The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ cornerback unit is dangerously thin and is one injury away from falling apart entirely. Florida State’s Tarvarus McFadden could help avert that potential disaster.
When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers chose to not pursue any cornerbacks in free agency they made it clear that the position would be a primary focus in the upcoming draft. Though there isn’t a Jalen Ramsey or Patrick Peterson type corner prospect in this draft, there are a lot of solid players with high ceilings. Tarvarus McFadden is one such player.
McFadden is particularly appealing for the Bucs if the team chooses to use their first two picks on a non-cornerback. Without the third round pick they traded for Jason Pierre-Paul, they would be forced to wait until the fourth round to take a cornerback, which is right about where McFadden could go. Let’s take a closer look at the Seminole corner and what he brings to the table.
Tarvarus McFadden’s Collegiate Career
McFadden joined the Seminoles as a highly sought after five-star high school recruit. As is usually the case with freshmen McFadden did little in his first season with the ‘Noles, but as a sophomore he exploded onto the scene. In 13 starts McFadden intercepted an astounding eight passes, which was tied for most in the nation. On top of those interceptions he had six passes defensed and when the season concluded he earned first team All-American honors and was named first team All-ACC as well.
The hype around McFadden’s junior season was justifiably sky-high after his breakout 2016. He was touted by experts as one of the corners to watch closely in college football, and a projected high draft pick. What came to be was a mixed bag. McFadden shockingly had zero interceptions in thirteen junior starts, but did have ten passes defensed and 21 solo tackles, both career highs. McFadden could have gotten himself into the second round conversation with a strong junior season but instead will likely go in the third or fourth round.
Tarvarus McFadden has physical tools and ball-skills that every defensive coordinator envy’s. At 6’2, 198 lbs McFadden is built to run with the big receivers of today’s NFL and excels at aggressive man coverage where his length and size can disrupt receivers. He tracks and plays the ball like a receiver and has several highlight-worthy deflections and interceptions as a result.
For the Bucs, McFadden would represent a changing of the guard at cornerback; the ‘Nole would easily be Tampa Bay’s biggest cornerback with Vernon Hargreaves and Brent Grimes both measuring in at around 5’10. His theoretical arrival would likely bump Hargreaves to nickel corner as, for better or worse, McFadden is limited to boundary cornerback. The team would be well-suited to add some height and length to a unit that twice a season faces off against big receivers like Michael Thomas, Devin Funchess, and Julio Jones.
While McFadden is a great ball-hawk who can rack up interceptions, he is also susceptible to big plays and touchdowns – his eight interceptions in 2016 were joined by six touchdowns allowed. McFadden can get turned around in coverage and give up plays much like we’ve seen with Vernon Hargreaves over the last two seasons. McFadden didn’t test very well at the combine and appears closer to “slow” than “not fast”.
He was not much of an asset against the run or near the line of scrimmage, unlike his FSU counterparts Xavier Rhodes and Jalen Ramsey who both made huge plays behind the line. As stated in the pros, while McFadden has a lot of physical upside as a boundary corner, he offers no potential to match up against slot receivers or take on any type of nickel corner role. For the Buccaneers, who like their players to be versatile, this will most likely count as a strike.
How Tarvarus McFadden can help the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The key area McFadden could help the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is depth. Brent Grimes and Vernon Hargreaves should be good enough to hold things down behind an improved defensive line, but the cornerback is razor thin behind them. Ryan Smith and Javien Elliot are both young with alleged upside, but they’ve not done much to inspire a lot of hope. McFadden has a bit more physical promise than both of those players and would get a shot at beating both of them out. For the Buccaneers to get the most out of McFadden they would need to allow him to play press coverage – something they weren’t very willing to do last season.
Will it Happen?
It depends on Mike Smith’s plans to adjust his defense. If he begins pressing his corners more like he did in small stretches last year, McFadden would be a sensible target. The team doesn’t have a third round pick so they would need to hope that McFadden slips to round four, but he would be a sensible target for them in the likely event that they patch larger holes in the first two rounds.
The Buccaneers need more playmakers in their secondary and it’s not easy to find a corner who racked up eight interceptions in a single season. McFadden has ball-skills and experience against top-level competition that could make him a steal in the fourth round for the cornerback-needy Buccaneers.