Kansas State has been solid for years, winning at least eight games in six of the last seven years. As the Buccaneers do their homework leading up to April’s NFL Draft, they could look at some prospects that just finished their time with the Wildcats. Here, in the next stop in our college prospect series, we look at K-State guys worth keeping an eye on.
The Buccaneers have somewhat of a history with Kansas State players. Back in 1999, they drafted kicker Martin Gramatica in the third round out of K-State. That worked out pretty well, as he was a Pro Bowl selection in 2000 before helping Tampa Bay on its Super Bowl run in 2002. In 2009, the Bucs took a former Wildcat in the first round. That was quarterback Josh Freeman, who had a couple of promising years before things went downhill. So, the results have been pretty mixed. Could Tampa Bay dip into Bill Snyder’s program again this April? Here’s a list of K-State products in this year’s draft:
Quarterback- Jesse Ertz
More from Bucs Draft
- The Athletic’s early NFL Mock Draft has the Bucs taking a Top 5 QB in 2024
- Bucs front office reveals one thing the team missed during NFL Draft
- Peter King explains simple reason why Bucs passed on drafting Will Levis
- Mel Kiper Jr. hands out his official Buccaneers draft grade
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers undrafted free agents tracker 2023
Defensive Tackle- Will Geary
Linebacker- Jayd Kirby
Kicker- Matthew McCrane
Offensive Lineman- Reid Najvar
Wide Receiver- Byron Pringle
Cornerback- D.J. Reed
Linebacker- Trent Tanking
Punter- Nick Walsh
Senior to Watch: K, Matthew McCrane
It’s no secret that the Bucs have struggled in the kicking game for years now. In the middle of the 2017 season, they found their answer in Patrick Murray. He connected on nineteen of his 23 field goal attempts and went 21-for-22 on his extra point attempts. He had a few key misses toward the end of the season, but it wasn’t anything to be too worried about. But a little competition never hurt anyone, right? Now, I’m not suggesting that Tampa Bay should spend a draft pick on a kicker. Walter Football projects Kansas State kicker Matthew McCrane as an undrafted free agent. The Bucs have nothing to lose by bringing him in to push Murray, right?
Kicking isn’t a huge need for the Bucs. And fans might be a little hesitant to see Tampa Bay try out another rookie kicker. But the problem with Roberto Aguayo was deeper than just bringing in a rookie. The Bucs traded up- in the second round- to select the Florida State product. Not only that, but they didn’t even make him compete for his job. He came in, struggled immediately and never recovered. This would be different. There’s no harm in bringing an undrafted kicker in to compete for the starting job.
McCrane was great in four years with the Wildcats. He made 86.4 percent of his field goal attempts in his collegiate career, connecting on 57 of his 66 attempts. In the extra point category, he made 133 of his 134 kicks. He holds Kansas State’s records for field goals made (57), 50-plus yard field goals in a career (five) and career extra point percentage (99.3 percent). He participated in last weekend’s East-West Shrine Game, but likely didn’t wow too many scouts with a missed 41-yard field goal. However, McCrane did make both of his extra points. His accuracy was impressive over his four years in Manhattan. Tampa Bay has nothing to lose by bringing in the All-Big 12 selection, as long as it’s after the draft and the team doesn’t give him the starting position without earning it.
Underclassman to Watch: CB, D.J. Reed
The Kansas State player that should interest Tampa Bay the most is cornerback D.J. Reed. Draft Wire’s Luke Easterling ranks Reed as his fourteenth-best cornerback, while Walter Football ranks him 24th. He is projected as a third to fifth round selection. That should interest the Bucs, considering they could look to build up their trenches and find a running back of the future in the first few rounds. The secondary is a need, but it’s likely one that should be addressed more heavily in free agency and the later rounds of the draft.
At 5-foot-9, Reed doesn’t have a lot of size. What he does have, though, is good coverage skills. His speed makes up for his lack of size. That led to 125 tackles (five for loss), two fumble recoveries, three forced fumbles, seven interceptions and 25 passes defended in just two years with the Wildcats. He also spent time as the return man for Kansas State, where he averaged 32.2 yards per kick return, 14.9 yards per punt return and two total touchdowns. The only drawback to drafting Reed is that the Bucs currently have a lot of undersized corners. He could make the transition to playing nickel in the NFL, but Vernon Hargreaves could still be destined for that role if he can’t come back stronger on the outside in 2018.
Tampa Bay really has to upgrade its defense in the offseason. General manager Jason Licht will likely do so in free agency and the draft, meaning Reed could very well be in play for the Bucs in the later rounds. Adding Reed would be another boost of youth into a secondary that has to deal with Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Cam Newton twice a year. The Bucs could really use a corner of Reed’s caliber, but with a lot of options at the position in this year’s draft, there’s no telling what could happen for the team and the player.
Another underclassman to keep an eye on is wide receiver Byron Pringle. Receiver isn’t really a need for Tampa Bay, but Pringle is projected by Walter Football as a fifth-to-seventh round guy. It couldn’t hurt to add another talented pass-catcher with a late-round pick. He caught 69 passes for 1,355 yards and 10 touchdowns in two years with the Wildcats. Plus, the 6-foot-2 receiver is a local product, coming out of Tampa’s Robinson High School (the same school that produced yours truly).