JUST TRUST THE PROCESS!
That’s what I had to keep telling myself all night. Now that I’m over the shock of these Day 2 picks, I thought that I would sit down and write a rational review of the Buccaneers’ decisions for the second and third rounds.
The Bucs began this second day with the 45th and 76th picks of the draft, and that’s where they stayed. No trade-ups. No OJ Howard trade. Just their original second and third-round picks. Most people, including yours truly, assumed that their second-round pick would be a running back. It was their second-biggest need behind the right tackle, in my opinion. To a lot of fans surprise, two of the top five running backs in this draft were still on the board when the Bucs went on the clock with the 45th pick. They had their choice between Ohio State’s KJ Dobbins or Florida State’s Cam Akers. So who did they go with?
Instead of drafting for need, Jason Licht decided to go with the best player available. That player was Minnesota safety Antoine Winfield Jr. That’s right, folks. Despite having Jordan Whitehead, Mike Edwards, Andrew Adams, Justin Evans, Deiondre’ Hall, and D’Cota Dixon already on the roster, they chose to add another safety with their second-round pick.
Do I sound bitter? I’m not.
I’ll admit, I liked the player but HATED the pick initially. I wanted a running back and was stoked to see those two guys sitting there when the Bucs pick came up. It was a no brainer pick to me. With Peyton Barber gone, the Bucs running back room is suddenly pretty thin. Sure, they have Ronald Jones II, who drastically improved from year one to year two. But behind him is NOTHING. They still have kick returner TJ Logan and third-down back Dare Ogunbowale. They also added an undrafted guy named Aca’Cedric Ware. But that’s it. At this point, if Jones gets hurt this season, they’re screwed.
But I get the pick.
Winfield Jr. should’ve been one of the first safeties off the board in the first round, but maybe he slipped into the middle of the second round because of his size. At 5’10″/195lbs, he’s not a big safety. But the dude can play football. He was referred to as a “dog that hunts” by one of the guys at TheDraftNetwork.com because of his knack for ALWAYS being around the football. He’s got instincts. He’s a ballhawk. He’s a big hitter. He can play the run. He can play in coverage. He can play up, on the line, or he can play deep. He’s literally everything you could want in a versatile safety. He will likely be the Bucs new starting free safety with Jordan Whitehead as their strong safety.
This pick told me two things.
First, the Bucs didn’t view running back as the big position of need that almost everyone else thought it was. They are apparently happy hitching their wagon to RoJo and riding him until the wheels fall off. That’s fine by me. I thought they should’ve done that last year instead of playing musical backs between him and Barber every series. It also told me that they could be looking for a veteran free agent running back sometime after the draft. There’s quite a few still out there that would be relatively inexpensive options like Carlos Hyde, Lamar Miller, or Devonta Freeman. There’s still a chance they add another back on Day 3 like Miami’s DeeJay Dallas, Florida’s Lamical Perine, or Baylor’s JaMycal Hasty, but I’m not counting on it.
The second thing that this pick told me is that the Buccaneers could be preparing to move on from the oft-injured Justin Evans. He’s only played in 24 games over three seasons with the Bucs, including missing the entire 2019 season. He’s coming off of surgeries on BOTH feet, and it’s been up in the air on whether he would even return to football. Jason Licht said that they still have hope that Evans will be able to come back and compete for a spot in training camp. But this pick looks like an insurance policy just in case he doesn’t.
The Bucs did address their running back need in the third round when they took Vanderbilt’s Ke’Shawn Vaughn with their 76th pick. Yeah, I know. Who? This pick was a little bit of a surprise to me, because Utah’s Zack Moss was still available and he was ranked much higher than Vaughn on almost everyone’s draft board. Except for the Bucs apparently. Rumor is that Tampa was interested in Memphis RB/WR Antonio Gibson, but the Redskins grabbed him at the start of the third round with their 66th pick. Now the Bucs needed to find another option for their new third-down back, and Vaughn was it. If you compare their numbers, Vaughn has very similar statistics to Zack Moss, except he did it in the SEC Conference.
Moss Career Stats: 712 att, 4,067 ru yds, 5.7 ypc, 38 tds, 66 rec, 685 rec yds, 10.4 ypc, 3 rec tds
Vaughn Career Stats: 572 att, 3,296 ru yds, 5.8 ypc, 30 ru tds, 66 rec, 648 rec yds, 9.8 ypc, 3 rec tds
At 5’10″/205lbs, he’s a good size back with home run speed. He’s a physical runner with an aggressive attitude. He’s an instinctual and decisive runner with good vision. He was productive as a pass-catcher out of the backfield, especially on screens and swing passes. From what I see, he fits as the Bucs new third-down back, but they still need to add another back with some power to their backfield, whether it’s on Day 3 or in free agency.
In conclusion, Day 2 was full of surprises, but the Bucs came out of it with a first-round talent safety in the middle of the second round, AND they got the third-down back they desperately needed. It was another good day for Tampa Bay.
Day 3 will no doubt bring some more surprises to some of us Bucs fans. The Bucs are without a fourth-round pick after trading BOTH of them away in the Rob Gronkowski trade and the Day 1 trade with the Niners. So their first pick on Saturday, won’t be until the 161st pick of the fifth round. That is unless they find a way to trade up. Their other three picks are the 194th pick of the sixth and the 241st and 245th picks of the seventh round.
As far as potential Day 3 targets…I have no idea what the Bucs are thinking. But I have my favorites. They could be looking for a new wide receiver to replace Breshad Perriman so Minnesota’s Tyler Johnson could be a nice option if he’s still there in the fifth round. They could stand to add some more depth to the d-line and there are plenty of decent players available like North Carolina’s Jason Strowbridge, Utah’s Leki Fotu, LSU’s Rashard Lawrence, or Michigan State’s Raequan Williams. Maybe they’ll add some depth to the o-line with a guy like Clemson’s John Simpson, Auburn’s Prince Tega Wanogho, St. John’s Ben Bartch, Washington’s Nick Harris, Charlotte’s Cameron Clarke or Kentucky’s Logan Stenberg. Adding some depth at inside linebacker wouldn’t be a bad idea with someone like Miami’s Shaquille Quarterman or Michigan State’s Joe Bachie. After what happened on Day 2, I really don’t have a clue what the Bucs might do.
Another interesting sidenote from Day 2 has to do with Bucs tight end, O.J. Howard. After Tampa traded for Gronkowski, there were rumors that Howard would be on the trading block. There was some speculation that they would use him to either move up in the first round or gain another pick on Day 2. Obviously, that didn’t happen. So, as of right now anyway, it appears as though Howard will remain a Buc for the 2020 season. The Bucs will go into this year with a tight end room consisting of Gronk, Howard, Cam Brate, Antony Auclair, Tanner Hudson, Jordan Leggett, and Cody McElroy. This group is LOADED.
So just to recap the first three rounds, the Bucs lucked out with one of the best offensive tackles in this draft when they had Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs fall to their 14th pick. They lucked out again with one of the best safeties in this draft when Minnesota’s Antoine Winfield Jr fell to them at their 45th pick. And they got a new third-down back with their 76th pick of the third round in Vanderbilt’s Ke’Shawn Vaughn. All in all, it’s been a highly productive weekend so far for Tampa Bay, and I can’t wait to see what Day 3 has in store.
Until then, as always, GO BUCS!!!