OJ Howard fell in the draft and the beneficiary was the Bucs who added one more weapon to Jameis Winston’s arsenal. The projected top 10 pick is a tools-rich, hard working athlete who is experienced in a pro style offense. Ironically enough, Howard made his first impression in camp as a blocker, a role that kept his receiving ability limited for the Tide. He has demonstrated bits and pieces of his immense talent in OTAs and his ball skills have been on point. Incumbent starting tight end Cameron Brate had a career year in 2016. Now the Bucs have a pair to draw to. Justin Evans brings the Bucs a competitor and a possible rookie starter. The rangy safety has good lateral quickness and deep speed. He is always near the action. He’s a long-limbed, quick twitch defender who competes hard for the ball. He is an outstanding athlete who won’t turn down a big hit. Evans will join JJ Wilcox, Keith Tandy, and Chris Conte to patrol the deep secondary. Chris Godwin was a steal in the third round and his play during OTAs proves it. First impressions are lasting and Godwin showcased his immense talent early and often. He has strong hands and is a natural hand catcher. By all reports his maturity and work ethic are off the chart. He has the ability to play inside or outside receiver. Tracks the deep ball well and is tough to bring down after the catch. He has shown that he is a competitive and willing blocker. Strong focus when catching in a crowd. Godwin is a smooth receiver who is a tough athlete. Has all the tools to excel and contribute as a rookie. Kendell Beckwith missed OTAs rehabbing his torn ACL. The former LSU Tiger is projected to move into the Sam linebacker position once healthy. When he sees the play develop he reacts well and makes good reads with good fits at the hole. Plays with good overall technique. Gets to a lot of plays with quick lateral movement, angles to the ball, and the ability to get through traffic. Running back Jeremy McNichols did not participate in OTAs due to a shoulder issue from last fall at Boise State. McNichols was a highly productive and patient runner for the past two years. An athletic, physically strapped downhill zone stretch runner with balance and leg drive that fits into the Bucs’ offensive scheme. He’s an every down back who has wide reliever caliber ball skills. Will stick his nose in as a blocker. Stevie Tu’ikolovatu was the target of a trade where the Bucs moved up 14 spots in the seventh round. One of this summer’s biggest position battles will be between Sealver Siliga and Tu’ikolovatu to see who will be the top reserve nose tackle. Both are situational run stuffers. The former Utah and Southern Cal defender had a big year for the Trojans in 2016. He plays low and is crafty with his hands and feet. Presses blockers into the pocket. Gets off blocks while maintaining position and balance. GRADE: GOOD.
FREE AGENCY: The Bucs needed a receiver to clear out coverage and DeSean Jackson was the signed target. Chris Baker, defensive end, joined his Redskins’ teammate in Tampa. The Bucs re-signed Joe Hawley (OC), Josh Robinson (CB), Chris Conte (FS), Jacquizz Rodgers (RB), and Sealver Siliga (DT). Other additions include JJ Wilcox (FS), Ryan Fitzpatrick (QB), and Nick Folk (PK).
NOTABLE UNDRAFTED COLLEGE FREE AGENTS: Antony Auclair (Laval) TE, Richie Brown (Mississippi State) OB, Riley Bullough (Michigan State) IB, and Paul Magloire Jr. (Arizona) OB.