Buccaneers: Memphis Tigers 2018 draft prospects to watch
By Bailey Adams
Because of its continued efforts to get a seat at the table of elites, the American Athletic Conference catches a lot of heat from fans of schools in the Power Five conferences. Whether that’s justified or not is another conversation, but there’s no doubting that there is plenty of talent in the AAC. With that, we look at this year’s prospects from the 2017 AAC West Champion Memphis Tigers.
Memphis has been one of the AAC’s most consistent programs over the last four years. The Tigers have won ten games twice (2014 and 2017), nine games in 2015 and eight in 2016. That obviously can’t happen without some top-tier talent, which means they should be pumping out prospects worth keeping an eye on for years to come. This year, no underclassmen declared, but there are some intriguing players that were part of the winningest senior class in school history. The Buccaneers could be interested in a couple of these guys as they do their homework on prospects in the coming months. Here is the full list of Memphis Tigers entering April’s draft:
Linebacker- Genard Avery
Defensive Back- Jonathan Cook
Wide Receiver- Sam Craft
Quarterback- Riley Ferguson
Punter- Nick Jacobs
Defensive Lineman- Christian Johnson
Offensive Lineman- Gabe Kuhn
Offensive Lineman- Lio Lafaele
Wide Receiver- Phil Mayhue
Wide Receiver- Anthony Miller
Punter- Spencer Smith
Linebacker- Shareef White
Senior to Watch: OL Gabe Kuhn
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The Buccaneers have plenty of needs, with some being above others. Specifically, the defensive line, secondary and backfield are more of a priority than the offensive line. However, re-tooling the offensive line would definitely be a good idea too. A potential low-risk, high-reward option is Memphis’ Gabe Kuhn. Kuhn played in 51 games for the Tigers over his four years, mixing in time at center, right guard and both tackle positions. That kind of versatility would be huge for Tampa Bay.
Kuhn is a big body at 6-foot-4, 295 pounds. The fact that he can play different positions would be helpful, but he also showed great durability throughout his time at Memphis. He missed just one game in his time with the Tigers and rarely missed a snap. The old saying is that the best availability is any availability, which fits well for the big man. If he can continue to hang tough and stay injury-free like that, he will make his NFL team extremely happy.
Kuhn is such a low risk because he is an under-the-radar kind of guy. Not a lot of sites have him ranked, meaning he could be nothing more than a later round guy or, even more likely, an undrafted free agent. He is a potential gem, so what do the Bucs have to lose in bringing him in? There’s a reason he was named to the 2017 Outland Trophy Watch List, which is awarded to the top interior lineman in the nation each year. Kuhn was a big part of some very good offenses in his time at Memphis and could prove to be a nice pickup for a team this spring.
Senior to Watch: QB Riley Ferguson
It would definitely be a good idea for the Buccaneers to draft a quarterback in the later rounds of this year’s draft to back up Jameis Winston. Ryan Fitzpatrick is a free agent and the Buccaneers could potentially bring him back, but there are certainly other paths to take. Ryan Griffin is also still around, but it doesn’t seem like he has shown quite enough to prove that he would be more than capable of stepping in if Winston goes down for any reason. Drafting a backup this April just seems like it makes sense. Riley Ferguson could be someone to keep an eye on should the Bucs be in the market for a later round quarterback.
Draft Wire’s Luke Easterling ranks Ferguson as the ninth-best quarterback in this year’s class, while Walter Football has him twelfth. He could go as late as the fifth or sixth round, which should pique Tampa Bay’s interest. Considering picks in the fifth round or later tend to be gambles anyway, what could Jason Licht have to lose in drafting Ferguson? In two years at Memphis, he threw for 7,955 yards and 70 touchdowns to nineteen interceptions. He also added ten rushing touchdowns. He led two prolific Tiger offenses in his two seasons, winning a combined eighteen games.
In 2017, Memphis finished tied for seventh in passing offense, second in scoring offense and fourth in total offense. It’s hard to argue against that type of production. The knock on Ferguson is his build. His height (6-foot-4) is just fine, but Walter Football notes that he is too skinny at this point to be a quarterback in the NFL. He is listed at 210 pounds, but you have to think he can add on some weight if necessary. Plugging Ferguson into the team’s backup role would make tons of sense, as he could realistically step in and produce if necessary. Get him a solid offensive line and competent running back to pair with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, DeSean Jackson, O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate and he would be more than capable.
Next: Buccaneers: UCF Knights 2018 draft prospects to watch
What do you think of these Memphis prospects, Bucs fans? Do you think Tampa Bay should draft a backup quarterback? Should it be Ferguson? Let us know what you think in the comments, on Twitter or on Facebook.