#53 Buccaneers: CB M.J. Stewart
NFL Draft Scout
A three-year starter at North Carolina, Stewart played primarily in the boundary (both outside and inside) and was equally effective in press and off-coverages. He lacks elite long-speed for the position, but displays the start/stop quickness to stay on top of routes and make athletic plays in coverage. His aggressive nature might be his best and worse trait, showing NFL-level tackling and rerouting skills, but he isn’t shy grabbing receivers or clobbering at the catch point, drawing penalties.
Stewart came off the bench as a true freshman and posted 26 tackles and two interceptions. He became a starter as a sophomore and led the team with four interceptions and 18 passes defended, adding 62 tackles and one forced fumble.
Stewart started all 13 games as a junior in 2016 and recorded 66 tackles, 11 passes defended and two forced fumbles, earning All-ACC Honorable Mention honors. He returned for his senior season and again earned All-ACC Honorable Mention honors with 45 tackles and 12 passes defended."
Competes with the right mindset for the position. Not tall, but well-put-together. Physical appetite in press and looks to disrupt the rhythm of the route. Turns his head to find the football. Highly aggressive at the catch point. Ball awareness and timing are assets – set the school career record with 47 passes defended. Quick-footed and flexible hip. Efficient drive quickness from off-coverage. Sound, but physical open-field tackler. Lowers his pads and drives through his target, finishing with strong hands. Routinely forces the quarterback to move his feet as a blitzer. Durable and didn’t miss a game the last four seasons because of injury. Experienced at inside and outside cornerback. Stepped in as the main punt returner in 2017, averaging 11.3 yards per return (15/170/0). – Dane Brugler 2/2/2018
Lack of deep speed limits his ability to carry receivers vertically. Can be dusted off the line if he misses his jam. Doesn’t have an extra gear to close ground in pursuit. Too grabby in coverage, looking like a kid in a toy store on a 60-second shopping spree. Physical to the ball, but often overly physical. Not a twitchy mover and will struggle to recover after a misstep. Zero interceptions the past two seasons. Shorter than ideal to match up vs. bigger receivers. Misjudges speed in his pursuit angles. Off-field decision-making will be put under a microscope – charged with misdemeanor assault (along with former teammate Mike Hughes) following a 3 a.m. fight at a fraternity house (Oct. 2015), which left a victim unconscious with a broken nose; he was suspended two games and pled guilty, agreeing to do 100 hours of community service and restitutions. – Dane Brugler 2/2/2018
IN OUR VIEW
Stewart is quicker than fast with natural ball awareness and toughness to see early NFL playing time as a versatile nickel defender, but he will be a flag magnet until he adds more subtlety to his physical play style.