While they had a down year in the standings, FSU still brings out multiple NFL prospects every season. There are some talented players from Jameis Winston’s alma mater that could be on the Buccaneers big board come late April. Let’s look at some of the prospects who could be a future Buc.
It was a massive disappointment of a season for (now Texas A&M coach) Jimbo Fisher and the Florida State Seminoles, but that doesn’t mean the Buccaneers can’t find some potential players from Tallahassee come April. The Noles finished the season 7-6 while winning a controversial Independence Bowl. The controversy began late December when a Reddit user investigated and found that a win earlier in the season against Delaware State didn’t have sufficient scholarship-eligible players to be considered a proper FBS win.
They still played before knowing the official ruling. They played anyway, beating Southern Miss 42-13 and as it is currently they are still the proper winners. It could have ended a record 35 straight seasons of bowl appearances for the team. While their season didn’t pan out exactly how they would have hoped the team is still loaded with talent. Here is the list of prospects for the upcoming draft:
Safety, Derwin James
Defensive End, Josh Sweat
Tight End, Ryan Izzo
Cornerback, Tavarus McFadden
Wide Receiver, Auden Tate
Defensive End, Jalen Wilkerson
Outside Linebacker, Matthew Thomas
Safety, Trey Marshall
Defensive Tackle, Derrick Nnadi
Outside Linebacker, Jacob Pugh
Senior to Watch: Defensive Tackle, Derrick Nnadi
Florida State has top prospects that usually declare early. Last season Derrick Nnadi could’ve entered the draft but decided to return and improve his stock for his senior season. The crop of Florida State seniors is slimmer near the top but Nnadi is a quality player that could make an immediate impact for whichever team decides to draft him. The Buccaneers could have some interest in the in-state product. With Chris Baker not being the player we thought we were getting from in free agency the Buccaneers could use another stud next to Gerald McCoy.
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Currently, Nnadi is expected to be taken day two but could move depending on his combine and pro-day results. The Bucs really just need bodies to make an impact on the defensive line and he played well at Florida State. In his four years in Tallahassee, he recorded 165 tackles, 24.5 tackles for loss, twelve sacks, and three forced fumbles. He doesn’t play the flashiest position for big numbers but back to back seasons with double-digit tackles for loss is a crucial factor that the Buccaneers need along the defensive line.
Officially listed at 6’1″ 310 pounds this big guy could be a nice rotational piece along with Clinton McDonald. While the Buccaneers have bigger needs than defensive tackles if he falls on draft day to the late second or third round, I wouldn’t be upset. He could, however, be long gone before the Bucs even get a shot at him on day two as he has could sneak into the end of the first with a strong combine and pro-day.
The other seniors to watch are Outside Linebackers Jacob Pugh and Matthew Thomas and Saftey Trey Marshall. While the linebacker core for the Bucs is strong Marshall could be looked at late in the draft.
Underclassman to Watch: Safety Derwin James
The best prospect from the Florida State this upcoming draft plays one position where the Buccaneers could use a serious upgrade. While T.J. Ward didn’t pan out and Keith Tandy wasn’t the same player this season compared to 2016 the Bucs found a nice piece in Justin Evans in last years draft. While Chris Conte has had severe ups and downs the Bucs could use a young piece next to him from here on out. Derwin James is a top safety prospect in this year’s draft is a playmaker the Bucs could really use.
At 6’3″ 211 pounds with 4.5 speed, James is a thumper. He’s been compared to players like Mark Barron where he could make tackles against tough running backs and tight ends. He’s not built like a corner and shouldn’t play man against any slot corners but he can handle most requirements it takes to play at a high level in the NFL.
After an injury-plagued 2016 sophomore season, James played every game, except the bowl game for safety precautions, and was very productive. His freshman season may have been his best statistically but this year he proved he can come back healthy and still play at an elite level. In his Florida State career, he has 186 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, three interceptions one for a touchdown, fifteen pass deflections, and two forced fumbles. He can make splash plays all over the field and would be an excellent addition to the Buccaneers defense. Don’t be surprised if he is the pick at seven in this year’s draft.
Defensive End Josh Sweat and Wide Receiver Auden Tate are two other underclassmen to watch as day two prospects for this squad. The Bucs aren’t afraid to draft in-state talent because usually, they are some of the best in the country.