“Who?”, you might have asked when Sean Bunting’s name was called as the 39th overall pick. I’ll let Bunting tell you himself:
Bunting had nine interceptions in three years at Central Michigan, along with fifteen passes defensed and four forced fumbles. That’s some pretty good ball skills.
First, let’s check out his measurables:
At over 6’0, he’s got the size and above average length the Bucs should be looking for in their secondary, to go along with good speed at a 4.42 40-yard dash clip, giving him the range and long speed to play down the field. His 3cone at his Pro Day also clocked in at 6.78s, good for the 79th percentile among cornerbacks. That’s really important, because as cornerbacks get taller in height they can struggle flipping their hips in coverage because they’re too stiff. Bunting is fluid and quick and his change of direction is good. He also has quick feet for his size.
Despite all of that, Bunting ended up at Central Michigan of all places because he was an unranked - as in a zero-star - wide receiver prospect out of high school. His switch to the other side of the ball clearly paid off big time. And that’s the key to Bunting’s game, as he himself stated above.
So what kind of cornerback are the Bucs getting? A physical, disrupting one, but a little raw. Bunting can be a bit grabby when playing from press, which will get him in trouble at the next level with referees. He’s aggressive at the line of scrimmage, and likes to hand fight. But he’s very good playing zone, and does an excellent job with his bail technique and playing with good awareness and spacing. He also has good, even aggressive, ball skills, in part because of his background as a receiver but also because of his physical traits. He high points the ball well and contests the catch point.
However, he also doesn’t always give great effort in run support. Being late or not filling his gap responsibility at all, or not being physical enough in doing so could break open big runs. His footwork is inefficient, which will be exploited by good route runners in the NFL. He’s also not that strong, and his tackling leaves something to be desired. Lastly, he has a tendency to be late to ID the football in the air. Even so, his aggressiveness and length helps to disrupt the catch.
Overall, Bunting is intriguing. He has the physical traits to be a great lockdown cornerback one day but as it stands right now he needs some polishing. Still, on Day 1 he’s scheme-versatile; he can play pretty much whatever the coaches might ask of him - zone, man, off man, and press. Tampa Bay head coach Bruce Arians said they wanted a slot cornerback in this draft, but Bunting is capable of and should challenge for a starting cornerback spot on the outside right away. If the Bucs can clean up his technique and coach him up against the run, they will have themselves quite a player.