So far, the Bucs have had a nice offseason. They’ve strengthened their wide receiver group with the addition of DeSean Jackson and they’ve added some extra bulk to the interior of their defensive line by signing Chris Baker. However, the Buccaneers still have a lot of holes to fill on the roster. With most of the impact free agents off the market, we now look to the draft to finish building the roster before next season. Here are five potential targets I feel would be perfect fits in Tampa Bay.
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Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
Let’s just get this one out of the way first. Cook is one of the top running backs in this class and he just so happens to reside in the Bucs backyard. The Florida State star has elite vision and is a big play threat anytime he touches the ball. With the well documented problems Doug Martin has had off the field, dealing with drug problems and checking himself into rehab, his future is very much in doubt for next year. That could make Cook a perfect match for the Bucs if this prime time talent were to slip to them.
Luckily for the Buccaneers, Cook has not had a good draft process thus far. He has had a long list of off the field issues during his career and some people question if he can stay out of trouble. He also had a very poor showing at the combine, testing as a very underwhelming athlete overall. On top of all that, he has injury and fumbling problems on the field. Despite all these red flags, he is still a top end talent in this draft. Don’t be shocked if he slides to the Bucs and proves to be a great value.
Malik McDowell, DT/DE, Michigan State
McDowell is one of the elite talents in this class. He’s explosive off the snap and has a gift for blowing plays up in the backfield, even when double teamed. He has several nice pass rush moves in his arsenal and should be a strong pass rusher at the next level. McDowell is also a good run defender, holding strong at the point of attack. However, just like with Cook there are some off the field question marks.
According to reports, McDowell has interviewed very poorly. It has led people to question his overall attitude and his football IQ. He’s also developed a reputation as an “average worker”. These things have all showed up on his tape. There are times when he just seems to disappear and there seem to be legitimate questions about how much heart he has for the game. These issues aren’t a deal breaker by any means; even with them he proved to be one of the elite players in college football. However, these issues could let him slide to the Bucs and help give them one of the best defensive lines in the NFL.
Hasaan Reddick, OLB, Temple
Where the last two prospects were guys who have seen their stock falling over the recent months, Reddick has been shooting up draft boards. He is an excellent athlete who has the ability to range from sideline to sideline. He also projects to be a great blitzer as a guy who played primarily defensive end in college. He may need a little time to develop his instincts as a linebacker, but that shouldn’t be an issue in Tampa. Reddick should step right in to replace Daryl Smith next season as the strong side linebacker, meaning he will only be on the field for about half the snaps as the Bucs replace their strong side backer with a nickel corner about half the time. This gives Reddick time to ease into the position as well as give the Bucs one of the elite linebacker groups in the game.
Forrest Lamp, OG, Western Kentucky
I know people don’t usually get excited over interior offensive line play, but trust me when I say that this guy is worth this pick. Lamp was a star left tackle in college, playing the position as well as you’ll ever see. Unfortunately for him, he’s a little shorter than NFL left tackles usually measure in at and that means he’ll likely be a career guard at the next level. This takes him from what would have probably been a top five pick in this draft, to being projected in the late teens to mid twenties. However, those tools that made him great in college are still there and project to make him an outstanding NFL player.
Lamp is a great athlete who was very impressive at the combine. He’s as strong and as mobile as any offensive lineman in this class. Lamp slides so well in pass protection and uses his hands well to lock onto defenders. What really makes Lamp jump off the screen is the way he mauls defenders as a run blocker. He just simple manhandles them and usually drives them into the ground. Pairing him with Ali Marpet would give the Bucs one of the strongest interior offensive line groups in the game with both being under the age of 25.
OJ Howard, TE, Alabama
This pick is admittedly a bit of a pipe dream. However, tight ends are rarely drafted particularly high. That combined with his lack of top end production as a pass catcher in college could cause him to slide. This would be the ideal scenario for the Bucs. I don’t want to build the hype too much, Howard is far and away the best tight end prospect I’ve ever seen.
Howard is an elite talent in this class and not just as a tight end. He is my third ranked player on my big board and is worthy of being a top ten pick. Even though he didn’t put up huge numbers in college, Howard has all the tools you’d want from a great receiving tight end. He has very good speed for the position and can be used to burn defenses deep. If Alabama had used him as a featured part of the offense he could have been one of the best pass catchers in college football.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see that because the Crimson Tide used him as a blocker primarily. This was a logical move by the coaching staff considering that Howard is an elite run blocking tight end. He is essentially a sixth offensive lineman in the running game and is actually better than most offensive lineman in this class. So not only would he provide Winston with another big, fast, sure handed target to throw to, but he can also instantly improve the Bucs rushing attack for whoever the running back turns out to be.