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The Martin Chronicles

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Bucs can't go wrong with a safety or tight end

If Ohio State safety Malik Hooker drops to No. 19, great news.

AP photo

If Ohio State safety Malik Hooker drops to No. 19, great news.



It’s time for last-second crazy talk.

Give me a safety or give me a tight end.

Give me a destroyer of tight ends or a destroyer of safeties.

The NFL Draft is here. The Bucs sit at the 19th pick, at least at the moment.

This team has all sorts of needs. Safety is an obvious one. Tight end isn’t.

Either one works for me.

NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock’s mock draft Wednesday night had Ohio State safety Malik Hooker falling all the way to the Bucs. I’m not seeing that, but if Hooker does drop, great news. Me? I’d move up a few spots to get him. If that happened, and if I was a Bucs fan, I’d start banging pots and pans in celebration.

If Hooker isn’t around (LSU safety Jamal Adams will be long gone), I’m looking at Miami tight end David Njoku. If Njoku is there, that would be something else to celebrate.

A tight end.

You heard me.

At 19, it’s impossible to know who’ll be available. Too many things can happen in front of you.

If I’m the Bucs, the dream scenario is that one of those top two safeties, Adams or Hooker, is around. That would give an improving defense a huge leap to the capability to being a dominant defense.

Ah, safeties. Defenses have changed the way they use them. A great safety, athletic, physical, faster than any linebacker, can be a game changer. You can put him down near the line of scrimmage and do a lot with him. You can take a linebacker off the field and move the safety down into the box. I’m convinced the Bucs are never going to be a standout defense without that kind of guy. Hooker, who oozes instinct, range and ball skills, could be magic.

Maybe you’re taking a risk, given Hooker’s injuries, or choosing safety over cornerback. What if Brent Grimes’ career expiration light begins blinking before Chris Conte’s does? No matter. I go safety over corner, and safety over defensive line, provided Hooker is there.

If Hooker isn’t there, I’m taking a tight end in the first round.

You heard me.

Yes, the Bucs have Cameron Brate, who caught 57 balls and made eight touchdowns in 2016.

Yes, the Bucs have all sorts of needs on defense.

Yes, they have never taken a tight end in the first round.

Yes, there was the tight end they took in the second round in 2014: Austin Seferian-See Ya.

And, yes, the Bucs have a need at running back. Perhaps you’ve heard.

Well, the draft is deep enough at pass rusher to get someone after the first round. And there are plenty of runners in this draft not named Fournette, McCaffery and Cook. You can get a good running back later on. But if you can grab the second best tight end (O.J. Howard, long gone), you go for it.

Crazy talk, right?

There’s nothing wrong with having another tight end. You see them all over formations in today’s NFL. The best of them truly make a real difference. 

Njoku is 6-4, 240 pounds and a physical wonder, big and fast, who is just growing into his game. His ceiling is so high it's scary. I’d happily take the guy, even though tight ends don’t seem a pressing Bucs need.

The speed that Njoku would add to the middle of the field would open things up for Jameis Winston. More and more, you see offenses that feature a tight end who’s just a better athlete, too big for the safeties, too fast for the linebackers.

I would take a tight end before I pick a running back. Tight end has become such a weapon, having a big guy who can run down the middle of the field. That will open it up for the Bucs running game, no matter who is handed the ball. It’ll open it up for Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson, too.

Njoku is just scratching the surface of what he can do. He’s one of those guys who just started playing football. All of a sudden the safety who would be doubling over the top on Jackson, keeping him from getting that deep ball, is going to have to come up and account for your tight end.

Yes, the Bucs need another pass rusher. And more bulk on the offensive line (moving Ali Marpet to center is a good start). The Bucs could use a running back. And a cornerback.

But Hooker, arguably the second best safety in the draft, would be a dream pick if he’s there.

So would Njoku, arguably the second best tight end.

Probably won’t happen.

Crazy talk, right?

And away we go.

[Last modified: Thursday, April 27, 2017 6:01pm]


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