It wasn’t a surprise so much the Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted a cornerback with their second pick in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
However, there was a bit of a surprise in who the Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted though, as they picked up North Carolina cornerback, M.J. Stewart.
Projected by NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein as a third-round pick, Jason Licht’s selection of Stewart was one of three spent on defensive backs in the entire 2018 NFL Draft.
Obviously, the team wanted to make an impact there.
In fact, of the eight picks Tampa ended up with overall, they spent five of them on defense.
As a collegiate cornerback, Stewart started off his career hot statistically as he brought in six interceptions his freshman and sophomore seasons combined.
However, in his junior and senior campaigns, he had none. One of the reasons surely came with quarterbacks being aware of his ability and either staying away from him altogether, or at least taking extra strides to make sure Stewart didn’t beat them.
Asked during his introductory conference call about playing while being aware teams were going to throw away from him, Stewart said,
"“It just taught me to always be on your toes, always be ready, never take a play off because that come play that you take off is the play that’s coming at you. So, I always have the mindset every time I’m on the field, even if I have zero targets that game, the next play is always coming to me, it’s always coming to me. I feel like I had a lot of success and my incompletion rate was very high because of that.”"
This is an incredibly important lesson for Stewart to have already learned, and one which will help him be successful in the NFL.
With veteran cornerback Brent Grimes on the field, you can be sure Stewart will have NFL quarterbacks looking to test him early and often.
If he could find a way to turn in four interceptions his rookie year like he did his freshman season, fans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would surely be pleased about the surprise they received at pick number 53.
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