View pictures of S Antoine Winfield Jr., the 45th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers started the second day of their 2020 NFL Draft by selecting Minnesota safety Antoine Winfield Jr., adding another playmaking defender to their young and talented secondary.
The Buccaneers used the 45th-overall pick to land Winfield, who tied a school record in 2019 with seven interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown. Winfield was the Big Ten's Defensive Back of the year and a unanimous first-team All-America selection in his junior campaign. He also boasts NFL bloodlines; his father, Antoine Winfield, Sr., was the 23rd-overall pick in the 1992 draft and a longtime standout cornerback who played 14 seasons for Buffalo and Minnesota and made a pair of Pro Bowls.
Buccaneer scouts liked everything they saw from the younger Winfield in their game tape review and believe he can have an impact on all levels of their defense.
"He's a great kid, a football kid from a football family," said Buccaneers Director of Player Personnel John Spytek. "Obviously, his dad was a great player. And then you put the tape on. I always think the safeties show themselves right away when you start watching tape because they can be involved in everything, and you put on the tape and he's just everywhere on the field. He shows up in the run game, the pass game, filling the alleys, tackling runners, and then back 20 yards deep he's making plays. Seven interceptions last year, three sacks, 88 tackles, all that kind of shows a guy who is everywhere."
The 5-10, 205-pound Winfield played four seasons at Minnesota, though his 2017 and 2018 campaigns were cut short by injury. He still finished with 177 career tackles, seven tackles for loss, four sacks, nine interceptions, two forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, a blocked field goal and three touchdowns – two pick-sixes and a punt return score. His father's years with the Vikings obviously influenced where he ended up in college, and he was a key figure in turning around a program that had struggled for some time.
The Gophers went 11-2 in 2019 and beat Auburn in the Outback Bowl in Tampa. One of their most impressive victories was a 31-26 downing of fifth-ranked Penn State in November.
"He made big plays all year," said Spytek. "It didn't matter what game you watched. It wasn't just one or two games where you turned it on and saw interceptions. He had a big game against Penn State. People were wondering if Minnesota was good, were they for real, and then Penn State comes to town ranked really high and he's got 11 tackles and two interceptions. That performance against a big-time opponent solidified what we had seen from him earlier in the year."
In all, Winfield racked up 88 tackles, including 62 solo stops, in 13 games last fall while adding those seven interceptions along with three sacks. He joins a young Buccaneers secondary that includes cornerbacks Sean Murphy-Bunting, Carlton Davis and Jamel Dean but was a little less certain at safety. Another young contributor, Jordan Whitehead, started 14 games at that spot last year and the Buccaneers also selected Kentucky's Mike Edwards in the third round last year, but Winfield will have a chance to earn a starting spot, particularly if he keeps making big plays.
However, Spytek said the safety depth chart was not what pushed the Buccaneers to select Winfield on Friday night.
"That's not what made us pick him," he said. "We just wanted to pick a really good football player who could help us get the ball back. We've got a lot of young guys in the secondary and this is another one who can come in and compete. He loves football, he's smart and instinctive and he plays the game the right way. The more guys you can add back there who play the game the right way to a young group of guys who all love to play, the better."
The Buccaneers began their draft with the selection of Iowa offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs in the first round on Thursday night. This is the first time the Buccaneers have ever started a draft with two straight players from the Big Ten conference. In this case, they were continuing an early run on the safety position on Friday night, just as they did at cornerback last year with the selection of Murphy-Bunting. The first two picks of the second round were safeties Xavier McKinney and Kyle Dugger, and LSU's Grant Delpit went just before the Bucs were on the clock.
"Certainly, the later the first guy at a position gets drafted it delays the run, but you know that once the run starts it usually rolls pretty fast," said Spytek. "You saw that today. It came right out of the gate today with McKinney and Dugger and then Delpit goes right before us and we take Winfield. It's not too different than what happened last year when the run on the corners started and we took Sean. We're just happy to get a really solid all-around football player in the second round."
Winfield is just the fourth player the Buccaneers have drafted out of Minnesota in 45 years, and the first since 1991. He's the first former Gopher the team has drafted earlier than the seventh round. Tampa Bay's second evening of drafting continues in the third round with the 76th overall pick.