Could this be the year Tampa Bay Buccaneers get back to the playoffs? Maybe. However, it is a strong possibility after the 2017 NFL Draft.
The 9-7 campaign for Dirk Koetter and his team was a lesson in learning to play better. Jameis Winston continued to progress as one of the NFL’s best young signal callers. The weapons on offense were good but needed help. Mike Evans is already a star at the wide receiver position. Tampa Bay used the draft to get better so that 9-7 record could become 11-5 this coming year.
Howard was the most complete tight end in this draft and slipped a bit as a run on quarterbacks shook the selection process. If he becomes a red zone threat with DeSean Jackson an Evans, this year may a special one in southwest Florida.
The Buccaneers found an immediate starter in Howard and potentially in second-round pick Justin Evans to help the secondary. The team did well to acquire another top pass catcher and depth.
Here’s a look at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers draft class and analysis.
Round 1, Pick 19 (No. 19 overall) O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
I wasn’t excited about this pick in the first place, but now, I see it as a real boon for the Bucs.
Howard gives this team yet another offensive weapon as he was the best tight end in this draft class. My only worry is there are not enough balls to go around in the passing offense.
By passing on Dalvin Cook, Tampa Bay is satisfied with the running game and believe Doug Martin will again carry the load.
Round 2, Pick 18 (No. 50) Justin Evans, S, Texas A&M
Because of the depth of the defensive backs in this draft, could this be a “sleeper” pick for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers? Evans is a quality player, who is a big hitter and can move up to make tackles in the open field. He has good speed and with J.J. Wilcox and incumbents like Chris Conte, the Buccaneers secondary just got a whole lot better.
Round 3, Pick 20 (No. 84) Chris Godwin, WR, Penn State
Yet another weapon in the Buccaneers passing game. The Tampa Bay offense may look like San Diego’s of the 1980s. Jameis Winston will have plenty of options with DeSean Jackson, Mike Evans, Howard and now Godwin. Godwin is a go-get-the-football type of player and should be a solid third wide receiver in passing downs.
Round 3, Pick 43 (No. 107) Kendell Beckwith, LB, LSU
The Bucs sent picks 125 and 204 to the Jets for Beckwith, a former teammate of Kwon Alexander at LSU. It’s a solid pick once Beckwith overcomes a torn ACL he suffered in college. The move to team him with Alexander means the Bucs envision a solid hitting linebacker duo for the next decade. This will be one of those moves we look back on and call a steal.
Round 5, Pick 18 (No. 162) Jeremy McNichols, RB, Boise State
A good pick here as he is shifty and sudden. He may not be an every-down type of back. That is not what Tampa Bay needs him to be. But at 5-foot-9 and 214 pounds he could be a goal-line type runner or a short yardage specialist. McNichols should also help in the return game.
Round 7, Pick 5 (No. 223, from Dolphins via Rams) Stevie Tu’ikolovatu, DT, USC
Mammoth at 6-foot-1 and 335 pounds. This is a pick that may take some time to develop but could be worth the wait. He has a low center of gravity and will help with run defensive. He will be hard to move off the line at the point of attack. The Trojans’ player could be part of the rotation on a consistent basis in 2018.
Analysis: The Buccaneers are so close to being a playoff contender. Although, the NFC South could be the best division in the NFL this coming season. Especially since the Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted more weapons for Winston and the offense. Hence, they could be one of the five best passing teams in the league. Additionally, look for Howard and Godwin to get their catches this season. Also, Evans is a solid pick and a heavy hitter. Beckwith in time will be a starter.
Grade – B