With the No. 39 overall pick in the draft, Tampa Bay selected cornerback Sean Bunting out of Central Michigan. The 6-foot, 195-pound Bunting is a strong fit for new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. His size, ball skills and ability in press man coverage should translate well to Bowles’ system.
The Bucs went with Bunting over some more well-known prospects, such as fellow cornerback Greedy Williams and guard Dalton Risner. But the team was clearly high on the former Chippewa, who figures to join the mix of Carlton Davis and Vernon Hargreaves III at the top of the cornerback depth chart.
Here, we have three things to know about the newest Tampa Bay corner.
Bunting can be a ball hawk AND a lockdown corner
At Central Michigan, Bunting was outstanding. Over the last three years, he proved to be the complete package as a cornerback. He picked off nine passes over three seasons, including a five-interception year in 2017. There wasn’t a lot that Bunting couldn’t do with the Chippewas, playing the ball extremely well in addition to being a legitimate lockdown corner. His ability to go get the ball didn’t take away from his overall coverage skills. He was especially impressive during the 2018 season, as numbers for opposing quarterbacks were flat-out disastrous whenever they threw his way.
Not only did Bunting not allow a passing touchdown last year, but he also held opponents to a passer rating of 41.5 when they threw his way. According to PFF College, he allowed just 17 catches on 374 coverage snaps. That’s the kind of lockdown ability that is needed badly on Tampa Bay’s roster, especially considering the wide receivers that the team faces regularly in the NFC South. Bunting’s length and playmaking ability make him an exciting prospect for Todd Bowles to develop.
Bunting is the first-ever Central Michigan player to be drafted by the Bucs
Tampa Bay’s current regime has shown a tendency to draft players from lesser-known schools. Ali Marpet was drafted out of Hobart in 2015, Ryan Smith came out of North Carolina Central in 2016 and Alex Cappa came from Humboldt State in 2018. Now, Central Michigan isn’t as “small” as those schools. It’s still a Division I program. But the Mid-American Conference isn’t a traditional power, and neither is Central Michigan. With that said, the Bucs’ selection of Bunting falls in line with their trend of finding under-the-radar guys.
After high school, Bunting was as under-the-radar as they come. He had no stars as a recruit, had zero Division I offers and only received a grayshirt offer from Central Michigan. He signed on with the Chippewas and by the end of his time in college, he was a First-Team All-MAC selection. Now, he’s an NFL cornerback.
0 star recruit, 0 D1 offers on national signing day, didn’t sign to play anywhere on signing day, grayshirt offer in March... enrolled at CMU in January of 2016... 3 years later, 2019 NFL Draft Prospect. Never stop believing and chasing your dream. You control your own destiny pic.twitter.com/R8chIwmC32— Sean Bunting (@MrSeanyB1) March 31, 2019
He has speed, having run a 4.42-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine. We’ve talked about his ball skills and coverage ability. The Bucs made him the third highest-ever player drafted out of Central Michigan. Sometimes, going under the radar works out for the better.
In an interview with The Draft Wire, Bunting had this to say about the “small-school” knock:
“A lot of teams asked me why I feel I’m ready for the next level? You only played at Central Michigan, you’re a small-school guy. I always answer this question the same way. Yeah, I played at Central Michigan, but I’ve played against the Big Ten, the Big 12, Pac-12 and so on. I stepped up to the occasion every single time I played against a bigger school. Antonio Brown went to Central Michigan. J.J. Watt was actually from Central Michigan before he transferred to Wisconsin. Josh Norman is another small-school guy. We see it all the time. There’s a lot of small-school guys with big-time potential. You can’t just look at a small-school guy and assume he’s not gonna make it. All I could ever do is showcase my talent, and I’m gonna show you everything I have. I always loved playing against the bigger programs. I knew I had to live up to the hype. I’m very confident in my play and I’m very confident in how I can grow over the next few years.”
Bunting takes pride in being a good teammate and positive influence
In that same interview with The Draft Wire, Bunting talked about what kind of impact he would make at the NFL level. Before talking about his on-field skills, he had this to say:
“I’m gonna make a big impact not just on the field, but on the community as well. I always try to be the best person that I can be. I’ll always try to motivate the guys around me. I want the best for all my teammates. I’m never gonna quit. I’m always gonna work my hardest.”
He went on to talk about being an underdog and his overall ability, but it’s always refreshing to hear players talk about wanting to make an impact off the field as well. Even though he left Central Michigan early, his college degree remains a high priority to him, according to an interview he did with Central Michigan Life. Another excerpt from that article further indicates Bunting’s care for his character:
“I want people to remember me by my character,” Bunting said. “If I’m not a good person, then I’m not a good football player. I wasn’t highly recruited out of high school and everyone knows that by now. I put my head down, grinded for what I wanted and always play with a chip on my shoulder. I want people to know anything is possible. You just have to put in the work.”
With as much negativity that goes around in terms of off-field news in the NFL, it’s a breath of fresh air when guys are model citizens that want to help others off the field. The Bucs definitely have their fair share of high-character guys that make an incredible impact on the community. Judging by Bunting’s quotes above, it appears the team just added another one.
You can find Sean Bunting on Twitter at @MrSeanyB1. Take some time to congratulate him and welcome him to Tampa Bay.