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5 Bold Predictions for Bucs' Rookies

Posted May 3, 2017

A few bold predictions for the 2017 season.

1. O.J. Howard leads the team in touchdown receptions.
In a few short months, the Buccaneers have built an impressive unit around Jameis Winston. At 6-foot-6, Howard will be a difficult player to defend in the red zone, especially with opponents targeted on Mike Evans’ who’s 6-foot-5 himself. Winston has used his tight ends well in the past, tossing eight touchdowns to Cameron Brate a year ago. If Evans isn’t the Bucs’ leader in touchdown catches, Howard will be.

2. Justin Evans and Kendell Beckwith are starters for Week 1.  
Remember that these are supposed to be bold predictions, and it won't be easy for Evans to gain a starting spot with three experienced starters on the Bucs' roster. Chris Conte has has started 76 games in his career, including 24 in his two seasons with the Bucs while Keith Tandy recorded four interceptions in five starts a year ago. It’s safe to say the winner of that competition will play alongside J.J. Wilcox, who was signed as a free agent this spring. Beckwith steps into a position where the incumbent starter, Daryl Smith, is no longer on the team. It’s less of a bold prediction to see Beckwith in the starting lineup, but it’s still a rare occurance to see a team land day-one starters with their first three picks.  

3. Jeremy McNichols leads the Bucs in total touches.  
Will he lead the team in rushing yards? Maybe, but the Bucs’ backfield is getting full with Doug Martin, Charles Sims and Jacquizz Rodgers still on the roster. McNichols will likely have a large role in the Bucs’ running game, but his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield could result in his getting more looks than any Buccaneer running back.

4. Two undrafted linebackers make the 53-man roster.
The Buccaneers’ first three linebacker spots are all but gone, with Lavonte David, Kwon Alexander and Beckwith all in the building. Additionally, Adarius Glanton and Cameron Lynch will be battling for a roster spot after being key contributors on special teams a year ago. Keep an eye on undrafted rookies Paul Magliore and Richie Brown to battle for the remaining spots. Magliore is raw but athletic, having played quarterback, running back and safety during his college career. Brown was a tackling machine during his final two seasons at Mississippi State, recording a combined 211 tackles.

5. Cole Gardner becomes the Bucs’ third tackle.
The Buccaneers often employ sets where a third offensive tackle enters the game, usually in short-yardage or goal line situations. Last year, the player to come off the bench and fill that role was Gosder Cherilus, who has since retired. Leonard Wester, an undrafted rookie a year ago, filled that void when Cherilus was sidelined with an injury and will be the front-runner to win the job this season. But Gardner could compete with him for the spot.