Day two of the 2019 NFL Draft was all about the secondary for the Buccaneers. After selecting Sean Bunting in the second round and Jamel Dean with their first pick in the third, the Bucs went to the defensive back pool once again at No. 99 overall. With its second third-round selection, Tampa Bay took Kentucky safety Mike Edwards.
Edwards, a 5-foot-10, 205-pound playmaker, is a third sign in one day that the new Bucs coaching staff wasn’t all that impressed with the team’s existing secondary. Of course, that existing secondary has been one of the worst in the league for the last couple of years, so it’s not all that surprising to see the new coaching regime make some changes.
Edwards joins Justin Evans, M.J. Stewart, Jordan Whitehead, Kentrell Brice and Isaiah Johnson in fighting for a safety spot under new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles.
Here, we have three things you need to know about new Bucs safety Mike Edwards.
Edwards models his game after NFL veteran Tyrann Mathieu
Considering Jason Licht, Bruce Arians and Todd Bowles weren’t able to bring in Tyrann Mathieu during free agency in March, it shouldn’t be too surprising that they went and drafted a player that models himself after “The Honeybadger.” Edwards, who comes from the SEC like Mathieu, is surely hoping to see similar success to what the current Chiefs safety had under Arians in Arizona.
Before the 2017 season, Edwards decided to wear No. 7 because of his admiration of Mathieu. In an interview with 247Sports, Edwards said he feels like he plays a similar way to the former LSU Tiger and watches his film to find ways to get better. He even has similar hair to Mathieu’s, with the top dyed blonde. When looking at the way the former Wildcat plays the game, the similarities continue.
In four years at Kentucky, Edwards picked off 10 passes, racked up 23 passes defended, forced two fumbles and recovered one. He scored two defensive touchdowns to go along with his 318 career tackles, which is the second-most by a defensive back in program history. In a 2016 game against in-state rival Louisville, Edwards intercepted Heisman Trophy winner and current Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson twice. After the Bucs selected Edwards Friday night, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper said he was a “proven playmaker.” Tampa Bay would certainly like to see those playmaking abilities surface as soon as possible.
Durability and versatility are two of Edwards’ strengths
In four years at Kentucky, Edwards didn’t miss a game. He played in 51 games, starting 44 in a row. With as many injuries as the Bucs have experienced on the defensive side of the ball in the last few years, that’s a huge trait to have in a newcomer. In an interview with The Draft Wire, Edwards said durability was a topic of conversation when he met with teams at the NFL Scouting Combine:
“We’ve definitely been talking about my durability. I never missed a game, as you said. I had an issue when I first got here, and I’m dealing with a broken thumb now. Other than that, I haven’t really dealt with anything serious. I’ve had two injuries. I’ve proven that I’m a very durable player. The coaches can see that. I played every snap at Kentucky.”
Edwards has an excellent ability to make plays and stay on the field, but the fact that he has some versatility to him is an added bonus. His NFL.com draft profile by Lance Zierlein says that he is “capable of transitioning from nickel cornerback to two-high safety in-game.” That’s undoubtedly one of the reasons that Tampa Bay was interested in him. Todd Bowles is going to run a 3-4 defense the majority of the time, but he has also said that the scheme will involve a variety of looks. If Edwards can rotate from the nickel position to one of the two-high spots, that could be huge for the Bucs.
Bruce Arians even said recently that the team didn’t need to address the outside corner positions (though they did anyway...), but there was a need at nickel. It’s possible that the coaching staff could see Edwards as that nickel guy, but the fact that he can do so much — while staying healthy — is a valuable asset for the team.
Edwards wears a pink mouthpiece to honor his late aunt, who passed away from breast cancer in 2013
It’s not uncommon to see football players — at all levels — get decked out in pink during the month of October for breast cancer awareness. But Edwards took that to a different level in college, always wearing a pink mouthpiece to honor his aunt, Angie Evans, who passed away from breast cancer in 2013. In an interview with The Draft Wire, Edwards said the gesture is something that means a lot to him, and he intends on continuing to honor her in the NFL:
“It means a lot to me. That was my mom’s sister, and it hit us pretty hard. My family struggled with her passing. It was tough for us. I just always want to remember her and honor her memory. I wear pink gloves throughout the month of October as well. I plan on wearing pink throughout the season. It’s something that I’ll definitely continue to do in the NFL.”
There’s no doubt that Edwards has already made his late aunt proud, as he graduated from the University of Kentucky in December with a degree in family sciences (and a minor in criminology). This came after a 2018 season in which he served as a team captain for the Wildcats and racked up 76 tackles, nine tackles for loss, six pass breakups and two interceptions. The Associated Press named him to the All-SEC Second Team, and he eventually went on to play in the Reese’s Senior Bowl. After all of his success in college, he is now set to join Tampa Bay, where he will look to keep honoring his aunt on an even grander stage.
You can find Mike Edwards on Twitter at @M__Edwards7. Take some time to congratulate him and welcome him to Tampa Bay.