Round 1, No. 5 overall: Devin White, LB, LSU
My take: The Bucs passed up the draft's best edge rusher in Josh Allen and one of the best replacements for Gerald McCoy at three-technique in Ed Oliver, and many would argue that both of those positions have the potential for more impact. But the Bucs found one of the best all-around inside linebackers the NFL draft has seen in some time, drawing strong comparisons to Patrick Willis.
The last time an inside linebacker was drafted in the top five was when the Green Bay Packers took A.J. Hawk with the fifth overall draft selection in 2006. ESPN's NFL Draft Projections give him a 70 percent chance to become a Pro Bowl-caliber player in his first three seasons, the most of any player at any position in the 2019 draft class.
"An unquestioned leader": GM Jason Licht pointed out several qualities that impressed him with White, including being a captain at LSU for two years. "His focus, his will to win, his plan, he's a very thoughtful person in terms of what he's going to do to come in here and become the starter, be the leader, be the quarterback of the defense -- you talk to any of his teammates, they believe that he's the best player on their team. He's been the unquestioned leader for two years there. I could go on and on. It's just inspiring being around him," Licht said.
"I remember sitting around with him and a bunch of the guys upstairs, talking about, 'Hey, we just want an impact guy that can come in here and turn this around.' And he said, 'Turn what around? We're all undefeated right now. There's no reason why we can't get to the Super Bowl.' He's just got that mindset.
A potential upgrade over Kwon Alexander: Former middle linebacker Kwon Alexander might have been a strong run defender and a physical tackler, but he was a liability in coverage. The Bucs' defense allowed the highest completion percentage in the NFL last season (72.5 percent), according to ESPN Statistics & Information. They allowed a completion percentage of 82 percent when a linebacker was the nearest defender, according to NFL Next Gen Stats, also the worst in the NFL.
While there have been instances where White has been susceptible to play-action, he has the potential to be much stronger in coverage than Alexander. Opposing quarterbacks had a 28.7 quarterback rating when White was on the field at LSU and a 63.0 rating when off the field. He can get into the backfield too, recording the second-best pressure percentage among FBS players with at least 100 pass rushes in 2018.
NFL draft profile: Sean Bunting
Sean Bunting is a cornerback out of Central Michigan with good man-to-man cover skills and the ability to blanket receivers underneath.
Round 2, No. 39 overall: Sean Bunting, CB, Central Michigan
My take: The Bucs have Vernon Hargreaves and Carlton Davis on the outside, but they need more players who are better suited for press-man coverage, who can get their hands on receivers at the line of scrimmage. Bunting’s long arms certainly give him the ability to do that, and he has strong ball skills, finishing his college career with nine interceptions.
“I would say my best attribute is being able to take the ball out of the air, Bunting said. “I’m a ball hawk. I consider myself a receiving defensive back. That’s just something I take pride in, being able to take away the ball and give it back to the offense. And also getting my hands [on people], getting physical. A lot of corners don’t get physical at the line of scrimmage. A lot of them kind of like to open up and run. That’s part of my game that I’d like to elevate more and more each year, and that’s going to make me elevate my game in every way possible."
Bunting’s slight frame may limit him at the next level. He’s not as quick to react as other cornerbacks, but his 4.42 40-yard dash time at the NFL combine helped him answer questions about his vertical speed. While this pick doesn’t address their need at nickelback, this gives them a player who can develop into a potential starter on the outside, as many feel he hasn’t reached his ceiling yet.
What’s next: The Bucs still have yet to touch any defensive linemen, which draws concerns given the major uncertainty with defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and they need more production outside of Jason Pierre-Paul. They need a pass rush to help out their corners. They could use some youth at offensive tackle as well, given that Demar Dotson is now 33 and struggled in 2018. They need some insurance if Caleb Benenoch struggles the same way he did at guard. And while they signed Kentrell Brice in free agency and saw promise in Jordan Whitehead as a rookie last year, the safety position is still unsettled.
Round 3, No. 94 overall: Jamel Dean, CB, Auburn
My take:The Bucs traded the 70th overall pick to the Los Angeles Rams in exchange for picks Nos. 94 and 99, meaning they passed on Jaylon Ferguson, Khalen Saunders and Dre'Mont Jones -- all who could have impacted their pass rush -- to select Dean, the second of three defensive backs taken by the Bucs on Day 2.
General manager Jason Licht said this was a function of the way the board fell, but also that they have been pleased with what they're seeing out of the current players up front since the offseason program began. He said they weren't happy with their defensive back play last year and believes they needed more competition and speed in that room.
NFL draft profile: Jamel Dean
Jamel Dean is a tall, long and well-built corner from Auburn with outstanding speed and long arms to bat the ball down at the last second.
"The new staff, [defensive coordinator] Todd [Bowles], myself, head coach Bruce [Arians] -- we love JPP (Jason Pierre-Paul), Carl Nassib, we signed Shaquil Barrett for a reason and Noah [Spence] has really been a pleasant surprise so far for the new staff and for us with what he's been showing," Licht said Friday. "So we're happy with Vita [Vea] and right now, I know every team has areas they'd like to upgrade, but you can't always do it. The board fell the way it did and we're excited about the way it did."
