2018 NFL draft countdown: Assessing the Bucs’ needs

At cornerback, Tampa Bay has Brent Grimes and … well, it has Brent Grimes. Plus: It might be time for the Bucs to look for Gerald McCoy’s eventual replacement.
Vernon Hargreaves, the Bucs’ first-round selection in 2016, has one interception in 25 games. [Getty Images]
Vernon Hargreaves, the Bucs’ first-round selection in 2016, has one interception in 25 games. [Getty Images]
Published April 18, 2018|Updated April 18, 2018

We're eight days away from the NFL draft in Dallas. Here's what I'm reading:

In a piece for ESPN, Football Outsiders examined the needs of all 32 teams. The Bucs' biggest need won't surprise you: They're dangerously thin at defensive back, particularly at cornerback. As of now, they're rolling with Brent Grimes, Vernon Hargreaves, Javien Elliott and Ryan Smith.

"The team desperately needs an infusion of talent at this position, both to allow Hargreaves back into the slot, where he might be more effective, and to supplant Grimes when Father Time eventually drags him to hang it up," the article said.

The Bucs' "quiet need," according to Football Outsiders, is running back. Peyton Barber and Jacquizz Rodgers are atop the team's depth chart, and while they're solid options, "neither is an especially dynamic player as either a rusher or receiver," the article said.

I'll add another "quiet need": defensive tackle. It seems as if the Bucs are set there with Gerald McCoy, who remains one of the game's best interior defenders, and free-agent signees Beau Allen and Mitch Unrein. McCoy, though, turned 30 in February and is set to make $12.3 million this season and $13 million in 2019. The Bucs might want to start looking for his eventual replacement.

One potential target is Vita Vea out of Washington. At 6-foot-4 and nearly 350 pounds, Vea possesses a rare combination of size and speed. He's tough. He's powerful. He's disruptive. And his motor? He has one, and it's relentless. To scouts, he's swoon-worthy.

Some Vea-related links:

ESPN's Brady Henderson talked to Vea's coaches and teammates about some of the defensive tackle's most improbable feats. Among them: the time he chased down a track star and the time he sprinted 40 yards to make an open-field tackle on a punt return.

• The Times' Matt Baker spoke with Tacoma News Tribune writer Ryan Clark, who covered Vea and the Huskies. In Clark's eyes, Vea's most impressive performance was his domination of UCLA's offensive line last season.

"What he did to the Bruins' offensive line was beyond destructive," Clark said. "UCLA lost Josh Rosen for the second half and it didn't matter. Vea was too big, too powerful and too quick for the UCLA offensive line. The Bruins tried everything. They even double-teamed him and he still broke through to create panic."

Read the full Q&A here.

• Fran Duffy of broke down some tape of Vea and noted that while he's disruptive, he's raw as pass rusher.

"He's not the most polished pass rusher," Duffy said. "He's not a guy who's going to win with that quickness and that upfield burst, but he does time the snap very well and because of those heavy hands, he can win off the snap. He can change the line of scrimmage."

Several draft analysts have Vea falling to Washington, which holds the 13th pick. Mark Bullock examined the fit in a film study for the Washington Post.

Contact Thomas Bassinger at Follow @tometrics.