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2018 NFL Draft: Grading the Buccaneers selections

Jason Licht deserves all the praise for this draft class.

NCAA Football: Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl-Alabama vs Washington Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

When the 2018 NFL Draft kicked off, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers only had two picks in the top 100. The team was picking 7th overall and had many needs to fill. General Manager Jason Licht struck a deal with the Buffalo Bills, and moved back 5 spots to number 12. The Buccaneers also received both of Buffalo’s second round picks. It was a heck of a trade for Licht because the team wound up picking Vita Vea at 12. The consensus around One Buc is that he would have been their selection at seven. You always want to maximize the value during the draft and Jason Licht did just that. I will grade each of the Buccaneers picks below and then do an overall grade of the draft at the end.

Round 1, pick #12 - Vita Vea, DT (Washington).

We should have seen this coming all along. The motto all off-season has been to improve in the trenches, and Tampa Bay continued to do that with their first selection. Vea is an absolute monster and will be the perfect compliment next to Gerald McCoy. He is an incredible athlete at 350 pounds and has the ability to not only stop the run, but also get pressure in the quarterbacks face. Vea should start from day one, and have an immediate impact.

Grade: A-

Round 2, pick #38 - Ronald Jones, RB (USC).

Tampa Bay needed to address the running back position early in this draft and they did just that by drafting the USC star. They couldn’t make the same mistake they did last year and wait too long. Jones is a powerful runner for his size and has great cutbacking ability. He needs to work on his pass catching a little bit, but he is very effective in the screen game. If the Bucs are going to sprinkle in a power run scheme, I thought he was one of the better fits for this offense. Jameis will love having a running back who can get more than three yards per carry.

Grade: A

Round 2, pick #53 - M.J. Stewart, CB (UNC).

With Isaiah Oliver and Donte Jackson on the board, I think this selection came as a surprise to many Bucs fans. I think they reached a little bit with this pick, but I am not disappointed in the pick. The Buccaneers were last in pass defense and they needed to start somewhere. He fits the Buccaneers mold in terms of cornerbacks. It sounds as if the team is going to have him compete for the starting nickel spot with Vernon Hargreaves, which I think is an awesome move. According to Josh Norris, Stewart is the best nickel corner in the entire draft. Stewart is the all time leader in pass breakups at UNC with a total of 47.

Grade: B-

Round 2, pick #63 - Carlton Davis, CB (Auburn).

The Bucs picked another cornerback, this time they drafted Ryan Smith’s replacement. I absolutely love this pick and feel like it was a steal at 63. Davis is a physical style corner who will get right up in your face at the line of scrimmage. Outside of Justin Evans last season, the Buccaneers secondary was soft and Davis will add that physical presence. He can play either inside or outside, but the Buccaneers love his ability on the outside. He will be the second corner this year and will likely replace Brent Grimes next season.

Grade: A

Round 3, Pick #94 - Alex Cappa, OG (Humboldt St.)

Tampa Bay dipped into the DII pool with this pick and it might be my favorite one of the draft. After the team selected Cappa, NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said that Cappa has the nastiest film he’s ever seen. Again, winning starts in the trenches and the Buccaneers have added some hard nosed football players all off season. Cappa might not start this season, but I expect him to become the team’s future right guard. There should be a few training camp fights between the offensive and defensive line.

Grade: A-

Round 4, Pick #117 - Jordan Whitehead, S (Pitt)

Jason Licht added another piece to the secondary by drafting Whitehead. Many fans wanted Derwin James to come in and fill that safety spot, but they get Whitehead instead. Whitehead is no slouch, is super athletic and has great closing speed on the ball. He will battle Chris Conte and Keith Tandy in training camp for the starting job. Whitehead has great potential and to get him in the fourth round is another job well done by Jason Licht.

Grade: B+

Round 5, pick # 144 - Justin Watson, WR (PENN)

The Buccaneers are attempting to find a diamond in the rough with this selection. According to Bucky Brooks, Watson is a “big time talent as a big pass catcher with sticky hands.” There is no doubt that Watson was productive in college, he caught a touchdown pass in every single game he played last season and leads Penn in nearly every all time category. Watson also ran a 4.42 40-yard dash at his pro day, so he will be a nice deep threat for Jameis Winston. With Desean Jackson and Adam Humphries possibly leaving the team next season, the Buccaneers had to spend a pick on a wideout. Watson will compete with Bobo Wilson for that 5th receiver spot in training camp.

Grade: B+

Round 6, pick # 202 - Jack Cichy, LB (Wisconsin)

Is this Kendal Beckwith 2.0? Cichy was regarded as a day 2 talent, but coming off of a Torn ACL he dropped to the 6th round for Tampa Bay. With Beckwith’s status for early in the season up in the air, this is a low risk high reward pick. Tampa Bay already has extremely talented linebackers and Cichy is just another one of those players. I love these low risk high reward selection towards the end of the draft. If it pans out like Beckwith did, this pick will be a home run.

Grade: A-

Overall Draft grade: A-

Licht did a tremendous job throughout the entirety of this draft. The only reason it doesn’t get an “A” from me is because I would have selected Isaiah Oliver instead of M.J. Stewart. Every other pick was spot on in terms of value and need. We will see how they all contribute next season, but our first four picks all have a solid chance to step in and be Day 1 contributors. Not many teams can say the same.


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