Potential DB draft targets

CB/S/Nickel Juan Thornhill

With Vernon Hargreaves healthy again and back in a system that will allow him to do what he does best and play pressman, he and Carlton Davis should be the starting outside CBs for the Bucs. While Justin Evans has had some injuries and inconsistency, and Jordan Whitehead had an up and down rookie year, Tampa is likely happy with their two young starting safety’s. Depth at both spots is in good shape with Ryan Smith, Devante Harris, MJ Stewart, and Isiah Johnson still around, but the Bucs have a huge hole at Nickel CB with noone currently on the roster looking capable of playing that spot. Clearly the team would have liked to have brought in Tyrann Mathieu to be the playmaker he was for Bowles in Arizona, but cap restrictions prevented that luxury. With that said, the Bucs are likely prepared to use a Day 2 or early Day 3 pick to add some talent to a secondary that got picked on an awful lot the last few years, and someone who can plug in and play the nickel will be the priority.

JUAN THORNHILL (6′, 205 lbs, 4.42sec 40dash) is a DB who has experience at both CB and S at the collegiate level. One of the best athletes in the draft, Thornhill showed off tremendous speed and quickness, while jumping out of the gym with a 44″ vertical and a 141″ broad jump. Thornhill also possesses the ability to take the ball away, leading his team in interceptions each of the last 3 years, where he showed off the hands and ball skills you usually don’t find in defensive players. Thornhill seems custom built to be that playmaking CB/S hybrid who operates out of the slot, the question is mostly how early does he go in the draft and is that position worth that much of an investment for the Bucs.

CHAUNCEY GARDNER-JOHNSON (5’11”, 210 lbs, 4.48sec 40dash) is another excellent athlete who appears to be custom built for that hybrid CB/S/Nickel role. The Bucs even brought him in for a private visit, so he certainly could be a target. While CGJ also does possess the skills to take the ball away, just as impressively he makes himself impactful against the run from the slot position where he plays like another LB. His versatility could make him a desirable fit, but like with Thornhill the question is how early are you willing to take the guy.

DARNELL SAVAGE (5’11”, 198 lbs, 4.36sec 40dash) might be a little smaller, but he’s another playmaking slot hybrid player with tremendous athleticism. He also met with the Bucs privately which shows that this is a position Tampa is looking to address during this draft. But not only does Savage bring quick twitch athleticism, he also brings a high IQ which is something the team could value as his instincts remind of Tyrann Mathieu. Like with Mathieu though, Savage is undersized, and might have put on empty weight for the combine to make himself look bigger than he actually is. Still, Savage plays the game with the attitude and smarts coaches love, while also possessing the skills and athleticism to make plays in the NFL.

NASIR ADDERLEY (6′, 206 lbs, 4.54sec 40dash) The main thing that separates Adderley from the guys above him on this list, is that he wasn’t able to show off his elite athleticism during workouts. Adderley didn’t workout at the combine due to a ankle injury, and then pulled up lame during his pro day 40 where he still managed to jog out an impressive 4.54 second run. On tape Adderley is another player with ballskills and experience all over the defensive backfield. But not only has Adderley shown an ability to take the ball away, but he’s also shown a willingness to inflict pain on whoever gets in his way. There are going to be coaches who see a rare player and are going to fall in love with Adderley’s tape due to his ability to be impactful against both the run and the pass, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Todd Bowles was one of those coaches.

JAQUAN JOHNSON (5’10” 191lbs, 4.69sec 40dash) went from being regarded to one of the top DBs in this class to a Day 3 pick after a disastrous combine. His small stature was evident on tape, but he might have removed himself from some draft boards completely with his near 4.7 40 yard dash. Some teams might view that lack of speed as a fatal flaw of sorts, so don’t be surprised if Johnson falls far on draft day. However, on tape, Johnson appears to have the quickness, toughness, ball skills, and smarts to excel in a nickel back role. If the Bucs aren’t able to address this specific need earlier in the draft, Johnson would be a great consolation prize. He has all the making of an over achiever and is someone who could outplay his talent and eventually emerge as a steal from this draft. He may not have the deep speed to play FS or CB, and he might be undersized, but he could excel as a playmaking nickel, as Johnson just has rare instincts and seems to know where the ball is going even before the QB does.

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2 thoughts on “Potential DB draft targets

  1. Don’t really agree with these assumptions at all. First, We have two very serviceable slot guys in Hargreaves and Stewart. I realize the existing plan is to try VH3 on the outside, but historically, the only place he’s had success is in the slot. I’m happy we’re gonna give him a shot at the outside again, but we can’t act/draft as if he’s a sure thing-he’s anything but.

    MJ Stewart, meanwhile has always been viewed as exactly the type of slot corner/safety hybrid you’re talking about drafting here. A lot of these guys could be better than MJ, but as long as we’re giving guys like Jordan Whitehead a chance to improve, we might as well do the same for him.

    Personally, I really hope we draft a long press-man corner like Lonnie Johnson, Justin Layne, or Jamel Dean. It sounds like Arians wants his outside corners to be physical, man cover guys, and those three fit the bill.

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    1. My initial thoughts were the same as yours, and I was hoping for another long press-man corner to pair with Carlton Davis at first too- and then have Hargreaves and Stewart compete at Nickel. We will see what happens come the draft, but all I can really go on is what has come out of the mouth’s of Licht, Arians, and Bowles. Between those 3 I’ve gathered that A) Hargreaves will be playing outside B) Stewart will be moving to safety C) We need a Nickel CB/S type in the Tyrann Mathieu mold. Based on that information, I’ve attempted to identify 5 guys I think would fit what the team is looking for.

      That said, I will not be mad at all if this was all a smokescreen and we do attempt to get a long press-man type like Justin Layne who I’m a huge fan of. Ultimately I think Bowles wants guys who can take the ball away, and it’s easier to find those guys in nickel type athletic packages than in the ultra rare 6’+ 4.4 speed press-man package. Especially on Day 2 and Day 3 of the draft. Lastly I do think we have decent depth at outside CB if Hargreaves is indeed moving there. Ryan Smith and Devante Harris both impressed me last year, with the former taking a huge leap in his development. With those 4 guys, I’m not sure outside CB is as huge a need as initially thought.

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