In Round One of the 2017 NFL Draft, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers happily let one of the most highly-regarded prospects fall to them at #19. In Round Two, they simply took advantage of one of the draft's greatest strengths.
Once again staying put at their original spot, pick #50, the Buccaneers selected Texas A&M safety Justin Evans. Just the second safety drafted by Tampa Bay in the first 50 spots in over two decades, Evans was the 10th defensive back taken in a run of 27 picks overall. The Bucs thus got a coveted boost to their secondary after using their top pick on Alabama's O.J. Howard, the draft's top tight end.
The Buccaneers last used a top-50 pick on a safety in 2012, when they selected Alabama's Mark Barron #7 overall. Before that, the last such pick for the franchise came in 1995, when they picked Kentucky's Melvin Johnson at #43. The team has taken strides to provide some long-term depth to its secondary in the last two drafts, picking cornerbacks Vernon Hargreaves and Ryan Smith in the first and fourth rounds, respectively, last year.
A look at the newest member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, S Justin Evans.
Evans joins a safety group that will have a new look in 2017 following the signing of former Dallas defender J.J. Wilcox and the departure of starter Bradley McDougald. The Buccaneers also re-signed Chris Conte and will return Keith Tandy, who was one of the team's most productive defenders down the stretch last year, meaning there will be three experienced NFL starters on hand. Still, Evans will attempt to secure a spot in the starting 11 as quickly as he can.
"I'm just coming in with a humble mindset, working hard, learning the scheme, the playbook, and … but I definitely view myself as a starter," said Evans of the mindset he will take in his first NFL competition. "I definitely feel like I'm an all-around safety that's playmaking, tackling… so whatever comes with that, I feel like I've got all the tools for that."
Evans is the second Texas A&M player the Buccaneers have drafted in the first two rounds since the arrival of General Manager Jason Licht in 2014, and coincidentally he shares a surname with the last Aggie draftee. Tampa Bay used the seventh overall pick in the 2014 draft on Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans, who is one of only six players in NFL history to start his career with three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons.
Considered a hard-hitter with high-level coverage skills, Evans racked up 165 tackles, five interceptions and 14 passes defensed over two seasons at A&M after transferring in from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. He also has kick return experience, including a 90-yard runback against Ole Miss last fall. Evans could make an impact on special teams right away, as he joins a team that finished last in the NFL in kickoff return average in 2016.