Day Three Sleepers
The NFL draft is less than two weeks away and Buccaneer fans are debating left and right on who their favorite team should select with the fifth overall pick. However, there are also seven rounds in the draft and every team would love to find that sleeper in rounds 4-7. The Bucs most recent notable selection on day three was linebacker and fan favorite Kwon Alexander, who is now with the San Francisco 49ers. Making inside linebacker one of the teams many needs. Many fans would like to see the Buccaneers pick up linebacker Devin White with the fifth pick. But there are other talented linebackers out there that could make it to day three, just like Kwon did.
Tampa Bay also has needs in other areas, such as, defensive back, offensive line, edge, and running back.
Linebacker Dakota Allen, Texas Tech
Projected to go in rounds 5-7. The former Last Chance U star is entering the 2019 NFL draft. The glaring need for a linebacker to replace Kwon is obvious, but not easy. Allen was referred to being a sideline to sideline linebacker and was expected to be a combine standout. He lacked those numbers running a 4.77 40-time. Although, what he lacks in straight line speed, he makes up for in leadership and more. Coaches expressed their praise for the linebacker. Former Texas Tech and now Arizona Cardinals head coach said prior to the start of the 2018 season “[Allen] was a tremendous player his freshman year… He’s made an immediate impact off the field, I’m hoping his presence is felt like that on the field as well.” And it was, being selected to be a team captain in 2018.
Allen’s college stats:
249 total tackles (17.5 for a loss),
1 forced fumble
Linebacker BJ Blunt, McNeese State
Projected to go in rounds 6-7. Blunt is a former defensive back turned linebacker so he is undersized, he was weighed at 203 pounds at the East-West Shrine Game. However, he has since put on nearly 20 pounds since then, according to his camp. If that’s the case he will have a frame similar to the Buccaneers’ recent free agent pick-up and also former defensive back, Deone Bucannon. Blunt is very explosive and very much athletic enough to cover running backs and tight ends, which is something Tampa needs in a division with the talents like Alvin Kamara, Christian McCaffrey, and Devonta Freeman. The knock for him is his run support technique, but he’s not afraid to hit someone by any means. Although, he also didn’t play against the toughest of competition.
Blunt’s college stats:
145 total tackles (29.5 for a loss)
1 forced fumble
Safety Malik Gant, Marshall
Projected to go in rounds 4-6. Gant doesn’t excel in playmaking, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t good in man to man situations. With a 4.63 40-time, he probably isn’t athletic enough to play against the speedy and quick wideouts, but when matching up with bigger slots and tight ends he has the ability to shift the receivers off of their routes. Don’t expect him to be a 2-deep type of safety, he would be a great addition to play in the box. His run defense and tackling can attest to that. He has terrific form and looks to wrap up from the knees to the chest. He can struggle to shed blocks but that is something you would expect from a safety. Being in a division with multiple elite running backs and teams that like to utilize the tight ends a lot, he would be an interesting pick-up and maybe even an impact right away.
Gant’s college stats:
190 total tackles (14 for a loss)
13 pass deflections
OT Derwin Gray, Maryland
Projected to go in rounds 6-7. Gray would be of great value in day three. He is a massive man at 6’4” 340 pounds and nearly 35-inch arms. He uses his size to his advantage in pass protection and has quick punch timing ensuring his opponent will feel the length of his arms. He isn’t very consistent in run blocking, but he has shown flashes. With good coaching, he could possibly end up earning a starting role eventually. Gray’s player comparison is actually on the Buccaneers’ roster now, Donovan Smith. Smith isn’t a fan favorite, but he hasn’t been terrible. He did earn a nice paycheck and would have more than likely got a lot more if he decided to test free agency. Getting a guy similar to Donovan Smith in day three of the NFL draft would be nothing other than a steal.
Edge Rusher Jalen Jelks, Oregon
Projected to go in rounds 5-7. Jelks’ 40-time may be underwhelming (4.93), but Jelks has a great burst off of the line of scrimmage. At 6’5” 256 pounds, Jelks will need to play a stand-up 3-4 edge defender. Although, surprisingly he does have some experience playing the interior. That’s where he played his junior year and was physically outmatched a good chunk of that time, even though it was his best year statistically. He is a very raw prospect but has the size to make an impact. He made flashes using his length to his advantage with a strong arm over move. Not to mention he has a great motor, often making plays on pursuit you wouldn’t normally see an edge defender making. Jelks lack of experience at the edge linebacker spot hurt him in his senior year. He has work to be done, but he would be in a great position to learn from Jason Pierre-Paul, Carl Nassib and others.
Jelks’ college stats:
155 total tackles (30 for a loss)
11 pass deflections
1 forced fumble
Elijah Holyfield, Georgia
Projected to go in rounds 4-5. Son of former heavyweight champion boxer Evander Holyfield, Elijah was born with some great genetics. He might have gotten his toughness from his father because he is not afraid to put his pads down and attack his potential tackler. Some analysts had him going in the second and third rounds prior to the NFL combine. But the combine was nothing but a disaster for Holyfield. Running the worst 40-time for any running back with a 4.78. Many expected his pro days to be better, but it wasn’t. He may not have breakaway speed, but he is a powerful runner. The first defender rarely is able to bring him down and gets plenty of yards after contact. And he didn’t see a whole lot of wear and tear since he split carries with all the great running backs that Georgia has produced over the years. You can’t have enough running backs and picking up Holyfield would be a stress reliever for Peyton Barber and Ronald Jones II.
1,340 rushing yards
6.2 yards per carry