Grading the Draft – Tampa Bay Bucs

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Tony Pauline

Draft Analyst Writer

The thought process in the lead-up to the draft was that Derwin James to the Bucs was a no-brainer. As we informed readers the days before Cleveland was called to the clock, this was just not correct.

Round 1 (No. 12 overall): Vita Vea, DT, Washington

Round 2 (No. 38): Ronald Jones II, RB, USC

Round 2 (No. 53): M.J. Stewart, CB, North Carolina

Round 2 (No. 63): Carlton Davis, CB, Auburn

Round 3 (No. 94): Alex Cappa, OG, Humboldt State

Round 4: (No. 117): Jordan Whitehead, S, Pittsburgh

Round 5 (No. 144): Justin Watson, WR, Pennsylvania

Round 6 (No. 202): Jack Cichy, LB, Wisconsin

UDFA: Austin Allen, QB, Arkansas; Sergio Bailey, WR, Eastern Michigan; Cole Boozer, OL, Temple; Donnie Ernsberger, TE, Western Michigan; Demone Harris, DE, Buffalo; Tanner Hudson, TE, Southern Arkansas; Godwin Igwebuike, S, Northwestern; Josh Liddell, S, Arkansas; Trevor Moore, K, North Texas; Evan Perrizo, DE, Minnesota State; Erv Philips, WR, Syracuse; Jason Reese, TE, Missouri; Antonio Simmons, DE, Georgia Tech; Shaun Wilson, RB, Duke

We mentioned immediately before the draft that Vita Vea was atop the Bucs list entering the first round. Not only were they able to select Vea, they did so after trading down and collecting extra selections. When on his game and hitting on all cylinders, Vea is a dominant lineman. The belief that he’s just a “two-down” defender is a load of bunk in my opinion, as Vea can stuff the run, occupy gaps, make plays outside the box and rush the passer. Getting him to play hard on an every-snap basis will be the challenge.

The team needed a running back and chose Ronald Jones with the first of three choices in Round 2. Although I like Jones, I believe he’s more of a rotational ball carrier versus a feature runner. I’ll give them a break for passing on Derrius Guice considering the concerns surrounding the junior from LSU, but we had Kerryon Johnson rated higher and Royce Freeman just below Jones.

I believe the selection of M.J. Stewart was also a little suspect. Scouts graded Stewart as a potential first-round prospect entering the season, but his playing speed is questionable and he struggles making plays with his back to the ball.

Contrary to Stewart, I believe Carlton Davis was terrific value at the end of Round 2. Entering the combine, several teams had Davis stamped as a potential first-round pick. And while he times as fast as Stewart in the 40, he plays faster and is a little bigger. Davis needs to smooth the rough edges of his game but has starting potential a year or two down the road.

Alex Cappa in Round 3 and Jordan Whitehead in the following frame were reaches in my opinion.

Cappa is a hard-working college tackle who projects to guard. He had his moments at the Senior Bowl but also got beat badly at times and was a last-day value. This is no repeat of the Ali Marpet selection.

I was impressed with Jordan Whitehead early in his Pittsburgh career, but his game never progressed. He’s athletic but small and not physical at all.

On the flip side, the Bucs may have hit it out of the park in Rounds 5 and 6.

Justin Watson was one of the more overlooked receivers in this draft. He has the size, speed and hands to play on Sundays. Like the selection of Chris Godwin one year ago, Watson is a guy who inexplicably slipped through the cracks. I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t make the active roster.

Were it not for an August knee injury that kept him on the sidelines all of 2017, Jack Cichy could well have been a second-day selection. If healthy and back to form, Cichy is another I would expect to make the active roster.

While everyone believed the Bucs would draft Derwin James in Round 1, they may have come away with the safety they needed after signing UDFA Godwin Igwebuike. The Northwestern product looked like second-day value off the 2016 film but struggled all last season, in part due to an ankle injury. He’s a smart, tough safety who gives it up defending the run and shows ball skills in center field.

Analysis: The Bucs got value with their first pick as well as their final selection of the second round. I also believe their final two choices will surprise, and I love the signing of Igwebuike after the draft. It’s now a matter of coaching the players and putting the pieces together, but Tampa Bay definitely upgraded the talent in areas of concerns, especially on defense. Grade: B