With their second round selection, here are five players the Tampa Bay Buccaneers could target with the 39th overall pick in the draft.
With the debate raging about who the Tampa Bay Buccaneers should take with the fifth overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft between Devin White, Ed Oliver, and others, not much is talked about with who could be selected with the 39th pick in the draft. The Buccaneers have had several players in for pre-draft visits who would fit the bill with their second round selection, it is just a matter of how general manager Jason Licht has his draft board prioritized.
Over the past three drafts, Noah Spence, Roberto Aguayo, Justin Evans, Ronald Jones, Carlton Davis, and M.J. Stewart have been selected by Licht. Needless to say, he does not have a great track record when it comes to second round picks, as only one of the players mentioned have made much of an impact for the Bucs in Evans. Entering a crucial 2019 season, Licht must nail the picks within the first three rounds of this draft, at the bare minimum.
Expected to go heavy on the defensive side of the football, three players on this list appear in positions of need in Tampa Bay, such as cornerback, defensive line, and safety. Here are five players that the Buccaneers could target with their second round pick, the 39th overall pick in the draft.
As many of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are looking for redemption this year, no one needs a bounce back season more than running back Ronald Jones II.
The 2018 season fell short for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on just about all fronts. Starters never seemed to find their stride after the beginning of the season, the play calling was poor, and the draft picks never seemed to come into their own. None of the rookies had a more disappointing season than running back Ronald Jones. The starting spot from the beginning of the year was Jones’ to win, yet at the end of his disappointing rookie campaign he was behind both Peyton Barber and Jacquizz Rodgers on the depth chart.
Jones had a very good career at USC totaling 591 rushing attempts for 3,619 yards over a three-year period. His six yards per carry as a college player was a stark contrast from the less than two yards per carry that RoJo had in his rookie season in the NFL. With only one touchdown and poor hands, Ronald Jones never seemed to find his stride as a professional player.
One of the tougher pills to swallow on Jones’ game was his season compared to the seasons of the other running backs taken in the second round. Browns running back Nick Chubb and Lions running back Kerryon Johnson were also taken in the second round, but both outperformed Jones by a healthy margin and ended up as starters on their respective teams. Johnson was able to prove his worth as a pass-catcher while Chubb made every rep count when he was utilized as a backup for the first part of the season.
Jones has a plethora of things that he has to work on to become the number one guy in Tampa. For starters, he has to become more efficient with the touches he is given. Averaging less than two yards per carry average will never fly in the NFL, and starter Peyton Barber averages less than four yards per carry, which should at least be the baseline.
The other important thing that Jones has to improve on is his pass-catching ability. Having a running back that can catch out in the flats opens up an offense greatly, especially for a team that has dealt with offensive line problems. At the very least being able to catch would give Jones more opportunities on 3rd down situations, which help in a competition for a starting spot.
TAMPA — Former Bucs great Warren Sapp regularly breaks down film on his Instagram feed, and this week’s dissection of the Bucs’ 42-28 loss to the Panthers apparently didn’t sit well with Tampa Bay linebackers Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander.
Sapp broke down Christian McCaffrey’s 35-yard run with 9:01 left in the second quarter, in which McCaffrey turns the corner down the right sideline against an eight-man front for a big gain.
“Holy Toledo, c’mon, this is not a hard play,” Sapp says as the play runs, stopping the play as David bears in on pulling Carolina center Mark Kalil in front of McCaffrey. David was pushed inside, allowing McCaffrey, who gets free outside after a subtle cutback, to turn the corner for a huge gain down the sideline.
Carolina scored a touchdown three plays later to take a 28-7 lead.
Sapp makes the point that David should have filled the outside gap, which would have pushed McCaffrey inside, where safety Jordan Whitehead could have filled and made the tackle.
That’s not the way David saw it, commenting on the post from his Instagram account, “Dead wrong.”
Alexander chimed in as well with a comment that included, “Bro, they don’t know what they be talking about (laughing emoji). He just like those (expletive).”
Sapp then replied to David: “Who you typing at?”, and to Alexander, “Who?, to which Alexander said, “You.”
Sapp responds to Alexander: “So tell US what you was suppose to do if not turn it back to the free hitter sitting in the hole.”
