Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2017 NFL Draft Preview

Gareon Conley, CB

Since G.M. Jason Licht was hired in 2014 the Buccaneers have seen their win totals increase each season. The next step is reaching the post-season for the first time since 2007 and winning a playoff game for the first time since winning Super Bowl XXXVII. To accomplish this, Licht needs to add just a few more key pieces and then hope QB Jameis Winston can finish the job.

Key additions

  • DL Chris Baker
  • PK Nick Folk
  • WR Desean Jackson
  • SS J. J. Wilcox

Key subtractions

  • OT Gosder Cherilus
  • QB Mike Glennon
  • WR Vincent Jackson
  • FS Bradley McDougald
  • TE Brandon Myers
  • WR Russell Shepard
  • WR Cecil Shorts
  • LB Daryl Smith
  • CB Alterraun Verner

Priority needs (Offense)

OT…Left tackle Donovan Smith has not been the answer the Bucs hoped he’d be after being chosen with their 34th pick in 2015. This probably comes as no surprise to draft expert Dan Shonka who wrote this player analysis prior to the ‘15 draft, “Smith has never lived up to the hype and consistently underperforms considering his tool set”.

Priority needs (Defense)

CB…Their best corner (Brent Grimes) turns 34 before the season and second-year DB Ryan Smith will make the switch to corner full-time after not playing a down on defense during his rookie season. You can see why this could be a potential issue. Josh Robinson is more special teamer than corner and free agent Alterraun Verner has seen better days. Contrary to some, I don’t believe they’ll be too worried about the safety spot opposite new free agent J.J. Wilcox after Keith Tandy stepped up for the injured Chris Conte last season and made several key plays to prove his worth. The time could be now for the six-year vet to make his mark in the starting lineup with Conte in the mix too. Safety just isn’t one of my top four position needs for this club.

LB…With Daryl Smith unsigned the Bucs can’t rely on undrafted second-year player Cameron Lynch to take over so this becomes an interesting position to watch. It might be a good idea to add a true run defender since Kwon Alexander is more effective in coverage.

Final analysis

The Bucs top need has to be at cornerback, but if one of the top four aren’t available at 19, they’ll gladly take one at 50. That would leave three other positions to keep an eye on starting with the linebacker spot. Based on his combine rant, no one has a clue where the top player, Reuben Foster will go. If he somehow manages to slip, Licht will be hard-pressed to pass on a player with his skill set that would bring back memories of the great Derrick Brooks. With Foster though more than likely gone at this point, Jarrad Davis would be a great fit too, but Licht might be better off waiting until the second round to take the local product from Florida. Speaking of local products, Licht has selected two home state player with his top pick the past two years which could make defensive lineman DeMarcus Walker another option too. Like Davis though, Walker might still be available at 50. Walker makes a lot of sense because the Bucs need to add more depth along the line with Jacquies Smith coming off an ACL injury and no proven players besides the second-year prospect Noah Spence. So if either Derek Barnett or Taco Charlton were available they too could be chosen at 19. Finally, don’t be surprised if the Bucs take a long look at the receiver position if either Mike Williams or Corey Davis were still on the board. Even though Desean Jackson replaced Vincent Jackson, Russell Shepard has moved on and Winston could use more weapons. It’s not like Adam Humphries can be counted on to expand his role in case an injury takes down the starters.

Top first-round options

  • CB Gareon Conley
  • CB Marlon Humphrey
  • CB Tre’Davious White
  • DE Derek Barnett
  • DE Taco Charlton
  • DL DeMarcus Walker
  • LB Jarrad Davis
  • LB Reuben Foster
  • WR Corey Davis
  • WR John Ross
  • WR Mike Williams
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