The Tampa Bay Buccaneers need someone to help bolster their secondary. Specifically, in the safety group, Justin Evans has loads of potential but injuries helped derail second-year growth in 2018.
Outside of Evans, the Bucs are looking at a group of mostly unproven players who are either limited in experience or transplants who played elsewhere by position or location last season.
Every year there’s a player who emerges during the draft evaluation process. Washington’s Taylor Rapp is one of those very players this year, and his emergence could land him in Florida come April 2019.
TAYLOR RAPP’S CAREER
Rapp played three years for the Washington Huskies. And I mean he played three years. Thirteen games in each of his three seasons to be exact, which he used to total more than 100 tackles, more than eight tackles for loss, six sacks and seven interceptions.
In 2016, Rapp was named the Most Valuable Player of the PAC-12 Championship Game helping his Huskies squad beat the Colorado Buffaloes as the defense held their opponent to just ten points.
Rapp had two interceptions in the game and returned one for a touchdown.
If I could describe him simply to Buccaneers fans, I’d say he was the safety version of Adam Humphries.
Dependable and constant even if he isn’t all that flashy and doesn’t make highlight reel plays all the time.
What he does do is react instinctively to what he sees with confidence and gives his team solid play as a safety who fits best in the box as a run supporter or blitzer.
Given his lack of prototypical size, someone like Deone Bucannon will help teach him the keys to succeeding in the NFL in spite of his size.
Something else Bucs fans will love seeing if he dons their favorite uniform is his willingness to do basically whatever his team asks of him. Line up deep? Got it. Close to the line? Yep. Blitz from 10-yards off the line with maximum effort? He’ll do it. Special teams? He’s pretty good there too.
I mean, the man does literally anything his coaches asks and rarely if ever looks out of his element. Kind of like Humphries.
He’s undersized. But really, are we still in a place where this is a death sentence? I feel like every year we talk about a guy who is balling out but shouldn’t have because of his size.
Ok then, so what else?
Well, he’s not blessed with elite athleticism which forces him to lean on his instincts more than perhaps you’d like from someone who is very often in a position as the last or one of the last defenders on a given play.
As he reads and reacts, if he overpursues or reads it wrong, he simply doesn’t have the recovery ability for it not to open a door for big plays or crucial conversions.
Also, similar to Humphries, he’s a conservative type player. He’s going to make sure he makes the good play before trying to go for the big play. This can be good and this can be bad. If you need a clutch play from your safety, it’s less likely to come from him as he focuses on solid execution first and foremost. Of course, this could be taught behavior as well. So if a coach thinks he can get the dog in him to come out more, it could be a beautiful thing.
WHY THE BUCCANEERS NEED HIM
When you look at the Buccaneers’ relatively thin safety group it’s easy to see why the team needs more talent. However, do they need more young and unproven talent? This is the real question.
Tampa Bay has been conservative in free-agency as expected, but right now the starting safety tandem appears to be Justin Evans coming off injury and....M.J. Stewart?
The Bucs need a safety to play next to Evans. And honestly, when introducing more youth into an already young group it might be wise to target a guy who gives you what you expect every play rather than rolling the dice on a boom or bust type of prospect.
WILL IT HAPPEN?
As it stands now, I’m going to say no. Rapp is solid and definitely helped himself this draft season. He’s even broken into Daniel Jeremiah’s Top-50 as the 38th best player on his board.
Of Rapp, Jeremiah writes,
“He anticipates well from the deep hash and always takes the proper angle to the ball. He has good (not great) closing speed and excellent ball awareness. He has a great feel as a blitzer, displaying timing and the ability to defeat a block. He is outstanding versus the run.”
The real question is whether or not there’s some aggressiveness hiding in Rapp we just simply didn’t see during his time in Washington. If there is, then his football intelligence partnered with his confidence level could produce some highlight worthy plays which could get Bucs fans excited early on.
Definitely know his name when day two at the NFL Draft comes around, just don’t go buying the custom jersey yet.