And he responds to David: “We waiting? Damn sure (went) under the block and RB still going must be the plan.”
Wednesday, Sapp told the Tampa Bay Times that he’s not surprised by the reaction he received from the players.
“These kids are playing their own game and have their own network of admirers,” he said.
“But you tell me what you’re doing since you done spilled it to the next guy, and he spilled it to the next guy, and not only does (McCaffrey) get the sideline, why is the safety delayed filling it? Is he not sure you’re going to do your job?
“You tell me something. I got my championship and my gold jacket. All that is buried, dead and gone. Trust me, I can pick up some way worse plays than that. I’m cutting you some slack.”
One could easily say Bucs defenders should be less defensive on social media and have more focus making plays on the field. But obviously, no one wins a social media argument in an Instagram post comment section.
In fact, nothing good happens from it. It only ends poorly as trolls join in. But it definitely drew attention to the post, which had more than 28,000 views as of Wednesday morning.
Maybe McCaffrey just made a great move to give him the corner. Maybe he’s just better. It was pretty clear the Panthers are better than the Bucs on Sunday.
Asked about Sapp’s criticism on Wednesday, Bucs defensive coordinator Mark Duffner said everyone is entitled to their own opinion.
“I respect people’s opinions,” Duffner said. “But again, we continue to work hard to put people in the right position and players work hard to be in the right position and that’s our task and that’s our job and that’s our challenge and we’re going to continue to work hard for it.”
Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy might have put it best, explaining Monday his recent silence by saying that there’s no sense in saying a lot when the team isn’t playing well.
“Defense hasn’t been playing good,” McCoy said. “There’s not really a lot of talking that needs to be done. So that’s why I haven’t been doing interviews, because it’s just like nine years in, the defense is playing bad, how much talking do I really need to do? ‘Oh we need to fix this. Oh we need to fix that.’ It’s just you either get it done or just don’t say nothing. So that’s kind of where I’ve been.”
McCoy said he’s been on the receiving end of criticism from Sapp as well.
“We hear it from all ends,” McCoy said. “Ninety-nine gave me an earful yesterday. That’s what he does. That’s my brother, though. That’s my older brother. When he gets on me, that’s what he does.”
Uglier than the Instagram comment exchange was the play itself. McCaffrey turns the corner with four Bucs defenders left in the dust on on the ground and runs down the sideline untouched until he was taken down by defensive end — yes, defensive end — Carl Nassib at the seven. Even if David was to push McCaffrey into a free tackler, tackling was not the Bucs’ strong suit on Sunday.
The Bucs have allowed 34.4 points a game this season, which is the most in the NFL. They’ve also yielded 414.3 yards a game, which ranked 28th of the league’s 32 teams.
Ronde Barber has been announced to be added to the prestigious Buccaneers’ Ring of Honor. This is an achievement that is reserved for the best of the best in the Buccaneers’ organization throughout the team’s history. The players that earn the right to have their names and numbers lifted up in Raymond James are ones that had a mixture of success and loyalty in their careers, and Ronde Barber clearly possessed both.
Ronde Barber will be the 13th member of the Ring of Honor and he will be the ninth player to be added. He will join the likes of Hall of Famers Derrick Brooks, Lee Roy Selmon, and Warren Sapp. He is also joining other Buccaneers from the 2002 Super Bowl team such as John Lynch, Mike Alstott, and head coach Jon Gruden. Despite his impressive competition to join this inner circle, Ronde was able to make a successful argument for himself both on and off the field.
Barber had a career that was filled with impressive statistics and awards. Barber currently holds the record for most interceptions all time for the Buccaneers with an impressive 47. On the way to achieving this title Barber had perhaps a more impressive 10 interceptions in the 2001 season, leading the league. Barber was all over the field despite being a cornerback and accounted for 28 sacks over his career, another Buccaneer record at that position.
As far as NFL records go, Barber holds the record for most consecutive starts as a defensive back and as a cornerback. This record is impressive for a number of reasons, but mostly due to the fact that it stretched over the course of 14 seasons, a feat that would be difficult to accomplish in any era of the NFL.
