guided missile who will run straight at whoever he needs to stop, but may overshoot his target sometimes. The Bucs need to give Evans some tackling lessons starting right now, but he has the potential to be an outstanding safety given his speed and ability to take away the ball.
He’ll likely step in as the team’s starting deep safety this year, or at least get a significant amount of playing time in sub packages. It may take him a little while to adjust to the NFL, but if he can do that successfully the Bucs could have an Earl Thomas-style defensive back.
Third round: WR Chris Godwin, Penn State
Jameis Winston is getting a lot of new weapons this offseason, now including the man who destroyed the Rose Bowl. Godwin has some speed, but his biggest asset is his ability to consistently make contested catches—think former Bucs receiver Mike Williams.
Fourth round: LB Kendell Beckwith, LSU
The Bucs traded up into the end of the third round to take this run-stuffing linebacker who’s coming off an ACL injury. He does fit a need for the Bucs, who have no clear strongside linebacker and very little depth at the position, and Beckwith was generally valued as a second- or third-round pick before his ACL injury.
No running backs
This is the big thing: the Bucs did not take any running backs in the first three rounds of the draft. And with just a fifth- and a seventh-round pick on day three, any backs they do draft should’t be seen as serious competition for Doug Martin and company. In part this is the result of how the draft fell, but general manager Jason Licht also emphasized that they’re really happy and impressed with Doug Martin’s progress this offseason.