Before we get started, let’s go ahead and get this out of the way:
Yes, I know it’s hard to evaluate a team’s draft picks before they actually step on the field. We have no clue what these guys will do in their careers. The first round pick could flame out while the fifth-rounder becomes an All-Pro, for all we know.
But you can still grade a team’s draft based off need, the players available, and draft history. All of those elements should be considered when weighing the next player for your football team.
So, how did the Bucs do in this year’s draft? Let’s dive in.
Round 1, Pick #5: Devin White, LB, LSU
Everyone knew that White was a great player leading up to the draft, but were the Bucs getting enough value selecting him at number five? That was the biggest (and only) question surrounding White.
Which is obviously a good situation to be in. The value question was answered later when the Pittsburgh Steelers traded with the Denver Broncos for the 10th overall pick and selected Devin Bush out of Michigan.
Additionally, there were reports that the New York Giants were going to take White with the sixth pick in the draft.
So, the Bucs get a top-five talent that will be a three-down linebacker. The selection of White also fills a major need.
He also told me the day before the draft that it’d be a smooth transition into the NFL due to the fact that Dave Aranda’s (LSU’s DC) and Todd Bowles’ defenses are practically identical.
Potential #Bucs draft pick Devin White:— Evan Winter (@evan_winter) April 25, 2019
“I’d be way better in Todd Bowles’ system than a lot of systems because I already know the system.
I’m very capable of going into any building and re-learning a system, but my speed would be at 100 instead of 90.”#NFLDraft2019
Top-five talent + need = great pick.
Round 2, Pick #39: Sean Bunting, CB, Central Michigan
I’ll admit, I was caught off guard by this one and I think a lot of my initial confusion/resentment was due to the fact that Buffalo Bills traded up and took Oklahoma tackle Cody Ford at 38th overall - who could’ve likely been the Bucs’ next pick.
But after watching what Bunting can do and looking at his measureables, this is a player that could really make a difference in this defense. Bunting is fast, athletic, and sticky - which is exactly what Bowles likes in his corners.
This move also allows flexibility on the outside of the Bucs’ defense. Now, Vernon Hargreaves III can slide inside when needed, where he played well before getting hurt a few years ago.
The knock here is a small-school talent that played against lesser competition. All I have to say is, check Ali Marpet.
Round 3, Pick #94: Jamel Dean, CB, Auburn
This is the first questionable pick of Tampa Bay’s draft.
The Bucs traded out of the 70th spot with the Los Angeles Rams and received picks #94 and #99 - both third-rounders - in return.
It was a decent trade, but the Bucs missed out on some players that could’ve really helped them out. Names like Chase Winovich, Michael Deiter, David Long, Justin Layne, and Khalen Saunders are just a few that come to mind.
Why is this an issue? Well, not only did the Bucs take back-to-back corners just like they did in 2018, but Dean has had some major knee issues throughout both high school and college.
That is a concern for a speedy corner and one that should’ve likely been weighed a bit more by the staff. He hasn’t had any issues since 2016, but it’s still a concern.
If he can stay healthy, then the Bucs add another big, fast, press corner who will fit in nicely on defense.
Round 3, Pick #99: Mike Edwards, DB, Kentucky
This could turn out to be one of the best picks of the draft.
Edwards is a physical, in-the-box safety that can also man the slot position when needed. He has just enough athleticism to hold up in both the run and the pass, which will be useful for the Bucs.
If Jordan Whitehead and can’t continue his momentum from last season and if Kentrell Brice can’t come in and make noise early on, then Edwards could find himself starting opposite Justin Evans come September.
He’ll struggle with the more dynamic/athletic players, but it’s hard to envision this staff putting him in that position.
Edwards will work his tail off this summer, as well.
Check out our own scouting report on him here.
Round 4, Pick #107: Anthony Nelson, DE, Iowa
The first thing that comes to mind when you think about Nelson is the man’s size. At 6-foot-7, 271-pounds, he will be tough to handle off the edge - which is where he’d presumably play.
He’s similar to Carl Nassib when it comes to size, length, etc - but he may actually be more athletic.
Regardless, he comes from a blue-collar school in Iowa, where those guys work their asses off. Names like Bryan Bulaga, Karl Klug, Christian Kirksey, Brandon Scherff, and George Kittle all come to mind.
There’s no doubt Nelson will put in the work to overcome his fourth-round selection. He needs to get stronger, which should be no issue considering he is about to enter a professional strength and conditioning program.
Considering who was left on the board at the time, the pick made sense and looks to be a good one.
Round 5, Pick #145: Matt Gay, K, Utah
Christ. Here we go.
I can’t defend the actual pick here. I have no clue what is with this team’s obsession to draft kickers. It’s perplexing at best.
What I can defend, however, is a coaching staff that is confident enough and brave enough to go get the players they think will help this team right away.
Bruce Arians said when he first arrived that the special teams unit needed the most improvement. A lot of that was in regards to the unit’s coverage, but there’s no question the Bucs needed an improvement at kicker after last year.
But drafting a kicker is not only a waste of a pick, it also puts an incredible amount of pressure on said player. And it’s easy to argue that this is the one position in football where 95% of the outcome is based off the player manning the position.
Fifth round draft picks rarely work out, as well, but it’s a scenario that is still hard to wrap your head around.
The PTSD is in full effect here, and rightfully so. The pooch was screwed on this one.
Round 6, Pick #208: Scott Miller, WR, Bowling Green
As always, this is where the waters get extra-murky when it comes to projecting how a pick will shake out in the future.
We know Arians loves speed. Whether it’s on offense or defense, the man is a big fan of guys who can get down the field.
That’s exactly what Miller provides. Don’t get me wrong, at 5-foot-9, 174-pounds he needs to bulk up, but could become a nice complementary piece to the receiving core. He’s obviously a jitterbug-type receiver with more quickness and speed than most.
Think Adam Humphries, but quicker. It’s not a stretch to think Miller could develop into that type of role, considering Hump was an UDFA when he began his NFL career.
With the other players available in the draft, the Bucs had the luxury to take Miller here. If he can somehow stay active on game day, it’d be big win.
Round 7, Pick #215: Terry Beckner Jr, DT, Missouri
Just like with Miller, there’s no guarantee this pick will work out, but you have to like the fact the Bucs added another player for the front seven.
There is no doubt that Beckner will be a major project. There isn’t much upside here concerning athleticism/measureables, so one has to think Beckner won’t ever be much more than a backup or someone to call up for the practice squad.
If he can even make the practice squad, that’ll be a win, but it’s also a very minor win in the context of the big picture.
At the end of the day though, we will all be pulling for the seventh-round pick to make the roster in capacity. So, at least we have at something to cheer for.
Final Grade: 2.75 (C+)
Three of the top four picks - Dean isn’t included - should easily find their way onto the field in 2019. How much they will actually contribute remains to be seen, but you have to like the fact that there are young, talented players that have a great shot to contribute.
Nelson is the wild-card in this draft. If he plays to his potential, then the Bucs will have a young, solid foundation of Vita Vea, White, Nassib, and Nelson to anchor the front seven for years to come.
Add that to a potentially good, young secondary and all of a sudden this defense has tons of promise.
But taking Dean when there were other needs and taking Gay were bad enough setbacks to give this draft an average grade despite the potential it holds.
Now, it’s time for this coaching staff to prove their chops and bring this grade up to an “A”.
How would you grade the Bucs’ draft?
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