The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a team lucky enough to have two top tier receivers on their roster. Bucs fans and Tampa’s offense have had an embarrassment of riches in recent years, as the receiver position remained stacked with talent deeper down the depth chart. 2023 will likely represent the first season in three years where the Tampa Bay Bucs will not have a Hall of Fame caliber player backing up Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. The team's receiver depth is also likely to take a hit as other players like Scotty Miller and Breshad Perriman test free agency this offseason. A hole on the roster means there’s prospects on the radar.
The Reese’s Senior Bowl featured one of the first opportunities for 2023’s NFL hopefuls to step into their future roles as professional athletes. During Senior Bowl week in Mobile three wide receivers who captivated the imaginations of those in attendance were Puka Nacua out of BYU, Michael Wilson out of Stanford and Cincinnati’s Tre Tucker. All three, in different ways, used their time on the practice field to establish themselves as legitimate prospects to watch going forward in the draft process.
Saturday, at the NFL Scouting Combine, these three were once again given their chances to captivate.
Puka Nacua only participated in the first practice of Senior Bowl week, skipped out on suiting up for gameday, and he still managed to leave his mark on Mobile. Nacua spent his limited time on-field creating a montage of what it should look like. While he wasn’t coverable in one on ones, where Nacua really looked the part was in positional drills, when amongst his talented peers he was the stallion. From BYU, to Mobile, to Indianapolis, Puka Nacua has remained a smooth consistent route runner. He has the balance and the understanding of leverage to maintain positioning on defenders throughout his route, even if contact is initiated. Nacua opted not to run at the Combine but nothing from his on-field work was anything other than what should have been expected.
During his week of practice in Mobile, Michael Wilson was a problem for the National Team defensive backs. Some of the main things that stood out from Wilson’s Senior Bowl week were his unrelenting effort and his work at the line of scrimmage against press coverage. Not every athlete, professional or amateur, takes practice seriously. The old adage ‘you practice how you play’ is a common sports cliche for a reason. Having a professional who has the professionalism to conduct himself in a game day manner on the practice field is a valuable trait in athletics. Michael Wilson set the tone in Mobile and again on Saturday. No rep is given to Wilson that he does not sell out for and as an observer his passion is palpable. As for his releases—
This is just one of many examples from the Senior Bowl where Wilson was able to get off the line easily against an opposing corner. The Major moment that may concern some from Wilson’s combine outing is his 40. Wilson clocked in at a 4.58, he remains explosive and precise in his movements, but his long speed may not be as elite.
Tre Tuckers day at the Combine was also not a perfect workout. The Senior Bowl showcased the Cincinnati product as a smaller explosive receiver with the ability to make an impact on special teams in the return game. For a player of smaller stature who is destined to rely on speed and quickness at the next level in order to consistently contribute, a good 40 time would be worth its weight in gold. Tre Tucker ran well, posting a 4.4 40, not an unsalvageable number, but certainly not the eye-popping time that a wide receiver of his dimensions would have liked to post. Tucker also left room for improvement in his positional work.
Puka Nacua, Michael Wilson, and Tre Tucker will all have more opportunities to improve their standing on teams’ draft boards as the draft process continues, but those opportunities will not be in Indianapolis. For these three, the Combine is now in the rear-view mirror. What’s done is done, the bad is subject to improvement and the good can always be reaffirmed.
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