The NFL combine has come and gone. Players have had their chances to show teams who they are and what they can do. And some left a lasting impression and opened a lot of eyes.
For the Tampa Bay Buccaneers it was a particularly big event. Many of the players who they might consider drafting in the first round had fantastic preferences. There were eight specifically that stood out who I believe the Bucs will strongly consider after a great showing at the NFL combine.
Travis Jones, DT, Connecticut
We already knew Jones was a powerhouse. However I didn’t expect him to test like one of the best overall athletes at his position. He ran the 40 yard dash in 4.92 seconds and tested well in his jumps, which show the explosiveness necessary to become a quality pass rusher at the NFL level.
Showing this high end athletic ability removes the label as a run stuffing nose tackle and shows that he can be a disruptive three down player. There have been no reports of the Buccaneers meeting with Jones yet, but after this performance it would be a surprise if he was not on their radar for the 27th overall pick.
Sean Rhyan, G, UCLA
Rhyan is a name that hasn’t received much buzz, but he’s everything the Bucs want. The UCLA left tackle projects as a guard at the NFL level. This in itself is a quality that the Bucs covet, where their entire offensive line had played offensive tackle in college at some point.
The Buccaneers aren’t the only team who have developed college left tackles into great guards. Rhyan follows in the footsteps of guys like Brandon Scherrf, who has a similar athletic profile. Both have great length for the interior offensive line and show agility and power in their legs. It is no guarantee that Rhyan will be a multi time pro bowler and all pro like Scherrf has been, but he’s shown the talent and now athletic ability that makes me believe he can be.
Christian Watson, WR, North Dakota State
No one has had a better pre draft process than Watson. He came into the Senior Bowl as an under the radar small school guy to keep an eye on, but he quickly established himself as one of the top two pass catchers there. Now after his combine workouts he could very well be drafted in the first round.
What kind of workouts take a receiver from North Dakota State to the first round of the draft? Watson measured in at 6’4 and 208 lbs. He also showed the ability to jump out of the gym and left no doubt that he can be a legitimate red zone weapon. However, it was his blazing 4.36 40 yard dash time that left most in awe. Watson is a rare athlete even by NFL standards.
Daxton Hill, S, Michigan
Hill is a versatile safety who plays over the top, in the box and as an excellent nickel. He was a key part to a Wolverines defense that led his team to a Big Ten Championship and was without question the anchor of their back seven.
This was a big weekend for Hill and the Bucs, who had a formal interview together at the combine. There is obvious interest from Tampa Bay and Hill showed why. The Michigan safety showed elite speed and agility in his athletic testing with a 4.38 40 yard dash and 6.57 3 cone drill. Look for Hill to be a sleeper pick for the Buccaneers in the first round.
Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
Many Bucs fans are familiar with Florida Gators corner Kaiir Elam. He is a physical, sticky corner who has looked very good against the best pass catchers that the SEC has to offer. The only question most had with his game was if he was fast enough to be an elite NFL cover man. That is no longer a concern after the combine.
Elam ran a blazing 4.39 40 yard dash at 6’2 and 195 lbs. His combination of size, coverage skills and now speed is very impressive. It’s worth noting that the Buccaneers met with Elam at the combine, so keep an eye on this pairing as we get closer to the draft.
Devonte Wyatt, DT, Georgia
Bruce Arians has indicated that he wants more of a pass rushing defensive tackle playing next to Vita Vea. One name that fits the bill is Wyatt. Wyatt was part of the suffocating Georgia defense and played that same role as a penetration tackle next to star nose tackle Jordan Davis. In Bucs terms, he’s more Gerald McCoy than Ndamukong Suh.
He’s also an outstanding athlete. Wyatt showed top tier explosiveness in his 40 yard dash and in his jumps. This translates to quickness off the line of scrimmage and that definitely shows on the field as well. Wyatt is exactly the type of player that Arians says he’s looking for.
Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State
Hall is the big, physical workhorse type of running back who could actually step in and replace Leonard Fournette. Some, myself included, call him the best running back in the draft despite lacking elite physical tools. The Buccaneers may have felt this way as well when they interviewed him last week.
However, it only took one drill to break the “hard hat and lunch pale” perception. Despite being one of the biggest running backs to test (5’11 and 217 lbs), Hall clocked one of the fastest 40 used dash times. His 4.39 official time showed he might have more big play ability than originally thought and will likely make him the first running back drafted.
Zion Johnson, G, Boston College
Johnson is officially on the Buccaneers radar for their first round pick. The Boston College interior offensive lineman met with the Bucs at the combine and showed very well at the Senior Bowl. He is widely considered the second best interior offensive lineman in the draft and a mid to late first round pick.
That status has only been solidified at the combine. Johnson did all the workouts in Indianapolis and tested near or at the top in all of them. If I were a betting man,I’d call him the odds on favorite to be the Buccaneers pick come draft day.
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