As a tie in to his records, Barber was rewarded off the field for his stellar play. Ronde was First team All-Pro three times and was selected to five Pro Bowls. In addition to these individual awards, Barber was a part of the 2002 Super Bowl team under Jon Gruden.
A common trope in the Ring of Honor is selecting players that were career members of the Bucs such as Alstott or Brooks, or players that were on the Buccaneers for a smaller percentage of their career, but were Hall of Fame caliber players such as Warren Sapp. Ronde Barber falls under a category involving both of these groups. Barber had an unbelievable career as a Buccaneer and is currently waiting on his Hall of Fame induction.
John Lynch is a nine-time Pro Bowler, a Ring of Honor member for two different NFL franchises, a Super Bowl champion and perhaps the most feared hitter of his generation. He is also a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the sixth year in a row, and that alone suggests a very serious candidate to receive a bronze bust in Canton in 2019.
Hall of Fame voters have been closely examining Lynch’s candidacy every January since he first became a finalist in 2014, while working with the limiting factor of only being able to select five inductees for each class. Those six years as a finalist put Lynch in the company of almost exclusively Hall of Famers: Of the 22 other people who have been Hall of Fame finalists for six consecutive years, 21 have gained entry into Canton.
There have been a total of 31 Hall candidates before Lynch who were finalists at least six times overall, not necessarily consecutively, and 27 of them now have spots in Canton. Two very recent examples are wide receiver Tim Brown and defensive end Charles Haley, both of whom were voted into the Class of 2015 in their sixth year as finalists. To put it another way, Lynch was on a list of 17 candidates when he first became a Hall of Fame finalist in 2014; the other 16 have all since been inducted.
Lynch’s repeated status as a Hall finalist mirrors his nearly-annual visits to the Pro Bowl over a decade of dominance (1997-2007), and that also represents one of his best arguments for induction. He made his first five trips to Hawaii with the Buccaneers in the six-year span from 1997-2002, then moved on to the Broncos in 2004 and was again chosen for the all-star game in each of the next four years. Lynch’s continued impact after changing teams a dozen years into his career is an indication of his talent and adaptability, as he was asked to play a new role in a very different scheme in Denver. Seven of his 13 career sacks came in his four years with the Broncos as he was more frequently deployed near the line of scrimmage and as a pass-rusher. He did so at a Pro Bowl level.
Throughout his career, Lynch helped his teams rank among the very best defenses in the NFL. He was a starter and a leader on a Buccaneer defense that ranked in the NFL’s top 10 in each of his last seven years with the team. In three of his four years in Denver, the Broncos were a top-10 scoring defense. Lynch’s transition from an all-star in Tampa to an all-star in Denver are an indication that his peers viewed him as one of the best of his generation at the safety position, and that NFL fans believed his hard-hitting style and clutch plays were critical to his teams’ success.
“John was as good as any safety I ever played against,” said Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders, who shared the NFC Central with Lynch for four years. “He reminded me a lot of guys like Ronnie Lott and Steve Atwater. He was a terrific player, a great defender, a fierce defender. He could knock the snot out of you.
“John Lynch didn’t just play the position, he occupied a spot in your mind and you had to be aware at all times where he was on the field.”
Lynch’s nine Pro Bowls put him in elite company, the majority of which is already enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Since the annual Pro Bowl began in 1950, there have been 80 players (so far) who have been selected to that game at least nine times. Lynch is one of only six players on that list who were Hall of Fame-eligible prior to this year but not yet enshrined, and one of only three whose careers began in the Super Bowl era. The other eligible players meeting that criteria are offensive linemen Ruben Brown and Alan Faneca.
(Three players meeting that criteria are eligible for the first time this year and are also finalists: Champ Bailey, Tony Gonzalez and Ed Reed. The other three are comprised of linebacker Maxie Baughan, who played from 1960-74, and a pair men who played the majority of their respective careers in the AFL in the 1960s – guard Walt Sweeney and tackle Jim Tyrer. Sweeney and Tyrer mostly played in AFL All-Star games, which were separate from the NFL Pro Bowl, but the NFL now includes those games in its Pro Bowl counts.)
Of those 80 players on the list of nine or more Pro Bowl selections, 61 are already in the Hall of Fame and another 10 are either still active or retired but not yet eligible. Many of those 10 appear to be Hall shoo-ins, from Tony Gonzalez to Drew Brees to Larry Fitzgerald, not to mention Peyton Manning, who thinks Lynch is deserving of the same honor.