There was no mention of Gerald McCoy, whom they have yet to find a replacement for, unless they intend to line Vea up at three-technique.
Dean clocked a 4.3 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine after enduring three serious knee injuries and missing two seasons of college football. At 6-foot-2 and 208 pounds, he's another lanky corner who thrives in press coverage.
Round 3, No. 99 overall: Mike Edwards, DB, Kentucky
My take: While the two previous defensive backs the Bucs selected -- Sean Bunting and Jamel Dean -- are lanky, outside corners, Edwards is more of a jack-of-all trades, having played safety, nickelback and outside corner. The Bucs see him as a safety.
He brings something the Bucs haven't seen much of from their current crop of DBs -- ball hawking. He tallied 23 pass breakups and 10 interceptions in four years at Kentucky, having never missed a game during that span.
NFL draft profile: Mike Edwards
Mike Edwards is a safety out of Kentucky who earned second-team All-SEC honors during his senior season.
"I feel like I'm a ball guy. I love getting to the ball and I love taking away the ball," Edwards said. "That's what I harp on -- getting takeaways, getting turnovers -- if it's fumbles or interceptions, whatever it may be, I feel like that's what I do. I'm a playmaker."
He's a great blitzer as well, compiling 20.5 tackles for loss, which suits Todd Bowles' defense well -- he blitzes defensive backs more than any other defensive coordinator in the league.
Round 4, No. 107 overall: Anthony Nelson, DE, Iowa
My take: After two days, the Bucs finally addressed their defensive line. Nelson doesn't have a great first step. He clocked a 4.82 at the combine. He doesn't have great bend either, but his size (6-foot-7, 275 pounds) is impressive, particularly the long arms. Nelson registered 9.5 sacks last year, 17th most in the country, and had 13.5 tackles for loss. Don't expect him to become a starter this year, but he could be an effective part of the Bucs' rotation.
“Yeah, length is a big tool for me, long guy with long arms,” Nelson said. “It is just knowing how to use it and you have to use it to your advantage. It’s one of my strengths and it’s one of the things that I have to use just consistently getting leverage on guys and just using it the best I can to make plays.”
Round 5, No. 145 overall: Matt Gay, K, Utah
My take: Three years and two days after the Buccaneers infamously traded into the second round to select Roberto Aguayo in the 2016 NFL draft, the Bucs again took the first kicker off the board.
It is a baffling selection considering there are still needs along the offensive line with questions at right guard and right tackle, and there's still some decent receiving and running back talent available -- plus kickers can be picked up after the draft.
The big difference with Gay and Aguayo, though, is that Gay has been solid from 40-plus yards. In fact, he made 72 percent of his kicks from 50-plus yards while at Utah. Still, if the Bucs learned anything from drafting Aguayo, it's that the pressure of being drafted at this position can really do a number on the psyche of a kicker.
Arians' response when asked about the move moments later on ESPN? "We need to score more points," he said.
The Bucs already have Cairo Santos on the roster, although they could cut him and would only have to eat $195,000 of guaranteed money to save $805,000.
Round 6, No. 208 overall: Scott Miller, WR, Bowling Green
My take: The Bucs now have a viable replacement for slot wide receiver Adam Humphries, who departed in free agency. At 5-foot-11 and 166 pounds, Miller has a slight frame, but he can flat-out fly, clocking a 40 time at his pro day that ranged from 4.28-4.3. Over the last two seasons, he caught 67 percent of his targets, seventh-most among players with 200 or more targets since 2017. He also does a nice job getting vertical and catching the ball in-stride. This is a great value pickup in the sixth round.
Round 7, No. 215 overall: Terry Beckner Jr., DT, Missouri
My take: At one point in 2015, ESPN had him ranked as high as the No. 2 high school prospect in the country. But Beckner suffered a torn ACL in his right knee in 2015, and then in his left knee in 2016. He did not miss a game in his final two college seasons, however.
In 42 games, Beckner had 13.5 sacks, 32 tackles for a loss and 120 total tackles (73 solo). In January 2016, he was arrested for misdemeanor possession of marijuana, resulting in a suspension. His best year came the following season in 2017, when he had seven sacks.
"He's really tough," general manager Jason Licht said. "Love the kid, love the grit that he has. Where he's grown up in East St. Louis, it'd be tough for me to walk a day in his shoes with some of the things he's had to go through. He's an awesome kid. Smart, instinctive player, strong, like the way he plays. He's gonna compete, I know, and he's got a good chance to make this football team if he plays the way he did at Missouri and the way we evaluated him."
Beckner did line up in Gerald McCoy’s three-technique spot at Missouri, along with nose tackle and he’d kick outside, so he’s got some versatility, which can be valuable on game days where you can only dress 46 players. Is he McCoy’s replacement though? Highly doubtful.