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What Will Buccaneers’ Rookies Contribute?

The Buccaneers looked to move closer to the NFC South pack with their draft haul, but even with Bruce Arians now at the helm, will their eight picks be able to boost the team towards their first playoff appearance in twelve years?

Round 1 Instant starter – Devin White (LB)
White was an obvious pick for the Bucs, especially after losing Kwon Alexander in free agency. The LSU phenom will be on the field as much as possible, injury permitting, for the Bucs as a rookie and will be expected to bring significant leadership, especially following the injury to Jason Pierre-Paul in a car accident, the potential loss of Gerald McCoy and Kendell Beckwith being placed on the NFI list over the weekend. He plays like Myles Jack bringing the perfect mix of physicality and athleticism, not to mention cerebral ability, to make him an every down linebacker for Tampa for years to come.

Round 2 Training camp battle – Sean Murphy-Bunting (CB)
It was perhaps disappointing that the Bucs didn’t draft a bona fide starter early in round two. However, they desperately needed secondary help having allowed over 4000 yards through the air last season – averaging a joint-league-worst 8.2 yards per play. Murphy-Bunting goes into OTAs as a backup to Vernon Hargreaves but don’t be surprised to see him swap sides and become a starter. The corner from Central Michigan has good ball skills, stays with receivers well and he has great range with a lanky build. He may have been drafted earlier than expected but he certainly has the tools to see the field regularly in Tampa.

Round 3 Camp battle – Jamel Dean (CB) & Mike Edwards (CB/S)
The Bucs made it clear that they wanted to address the secondary on day two. Having already taken Murphy-Bunting, Tampa drafted a corner in Jamel Dean and then took utility player Mike Edwards, who can play Corner or Safety, late in the round. Both have work to do to start day one, Dean would more than likely spend time at slot or in sub packages but they do add depth to a secondary that was near non-existent in 2018.

Dean has all the attributes with speed and NFL build but he is a major injury concern with three major knee surgeries and only one full college season under his belt. The Auburn alum is long and moves well laterally, giving him an advantage playing in press coverage. Ultimately Dean’s best skill is as a disruptor, and if he can stay healthy he is likely the best of the three corners Tampa drafted with the potential to start opposite Vernon Hargreaves. First though, he needs to play consistently and stay healthy to help his development.

As for Edwards, he will be competing with Justin Evans to start at Safety. He is another tall, athletic option in the secondary, having had 10 interceptions and 23 pass breakups at Kentucky. However he also had nearly 100 tackles in three years – showing no fear in getting into the backfield with 21 for loss – and two forced fumbles. Edwards is cerebral, he is great at recognising routes and plays the ball well. He may sit to start the season but there’s no reason to believe we won’t start at Safety at some point in 2019.

Round 4 Camp battle – Anthony Nelson (DE)
Suddenly it appears that Nelson will have a chance to start day one with the news of the injury to Jason Pierre-Paul, when in reality he was drafted as a backup and rotation player. Nelson fits the scheme and has a pro frame as well as speed off the edge. He has great instincts but needs to work on his hand fighting and add more pass rush strings to his bow to succeed as a pro. Nelson may well start ahead of veteran William Gholston but that was not the original plan for the fourth rounder.

Round 5 Instant starter – Matt Gay (K)
One of the more infamous picks of the whole draft was Gay being selected at 145, before the Buccaneers had taken a single player on offence, when many thought he may go undrafted. Gay hit 72% from over 50 yards in college and has an absolute cannon, with a 62 yard kick to his name at Utah. However he did have three blocked with his slow technique. He has power on kickoffs too, with 71% going for touchbacks but he is not great at coverage if a player breaks free on kick return though. Ultimately, having spent high draft capital on him, the Bucs better hope he starts ahead of Cairo Santos and he is more than capable of living up to starting as a rookie.

Round 6 Roster bubble flyer – Scott Miller (WR)
Miller was clearly drafted in the hope of playing part of Desean Jackson’s role in the offence, taking the top off the defence with blistering speed from the inside. He is very fast and gets off the mark quickly, plus he is able to convert that speed into his breaks as well. However Miller is only 78 kilos and takes a lot of big hits compared to similar players. He also struggles to beat press coverage. Ultimately Miller faces a battle to with Justin Watson and Bobo Wilson to make the roster as fourth/fifth receiver and needs to be more productive to make the roster.

Round 7 Roster bubble flyer – Terry Beckner Jr (DT)
The Bucs final pick was another defender, this time in the trenches. Beckner flashes great ability with good footwork and strength but is highly inconsistent. He has good upper body strength but lacks strength in his legs, and has had major knee injuries in the past. If Tampa can get the best out of him he may a situational player but he currently sits sixth in the waiting list – of course if Gerald McCoy is cut this will help his chances – but it will be a dog fight between seven Tackles to make the four roster spots.

Photo Credit: Kike Weaver/Courier-Journal

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