Stocking the shelves: Bucs add four players

by Gary Shelton on April 28, 2018 · 0 comments

in general

Koetter likes the Bucs new players./CARMEN MANDATO

Koetter likes the Bucs new players./CARMEN MANDATO

Saturday, 3 p.m.

Maybe you wanted names that were more familiar. Maybe you preferred athletes the Bucs could have had instead of the ones they drafted. Maybe you wanted the Bucs to move up in the second-round to take other players.

Still, the Bucs attempted to fill needs on a bountiful second-day of the NFL draft Friday.They flooded the draft, picking up two defensive backs, a running back and a guard. They started the weekend with one second round pick and no thirds. They finished with three seconds and a third.

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They picked up:

-- Ronald Jones II, a home run-hitter from Southern Cal. The Bucs took Jones ahead of troubled Derrius Guice.

-- Defensive back M.J. Stewart of North Carolina, a player who thought he could go from the second round to the fourth.

-- Defensive back Carlton Davis, who thought he was the top cornerback in the draft.

-- Guard Alex Cappa. The Bucs traded into the third round to take the mauler from Humbolt State. Cappa dominated at Division II. Can he follow the footsteps of Ali Marpet?

“It’s great," said general manager Jason Licht. "Because of the trade yesterday, we were able to get five picks in the top 94. I can’t remember a draft that I’ve been a part of with that many, which is awesome, it’s great. I think we’re getting five guys that can help us either in the immediate future or at some point down the road. Adding them, especially at positions that we felt – today it’s commonly known as the need round – getting some guys that we needed, guys to compete against the guys we already have or compete for a starting job. Competition always brings out the best so we’re excited about all of these guys.”

Coach Dirk Koetter agreed.

“We thought we were going to get three good football players and we got four," Koetter said. "Jason did an awesome job of working the trades – yesterday and today. To go into the draft with a first, a second and no third and come out with a first, three seconds and a third – that’s pretty darn good. We’re real happy with the guys we got. We addressed our needs (and) we didn’t have to give up much. We just had to give up a sixth to move back up to get (Alex) Cappa. Fired up about it.”

So, after the scatter-shooting, are they better? Are they good?

At this point, no one knows. But if the Bucs picked the right guys, then they could be much better next year. If Jones works out, and if either Stewart or Davis works his way into the secondary, and if Cappa can push at a guard slot, it's possible.

Still, some may have aimed higher with their second-round picks, hoping that back Nick Chubb or guard Will Hernandez would fall as far as the Bucs.

Neither did, however.

Of course, the Bucs liked their picks, and they can picture help from all of them. It should be pointed out that the players, too, think they can help.

Start with Jones, yet another in a long-list of USC rushing stars. Jones ran for 3,619 yards for the Trojans, a 6.1 average, and scored 39 touchdowns.

“I think I bring it,"Jones said. "Since first grade, I could score from anywhere on the field. I’ve always been that home run (threat) and I look forward to that transition in the NFL.”

Which backs does he fashion his game after?

“I would say Jamal (Lewis), Chris Johnson back when he was playing," Jones said. "I try to embody a little bit LeSean McCoy. I love his game. Todd Gurley, I like his game too. So, those are my top guys I watch.”

Despite the speed, Jones thinks he's a power runner, too.

“I’m really tough, gritty," Jones said. ''(I had) 25, 30+ carry games back at USC. Obviously, it’s a different level but once I can get my stripes and earn my reps, I’ll be able to carry the load for the team if they need me to.”

Jones said he considers himself a three-down back.

“Ronald is a guy that ... he’s a real explosive runner," Licht said. "He’s a lot faster than the times that are out there in the public. This guy ran a 10.3 [second] 100-meter at one point in high school. A couple 10.5’s. Not that we’re out there timing 100-meter dashes on him but you can see it on the tape.

"He makes a lot of plays with his speed, his burst, his quickness and for a 208-pound guy, he runs very hard and escapes tackles. He can run through tackles. He’s just a violent runner. He’s a playmaker. He’s been a starter for a year-and-a-half but he’s rushed for 2,500 yards in the last two years roughly in a rotation there which says something about him. He’s a kid that’s very tough and our kind of guy. We just liked him on tape and liked him after all the work we did on him.”

Stewart played both corner and safety for North Carolina. He said the Bucs suggested they might start him off at safety.

“We love M.J.’s versatility," Licht said. "I’ll just say on tape that we liked him at nickel. We liked him at corner. He does have a skill set that could play safety, but we’ll probably focus on the first two right now.”

Then there is Davis, a supremely confident corner from Auburn

"I thought I  would have gone in the first round," he said. "I thought I was the best cornerback in this draft."

The Bucs need the help. They gave up an average of 260 yards passing per game.

"I like his versatility," Licht said. "He's very mature. You'd think you're talking to a 10-year veteran."

Stewart was picked for his versatility, especially his ability to play in the slot.

"My ceiling is so high i feel like i could play all three positions," he said. "I’m very versatile. I'm a physical competitor. It's one of my biggest strengths. I don’t want to be last. I don’t want to be second. I want to win all the time. I don’t like to lose."

Davis was extremely high on his ability.

"I definitely thought I was a first rounder," Davis said. "I thought I was the best corner in this draft. I’m going to make plays. I’m going to make plays. I’m going to give them my all. I’m going to do whatever it takes to win."

Licht laughed. "I'd rather he say that than "I thought I was the 14th-best cornerback."

Koetter said the Bucs wanted the height that Davis has.

“I think there were maybe three corners in the draft that were six-foot and above," Koetter said. "He was one of them. This was a deep draft for corners, we knew that going in, but there were a bunch of 5’-10” guys, there were three guys six feet or taller. We wanted to add some size. He’s played in a great league, he’s played against great competition. He’s a tough guy, he can run and he’s long. He’s got some things he needs to get better at. He’s good in press (coverage). You watch him when some of the bigger receivers that we have to go against, how do people try to shut down our big receivers (like) Mike (Evans)? They try to stop them at the line of scrimmage. Brent Grimes, for as fantastic of a player as he is, Brent Grimes is not going to get up there and press some of these big receivers too often. He likes to play off and have vision on the quarterbacks. We’ve added a guy that can get up there and play physical with them.”

The Bucs weren't done, however. They traded into the third round (getting five picks of the top 94) to take Cappa, who could play at guard opposite Ali Marpet, another small-school project.

“The feedback (from the Senior Bowl) was that I looked like I belonged," Cappa said. "That was really what I wanted to show. That I’m ready to play at the next level.

“I have no doubts. I’m very prepared. I'm confident. I’m excited. I'm ready to put in the work that it takes."

Said Licht: “I love that dude. I think Mike Mayock called him a bouncer or something like that. Those are some words that have been used when we talked about him through this process. He’s a great guy, our kind of guy. We feel he’s a versatile guy. We’re going to have him compete there at guard and eventually train him to play, we feel like he can play all five spots at some point."

It was a huge haul for the Bucs, who entered the weekend with one second-rounder and no thirds. They ended with three seconds and a third and addressed their biggest weaknesses.

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