- The biggest need, the hidden need and what else the Bucs should be looking for in the 2019 draft.
Two weeks ahead of the NFL draft, Andy Benoit and Gary Gramling are breaking down draft needs for all 32 teams. You can also see every team in a single post here.
Biggest Need: Safety
The Bucs are young and average here, and new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles’s scheme is built on disguising and bringing interior pressure via second-and third-level blitzes. Ideally Bowles wants long-bodied blitzers so that, if they don’t get home, they at least still obstruct the quarterback’s vision. But more important than length is speed, as that accentuates disguise capabilities and gives the pressure a more disruptive tenor. Recall that the Jets, with Bowles as their head coach, drafted safeties Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye with their first two picks in 2017. That’s how much Bowles values the position. Adams and Maye never quite became interchangeable (Adams played the box, Maye played deep); in a perfect world, the Bucs would find a safety who can align anywhere.
Hidden Need: Outside Corner
They have an ascending one in second-year man Carlton Davis, but fourth-year pro Vernon Hargreaves has been wildly up and down and might be better off playing full-time in the slot, where he’s more confident. Yes, 2018 second-round pick M.J. Stewart can align opposite Davis, but some on the previous Bucs staff felt Stewart’s best long-term role might actually be as a coverage safety. In the very least, finding a corner would give Tampa Bay’s secondary depth, which is important in Bowles’s schemes given its emphasis on man-to-man coverage.
Also Looking For: Edge Defender
Jason Pierre-Paul will get a crack at the edge job opposite Carl Nassib, but Pierre-Paul has always been best served as a tightly aligned defensive end. That particular role, and the way Pierre-Paul fills it, might not cross over well from a 4-3 to a 3-4 scheme (even though the two schemes in today’s NFL are very similar). This isn’t to say Pierre-Paul can’t contribute positively; he’s still a good player. But he may not be a strong enough fit to justify his $12.5M cap number in 2020. The Bucs can cut him then with no dead money repercussions.
Who They Can Get
It's an interesting crop of safeties, but none of them are worthy of a top-five pick. They do have the 39th overall pick, where multi-dimensional safeties like Florida's Chauncey Gardner-Johnson and Washington's Taylor Rapp could be available. (Delaware's Nasir Adderley might also fit the bill, though he didn't do much blitzing in college.) As for that No. 5 pick though, the Bucs are more likely to find proper value in an edge rusher. If Kentucky's Josh Allen isn't on the board, Mississippi State's Montez Sweat brings a similar fit.
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