Maybe it’s just how the draft played out.
One report said Tampa Bay had an interest in Lennard High and Toledo receiver Dionte Johnson. Another rumor swirled that the team might choose former West Virginia and Florida Gator quarterback Will Grier.
But in the end, maybe the Bucs and GM Jason Licht decided to take the best player available and each time it picked, the best player was a cornerback or safety. They added three defensive backs, given it nine in the top four rounds since 2016.
Was this a wise allotment? We convene the roundtable to explore the possibilities.
Rick Stroud, Bucs beat writer @NFLStroud: It’s a passing league. Rules prevent cornerbacks from hitting receivers the way they used to and quarterbacks are fearless as well. Pass catchers are re-writing the record books. It’s open season on receivers who leave everyone open. So yes, you can’t have enough good defensive backs. About 75 percent of the time, you play with five. Three corners and two safeties. The Bucs also have had injuries. Vernon Hargreaves missed 15 games last season. Carlton Davis and M.J. Stewart struggled as rookies. Finally, there has been a coaching change. Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles is installing a new system and is going to play press man to man coverage. It all adds up to a need to pass defenders. They don’t grow on trees and good ones don’t make it to free agency. You have to draft them.
Still finding the right fit
Eduardo A. Encina, Bucs/pro sports enterprise writer @EddieInTheYard: Today’s NFL calls for five defensive backs to be on the field more than ever. Competition is a good thing, Bucs general manager Jason Licht said. He’s right, but this defense needs much more than a secondary makeover. But I get the Bucs run on defensive backs, because each of the three players Tampa Bay drafted have some common traits. They are fast, athletic, and know how to get to the ball. There were times last season when we couldn’t find defensive backs in the same area code as receivers and when they were nearby, they missed tackles far too often. This new batch has some serious ball-hawking skills.
Until you get it right …
Martin Fennelly, columnist @mjfennelly: You can’t have enough capable defensive backs – five are on the field for most plays now -- especially playing in the same division with the Saints and Falcons. But capable is the operative word: How many of these Bucs DBs can be counted on to contribute in 2019? Vernon Hargreaves? Justin Evans?. Next victim: Sean Bunting, selected in second round Friday. Injuries and poor play have plagued Bucs defensive backs for the past several years. So has a weak pass rush. In theory, stockpiling in the secondary makes sense. In (Bucs) practice, not so much.
Can’t have too many
Thomas Bassinger, sports data reporter, @tometrics: Take one more. And another. And another. Bring in a busload of defensive backs. The NFL is a pass-first league, and teams should draft accordingly. That means their focus in the early rounds should be on players who can help score or stop touchdowns, particularly in the passing game. Plus, the Bucs don’t yet know for sure what they have in Vernon Hargreaves and Carlton Davis. A defense that ranked 30th against the pass in Football Outsiders’ opponent-adjusted metrics could use some competition.
What about other needs?
Ernest Hooper, columnist/assistant sports editor, @hoop4you: You could argue that the Bucs may have been better served drafting an offensive linemen or edge rusher with their second-round pick. But three offensive linemen were chosen before they made the 39th selection, and the best edge rushers went on Day 1. The team may have been able to trade back into the first round and select Mississippi State’s Montez Sweat. That’s exactly what the Redskins did. In the end, time will tell, but the capital spent on defensive backs -- -- says as much as much about the disappointment in past picks as it does the future potential of Bunting and third-round picks Jamal Dean and Mike Edwards.