The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have their rookie class. Soon the group of bright eyed first years will be reporting to rookie camp and it will be our first time seeing them and what they bring to the Buccaneers.
Having watched these players in college, we already have an idea of who they are and what they can do. However, projecting their game is different than seeing what they did in college. At best, you have an idea of the type of player they will be.
This is best illustrated in comparing them to similar players that we have already seen in the NFL. Player comparison isn’t necessarily a prediction of how successful they will be, but rather projecting the mold they will fit into based on others who had similar skill sets or athletic abilities.
With that, I took the time to draw comparisons for every Buccaneers rookie they drafted this year. What their style might look like and how they might project in Tampa Bay for the years to come.
Let’s just address the elephant in the room with this one. Not every undersized, athletic defensive tackle coming out of Pittsburgh is Aaron Donald. There is only one Aaron Donald and to compare anyone to him, the greatest defensive tackle to ever play the game, is unfair.
With that said, Kancey is very similar to the mold of player that Donald was coming out of college. They have incredibly similar measurables with their size and testing numbers as elite athletes. On top of that, much like Donald was, Kancey is an absolute technician when it comes to hand usage.
However, the biggest thing that separates the two is that Donald was twice as productive on the football field. This is saying a lot considering that Kancey was a unanimous All American, but Donald was just that incredible as a college athlete. Like I said, no one can be compared to him.
I believe a more accurate comparison for Kancey is Geno Atkins. Atkins has a similar body type and athletic profile as well as a more comparable level of production coming out of college. Granted, Atkins was a little heavier than Kancey and had longer arms, but Kancey is a little more athletic so there is some give and take. If Kancey can come close to the eight pro bowl appearances that Atkins made then this will be a very successful pick for the Buccaneers.
Two things jump out about Mauch besides his now famous toothless smile. The first is his easy athletic ability. This allowed him to be a versatile piece along the North Dakota State offensive line and is what projects him well to the next level.
Mauch also has some technical issues to clean up. His hand usage needs to be refined in order for him to be a high level NFL player. I have every reason to believe he can do this as he transitions inside to guard, but it might take a year or two to establish himself as a high end player.
These two factors remind me of a young Joe Thuney. The two share a similar athletic profile and had similar strengths coming into the draft. Thuney required some fine tuning before becoming one of the best guards in the NFL much like Mauch will.
A modern version of an old school archetype. Diaby is a power player who wants to impose his will physically. He has no problem playing with his hand in the dirt and muddying up the point of attack.
Diaby needs to develop as a pass rusher. His game is very basic, but has high upside due to his excellent athletic ability. He will start as a rotational player, but could be much more in a few years.
Watching Diaby, I see shades of another power edge rusher from a few years back. Pernell McPhee had an up and down career as a rotational pass rusher, but he always brought physicality and toughness to the field. I see a lot of McPhee when I watch Diaby, with Diaby obviously being a much more explosive athlete.
Dennis brings a speed element that the linebackers on the depth chart were lacking behind the starters. He’s a great sideline to sideline player who does nothing but make tackles and put himself in position to make plays. Getting a chance to sit behind the likes of Lavonte David is a perfect opportunity for him to learn from the best.
It’s also an opportunity to be molded by a player that is very similar to him in style. David has a similar size and speed profile, but also brings the same physicality and sure tackling ability. And while Dennis isn’t the same player in pass coverage that David was as a prospect, because they have a very similar athletic profile there is reason to believe that he can develop in this area.
Dennis will likely never reach close to being the same caliber of player, but to be a poor man’s Lavonte David still projects as a pretty nice career for the Buccaneers.
Some picks have great upside and potential while others are brought in to fill a specific niche. Durham falls into the second of those categories. A big body who can develop into a good blocker down the line and will be used as a end zone jump ball target will be the role Durham plays during his NFL career.
He won’t ever be a great receiving threat and I doubt he’ll even be good enough to be a starter. However, there is value in the role he plays as long as he improves as a blocker. I see him as a similar player to former Dolphins tight end Anthony Fasano, although not quite as talented in any aspect of his game.
To be honest, there aren’t many defensive backs that are Hayes size who lack quickness like he does. Granted, he is a safety and will play more in the box, but his lack of quickness has not translated to the NFL well. This made it difficult to find a strong comparison with anyone.
Nevin Lawson, the defensive back out of Utah State in 2014, is the closest I could come up with. A similar size and and lack of quickness, Lawson was able to latch on with the Detroit Lions for a few years and bounce around the league a bit after that. This would be the best case scenario for Hayes in my estimation.
They saying that “speed kills” was made for Palmer. Running a 4.33 40 yard dash at the combine solidified his value as a big play deep threat. And while his role will be limited due to lacking some nuance at the position, he can also apply that speed to the return game.
His excellent speed and solid frame reminds me of former Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Mike Wallace. And while I don’t anticipate a 1,000 yard receiving season in the next few years, he has that type of ceiling in the right situation. At this point it’s just a matter of development to try to become what Wallace was.
There is always a place for pass rushers in the NFL. This is where Ramirez looks like he’ll make his mark with the Buccaneers. With his quickness and ability to be flexible as he works around offensive tackles there is reason to believe he will be able to make his mark in the league.
He reminds me of a rookie from last year, Lions edge rusher James Houston. The sixth round pick from Jackson State finished second among all rookies with 8.0 sacks. Ramirez has a very similar athletic profile and a very similar style in which he plays the game.
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