Beau Allen, Vinny Curry and Jason Pierre-Paul are set to team up with Gerald McCoy this upcoming season giving G-Mac the best help he’s had to date. William Gholston and Noah Spence will be asked to play roles in the run game and as a situational pass rusher, Spence the latter and Gholston the former. As it stands, the team could use some more beef up the middle and another pass rush specialist to grow alongside Noah Spence. This draft has many options at varying prices throughout. Will the Buccaneers take advantage of this? Possibly. Without further delay, here are the top potential round one options along the defensive line for the Buccaneers in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Bradley Chubb, Defensive End, N.C. State - Chubb is my top rated defensive lineman in the 2018 NFL Draft and he earns this mark with how well rounded his game is as a pass rusher and run defender. Chubb capped 2017 off with 1st team All American and 1st team All ACC honors. Chubb added post season honors that included the Hendricks award for best defensive end and the Bronko Nagurski award for best defensive player. Chubb stands 6’4 weighs in at 269 lbs and will come to the league with 54.5 tackles for a loss, 25 of which went for sacks. Games reviewed include Louisville (2016 & 2017), Marshall and South Carolina.
- Pros: Lengthy athlete that understands how to use it to his advantage. Chubb has experience and good results both standing up and with his hand in the dirt, versatility that NFL teams covet more and more each year. Chubb shows the ability and understanding to hold the edge against the run and keep the play inside, Chubb also shows the ability to ride the block then disengage to make the play. Chubb has shown the ability to break up plays in the backfield, riding a block and then shedding to shoot up field and make the stop. Relentless athlete with swift get off, plays with natural athleticism. Has dropped into coverage in past and understands spacing quite well. Has shown a couple pass rush moves and isn’t afraid to stack them up for a combination to beat a tackle. Chubb gets to the corner and turns well, showing solid bend and balance. Chubb has had a lot of success utilizing a spin inside on tackles followed by excellent acceleration into the quarterback. Chubb shows good pursuit and follows the play to the end.
- Cons: As is the case at times with relentless attackers, Chubb will get a bit out of control and over-pursue. Will at times get enamored with beating his man one on one and lose sight of the ball carrier. Timing of his stack and shed can use some improvement as can his pad level while engaged, at times getting far too upright. Chubb needs to improve hand placement and usage at the immediate POC.
- Overview: Chubb is the top defensive lineman in the draft and is a good bit ahead of the next few defensive ends in this draft. Chubb’s ability to rush the passer, play the run and do both at such a consistently high level of effort set him apart. When watching N.C. State’s defense, you can’t help but notice his impact in the game. The Buccaneers should be ecstatic if Chubb were to last to the 7th pick as adding Chubb would give them a four man pass rushing rotation at defensive end that the team hasn’t had before.
Harold Landry, Edge Defender, Boston College - Landry had his senior year derailed by a sprained ankle just as he seemed to be hitting his stride after a 3 sack game. In 2016, Landry earned multiple All American honors as he 22 tackles for a loss and 15.5 sacks. Landry stands 6’3 weighing in at 252 lbs and will take 48 tackles for a loss along with 25 career sacks at Boston College into the draft. Games reviewed include Clemson (2016), Maryland (2016), Wake Forest (2017) and Clemson (2017).
- Pros: Arguably the best athlete at the position in the 2018 NFL Draft. Very good first step with suddenness to surprise tackles, able to get the corner, bend and accelerate into the quarterback. Flexibility is tops at the position. Backed up athleticism shown on film with great combine including some elite 3-cone numbers. Experienced standing up and with hand in dirt. Shows good pursuit skills. Change of direction and short area quickness are incredible. Good length despite being on the shorter end of the edge defender class this year height wise.
- Cons: Still raw in his pass rush arsenal, needing to add a more balanced attack and secondary moves. Hand work needs big improvements and with this technical work, should yield better and more consistent production. Tends to run after the play and chase versus head up the path of the ball carrier and take on blocks. Needs to show more consistent effort, 2016 effort level was elite but 2017 it dipped at times.