“John was a safety that you always knew where he was,” said Manning. “I think there are only certain guys like that, where you know where No. 47 is on every play. I can assure you all receivers and tight ends always knew where he was. He was such a physical football player, what I would call an impactful tackler. Any receiver going near or across the middle with No. 47 in the area knew what he was getting into. He was always there. You could see it very often on film, after an early hit how he would affect a receiver, his confidence going across the middle or anywhere near there the rest of the game.”
In addition, Lynch was a three-time Associated Press All-Pro, twice as a first-team selection. He was also a first-team choice to the Pro Football Writers Association All-Pro team in an additional season in which he wasn’t on the AP list. All of those honors indicate that the media professionals covering the NFL agreed that Lynch was one of the league’s best safeties for a good portion of his career.
And, of course, Lynch’s resume includes another milestone important to Hall of Fame voters: He won a Super Bowl as part of the Buccaneers’ 2002 championship team. Not including first-year eligibles, Lynch and Faneca, who won a championship with Pittsburgh in 2005, are the only eligible players with nine NFL Pro Bowls and a Super Bowl ring who have not yet been inducted into the Hall of Fame.
During eleven seasons with the Buccaneers and four with the Broncos, Lynch racked up 1,054 tackles, 26 interceptions, 13 sacks and 15 forced fumbles. Since the sack became an official statistic in 1982, only nine NFL players at any position, including Lynch, have accumulated at least 1,000 tackles, at least 25 interceptions, at least 10 sacks and at least 15 forced fumbles. Four of those nine already have bronze busts. Four of the other five are eligible for the Hall of Fame but have not yet been elected, and Lynch leads that group with nine Pro Bowl selections. In fact, the other three – Rodney Harrison, Donnie Edwards and Ronde Barber – combine for one fewer Pro Bowl choice than Lynch.
Is it any wonder that Lynch has the rare honor of being inducted into the Rings of Honor of those two different NFL franchise? Both the Buccaneers and Broncos gave him that honor in 2016.
“John Lynch is a Hall of Famer on and off the field,” said Jon Gruden, the Buccaneers’ head coach during the team’s 2002 Super Bowl run. “His preparation, consistency and hard-hitting style will fit perfectly with the all-time greats. If you can find a more impactful teammate, leader and performer than John Lynch then, great, put him in too.”
Despite possessing a 95-mph fastball that made him a second-round pick of the MLB’s Florida Marlins, Lynch chose football after being taken in the third round by the Buccaneers in 1993. And yet he still became a closer, or rather “The Closer,” a nickname bestowed upon him by former Tampa Bay Defensive Coordinator Monte Kiffin. Kiffin came up with the name after seeing his cerebral safety come up with a series of critical late-game plays. Those included an interception that sparked a comeback in the 1999 NFC Divisional Playoff Game against Washington and the pick that sealed Tampa Bay’s wild 38-35 win over St. Louis in a 2000 Monday Night Football appearance.
Lynch’s penchant for late-game heroics is not just anecdotal; it’s supported by his career statistics. Of his 26 interceptions, 14 were secured in the fourth quarter. Eleven of those 14 fourth-quarter picks came when his team was either up or down by seven points or less. Getting his takeaways at such important moments is likely the reason that 21 of his 26 picks helped his team win games.
Coming out of high school in East St. Louis, Illinois, Terry Beckner Jr. was touted as the top defensive prospect in the country and No. 2 recruit overall according to ESPN. As a senior, he tallied 117 total tackles, 75 of which were solo (yes, as a defensive tackle) and had four sacks in 12 games. It led to 20 offers from Division I schools but settled on Missouri, not too terribly far from home.
His career at Mizzou got off to a great start, until it didn’t. Beckner suffered back-to-back knee injuries following his freshman year, where he earned First-Team Freshman All-American honors and was named to the All-SEC Freshman team after playing in 10 games with five starts. His season ended early when he tore his ACL and MCL against BYU in November of that year. Faced with the first major injury of his career, he went into rehab with the Tigers and made his return the following season. Only, this time his season would end just seven weeks in, suffering another ACL tear in his opposite knee.
