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Buccaneers Draft Profile: S Mike Edwards

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The Bucs could definitely use a player like Edwards in the secondary.

NCAA Football: Kentucky at Florida
Edwards would be a good fit for the Bucs.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

When it comes to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of late, one characteristic that doesn’t come to mind is good pass defense.

The Bucs have sorely lacked in that department over the past few seasons. No matter the reason(s) why, the bottom line is this: the defensive backfield has to improve.

The only way to do that is to either a) develop the players you have or b) bring in players that can do what is required to produce on the field.

Tampa Bay has no cap room at the moment, therefore, the only place to look for help is in the draft.

One player, Mike Edwards, could be someone to look toward this year. He played safety for the Kentucky Wildcats from 2014-2018, playing in 51 games and starting 44.

Let’s meet the man.

Mike Edwards’ Career

Nicknamed “The Badger”, Edwards was a three-star recruit coming out of Winton Woods high school in Cincinnati, Ohio. He was the 24th-ranked safety and the 341st-ranked player -according to 247’s composite rankings - in the country. He was a multi-sport athlete in high school, playing basketball, baseball, and running track on top of football.

He chose the Kentucky Wildcats over Louisville, Missouri, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Vanderbilt because Kentucky “felt like home more than any other school”.

That decision turned out to be great fortune for Kentucky. After redshirting his freshman year in 2014, Edwards never missed a game throughout his entire four-year career in Lexington. He finished out his redshirt freshman season strong, starting the final five games.

Edwards - who is about 5-foot-11, 200-pounds - would go on to start the next 39 consecutive games. If you’re not good at math like me, that’s 44 consecutive starts, which is no small feat - especially for defensive player.

But Edwards was more than just available. He finished his career at Kentucky second all-time in tackles among defensive backs (318), fourth all-time in career interceptions (10), and a three-time All-SEC member.

He’s only the 19th player in school history to record 300+ tackles.

However, tragic irony struck right before the NFL Combine. Edwards broke his thumb while participating in the Senior Bowl, leaving scouts in the dark when it comes to measureables. He should be able to participate in a second session of Kentucky’s Pro Day on April 8th after he’s medically cleared by doctors.

Pros

This guy can do it all effectively, but he’s not really great at one thing. Edwards’ strengths are route recognition, tackling, ball skills, and physicality.

He’s a tough, smart, durable player that has enough range to play some coverage. I’d like to see him play more of a “robber” role, where he wouldn’t be expected to defend much on a vertical level, but can make a big impact over the middle.

His ability to blitz and play the run effectively give him the additional skills required to be a solid player in the NFL.

Ideally, he’d line up in the slot and at safety depending on formation/play/down/distance, etc. It wouldn’t be fair to expect him to anchor a secondary, but he can fit into a specific scheme quite well.

1. Football IQ/Route Recognition: Here is an example of his football IQ/route recognition. The Wildcats come out in a 4-2-5 (nickel) with a 3-deep look. Edwards is in the middle, so his responsibility is the deep middle of the field.

But when the ball is snapped, he doesn’t drop back with his fellow safeties. Instead, Edwards deploys the “robber” technique, reads the play, and flies up to disrupt the play to Tennessee tight end Dominick Wood-Anderson.

(major shoutout to the YouTube account DeludedYinzer for the cutups)

My assumption is Edwards also picked up on the throw to Wood-Anderson based off of DWA’s pre-snap motion, which is another example of Edwards’ football IQ.

This helped him close on the ball quickly, aiding in the PBU.

2. Versatility/Run defense: Edwards’ versatility and impact in the running game is demonstrated perfectly in this play.

Notice how he more in the middle of the field when in run support. While Kash Daniel forces Tim Jordan outside, Edwards sheds tight end Ethan Wolf’s block and clicks and closes on Jordan.

Once he sees the ball in Jordan’s hands, Edwards completely sells out and takes him down for a modest gain.

It’s a great example of his toughness and instincts, as well.

Cons

Edwards’ all-around value while valuable, can also be a negative.

He doesn’t have the elite athleticism, size, speed, etc to be a top-tier player in the NFL. Lacking in those qualities often limit a player’s professional ceiling, which is why a player like Edwards has to be efficient in every phase of his game.

Regardless, there are apparent struggles in a few areas of Edwards’ game, besides his lack of athleticism. He bites easily on play-action and can be very over-aggressive on other plays. He has enough range to play in the NFL, but not enough for a team to lean on him for every down.

If you make him open his hips or if you get him going one way, it’s hard for him to change direction, recover etc - which will require very sound/smart play at the next level.

1. Overreaction: This is a perfect example of how he can overreact on play-action. The Vols fake the handoff to Ty Chandler and Edwards takes way too many steps toward the LOS. Fortunately for Kentucky, Edwards wasn’t the target or else this could’ve been a big play for Tennessee.

2. Lack of elite athleticism: This an example of how he will struggle against the quicker, more athletic players. Edwards can’t get his hands on Jordan Murphy fast enough and Murphy just runs right by him for a big gain.

The underthrown ball is the only reason Edwards is able to catch up to Murphy.

Why The Buccaneers Need Him

Edwards is a true all-around safety that can play the run and the pass. He isn’t afraid to play near the LOS or sit back in zone coverage.

Um, yea. The Bucs could totally use a player like Edwards in the defensive backfield.

While Justin Evans and Jordan Whitehead have shown flashes of promise, they aren’t sure bets. Neither is M.J. Stewart, who is transitioning to safety after a down year at corner in 2018.

As mentioned earlier, Edwards can be used all over the field, but at the NFL, he’ll likely make his hay manning the slot position and stopping the run.

He’ll be good in certain coverage(s) as well. The Bucs can’t expect him to make many plays on the back end due to his limited athleticism, but he is smart enough where he shouldn’t give up many big plays.

With questions still lingering at the position, Edwards could help ease some of those worries.

Will It Happen?

Need + Good Player = A chance to be selected.

Yea, this could totally happen, but we all know the story.

It depends on who is taken before, who is still available - yadda, yadda, yadda.

A lot of Edwards’ availability/price will also depend on his performance at his Pro Day on April 8th - that could drastically change his direction come draft day.

Right now, it seems like he could be found in the 3rd-4th round. While that isn’t a high selection, the Bucs have other needs to fill before they look at safety. But at the same time, if Edwards is the best guy at the right spot, there wouldn’t be much issue if he were taken.

At the end of the day, this is a marriage that would make sense if everything were to come together in the right way.

**We will update this article with Edwards’ measureables after his Pro Day on April 8th**