- Overview: Landry in 2016 would be the hands down best defensive player in this draft from what I have watched. While the 2017 tape isn’t as dynamic, it’s still impressive and Landry showed elite talent at times this past season. Landry needs some refinement in his technique and needs to sharpen up his pass rush repertoire but when he does, watch out. Landry may just be the best option for the Bucs considering Bradley Chubb will likely be gone by the 7th pick, Landry would bring a dynamic athlete to the mix off the edge with elite short area quickness and closing speed year one. Year two and beyond, you may have the next double digit sack producer in Tampa.
Da’Rone Payne, Defensive Tackle, Alabama - Payne took home 2nd team All SEC honors in 2017 capping a productive career playing in the middle for Alabama. Payne stands 6’2 weighing in at 311 lbs and will take 35 starts inside for Alabama to the NFL with him. Games reviewed include Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Auburn, Georgia and Clemson.
- Pros: Payne plays with exceptional power and balance on the interior, showing good leverage and the ability to anchor in and push back guards into the pocket. Payne handles double teams well and shows a good understanding of utilizing his lower half to sustain contact and shed the block to get the tackle. Payne does a good job staying on his feet and maintaining contact and balance throughout the play to help influence where the lineman can take him. Payne showed great growth in his pass rush ability, nearly doubling his quarterback pressures in 2017 and regularly eating up his one on one match ups. Shows good coordination between his upper and lower half, hands stay in sync with his footwork. Very strong bull rusher, utilizing every bit of his strength to push the guard/center back into the pocket.
- Cons: Payne is not an elite level athlete when asked to move laterally, he prefers to get it and go one direction. Relies heavily on first move and will get stumped in pass rushing if the lineman can grind him to a halt, secondary moves need to be developed and quickly. Needs to improve his ability to time the snap and get off his spot.
- Overview: Payne has the ability to come into the league and step right into a run stuffing tackle as a starter day one. Payne showed good enough growth in his pass rush attack this past season that teams may feel more comfortable playing him three downs earlier than expected in his NFL career. For the Buccaneers, Payne would be a great target for a trade back into the teens should the team want a top run stuffer to pair in a rotation with newly acquired Allen. Payne would give the team ample run stopping ability along the interior of the d-line to run out a very productive rotation of defensive tackles.
Vita Vea, Defensive Tackle, Washington - Vea is what 350 lbs of raw grown man talent looks like at nose tackle in college. Vea played in 37 games during his career at Washington. Standing 6’4 and weighing 347 lbs, Vea is a force to be reckoned with on the defensive interior. Vea racked up 9.5 sacks and 15 tackles for a loss in his three seasons at Washington. Games reviewed include Rutgers, Washington State, Utah and Stanford.
- Pros: Vea is a powerful tackle and shows good aggression at the POA. Shows good punch and awareness, often locates the ball and shows the ability to disengage and make the play. Ability to shed blocks is impressive given the amount of athleticism used to do so over just simply out muscling opponents. Once momentum is gained, bull rush can be downright impressive. Shows the raw talent needed to continue to grow at the next level.
- Cons: While showing good raw athleticism, Vea seems to struggle far too much with staying on his feet. Vea doesn’t appear to have the greatest balance when on the move. Lacks body awareness, often too far out in front and at times will simply play too tall for stretches at a time. Did not seem to understand how to properly work against double teams. Doesn’t show follow up moves in pass rush, technique is lacking and currently relies heavily on a simply bull rush. Initial reaction to snap isn’t as quick as you’d like. Didn’t grow as much from 2016 to 2017, showing same inconsistencies with motor and overall level of play from snap to snap.
- Overview: Vea will be drafted primarily on what he may become given some of the natural athleticism he has shown, rare play making ability he flashes and his overall size. If he lives up to the potential, you may have a dominant interior lineman on your hands, if he only marginally improves, you have a two down player who can plug holes but will struggle against double teams and that will struggle to apply pass rush pressure. For the Buccaneers, Vea isn’t a player I would target inside the top 10 for the simple fact that his inability to maintain play at a high level for more than several downs at a time and his inability to beat a double team in college despite having some rare traits and size. Vea is still however, clearly the 4th best defensive line prospect in this draft and should find himself taken by the early 20’s at worst, with his best fit being for an odd front team.
