The Tampa Bay Buccaneers saw their man and traded up to get him early on day three of the NFL Draft, selecting Akeem Spence from Illinois. Spence is a big, strong defensive tackle who is a three-year starter for the Illini and very durable. Here is what Dane Brugler of CBSSports.com had to say about Spence:
STRENGTHS: Spence is a physical tackler and powerful hitter, showing good range and mobility for an interior lineman. He has good awareness to find the run lane and halt ballcarriers. Spence isn’t much of a pass rusher at this point (3.5 career sacks), but has good experience, starting every game for Illinois the past three seasons (38 starts). Good experience, starting every game for Illinois the past three seasons (38 starts).
WEAKNESSES: Needs to improve his leverage and timing in meeting ballcarriers at the line, and keeping his eyes level to follow the ball and not take himself out of the play. Spence isn’t much of a pass rusher at this point (3.5 career sacks).
COMPARES TO: Stephen Paea, DT, Chicago Bears – Like Paea, Spence is a strong, stout run defender who has room to grow as a pass rusher.
Spence fills the void left by Roy Miller, and probably fills it better than Miller, as Spence steps in with a high football IQ and hard-hitting mentality to get into the running lanes and make plays. Remember that Miller lost most of his snaps by the end of the season and was dropped to a backup role, and so the Buccaneers have replaced him with a rookie who many experts had going in the third or fourth round.
Spence is a weight room expert, benching 225 pounds 37 times at the combine. He’s strong and durable and adds to the Buccaneers’ sturdy run defense. So how do you grade this pick?
I give this pick a solid B. He’s not an incredible prospect, but the pick is in the right range for him, and he’s going to be a great partner for Gerald McCoy in the defensive line rotation.
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