Bucs trade down to 11, pick Gators' Vernon Hargreaves
The first time Hargreaves slipped on an NFL jersey was at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago Thursday night. He was dressing for a homecoming game.
Hargreaves, the Florida Gators ball-hawking cornerback who played at Wharton High School, was selected No. 11 overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tampa Bay traded down two spots with Chicago, picked up a fourth-round pick and still got their cornerback.
Considered perhaps the best pure cornerback in the draft, Hargreaves provides the Bucs with help in a secondary that was a sieve last season. Opposing quarterbacks completed 70 percent of their passes and threw 31 touchdown passes in 2015.
Hargreaves actually grew up in Miami before starting high school in North Carolina. But when his dad, Vernon, Jr., took a job as the defensive ends and special teams coordinator for South Florida in 2010, Hargreaves started calling Tampa Bay home.
Almost from the start of the off-season, the Bucs and Hargreaves seemed to be running towards each other’s arms.
Hargreaves had cleats custom-made for the NFL scouting combine in Feb. with ‘Tampa,’ written on the side.
The Bucs had more than a casual presence at Florida’s pro day. General manager Jason Licht watched closely as defensive backs coach John Hoke led Hargreaves in position drill.
Some teams had concerns about Hargreaves vital measurements. He is only 5-foot-10, has 31 5/8 inch arms and runs a 4.5 in the 40 yard dash.
But when you turn on the film from his career at Florida and you see one of the most natural pass defenders in the NFL draft, a guy who has been battle tested in the Southeastern Conference by elite receivers such as Amari Cooper and Odell Beckham.
Hargreaves is likely to emerge as a starter as a rookie opposite Dolphins free agent Brent Grimes and add to a secondary that includes cornerbacks Johnthan Banks, Alterraun Verner and Vikings free agent Josh Robinson.
The Bears used the Bucs' pick, No. 9 overall, to select DE/OLB Leonard Floyd from Georgia.