The 2017 NFL Draft for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers started out with a bang and then it never really lived up to the promise. The picks were mainly based on filling out depth behind positions where they already have top end talent.
However, the Buccaneers took the pressure off themselves of needing to have an impressive draft after having a successful offseason, which so far has seen them fill their offseason needs. With the additions of wide receiver DeSean Jackson, safety J.J. Wilcox and defensive end Chris Baker, the Buccaneers went into the draft with an opportunity to take the best player available. They capitalized on their first pick.
1st Round, 19th Overall: TE O.J. Howard (Alabama)
2nd Round, 50th Overall: S Justin Evans (Texas A&M)
3rd Round, 84th Overall: WR Chris Godwin (Penn State)
3rd Round, 107th Overall: ILB Kendell Beckwith (LSU)
5th Round, 163th Overall: RB Jeremy McNichols (Boise State)
Buccaneers 2017 Draft Grade: 8/10
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2017 NFL Draft Review
Best Player: O.J. Howard
O.J. Howard could also be named to the categories of surprise, steal and the player most likely to turn heads in training camp, but he is the best player the Bucs drafted. Howard’s performance in the 2016 National Championship (208 receiving yards and two touchdowns), earned him MVP honors and helped the Alabama Crimson Tide win their fourth championship in seven years. Howard has the potential to be unstoppable in the Buccaneers offense. He has experience playing with number one receivers like Amari Cooper. Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson are at their best when they utilize their physical skills down field. Howard has the versatility to be a possession receiver as well as a home run hitter.
Head Scratcher: Chris Godwin
This was a pick based on potential. The Buccaneers have Evans, they added Jackson and they have likable receivers in Adam Humphries and Russell Shepard. They added Howard to go with another quality tight end in Cameron Brate. They didn’t need a receiving weapon. Godwin had just one 1,000 yard season in three seasons at Penn State, although he did have 11 touchdown catches last season. Some more talented players were still on the board like D’Onta Foreman, Cordrea Tankersley, Samaje Perine, Carl Lawson, Donnel Pumphrey, Zach Banner and Wayne Gallman.
Surprise: Stevie Tu’ikolovatu
Tu’ikolovato has some moves and traits that give him a unique upside in the seventh round. However, this is a surprise because Tu’ikolovatu plays a position the Buccaneers have little need for. Gerald McCoy, although entering his eighth season in the NFL, shows no signs of slowing down and they already have a rookie from last year in Channing Ward. Maybe Tu’ikolovatu can excel as an edge defender after he had six tackles for loss as a junior at Utah, but his size may preclude him. Kyle Fuller was a quality center they could have used for their inconsistent offensive line.
Steal: Jeremy McNichols
The Buccaneers weren’t willing to give up on Doug Martin just yet, but with him serving a four-game suspension, they decided to stay with Martin’s alma mater Boise State. McNichols proved to be one of the most consistent running backs in college football over the last two seasons with two consecutive seasons of over 1,000 rushing yards and two consecutive seasons of at least 20 rushing touchdowns. To snag a running back with that kind of production in the fifth round is unusual.
Most Likely to Turn Heads in Camp, Justin Evans
Evans had four interceptions, five tackles for loss and was the second leading tackler on the team last season at Texas A&M. Evans didn’t start for the Aggies until he was a junior, but his instincts made him a natural fit. With some big names on the board in the second round, Evans flew under the radar. But with Bradley McDougald departing in free agency and Brent Grimes turning 34 next season, Evans could prove to have possibilities as a safety or a corner back.
Kendell Beckwith had 91 tackles and six tackles for loss as a senior for LSU. He had 16 tackles in the rivalry game against Alabama. The Buccaneers already have one of the best middle linebackers in the NFL in Kwon Alexander, but it’s possible they find more value for him as an outside linebacker and then move Beckwith into the starting lineup. Beckwith was a first team All-American according to Phil Steele.