Senior Bowl Preview: Buccaneers Defensive Targets


The season is over for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And while many fans are still mourning the disappointing loss to the Detroit Lions, the Bucs front office must move on quickly to one of the premier NFL draft events of the offseason. The NFL Senior Bowl officially starts next week!

This is a big event for all front offices around the league. A chance to see and work with players first hand and get a chance to speak with them to see how they might fit in your culture. This type of hands-on work with a prospect can’t be replicated. 

However, this event seems to carry more weight for the Buccaneers than most teams. General Manager Jason Licht is notorious for drafting players from the Seniors Bowl. This includes the likes of Cody Mauch, Yaya Diaby, Trey Palmer and SirVocea Dennis from last year’s draft.

So who will be the next Senior Bowl star to dawn the red and pewter? There are a lot of good prospects to choose from, but here are the defensive players that I think the Bucs will be looking at. 

Payton Wilson, LB, North Carolina State 

Wilson is an interesting prospect for many reasons. Of course his talent level makes him one of the best linebackers in this draft. However, his injury, history, and off the field record have left teams concerned about his NFL future.

We won’t really get a medical report until the NFL combine but this will be a great chance for Wilson to meet with teams and show them his character. For a Buccaneers team that has a start planning for life without Lavante, David, and Devon White, taking a chance on a talent like Wilson’s could be worth the risk.

On the field, Wilson is tall and agile. He uses his length to stack and shed blocks well, and has very good speed for the position. He’s someone who can be successful as a run defender as well as in coverage.

Chris Braswell, EDGE, Alabama 

When you talk about guys who look the part of an NFL player, Roswell checks all the boxes. He has a big powerful edge rusher who wants to play bully ball on every snap. He seemingly willed himself to eight sacks last season with a mean attitude, and in your face presents alone.

Braswell is a power player. He is a force to reckon with the point of attack and is great at shutting down the run. He also features a Main bulrush as a pass rusher, and can keep offensive tackles on their heels.

However, he is a bit of a one trick pony. Braswell has pass rush, upside with his athletic ability, but right now that’s all he has. He could be an uppercut swing in the second round for a team, needing a pass rusher, but don’t expect much from him early in his career.

Mikey Sainristil, CB, Michigan 

There are a lot of names to watch when talking about the cornerbacks in the draft class. However, the one that isn’t getting nearly enough attention is Michigan’s Mikey Sainristil. This is likely because he is limited to playing nickel at the NFL level.

However, he can play this position among the best in the league. Both his coverage ability and ball skills are top notch. We saw his play, making’s flash over and over again on Michigan’s national championship run this year.

Sainristil there’s also a tough gritty defender against the run. He isn’t the strongest, but he wrestles ball carriers to the ground. He also has a nose for punching the ball out much like another defensive back on the Buccaneers roster.

Kam Kinchens, SS, Miami

This is my favorite safety prospect in the draft, and would be an excellent match next to Antoine Winfield Jr. Kinchens is a perfect modern-day, strong safety. He is fast and physical, and is constantly making plays.

What separates him from other strong safeties is his ball skills. Kinchens excels at taking the ball away as a pass defender. And while you certainly don’t want him alone over the top and single coverage, he can split the field with another capable safety and erase his side.

As you would expect, Kinchens is a force to be reckoned with against the run. He flies downhill at top speed and makes ball carriers remember his presence. This is a dark horse option for the Buccaneers first round pick.

Laiatu Latu, EDGE, UCLA

This is the highest profile and most interesting prospect at this event. While he has a lot of questions to answer, he also has the most to lose as a projected top 15 pick. If he slides to the late first round, he will very likely be in play for the Bucs.

Latu is a big body edge rusher who is incredibly polished with his hands. He shreds blockers to get into the backfield and pressure the passer, as well as make tackles for a loss. He has the potential to be exactly the type of edge rusher that Todd Bowles is looking for.

I come into this event with questions about Latu’s overall athleticism. There will also be questions with his medical background. However, this is his opportunity to impress against the best competition in the country.

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