Buccaneers: San Diego State Aztecs 2018 draft prospects
By Bailey Adams
The Buccaneers will be scouting all over the country in preparation for April’s NFL Draft. San Diego State has won 32 games over the last three years. There are quite a few Aztec players available in this year’s draft class. Could any be worth watching for Tampa Bay?
San Diego State has been getting it done on the field in recent years. 32 wins in three seasons doesn’t happen without talent. The Buccaneers would certainly love to have some of that same success in the coming years. Could they turn to some of the players that made that happen out west? There are plenty available in this year’s draft. Here’s a full list of Aztecs that will be available in April:
Fullback- Nick Bawden
Wide Receiver- Brandon Fitzpatrick
Defensive Line- Jon’Darius Gardner
Linebacker- Temerick Harper
Linebacker- Jay Henderson
Wide Receiver- Mikah Holder
Cornerback- Kameron Kelly
Safety- Trey Lomax
Linebacker- Tyler Morris
Defensive Line- Sergio Phillips
Running Back- Rashaad Penny
Tight End- Darryl Richardson
Linebacker- Randy Ricks
Offensive Line- Antonio Rosales
Wide Receiver- Quest Truxton
Defensive Lineman- Dakota Turner
Tight End- David Wells
Running Back- Tyler Wormhoudt
Senior to Watch: CB Kameron Kelly
The Buccaneers finished dead last in the NFL in pass defense last year. If they want to get to the playoffs in 2018, having such a soft pass defense clearly won’t cut it. The defense as a whole was putrid and the secondary was a big part of that. Sure, the poor play in the back was a byproduct of the Bucs having zero pass rush. But regardless, Tampa Bay has to address both position groups this offseason. A lot has been said about the front four, but figuring out plan for the secondary’s future should be a priority too. A potential target from San Diego State is 6-foot-2 corner Kameron Kelly.
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Tampa Bay is supposedly trying to bring back its No. 1 corner, Brent Grimes. Even if that happens, he likely won’t be around too much longer. That leaves the team extremely bare at the corner position. Kelly would be a long-term solution, but could burst onto the scene early. Walter Football mentions that he likely projects as a press-man type of player, which doesn’t quite fit what Mike Smith does with his cornerbacks. The Bucs have gotten used to their corners playing off the receiver, giving a cushion to work with. Results from such defense have clearly been poor, but Smith could choose to stick with that. Either way, Kelly could obviously adjust to playing like an off-corner.
General manager Jason Licht could have a decision on Kelly- draft him for his talent and fit him into the defense somehow? Or pass and find a corner that fits better for a coordinator that quite possibly may not be around past this year? Licht has to decide which one makes more sense and it could be a very tough choice, considering every decision he makes these days could have an impact on his future in Tampa.
Kelly, though, is a third-to-fifth round guy according to Walter Football. He is ranked as the site’s 25th-best corner, but Draft Wire’s Luke Easterling has him as the fourteenth-best. Easterling touts his versatility, which could be helpful for Tampa Bay regardless of scheme. Kelly played safety in 2017, adding to his skillset. Most NFL teams would likely use him as a corner, but it can’t hurt to be that versatile. In his senior season, Kelly finished with 68 tackles (five for loss), two sacks, three interceptions, eleven passes defended and two forced fumbles. Kelly certainly would help with a Buccaneer secondary that needs an identity right now and for years to come.
Senior to Watch: RB Rashaad Penny
Fixing up the backfield is surely one of Tampa Bay’s top priorities this offseason. One potential target is Rashaad Penny, who led the entire country in rushing as a senior at San Diego State. In 2017, he ran for 2,248 yards and 23 touchdowns. Penny’s physicality is evident any time you watch him play and he could be the answer for the Bucs at running back. Draft Wire’s Luke Easterling has long linked Tampa Bay with Penny, which should intrigue a lot of fans. There’s a lot to like about the big back from out west.
There is somewhat of a divide on Penny, with Easterling ranking him as his third-best running back (ahead of Georgia’s Sony Michel). Walter Football is not nearly as high, ranking him fourteenth. The site is down on the opponents that Penny faced while also describing him as a “one-cut downhill runner” that is suited to be a “rotational backup.” I tend to lean toward the idea that Penny is somewhere between those two evaluations. Personally, I don’t think he’s a better prospect than Michel, but I also think he is way too good to be considered a rotational guy.
He is a day two guy that the Bucs should keep a close eye on, especially if they miss out on Derrius Guice, Michel and Nick Chubb. The running back class is deep this year, which should help Tampa Bay out a lot. Considering the need for pass rush, secondary help and potentially a new offensive guard, the Bucs might not look for a running back until round three or four. Penny is someone who could be around past round two, though his performance in the Senior Bowl might move him up a little bit. He won co-MVP of the game, running for 63 yards on nine carries while adding a 73-yard touchdown catch and run.
One other potential late-round option for the Bucs is fullback Nick Bawden, who received a Senior Bowl invite. He may be no more than an undrafted free agent, but he could be worth a look.
Next: Previewing the Bucs Tight End Situation
What do you think of these prospects, Bucs fans? Is Penny a good target for Tampa Bay? Let us know what you think in the comments, on Twitter or on Facebook.