Bucs try to fill holes on Day 2 of draft

by Gary Shelton on April 25, 2020

in general

Winfield Jr. is a versatile playmaker./(Photo courtesy of Minnesota Golphers)

Saturday, 4 a.m.

The first day of the NFL draft is about faith.

You know the player. You see the need. You envision him growing into his strengths and overcoming his weaknesses.

The third day of the NFL draft is about dreams.

You have scarcely heard of the player. But you know that payers-from-nowhere do arrive. You hope yours will be one of them.

But the second day?

That’s about belief.

Do you believe the player can withstand the publicized knocks on his game? Do you think he’s big enough, or fast enough? Do you believe he can turn questionable areas into answers? Do you believe that taking Winfield then Vaughn is preferable than going run-with a running back and then a safety (Cam Akers and perhaps Julian Backman)?

All of which brings us to the Bucs’ second day of the draft, when the team drafted versatile safety Antoine Winfield Jr and Ke'Shawn Vaughn.

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Vaughn should share time at running back./Photo courtesy of Vanderbilt Commodores)

Granted, the players address open sores on the Bucs’ roster. For all the mock drafts that shove cornerbacks at the Bucs, because their pass defense has been so bad, they actually have young players at the position who need time to develop. But safety isn’t that way, especially with No. 2 pick Justin Evans trying to come back from injury.

Will Winfield be better than Grant Delpit, the LSU safety who went one pick before Winfield? Will he be able to live up to the Tyrann Mathieu comparisons? And if he can’t make Bucs’ fans forget about John Lynch, can he at least make them erase the flashbacks of Sabby Piscatelli?

“It means everything,” Winfield said of being drafted by the Bucs. “I’ve dreamed about this moment ever since I was a little kid watching my dad play. All through college I battled with some injuries. It was tough going through those, but at the end of the day I just kept working hard, putting my head down. I’m just blessed and excited to join the Bucs.”

Winfield’s father, Antoine senior, once intercepted a pass from Tom Brady, his son’s quarterback.

“I can play pretty much anywhere,” Winfield said. “I can play on tight ends, I can play on slot receivers, I can blitz, I can play in the post. Versatility is my biggest asset and I feel like Tampa Bay is going to use me well that way.”

For the record, some of the observers loved the pick. Bleacher Report gave the pick an “A” and suggested there were Pro Bowls in his future.

“It’s one of the things we really loved about Antoine.” Bucs’ general manager Jason Licht said of Winfield’s versatility. “I hate doing comparisons to  current players, because these players haven’t played a down yet. It’s some of the reasons we liked Budda Baker and Tyrann Matthieu. He’s a smart, intense guy who loves football.”

Vaughn was a big more of a surprise, especially with Zack Moss of Utah on the board. But Vaughn is a different type of back than holdover Ronald Jones.

“As a back, I believe I have home run ability,” Vaughn said. “I have that same ability as a pass catcher out of the backfield. I’m happy as hell to be a part of this offense. I believe I’m an explosive back, too.”

With first-round tackle Tristan Wirfs, the Bucs have addressed their most glaring needs. Today, they might draft a slot receiver, a developmental quarterback and a linebacker for the special teams.

The Bucs don’t have a fourth-round pick in today’s final round of the draft. They have a fifth, a sixth and two sevenths.

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