The Buccaneers finished the 2018 season ranked No. 27 in the NFL for total defense. New head coach Bruce Arians clearly wants to change that, and the Bucs focused heavily on upgrading that side of the ball in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Let’s take a look at what the Buccaneers did from the perspective of how it may impact the Falcons this season.
Round 1, Pick No. 5: Devin White, LB, LSU
I was certain the Buccaneers would take Ed Oliver at this spot to replace Gerald McCoy, but they went with White instead and added quality talent at the middle linebacker position. They needed a replacement for Kwon Alexander, and White has the potential to be an upgrade. White was the No. 3 player on Mel Kiper’s big board this draft season, and Oliver came in at No. 9. This is unfortunately a solid pick for Tampa Bay.
Round 2, Pick No. 39: Sean Bunting, CB, Central Michigan
In the words of NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein, Bunting is “a solid Day 3 prospect with CB4 potential.” The Bucs may have reached on Bunting. He ran a 4.42 at the Combine, showcasing straight-line speed, but one knock on Bunting is his closing speed, which could be a problem against the Falcons’ receivers.
Round 3, Pick No. 94: Jamel Dean, CB, Auburn
The Bucs traded back to land Dean at No. 4, picking up an additional third rounder in the process. When a team has to face receivers like Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley twice a year, investing in the secondary isn’t a bad idea. Dean’s got good size at 6’2 and 208 pounds, and he ran a 4.3 40-yard dash at the Combine. Dean has a substantial injury history, but he does shine in press coverage, which may help Tampa Bay against the Falcons.
Round 3, Pick No. 99: Mike Edwards, DB, Kentucky
The Bucs got through three entire rounds without addressing a pass rush that needs improving, and instead added yet another defensive back with the 99th pick. But still, unfortunately, I really like the Edwards pick for Tampa Bay because of his versatility. He can play nickel, outside, or safety, and he was a ballhawk in college, with 10 interceptions. He’s also adept at the corner blitz, which has to be appealing to Todd Bowles, the Buccaneers’ new defensive coordinator.
Round 4, Pick No. 107: Anthony Nelson, DE, Iowa
Finally the Buccaneers got around to landing a defensive end, but the bad news for Tampa Bay is that Nelson looks the part, but his ceiling is pretty low. He’s got size and length, and he is able to use it to his advantage, but he’s not quick off the snap. There’s little chance, barring any catastrophe, that Nelson starts this year — which isn’t the end of the world for a fourth-rounder. But the Bucs passed on a ton of pass rushing talent and Nelson isn’t the most exciting consolation prize.
Round 5, Pick No. 145: Matt Gay, K, Utah
Remember when we all laughed at the Buccaneers for trading up to draft Roberto Aguayo a few years back, and then Aguayo turned out to be a disaster? Well, I’m laughing now because the Bucs did it again, and it makes no sense. They have Cairo Santos on the roster, though he wouldn’t leave them with much dead money if they cut him. The Bucs need help along the offensive line in particular, so going with a kicker here seems absurd, and I love it.
Round 6, Pick No. 208: Scott Miller, WR, Bowling Green
Miller ran somewhere in the high 4.2 to low 4.3 40-yard dash range at his Pro Day. He’s undersized, at 5’8 and 166 pounds, but that speed could still make him a threat, and he was a reliable receiver in college, albeit in a non-Power 5 conference. Low risk pick with potentially solid reward if he can keep up that reliability at the pro level.
Round 7, Pick No. 205: Terry Beckner Jr., DT, Missouri
Beckner Jr. had impressive stat lines his final two years of college, with 20.5 sacks over those two seasons. He can play three tech or nose guard or kick outside, and the versatility is nice. But a seventh rounder isn’t going to replace Gerald McCoy.
Overall grade: C
The Bucs added some interesting talent, and I really like a few of these picks for their versatility and skill sets. But they totally ignored the offensive line and didn’t really add surefire stars along the defensive line.