The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have had quite the offseason up to this point. At the end of the season when fans looked at this roster, there were holes all over the place and many wondered what Jason Licht’s plan was going to be. I think Jason Licht has done a tremendous job of acquiring top-tier veteran talent, as well as rookies who can come in and contribute from day one.
Each team’s goal during the draft is to fill positions of need, but also build depth at key positions, especially along the offensive and defensive lines. The Bucs did just that, which is why I predict the team’s rookie of the year will be first round pick Vita Vea. This may come as a surprise to some, but I think from an overall team perspective, Vea will have more of an impact than Ronald Jones will.
Vita Vea is 6-foot-4, 350 pounds and will be the perfect compliment to pro bowler Gerald McCoy. Vea isn’t your typical defensive tackle either, he is a freak of an athlete for his size. At the 2018 NFL scouting combine, Vea ran a 5.1 40-yard dash, which is extremely impressive for a guy who carries that frame. You also want your defensive tackle to be able to penetrate the line of scrimmage with pure strength and Vea showed plenty of evidence he can do that in college. He also put up 41 reps on the bench press which was first out of his position group.
Vea was very productive in his time at Washington. In 2016 and 2017, which were the two years Vea started, he totaled 99 tackles with 15 of them being for a loss. Many people think that Vea is only a run stopping defensive tackle, but he actually recorded 8.5 sacks in the last two years. Sacks also don’t tell the whole story, there were numerous incidents in which Vea’s penetration up the middle either forced an early throw or created another sack for a teammate.
It is going to be extremely difficult for opposing teams to double both McCoy and Vea, which means one of them will have a one-on-one matchup everytime, and that should scare the hell out of opposing quarterbacks. The best ingredients for a winning football team is to stop the run and get off the field on third down by getting pressure in the quarterbacks face. Vea can check all those boxes and he will help improve a defense which was last in many statistical categories last season.
There has been a stigma amongst Buccaneer fans that Vea was a reach and the team would have been better off picking Derwin James. You can make the argument, but ask the Philadelphia Eagles what a dominant defensive line can do to help you win football games. The Buccaneers haven’t had a dominant defensive line in more than a decade, but they have all the ingredients to have one this season.
Stat predictions for Vea: 38 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks.