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Great News as Buccaneers Potential Targets And Best Fits In The Draft Cornerback has just been announced

JC Allen breaks down each position in the draft with potential fits, including the best fits for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFL Draft.

Iowa State Cyclones' defensive back T.J. Tampa (2) warms up during the university's Spring Football

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers did exactly what they said they would do this offseason and returned all of their high-quality free agents on the team. Back in the fold are Baker Mayfield, Mike Evans, Lavonte David, Chase McLaughlin, and Antoine Winfield Jr. They added depth and potential starters to the team with the likes of Jordan Whitehead, Sua Opeta, Ben Bredeson, Tavierre Thomas, Bryce Hall, and Randy Gregory while also bringing back core depth pieces in Greg Gaines, Chase Edmonds, and John Wolford.

The moves they made have given them great flexibility in the draft and while holes remain on the roster they’ve positioned themselves to where they aren’t pigeonholed into any one position in the draft. In this series, we’ll take a look at each position in the draft and potential prospects they could select in each round. In some rounds, there won’t be any fits due to not having an overwhelming need at the position or no first-round grades on players who could potentially be there at their selection.

The Bucs traded away one of their starters in Carlton Davis III earlier in the offseason, netting them a third-round pick from the Lions. Jamel Dean remains a starter but will need to put the injuries behind him this season to escape the same fate next offseason. To replace Davis, Zyon McCollum will get the first crack at the starting job. He started nine games for the Bucs last season due to injuries and head coach Todd Bowles found other ways to get him on the field when his outside corners were healthy. The team is clearly high on McCollum and what he can be on the defense. Jason Licht was busy in free agency bringing in two cornerbacks.

Bryce Hall will challenge McCollum for the starting spot while also providing a safety blanket if someone goes down with an injury. Meanwhile, Christian Izien got competition at the nickel spot with Tavierre Thomas coming in from the Texans. Josh Hayes led all players in special teams tackles in 2023 and the Bucs have built solid depth at a position that has banged up over the years. I still wouldn’t rule out a selection here in the draft and one as high as a first-round pick in a deep draft at the position.

Round 1 

DeJean has exceptional ball skills, instincts, and burst to close. He offers position versatility, possesses, great recovery speed, plays with excellent technique, and can also return kicks. However, tightness in his hips makes him better suited for zone coverage and will struggle in man, can take extra steps at the top of routes creating separation for receivers, and doesn’t possess elite fluidity in his movements. DeJean finished his junior year with 41 tackles, seven pass breakups, and two interceptions. He hasn’t had any reported meetings with the Bucs.

Nate Wiggins, Clemson [6’1, 173, 4.28- 40, JR]

Wiggins has outstanding length, speed, ball skills, and coverage awareness to make him an immediate impact player in the NFL. He has tremendous lower-body movement to mirror receivers, superb recovery speed with closing burst to make plays on the ball, and an instinctive feel for the rhythm of routes. However, his small frame and size make him better suited for zone coverage than press-man, he lacks the physicality to be a consistent force in the run game and can be late flipping his hips and running on deep routes allowing separation. Wiggins finished his junior season with 25 tackles, a sack, 11 pass breakups, and two interceptions. He had a formal interview with the Bucs at the Combine.

Kool-Aid McKinstry, Alabama [5’11, 196, 4.47-40, JR]

McKinstry has the length, poise, and football IQ to be an immediate starter at the position. He possesses great closing speed, has active hands at the catch point, and is patient in matching releases with exceptional awareness in zone coverage. However, he doesn’t have game-changing speed and his lack of ball skills is concerning. He can struggle with physical receivers, gets caught looking on play fakes, and can gear down in run support and when the ball isn’t coming his way. McKinstry finished his junior year at Alabama with 32 tackles and seven pass breakups. The Bucs brought him in for an official 30 visit prior to the draft.

Round 2

Mike Sainristil, Michigan [5’9, 182, 4.47-40, 5SR]

Sainristil is physical and feisty for his size and is not afraid to get his nose dirty in run support. He displays great footwork and reaction speed, tremendous ball skills, and excellent awareness in zone coverage. However he projects as a slot corner only given his size limitations, has only two years of experience at the position, and can be overly aggressive leading to mistakes in the run and passing game. Sainristil finished his senior year with 44 tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles, 12 pass breakups, and six interceptions. He had a formal meeting with the Bucs at the Combine and was brought in for an official 30 visit.

Ennis Rakestraw, Missouri [5’11, 183, 4.51-40, 4JR]

Rakestraw is a plug-and-play corner with inside and outside versatility. He excels in press-man coverage, has great length, and is physical at the line of scrimmage knocking receivers off their routes. He’s flashed good ball skills with 21 pass breakups, has a high football IQ, and is excellent in run support. However, he doesn’t possess elite long or recovery speed, has a maxed-out frame, and needs a better understanding of zone concepts. He finished his junior year at Missouri with 35 tackles, a forced fumble, and three pass breakups after teams stopped throwing at him. He had an informal meeting with the Bucs at the Combine.

T.J. Tampa, Iowa State [6’0, 194, 4.58-40, Sr]

Tampa has great length at the position and displays smooth fluidity in his hip movements and excellent ball skills. He’s quick-footed, shows control and awareness while in coverage, is physical in the run game, and can play inside or on the outside. However, inconsistencies in his transition from his back pedal can create separation, especially with more agile receivers. He doesn’t have long speed to keep up with burners, and his technique needs refinement in press-man, and he will need to sharpen up his open-field tackling skills. Tampa finished his senior year with 44 tackles, nine pass breakups, and two interceptions. He had an informal interview with the Bucs at the Combine.

Andru Phillips, Kentucky [5’10, 190, 4.48-40, 4JR]

Phillips is a physical cornerback with great length. He is well versed in a variety of coverage schemes but excels in man-press, He has great acceleration and burst to quickly close on the catch point, displays adequate play strength, and has position versatility. However, Phillips doesn’t have great size and can rely on his speed too much. He doesn’t always display the fluidity to quickly turn his hips, opening room for easy separation. He only has two years of experience and doesn’t show the anticipation or instincts to be a playmaker on the ball, can overshoot the ball carrier in run support, and isn’t as comfortable in zone as he is in man coverage. Phillips finished his junior year with 47 tackles and five pass breakups. He had a formal interview with the Bucs at the Combine.

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