After they used their second fourth-round pick on Georgia punter Jake Camarda early Saturday afternoon, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers thought they would be off the clock in the 2022 draft for about five hours. The looming presence of Sam Houston State cornerback Zyon McCollum on their draft board, however, led to a change of plans.
With no picks in hand after the fourth round until late in the seventh and final frame, the Buccaneers swung a trade with Jacksonville to get back into the fifth round and nab McCollum. Tampa Bay sent their 2023 fourth-round pick to the Jaguars in exchange for pick number 157 as well as a 2022 seventh round (no. 235).
"He was definitely the last corner that we had ranked up in that area and we just thought it was an area of need," said Director of College Scouting Mike Biehl. "It's not a big need, but a guy that big and fast, with 13 career interceptions and 40 PBUs – a lot of ball production – we just thought he could fit in with our room and help us out. So we went up and did it."
McCollum, a 6-2 corner who ran a blazing 4.33-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, does indeed have the size-speed-length profile that Head Coach Todd Bowles favors in his defense. Biehl compared him to current Buccaneers starter Jamel Dean in terms of his combination of length and speed. This isn't merely a projection pick, however, as McCollum also had significant production at Sam Houston State, including 13 interceptions and 54 passes defensed in 56 career games. The Buccaneers believe he can eventually be productive in a variety of different defensive scheme.
"They did quite a bit of press there but I think he has the potential to do all three – zone, press, loose man," said Biehl. "Whatever you want him to do I think he's got the ability to do that. The long arms and the size and length will definitely help in the press a lot."
In addition to Dean, the Buccaneers also return two other cornerback starters in Carlton Davis and Sean Murphy-Bunting, so McCollum might not be asked to play a significant role on defense right away. But, while Dean recently signed a new multi-year contract with the team, Dean and Murphy-Bunting are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents next offseason, as is versatile safety/nickel Mike Edwards. Not only does McCollum add valuable and development depth to the Bucs' cornerback room but he also may be able to make an impact on special teams right away.
"He can fit in well with the kind of guys we have here right now, and the speed helps out a lot, too," said Biehl. "We also see him being able to play on special teams and potentially help us at gunner. Any time you get a player in the later rounds, you don't anticipate them coming in and starting right away, but we always expect them to come in and compete and see what happens. Initially, you hope they can contribute on special teams and just help us try to win games on Sundays."