His first fully healthy season came in 2017 as a junior where he bottled up the interior of the Tigers’ defensive line and was masterful against the run. He started all 13 games for Mizzou, posting 38 total tackles, 11.0 tackles for loss, 7.0 sacks and even grabbed an interception. He returned to school for his senior year and again started all 13 of the Tigers’ games. He earned Second-Team All-SEC honors and led all Tiger tackles with 34 tackles and a team-high 11.0 tackles for loss, his second such season with those numbers. He led a defensive unit that ranked 22 nationally in stopping the run before then declaring for the NFL Draft.
The Buccaneers took him with their seventh-round pick, rounding out a class where six of eight players taken came on the defensive side of the ball. Beckner was the only interior lineman taken and will compete for an inside spot in the Bucs’ flexible 3-4 defense.
What are they saying about him?
Bucs’ General Manager Jason Licht:
“Terry went through some adversity there early in his career with knee injuries. One on each side. Then he’s played I think 26 consecutive games now, two years in a row. He’s really tough. Love the kid, love the grit that he has where he’s grown up in East St. Louis. You know, 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. He’s strong. I like the way he plays. He’s going to compete. I know he’s got a good chance of making this football team if he plays the way he did at Missouri and how we evaluated him.”
Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles:
“Any time you get new toys it’s exciting at Christmas, so it’s how you use them the right way and how they fit in with the other guys that’ll tell a story, but you like having the guys that you have.”
What can this guy do?
General Manager Jason Licht mentioned how not only smart Beckner is, but how strong and instinctive he is at the same time.
The strength comes from his size, standing at 6-4 and weighing in just under 300 pounds, he’s what you’d call stout, which probably helps in his run-blocking ability. His lateral movement also comes in handy for running backs trying to escape to the outside. In the video above, you see him immediately disengage from his blocker at the goal line to bounce all the way outside against Florida and meet the running back behind the line of scrimmage, preventing a touchdown. That play is two-fold. Not only do players his size not usually have the quickness or speed to physically get outside from an interior spot like that, but many players lack the play recognition and football IQ to understand where the running back is going, especially from the front where you have split-seconds to react.
Just check out the play at 1:34 in the above game against Florida. It’s Beckner that ends up getting to the running back, blowing past the guard and getting into the backfield immediately. From there he’s able to catch up to the back and bring him down from behind. That’s pretty incredible for an interior defensive lineman.
That brings me to his ball awareness. More than the play recognition, Beckner seems to always know where the ball is and he’s always looking to make a play on it. Not only did he grab an interception in his first season back from injury in 2017 against Vanderbilt, but he’s recorded multiple pass breakups in his career. Watching his highlights, you always see his eyes in the direction of the ball – even when he’s engaged with a blocker.
He’s not completely absolved from the effects of his knee injuries. He’s got some tightness in his lower body and seems to let his upper body do a lot of the work. But it doesn’t stop him from making some extremely agile plays. Granted, the above highlight reel and game against Florida is a small sample size but even when you watch full games on this guy, he has a spin move that he uses to disengage quite often. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an interior lineman use a spin move like that as much as Beckner is able to use it. It’s probably because most interior tackles don’t have the footwork capability to do it. In my eyes, that makes me less concerned with his injury history and apparent resulting lower body tightness.
After four productive seasons at wide receiver for Bowling Green, the Barrington graduate started to get antsy on the third day of the NFL draft. Miller wasn’t invited to the NFL combine, but after catching 71 passes for 1,148 yards and nine touchdowns as a senior and finishing the 40-yard dash in 4.3 seconds at his pro day, he expected to be drafted.
Miller watched the draft with his family and close friends. When the sixth round began with his name still on the board, Miller wanted a break.
“Everything was up in the air,” Miller said. “I thought I was a day three guy. We thought maybe the fourth or fifth round based on conversations.
“When wide receivers started flying off the board, I started getting frustrated. It had been such a long day. I was sitting there for four hours. I thought at that point I wasn’t going to be drafted and would be going the free agent route.”
Soon enough, Miller’s phone rang with a number from the Tampa Bay area. Miller was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the sixth round with the 208th overall pick.
