Ryan Smith – Cornerback
The Bucs fourth round pick in 2016, Ryan Smith began his career as a safety, but has recently switched to cornerback where he’ll play an important role for the team this season. Smith will back up Brent Grimes and Vernon Hargreaves as a perimeter corner, and could perhaps get some snaps as a nickel corner. With the high volume of passing in today’s league, Smith will get plenty of opportunities to see the field this season, even as a backup.
As a rookie Smith saw limited action on defense, but made splashes as a special teams cover ace, including a tip-toe, SportsCenter worthy play on punt coverage. In his second season Smith will continue to play a big role on special teams while he adjusts to playing cornerback in the NFL. In the event of an injury to Grimes or Hargreaves, Smith will be the first man up, thrust into one of the most critical starting positions on the entire team.
Given Grimes’ age, the Bucs likely view Ryan Smith as his heir apparent; not only is Smith an important back up for this season, but also in the years to come. It will be exciting to watch him grow into a bigger role with this franchise, starting with this year. Over the last two years, the secondary has been a huge Achilles heel for this defense. If Smith can help get them over the top, more power to him.