1. Bucs

What happened to Vernon Hargreaves?

Two years ago, the Bucs made Vernon Hargreaves the No. 11 overall pick thinking he would be a ball hawk. He has one INT in two seasons and lost his starting job
Vernon Hargreaves stretches before a preseason game between the Bucs and Washington Redskins in Tampa in August. [Times files (2017)]
Vernon Hargreaves stretches before a preseason game between the Bucs and Washington Redskins in Tampa in August. [Times files (2017)]
Published Mar. 1, 2018
Updated Mar. 2, 2018

The Bucs' needs on defense extend to the secondary, but before they consider using their first-round pick on a cornerback, let's check in on Vernon Hargreaves.

Two years ago, the Bucs took Hargreaves No. 11 overall, thinking he would be a ball hawk. He had only one INT as a rookie but played better the second half of the 2016 season. Last year, he struggled early in the season and was moved inside to the slot before suffering a hamstring injury that landed him on injured reserve.

The Bucs need Hargreaves to bounce back in a big way. Ryan Smith struggled at cornerback and Brent Grimes will become a free agent March 14. The Bucs want him back, but he turns 35 in July, and retirement is an option. The Bucs are talking to Grimes, whose 20 INTs in the past five seasons ties Richard Sherman for the most in the NFL during that period.

"Brent really has enjoyed his time in Tampa so far, and we really like Brent and value Brent," general manager Jason Licht said. "We would like to have Brent back."

The key will be a bounce-back season for Hargreaves. Some players need more time than others to develop and some never get it. This year will say a lot about the former Gators star.

"We were very happy with Vernon in his rookie year," Licht said. "We thought he was trending up. Last year, he had a couple of setbacks. He would be the first to tell you that. By no means are we giving up on Vernon. He has a lot of talent. I thought at the end of the season before he got hurt and put on IR with his hamstring that he was showing glimpses of what he was his rookie year. Vernon fits that to us — he fits the definition of the guy that can do both.

"He actually enjoys playing inside just as much as outside. It's not a situation where he's telling us where he wants to play. He'll do anything. I had a lot of positive conversations with Vernon at the end of the year, and I'm excited where his mind is right now. I think he's going to have a pretty good year this year."

One player to watch with the Bucs' No. 7 overall pick is Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick. Some see him as a safety, but others believe he could handle playing outside. His versatility is an asset.

"We always look for versatility at every position where that's an asset," Licht said. "The corners that can play both inside and outside, they come in handy, especially if they can play them both well. Those are players that every team values high. Some guys are really good outside but can't play inside. Some guys are really good inside but can't play outside. Some guys are a blend of both, and those guys have their value in this league."