The 2017 NFL draft is over, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have to be happy with their haul. They addressed almost every one of their needs while getting some really good value, as far as we can judge that anyway.
That started in round one, when the Bucs saw O.J. Howard fall into their laps, the best tight end in the draft and one of the best tight ends to come into the NFL in years. The Bucs got good value throughout the rest of the draft, too, with analysts consistently praising their selections—not that that’s a perfect indicator, but you have to go off something, right?
In any case, the Bucs have six new players (they traded away their sixth-round pick to grab Kendell Beckwith), and will add a few more in college free agency. Let’s take a quick look at every Bucs draft pick this year, and how they fit the team.
Round 1: TE O.J. Howard, Alabama
The Bucs’ first-round pick was a veritable steal. Howard was generally seen as a top ten pick and hadn’t been mocked to the Bucs in months, so they were perplexed when he fell to them. Perplexed and very, very excited.
Howard will be the team’s starting tight end, active as a run-blocker and an explosive receiving threat. The Bucs would like to move to running more sets with multiple tight ends, and Howard is the chess piece they need to do so effectively.
Round 2: S Justin Evans, Texas A&M
The Bucs had to address safety in this draft, preferably with a player who could play as a single-high deep defender. That’s exactly what Evans is: fast, a ball hawk, and a guided missile as a run defender.
A former junior college player, Evans is a little raw and may take a while to develop. His tackling needs a lot of work, which is a bit concerning. He’s not a bad tackler for a lack of want-to, but because he has a tendency to overrun his target. If the Bucs can calm him down a little, he could be an outstanding starting safety.
Round 3: WR Chris Godwin, Penn State
Godwin blew up the Rose Bowl and has had a pretty productive college career despite playing with some really inaccurate quarterbacks. He has solid speed, solid size, is a quality route runner and will go get the ball in the air—he’s outstanding at making contested catches.
Godwin will have to compete with Adam Humphries for playing time behind Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson, but he gives the Bucs a quality receiver who can play all over the formation. Not a superstar, but one of those guys who has a productive ten-year career.
Round 3: LB Kendell Beckwith, LSU
The Bucs traded back up into the third round to take Beckwith, a thumping middle linebacker who’s recovering from an ACL injury and may not be recovered in time for the regular season.
Beckwith’s the biggest linebacker the Bucs have, and should compete for the starting job on the strong side, once he’s healthy. He’s a really good run defender, but too sluggish to do much in pass coverage, which limits his value.
Round 5: RB Jeremy McNichols, Boise State
One of the most productive runners in college football the past few years, McNichols can do it all: run, catch and pass-block. He has solid speed, solid size and good vision, and can make a few folks miss.
McNichols isn’t outstanding at any one thing, but he’ll be a useful part of what is likely to be a committee approach to the Bucs’ backfield. And getting him in the fifth round was pretty much a steal.
Round 7: DT Stevie Tu'ikolovatu, USC
Tu’ikolovatu is a massive nose tackle who has some potential as a run defender, the Bucs liked him enough to trade up for him in the seventh round, giving up next year’s seventh-round pick in the process.
Like Beckwith, he fits Mike Smith’s preference for bigger players and should be a useful early-down player. At 26 he’s a little old, though, in part because he’s Mormon and went on a two-year mission to the Philippines.
Buccaneers draft picks
Round 1: pick 19 (19th overall) - TE O.J. Howard, Alabama
Round 2: pick 18 (50th overall) - S Justin Evans, Texas A&M
Round 3: pick 20 (84th overall) - WR Chris Godwin, Penn State
Round 3: pick 43 (107th overall) - LB Kendell Beckwith, LSU
Round 4: pick 19 (125th overall) Traded to the Jets
Round 5: pick 18 (162nd overall) - RB Jeremy McNichols, Boise State
Round 6: pick 20 (204th overall) Traded to the Jets
Round 7: pick 5 (223rd overall) - DT Stevie Tu’ikolovatu, USC
Round 7: pick 19 (237th overall) - Traded to the Dolphins