“I was just sitting there and my phone rang, and it was the general manager of the Buccaneers. And he said, ‘We have a need for speed’ to me,” Miller recalled. “I couldn’t believe it happened. I thought someone was playing a trick on me. It was so crazy. I’ve been overlooked my whole life. To get drafted is so special.”
At 5-foot-11 and 166 pounds, Miller doesn’t check many of the physical boxes that most NFL teams look for in wide receivers. Miller said the Buccaneers did send two coaches to his pro day, but he didn’t hear from them during the draft leading up to his selection.
Yes, the Bucs took a kicker in the fifth round, but it happened to be a kicker that they had as the best prospect at the position in the draft. Utah’s Matt Gay is known just as much for his big leg as he is for his accuracy, a combination you don’t see too terribly often. He won the Lou Groza Award, given to the nation’s best kicker, in his first season with the Utes in 2017. He earned the award after a season that saw him go a perfect 40-for-40 on point-after attempts and make 30 of 34 field goals on the season, his long being a 56-yarder.
He followed up his first season with another perfect record in extra points, going 45-for-45 this time in 2018. He also made 26 of 31 field goals, the most of any kicker in the country. He was responsible for a total of 253 points during his two-year Utah career and owns an 86.2 field goal percentage in that span. He earned two consecutive consensus All-American honors as well as being named All-Pac-12 in both his years in the conference.
Prior to becoming a kicker, Gay played soccer for Utah Valley College, where he led the team with seven goals as a freshman. He played one season at kicker for his high school’s football team, hitting a long of 54 yards.
I got a chance to see Gay at the East-West Shrine Game this offseason and even made remarks on him in my standouts from the week of practices. Gay nailed the only field goal in the game itself (a 47-yarder) but in the week of practices he was drilling 60+ yarders like it was nothing. There was a buzz around this guy that week. His kicks echoed in the Trop (ok, ok so does everything) and you couldn’t help but pay attention. He also attracted glances because of his size. He’s a big kid with a big leg and that’s what the Bucs like about him.
What are they saying about him?
Buccaneers General Manager Jason Licht:
“He’s a big guy with a big leg and he’s also accurate. Those are a lot of good things that we like about him. He kicks in Utah but he’s also good at sea level. He can kick it far at sea level as well. We liked him as a person and we think he’s a very confident guy. We’ve exhausted everything we can to try to find a kicker and we’ll continue to, like every other position.”
“He’s got a strong leg. Usually, those strong-legged guys that can kick it from a far distance have some accuracy issues. This guy has not so far.”
Kicking coach Chris Boniol:
“My history in coaching, when I was in Dallas, it’s always been go get a free agent and let’s make the best of it with the most competitive guys you can get. That is a luxury. I think it speaks of his ability and his potential. There are some things I like about him. He’s got good size, good strength. He’s played in elements. Playing at Raymond James Stadium, there is the element of wind, everybody talks about. There’s rain. And when you have wind, there’s a few key things that you have to do. You have to strike the ball pure, you have to have a good ball strike, good rotation, but you also have to have some velocity to get the ball through the uprights before the wind has a chance to affect it. So, having a little juice in your leg is an important factor. I like the fact that he’s played in elements and he’s a big, strong kid.
What can he do?
Yeah, so I’m not going to pretend to know how to breakdown kicking mechanics. Even Boniol said in his press conference that his job as a kicking coach in the NFL isn’t about teaching guys how to kick – it’s about teaching them how to be a pro and being more of a mentor than anything. Gay has hit some special kicks though in his career and below are a few of them. He broke the Pac-12 record for most kicks made in a single season in the first video during the Utes’ bowl game. He had a total of 30 that season.
The next season, he tallied the most field goals in the country again but fell short of his record set the year before with 26. He did, however, earn Special Teams Player of the Week in the below video in which he starts by nailing a 49 and 48-yarder back-to-back. And makes it look easy.
How can he fit in?
Gay was brought in under a head coach who knows kickers. Bruce Arians’ son Jake was an NFL kicker, so I’d like to think this family understands not only what makes a good kicker, but what kind of person you need to be to be successful at the NFL level. It seems that’s what they saw in Gay. General Manager Jason Licht said it’s still a competition between Gay and Cairo Santos, who came in the middle of last season to help the Bucs’ kicking woes. This staff wants to breed competition at every position, including on special teams. It’s the same sentiment Boniol mentioned in his press conference as well. The two will ‘kick it out’ in training camp this summer and we’ll see who ends up winning out.
