The draft weekend is a truly incredible event. Hundreds of dreams come true and millions of fans feel their hopes raising for the upcoming season. Now that all the picks are made we can all move on to the next step of the draft process. Unfairly criticizing and setting expectations of players who have never taken an NFL snap. Let that process begin here with my Bucs 2017 draft report card.
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OJ Howard – A+
For months I have been dreaming of Howard in a Bucs uniform. I never thought it could actually happen with his projected landing spots starting at the fourth overall pick and the Buccaneers picking all the way down at nineteen. But low and behold, dreams really do come true! Somehow this elite talent slid right into the Bucs lap.
Howard’s an athletic mismatch at the tight end position. His 6’6 size is too big for most corners and safeties to cover and his 4.5 speed and ability to move fluidly is too much for most linebackers to handle. On top of that, Howard is an excellent blocker. He can handle mostly any DE in this class (including first overall pick Myles Garrett) as a run blocker. He is a great addition to both the pass and the run game.
Justin Evans – C
Evans fills a need at free safety. He is fast and fluid as an athlete, which translates to him having great range in coverage. Combine that with his quality ball skills and this pick is starting to sound pretty good.
However, Evans is awful versus the run. He isn’t a good tackler, often times wildly running up and throwing a shoulder rather than wrapping ball carriers up. He also plays very soft when it comes to taking on blockers. On top of that, I had several safeties rated higher than Evans who were still available at the time. I hope I’m wrong about Evans, but I have a hard to buying go into reaching for a safety who brings almost nothing as a run defender.
Chris Godwin – A
Godwin was a great value for the Bucs in the middle of the third round. He was my 6th rated WR and was one of my top 60 prospects in the draft. Adding him to what the team already has in terms of pass catchers makes this offense very scary.
Godwin is a very well rounded player with no real weakness to speak of. What stands out most about him is his excellent body control and ability to make the highlight reel catch. Godwin also brings the athleticism the Bucs wanted to add to the offense. His 4.41 speed is exactly what the Bucs offense needs to create big plays down the field.
Kendell Beckwith – B-
Beckwith is a thumping two down run stuffer and should compete to win the team’s starting strongside linebacker job. His aggressive and physical style are very attractive in an NFL linebacker and it’s understandable why the Bucs targeted him. He’s not great in coverage, nor is he much of a pass rusher, but he’s not completely lost in these areas either.
He suffered an ACL injury last season, so there are some health concerns, but obviously the Bucs feel comfortable with his health as they moved back into the end of the third round to draft him. If Beckwith emerges as the SAM linebacker next year then this grade will go up. However, I need to see what he bring to the team when healthy before I fully buy into this pick.
Jeremy McNichols – D+
If I had to pick one player from this draft class who wouldn’t make the team next year it would be McNichols. Despite having a very productive college career at Boise State, I don’t see him as an impactful player at the next level. He’s not a strong between the tackles guy, nor is he particularly elusive in open space.
What McNichols does bring to the table is some return ability and the ability to catch passes out of the backfield. This means he’ll probably be a role player for the Bucs; a role which Charles Sims currently occupies. If Sims gets hurt again then McNichols will likely take his place, but for now I’d say he’ll likely end up on the practice squad or off the team all together.
Stevie Tu’ikolovatu – A-
Tu’ikolovatu is a big run stuffing NT who should be a valuable part of the Bucs defensive tackle rotation. He is very difficult to drive back, even when double teamed, and uses his hands very well to get off blocks and make tackles. He brings some pass rush, but this pick was made to improve the strength in the middle and help the run defense.
Part of me was surprised Tu’ikolovatu was still available this late in the draft as he was my 130th rated overall player in the class. Obviously the Bucs felt the same as the traded away next year’s seventh round pick to move up and get him in the early seventh round this year. I believe that if Tu’ikolovatu brought a little more pass rush and was a little younger (he’ll be a 26 year old rookie) he would have easily been a day two pick in the draft.