Vita Vea Forever Linked to A Safety?


In the 2018 NFL Draft, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had two glaring holes to fill on defense. Defensive Tackle and Strong Safety. Sitting at the #12 overall pick, the Buccaneers actually had both the top DT and SS prospects available to them when it was their turn to pick. SS Derwin James out of Florida State and DT Vita Vea from Washington.

The Buccaneers had just moved on from Chris Baker and were noticing the decrease in production from former DT Gerald McCoy. They also witnessed their highly questionable and long-term SS starter, Chris Conte, literally have his career ended by a Vance McDonald stiff arm. Both positions were in need of attention and the Bucs had a decision to make.

The Buccaneers, as we know, ended up selecting Vita Vea with the 12th overall pick with Derwin James going to the Chargers just five picks later. James would go on to record 105 combined tackles, 13 PDs, 3 INTs and 3.5 sacks in his rookie year earning himself a trip to the Pro Bowl. Vea finished the season with 28 total tackles and 3 sacks. Not bad, but not great.

I realize defensive tackles take a bit longer to develop in the NFL than safeties, but after one year of NFL play James is still just 22 and Vea is already 24. He’ll be 27 by the end of his rookie contract so his production in the NFL will be expected much sooner. James on the other hand is fresh off a full 16 game season, a Pro Bowl appearance and a trip to the playoffs.

Vea still has all the tools to become a dominant DT in the league and playing next to Ndamakung Suh this year will only make things easier. If both players become multiple Pro Bowler’s with playoff appearances from both respected teams, the Bucs could break even. If James turns in a HOF career at SS and Vea turns out to be Danny Shelton 2.0, all that will be left is a handful of “What if’s?”.