Bucs might look to draft to add downfield receiving threats

The Bucs added DeSean Jackson to be a big-play threat, but they aren’t necessarily done boosting the receiving corps.
The Bucs added DeSean Jackson to be a big-play threat, but they aren’t necessarily done boosting the receiving corps.
Published April 24, 2017

TAMPA — It was only one day after the 2016 season had ended when Bucs coach Dirk Koetter was frank about his team's offseason needs.

"We need more speed and when we say playmakers, playmakers and explosive plays are one and the same," he said. "Guys that can make explosives, guys that can catch a 10-yard pass, break one tackle and turn it into a 30-yard gain. … In my opinion, we played close to our talent level."

It was no surprise, then, when the Bucs' biggest acquisition in free agency was veteran receiver DeSean Jackson, who led the NFL in yards per catch last season and specializes in the big plays Koetter said the offense was sorely lacking in 2016. That didn't necessarily check that off the list, however — he said playmakers, plural.

Using a high pick on a running back would certainly add to that upgrade, but it's entirely possible the Bucs will seek another weapon in the passing game with the 19th overall pick, perhaps a young speed receiver to pair with Jackson and eventually replace him.

Clemson's Mike Williams won't fall to 19, and Washington's John Ross, he of the NFL combine-record 4.22 40-yard dash last month, probably won't, either. But if Western Michigan's Corey Davis were still available, it's possible the Bucs will want to continue maximizing Jameis Winston's passing game that way.

NFL DRAFT: Find all our coverage leading up to this year's draft in one place.

Another way to do that would be at tight end. Cameron Brate tied for the NFL lead among tight ends with eight touchdowns, but no other Bucs tight end had more than seven catches last season. Alabama's O.J. Howard won't be around at 19, but Miami's David Njoku could be, giving defenses all kinds of mismatches in a two-tight end set with Brate.

Mike Evans is entering just his fourth NFL season, yet he's the only receiver that remains from the pre-Winston era. Adam Humphries stepped up with 55 catches out of the slot last season, but the remaining depth is unproven, with CFL import Derel Walker, a college teammate of Evans at Texas A&M, and former Eagles receiver Josh Huff, who has totaled 545 yards in three NFL seasons.

Aside from Jackson, it's a young group of receivers, all 25 or younger, and Luke Stocker is the only tight end older than 25. But if the right match is there, that wouldn't stop the Bucs from raising the talent level that Koetter spoke about.

Receiver/tight end

First-round options

Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan: With good speed on a 6-3 frame, Davis had 19 touchdowns as a senior and 46 in his last three seasons. Great red-zone threat.

John Ross, WR, Washington: Unlikely to fall to 19 after an eye-popping 4.22 seconds in his NFL combine 40-yard dash. Often compared to new Bucs receiver DeSean Jackson.

David Njoku, TE, Miami: Such a strong line of 'Canes tight ends. Njoku ran a 4.64 40 at 246 pounds, with unreal athleticism for his size. Just oozing upside as he learns.

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Mid-round options

Josh Reynolds, WR, Texas A&M: Lanky at 6-3, 194, he had 12 touchdown catches as a senior. Track background shows as he's an excellent leaper. Will add bulk as rookie.

Chris Godwin, WR, Penn State: Ran a 4.42 at 209 pounds at combine. Strong blocker and came up with 11 touchdowns as a true junior. Just turned 21.

Adam Shaheen, TE, Ashland: Small-school buzz here — 16 touchdowns as senior in D-II, massive at 6-6, 278 pounds. Hoops background shows in his athleticism.

Late-round options

Michael Roberts, TE, Toledo: Big target (6-4, 270) who scored 16 TDs as senior. Huge hands (11.5 inches). Impressed at Shrine Game in January.

Malachi Dupre, WR, LSU: Numbers don't impress, but Tigers' QB woes were big part of that. Great leaping ability and sure hands when ball was thrown his way.

Karel Hamilton, WR, Samford: Strawberry Crest High grad had 111 catches and 14 touchdowns as another small-school standout. Helped himself at Shrine Game.