The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had Akeem Spence in their sights as Day Three of the 2013 NFL Draft dawned, and they weren't content to wait.
After trading up 12 spots in the fourth round to #100 overall, the Buccaneers selected Spence, a powerful defensive tackle out of the University of Illinois who will have the opportunity to compete for the starting nose tackle job vacated by Roy Miller. That pick followed Friday night's selections of and .
The swap cost the Buccaneers the first of their two sixth-round picks, #181 overall. It was the first deal General Manager Mark Dominik made since the 2013 draft began on Thursday night, as the team stayed put at #43 and #73 to select Banks and Glennon, respectively. Last year, Dominik swung a series of savvy trades during the first two days of the draft to land Mark Barron, Doug Martin and Lavonte David. Of course, the Buccaneers also traded their 2013 first-round pick on Sunday afternoon to acquire All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis.
The Bucs' aggressive move up in the fourth round made Saturday a lot easier for Spence, who had reason to believe Tampa Bay was interested in him in the third round. He was frustrated to have to wait an extra day when the Buccaneers went with Glennon on Friday night, but he only had to sit through two picks on Saturday before his name was called.
"I knew the coach liked me at the Combine a whole lot," said Spence shortly after he got the happy call on Saturday. "I was thinking it was going to be yesterday, but I just had to wait an extra day. But I knew they liked me a lot. I had heard the third [round], so my heart was set on third. I was thinking maybe I would jump in the second. Yesterday, I felt down. But to get that call this morning was a sigh of relief."
Just as the Banks and Glennon picks did, the addition of Spence addresses an obvious need after Miller, a starter in 2012 on the Buccaneers' top-ranked rush defense, departed for Jacksonville via free agency in March. Tampa Bay has also added former Philadelphia Eagle DT Derek Landri in free agency and he and Spence will get to compete with the likes of Gary Gibson, Corvey Irvin and Matthew Masifilo for the open spot next to Pro Bowl DT Gerald McCoy.
Spence, a high-school weightlifting champion in Florida who impressed scouts with 37 bench press reps of 225 pounds at the NFL Scouting Combine, played primarily in a 4-3 defensive front at Illinois. Known for both his power and a quick first step, he split his reps between the nose tackle and the three-technique positions and is seen as a potential three-down player.
"What you notice on film is that I make a lot of plays, chasing receivers down from behind and knocking the ball out and just playing from sideline to sideline," said Spence when asked to offer a self-scouting report. That's what you're going to see on film – I play real hard. I feel like I can take some pressure off of [McCoy] so he won't have to face so many double-teams."
Spence's hard work at Illinois kept him in the starting lineup for all 38 games over the past three seasons, as he rang up 186 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 17.5 tackles for loss and 26 quarterback pressures. Last fall he set career highs with 72 stops and seven tackles behind the line of scrimmage. As a junior, he was an important part of a defense that finished seventh in the nation in fewest yards allowed per game.
Even without the sixth-round pick surrendered in Saturday's deal, the Buccaneers will still remain busy throughout Saturday. They are currently slated to pick at #126 in the fourth round, #147 in the fifth round and #196 in the sixth round.