The 2018 NFL Draft is just under a month away, which means that Draftmas is back. Draftmas will take a look at each NFL team heading into this year’s draft, what their needs are and who they could be targeting. Draftmas continues today with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2018 NFL Draft profile.
The 2017 season for the Bucs can be summarized in one word: disappointing. That does not apply to just one side of the ball or a position group, but to everyone on the roster.
Jameis Winston was expected to take another leap forward entering his third year in the league and second year with Dirk Koetter. Unfortunately, injuries stunted his development and chemistry with new pass catchers like DeSean Jackson and O.J. Howard.
Overall, the Buccaneers finished as the 18th best scoring offense and ninth in yards. Their ability to produce yards more often than points was not the result of red zone woes, but opposing defenses playing more conservative as a result of their early leads.
As a result, this team took to the air early and often. Winston still threw for 3,504 yards in 13 games. He looked as though he had finally returned to form in the last month of the season. Winston completed 67.2 percent of his passes for 1,584 yards and threw nine touchdowns and five interceptions with a passer rating of 99.2 in the month of December. He was by no means flawless, but Bucs fans should breathe easy knowing that Winston’s injury will not affect his play going forward.
The Buccaneers defense and staff took a collective sigh of relief when last season ended. This unit finished last in yards allowed and 22nd in points allowed.
Once again, injuries played a huge role in this unit’s decline. Over the course of last season, the Bucs had more than 16 players miss at least two games, including multiple players being placed on injured reserve on defense alone. There are great pieces in place like Lavonte David, Gerald McCoy and the newly acquired Jason Pierre-Paul that should help them rebound in 2018.
Picks and Needs
The Buccaneers are in a good position. Since multiple teams are in the market to draft a quarterback, the Bucs could find themselves accumulating more picks and trading back to a team like the Bills or the Cardinals. If they decide to stay put, there are multiple prospects that could help them at the seventh spot. The Bucs have seven total picks in the 2018 NFL Draft in the following rounds.
First round (1 pick): 7
Second round (1): 38
Third round (0):
Fourth round (1): 102
Fifth round (1): 144
Sixth round (2): 180, 202
Seventh Round (1): 255
Offensive line – This unit is actually above average if you just consider center, Ali Marpet, right guard, Evan Smith and one of the league’s best ascending tackles, Demar Dotson. But the Buccaneers need to upgrade their left guard and left tackle.
They should ideally target a mauler at left guard, as their line as a whole is more proficient in pass protection than opening up holes in the running game. There are no longer any top-100 free-agent offensive linemen available. They could look to sign veterans like Eric Winston, Byron Bell or Will Beatty to at least secure some depth at the tackle position.
Running back – With the departure of Doug Martin this offseason and Charles Sims still unsigned, the Buccaneers’ remaining backs are Jacquizz Rodgers, Peyton Barber and Dalton Crossan. None of these backs are capable of being a 15 to 20 touch player that also has big-play upside. They should look to upgrade this position in the draft because of the depth at this position in the 2018 class.
Cornerback – This group is led by Brent Grimes and Vernon Hargreaves. Sadly, Hargreaves’ development in his second year was stunted due to injury, but he was not playing well before then either. Whether or not Hargreaves improves, he primarily plays in the slot. The Buccaneers should look to upgrade their starter opposite of Grimes in the draft.
Linebacker – Lavonte David is a great player and Kwon Alexander has shown flashes of being a quality linebacker. Alexander has struggled to stay healthy, missing four games in 2015 and 2017, and Kendell Beckwith was not good enough to be a starter last season.
The Buccaneers could do one of two things. They could either continue to play Beckwith or another linebacker at the Sam position in their 4-3 defense, or they could do what other teams like the Seahawks and Rams have done and play a large athletic safety in the box like Kam Chancellor and Mark Barron.
The prospects listed in this section are players the Buccaneers can realistically target considering their position in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Pick No. 7: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
The Buccaneers are in a great situation at their position. They already have their franchise quarterback, and multiple teams in front of them will likely select quarterbacks. Quenton Nelson would be a great pick for this franchise, but it’s highly unlikely he falls to them. If that is the case, the Buccaneers can solidify a need with the best player in the draft at his position.
Denzel Ward is quickly rising up draft boards with a great showing at the combine. His tape during his tenure at Ohio State was impressive as well. He, like his predecessors Bradley Roby and Marshon Lattimore, excels at playing press coverage. Ward also has great feet in addition to the ability to disrupt the catch through batting balls and hand placement.
Pairing Ward with Brent Grimes and Vernon Hargreaves will allow Gerald McCoy and Jason Pierre-Paul to reach the quarterback. The Buccaneers could consider Minkah Fitzpatrick, the do-it-all safety from Alabama. He would certainly have an impact but would have to compete with TJ Ward if brought back through free agency.
Denzel Ward would be the best selection for this secondary in terms of impact and need.
Pick No. 38: Isaiah Wynn, OG, Georgia
Isaiah Wynn would be a great fit for the Buccaneers. He excels in run blocking, something that the offensive line as a whole struggled with in 2018. He has been described as a dependable pass blocker and performed well at the Senior Bowl. Wynn also offers versatility because he can play tackle and even bump inside to center if needed. This is ideal if the Buccaneers decide to move Ali Marpet to his more natural position of guard. He also has experience running inside zone, the most popular run play called by the Buccaneers last season. Another player at this position to consider, if he is available, would be Will Hernandez from UTEP.
With less than three picks in the first three rounds, Tampa Bay needs to nail their first and second-round selections. They need to pick two players that will not only fill a need but also start from day one if they hope to keep pace with the Saints, Panthers and Falcons.
Make sure to tune in tomorrow for the Chicago Bears 2018 Draft profile.