Taven Bryan, Defensive Tackle, Florida - Bryan was a two way all state player in high school utilizing his talents along the offensive and defensive lines. Bryan played three seasons at the University of Florida, improving each year along his way. Bryan tallied up 10.5 tackles for a loss, including 5.5 sacks (4 of which came his final year). Bryan stands 6’4 and weighs in at 291 lbs. Games reviewed include Texas A&M, Florida State, Georgia and Michigan.
- Pros: Very fluid athlete for his size that shows good change of direction, body control and ability to bend. Shows the ability to turn the corner getting low as well as slipping inside with his ability to get skinny between the center/guard. Incredible closing speed and get off for a player his size. Shows good punch and snap into contact, shows some grit and toughness when engaged. Relentless effort will keep him going. Flows up the line well and gets up field to disrupt.
- Cons: Bryan lacks a lot of refinement and will need to improve technique in just about every area of his game. Incredibly raw talent that has relies heavily on natural athleticism and play making prowess. Overall game awareness needs to improve as he struggled to find the ball in several games I watched, at times he was in position but missed a play here and there simply because he didn’t realize where the ball was. Will get caught up in the one on one match up often.
- Overview: Bryan has the athletic ability to turn into an impressive interior tackle that should be able to disrupt the LOS down the round with some help on his technique and improved field awareness. Bryan would be a target for the Buccaneers should they move down a good bit from the 7th pick of back up into the late 1st round. For the Buccaneers, Bryan would be a good heir apparent to Gerald McCoy while working him in early thanks to his athleticism and allowing him to learn and soak in information from McCoy. Bryan has the athletic ability to split out to DE in 3-4 packages as well which could entice the team a bit more.
Marcus Davenport, Defensive End, Texas-San Antonio - Davenport enters the draft as one of the biggest small school guys to come out in recent years. With the size and frame to be an absolute freak, he has the athleticism to match. A tri-sport athlete in high school, Davenport will look to tap into that incredible pool of talent he has to strike lightning in the NFL. Davenport stands 6’6 and weighs in at 264 lbs. Davenport racked up 37.5 tackles for a loss and landed 21.5 sacks along the way. Games reviewed include Baylor, North Texas, Texas A&M (2016) and the Senior Bowl.
- Pros: Built to be a professional defensive end, Davenport sports the frame to pack on even more mass while continuing to be an explosive athlete. Flashes some impressive ability to burst off the edge and explode into contact. Shows impressive attitude when laying into hits. Has shown ability to change direction and maintain speed. Has impressive wingspan and when utilized, does a great job setting the edge and disengaging.
- Cons: After initial burst, slow to rally up to top end speed. Doesn’t utilize length to his advantage as consistently as you’d like to see. Rarely avoids contact when the opportunity is there, needs to show the ability to move about the blocker better. When a back bounces outside, Davenport struggles to close and move laterally. Footwork and hand positioning need major work. Struggles to maintain low pad level through blocks and will get stood up more than you’d like to see.
- Overview: Davenport is a major work in progress at this stage but has enough size and athleticism to warrant serious round 1 consideration. Davenport’s production has steadily increased each year as has his mass which bodes well for a transition to a hand in the dirt pass rusher in the NFL. For the Buccaneers, Davenport could be a trade back option in round one or potentially a round 2 pick/trade up option. With the presence of JPP and Curry, Davenport could be given the opportunity to grow alongside Noah Spence as pass rushing specialist this year who can both potentially grow into a dynamic duo of their own down the line.
Whether or not the Buccaneers continue to address the defensive line in this draft, in particular round one, the options will be there and the team could still use some help up front. Adding a dynamic pass rusher outside like Harold Landry or a bull of a tackle like Payne inside could go a long ways in generating immense pressure up front on opposing offensive lines. This is a major make or break off-season for both Dirk Koetter and Jason Licht, to which extent will they go to ensure a major change of on-field results?