More than any position group on the entire roster, the Bucs desperately need an infusion of safety talent. Since Tanard Jackson smoked away his career the team has been searching far and wide for a playmaker at safety. The team looked to have finally solved their safety woes with Mark Barron and Dashon Goldson, but Lovie Smith had different plans, and blew the unit up. This off-season the team re-signed Chris Conte, Keith Tandy and Bradley Mcdougald, but chose not to pursue any veterans free agents like Eric Weddle or Reggie Nelson. The middling talent on the roster combined with general manager Jason Licht recently referring to Chris Conte as a “bridge player” for a younger player seems to indicate that the team will prioritize the safety position early in the draft. The second round is the perfect place to do just that this year.
By most accounts the 2016 draft is deep with talented safeties, but only has one blue chip player in FSU’s Jalen Ramsey. Ramsey is unfortunately far out of the Bucs reach, but the overall structure of the safety class works in their favor. A lack of top flight safety talent should keep the position from going off the board in the first round and allow the Bucs to rest easy knowing a quality safety prospect will fall into their lap in round two.
The group worth considering includes Karl Joseph (WVU), Darian Thompson (Boise), Vonn Bell (OSU), Keanu Neal (UF) and Jeremy Cash (Duke). TBC’s own Kyle Marks has already released his scouting reports for these players, as well as the rest of the safeties, and I definitely recommend reading them if you haven’t already.
Joseph stands out as the most complete, well-rounded safety in this group of potential candidates, checking off most of the pre-requisite boxes. While this versatility means that he’ll probably be gone by the Bucs second pick, each of his draftmates bring their own particular specialty to the table that the Bucs could make use of. For Thompson it’s his ability to pick off the quarterback, while Neal and Cash lay the wood and strike fear into the hearts of receivers and runningbacks. Bell is a cover ace with veteran-like instincts and football IQ.
All five players would more than likely start from day one, as well as contribute immediately on special teams.