CINCINNATI – Mike Edwards started the biggest week of his football life with visits to three of his favorite hometown places.
The safety from Winton Woods High School and the University of Kentucky took the big step to the NFL in the third round of the draft Friday, and what better way to go down that path than with new Air Jordans?
“Jordan’s got the best shoes hands down,” said Edwards, who estimates he has 40 pairs of Jordans and about 100 pairs of shoes all together.
He concedes it’s an addiction.
“Feels like my first pair of shoes – every time,” he said.
Edwards left Corporate, the sneaker store at Hyde Park Square, with the gray Jordan 13s.
There’s no telling which pair he wore to greet the Tampa Bay Bucs staff after they drafted him with the 36th pick in the third round.
SEE Edwards’ draft profile at NFL.com.
Next stop was Forest Park and the embrace of his high school coaches. Edwards became coach Andre Parker’s first NFL draft pick.
Parker recalled that Edwards always wore a smile.
“You could be yelling or angry at Mike, he’s gonna greet you with a smile. He’s that kid you’d try to punish for goofing off in class and he’s smiling while he’s running,” Parker said.
Edwards remembered the exhausting running he had to do in high school.
“I never had no workouts like that,” Edwards said, calling Parker’s even more grueling than at UK.
“He’s not the only one who says that,” said Parker.
Edwards was one of the first elite prospects to buy into building a legacy at UK. He shunned offers from Wisconsin and West Virginia to play at 2-10 Kentucky.
“He changed the culture. Changed the people,” Parker said. “He wasn’t a bandwagon guy. He put the bricks down.”
Last stop was Escapades in Springdale, a beauty and hair shop where Edwards’ money is no good. His dad, aunt and cousin all work there.
“It’s great. Don’t have to pay for it for one thing,” Edwards laughed.
Of course, the discussion quickly turns to the topic of hair – and specifically Edwards’ blonde badger look and how long he’ll have it.
Edwards’ dad makes it clear that there’s more to his son than football.
“He always gives back and that’s what makes me most proud. Hasn’t forgotten where he came from,” he said.
Anthony Nelson wasn’t the edge rusher some fans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers eyed players like Josh Allen or Montez Sweat for their team, but he’s the one they got, and one PFF measure specifically hints that they may have gotten more than they realize.
In 2018, Nelson had the highest pass-rush win percentage in the Big Ten. He and Chase Winovich were the only two to have percentages north of 20%.
What this means is, 23.5% of the time Nelson rushed the passer he beat his opponent, but didn’t necessarily cause pressure due to quick passes mostly. Still, never blame a guy for winning fast. This measurable differs from other pressure stats, because not all pressures are created equal. In order to register a pass-rush win, Nelson had to beat his blocker during their initial engagement, not on the second or third move.
If you’re looking for an NFL comparison, Aaron Donald had a pass-rush win percentage of 25.9% last season.
No. I’m not saying Nelson will get near the production Donald does, especially in his rookie season.
We’re talking ceiling here, and if Nelson can develop in the league to the point where he learns how to use his physical tools to win similarly to the way he did in college, then his ceiling certainly looks good.
Winovich was drafted in the third round while the only man to have a higher pass-rush win percentage in 2017 than Nelson was drafted in the first.
Nelson may not have the bend to make him a day one draft pick, and he may not have had the total production to get himself drafted in the first two days even. But the NFL is all about winning. It doesn’t matter who is bigger, faster or stronger if they don’t win.
And if this stat shows anything, it shows he’s been able to consistently win against some of the top collegiate competition in the country.
At the Senior Bowl this past off-season, Nelson also gave first-round draft pick Andre Dillard all he could handle when they faced off against each other.
Winning early is big at any level in football. Todd Bowles will be looking for ways to get Nelson into positions he can win in early in snaps as a pro, and if the two can even get close to his NCAA pass-rush win percentage, then the Buccaneers found a steal in the fourth-round of the 2019 NFL Draft.