With the 2018 NFL Draft in the books, it’s time to give an evaluation as to how all 32 teams did in addressing their positional needs. Here, the focus will be on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tampa made three trades over the course of the draft, and we will go over them here.
Traded first-round pick (7th overall) and their seventh (No. 255) to Buffalo Bills for their first (12th), and two seconds (53rd and 56th).
Traded a second-rounder (56th) to New England Patriots for a second (63rd) and a fourth (117th).
Traded a fourth-rounder (102nd) and a sixth (180th) to the Minnesota Vikings for a third (94th)
Trying to stay focused on the draft instead of delving into the recent threats made against the teams general manager; Jason Licht. Here are the picks that they made, and a chance for you to get to know each of them a little better.
After all was said and done, the Buccaneers ended up taking eight players in the draft.
First round, 12th overall: Vita Vea, defensive tackle, Washington
Second round, 38th overall: Ronald Jones II, running back, USC
Second round, 53rd overall: M.J. Stewart, defensive back, North Carolina
Second round, 63rd overall: Carlton Davis, cornerback, Auburn
Third round, 94th overall: Alex Cappa, offensive line, Humboldt State
Fourth round, 117th overall: Jordan Whitehead, safety, Pittsburgh
Fifth round, 144th overall: Justin Watson, wide receiver, Pennsylvania
Sixth round, 202nd overall: Jack Cichy, linebacker, Wisconsin
Buccaneers 2018 Draft Grade: 8.8/10
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2018 NFL Draft Review
The Best Player: Vita Vea
With only one pick in the top 50, the best player at this point in time is Vita Vea. Continuing to climb draft boards every year he was in college, Vea became arguably one of the best defensive linemen in this year’s draft. The motor can sometimes be a question with Vea, as sometimes he is seen taking plays off. However, the speed that comes along with the size is a skill that cannot be taught, and this is what caught the talent of general managers around the league. There were very few players in college who could handle him one-on-one when he was playing hard. Coming into the Buccaneers organization, he may not even be the best defensive tackle on the team. Pairing Vea with Gerald McCoy leads this team to now have one of the strongest interiors in the NFL.
The Head-Scratcher: Vita Vea
While he is the best player that the team drafted, it came as a bit of a shock when Tampa drafted Vea due to the strength of the team’s current defensive line. There were other positions of need for the team, and the question surrounding the pick of Vea at 12 can be forgotten about if the players they took in the second round in the secondary become starters at some point in the near future.
The Surprise: Ronald Jones II
It cannot be argued that the Buccaneers needed a running back, as it was a clear position of need as the 2017 season came to an end. The question that should be asked is “why did they feel a need to take one so early”? After Saquon Barkley, there was a clear drop-off. There is a legitimate question that Jones may not have the top end speed to dominate that aspect of the game at the next level. Pair this with a separate concern that he may not be big enough, and there is a genuine concern over his future. With all the success of late round picks and hindsight being 20/20, they could’ve waited until their third or fourth round pick to take a back with very similar potential.
The Steal: Jack Cichy
Three sack Jack could easily be the steal of the draft for the Buccaneers. Although he missed the entirety of the 2017 season with injuries, he received a PFF grade of 89.0 in 2016. He showed his ability to dominate against high-level competition, and if he was healthy for the previous season, he easily would’ve been a Day Two pick. At a fairly stable position, he should be able to learn the system and ease his way in, leading the way to a quiet 2018 and an impact 2019 season.
Most Likely to Turn Heads in Training Camp: Carlton Davis
Taken 10 picks later than M.J. Stewart, Davis has all the skills to come in and win a spot in training camp. His size at 6’1″, and long arms should fit perfectly in today’s game. He also showed he could play against top level competition, earning starting honors as a true freshman, all the way up to first-team All-ACC last year. Constantly finding the ball, Davis has 21 pass breakups over the past two seasons and fills an immediate need for Tampa.
Competing with Davis for a potential starting role will be M.J. Stewart. Stewart is a little smaller but is more suited to be playing closer to the center of the defense. His smaller stature gives him the potential to play the nickel and his physicality also leads to the possibility of playing safety. If he can find a position, he is in line to start somewhere in the secondary.
Jordan Whitehead is one of the few things that could be standing in the way of a starting safety role for Stewart. Although unlikely due to the number of mental mistakes that Whitehead makes, his fearlessness could become an asset if it can be managed. The main fear with Whitehead is that the pass-first NFL will be too fast and complicated, with mental mistakes cutting his playing time short and leading to a special teams only roll.
As receiver wasn’t a need for the Buccaneers, they decided to roll the dice on a fifth-round pick in Justin Watson. Coming from a small school in Penn, the question is whether or not his film and lack of competition is the reason he was a good player in college, or if the talent will translate regardless of who lines up across from him. He has the size to be a legitimate receiver, but facing the talent level on Sunday’s could be too much for Watson.
Another smaller school prospect, Alex Cappa came off the board in the third round. Unlike Watson, the though with Cappa is that he has the size and talent to immediately step in for Tampa. At 6’6″ and over 300 lbs, he could see playing time at either guard or tackle early on in the 2018 season.
Tampa came into the draft with a few needs that they needed to hit, and not only did they manage to fill those needs, but they were able to do so by trading down and acquiring nearly 40% more value than they originally held. Tampa had one of the better drafts and put themselves in a great position to improve and cash in on the expectations that have been starting to build up over the last few years. Give Tampa credit for having one of the five best drafts of any team.