S.S. Mailbag: A Deal, a Draft and a Different Position

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Last week I skipped the usual preamble and jumped right into the questions. I liked that, so I'm going to do it again this week and just go a little deeper with the Q&A.

A reminder that you can send questions to me anytime you want on Twitter (@ScottSBucs) and they're easier to find if you include the hashtag #SSMailbagBucs. We are also now soliciting questions each week on our Instagram page; look for that story on Wednesdays. As always, if you want to get a longer question into the mailbag and would prefer to email your question, you can do so to tbbsocial@buccaneers.nfl.com.

Dear Scott, I am a technically challenged Bucs fan since 1978 when I moved to Florida. I had been born and raised a Baltimore Colts fan so I was a woman without a team. Some angel gave me tickets to breakfast with the Bucs and I have been hooked ever since. My most prized possession is a letter I have framed from Hugh Culverhouse thanking me for applying for the head coaching position dated December 13, 1989. My question is shortly after the draft I read the Bucs had signed 5 of their 8 draft picks. But I haven't seen anything about the other 3 who are Devin White, Jamel Dean, and Mike Edwards. Have I just missed it or has there been a delay for some reason? I would appreciate any information. Thanks. Susan Komon in Melbourne, FL (via email to tbbsocial@buccaneers.nfl.com)

That's a great story about the coaching application, Susan! You might have just applied a bit too early. That was Ray Perkins' third year at the helm, and it was near the end of his fourth year that the Bucs let him go, promoting Richard Williamson to interim head coach in 1990. Williamson got to keep the job for 1991, but maybe only because you weren't available.

Anyway, you are correct that the Bucs quickly signed five of their eight draft picks, which has become pretty commonplace these days. With the rookie salary cap and the slotting of specific dollar amounts to specific picks, those deals are not hard to get done anymore, particularly for second and third-day picks. The Bucs got second-rounder Sean Murphy-Bunting done right away, along with all four of their Day Three selections.

As you noted, that left first-rounder Devin White and third-rounders Jamel Dean and Mike Edwards unsigned. At least, that was the case as I started writing today's mailbag. By the time I was done, that list was down to two, as Edwards inked his first NFL deal at 1:00 p.m. on Thursday. I wouldn't be surprised if Dean quickly follows suit, maybe even this week. The Bucs could even get White's deal done soon, though as a high first-rounder his contract is a little more complicated. If it's not done right away, there's really no huge rush. The only deadline to worry about is the start of training camp, and the Buccaneers haven't had a rookie holdout of any significance since the 1990s.

So, no, there haven't been any delays in the process. This is pretty normal stuff, but I appreciate how well you've kept on top of it. And though you've been a Bucs fan longer than I've been a Bucs employee, let me say thanks for picking us after you were orphaned by the Colts!

Now that Lavonte will be considered an inside LB, will he have a better chance for a Pro Bowl

- Ninjaneat, via Instagram

I have had this exact conversation with co-workers on several occasions since the Buccaneers reclassified all of their front-seven players to fit into a Bruce Arians/Todd Bowles 3-4 defense. Long labeled an outside linebacker – and widely considered one of the best 4-3 outside linebackers in the league – Lavonte David is now classified as an inside linebacker. Presumably, that's where he will eventually show up on the NFL's Pro Bowl ballet in 2019.

That said, I don't think the move really made things much easier for David. We all know what the issue was at outside linebacker – 4-3 outside linebackers are lumped in with the edge rushers like Von Miller in 3-4 defenses. Since the best ones of those usually have tons of sacks – and are definitely Pro Bowl worthy – they take up most of the OLB spots. Last year, there were three OLBs initially chosen for the NFC squad, then a fourth added when Khalil Mack pulled out. In addition to Mack, the other three were Ryan Kerrigan, Anthony Barr and Olivier Vernon, and only Barr wasn't an edge rusher.

David has definitely been the poster boy for this flaw in the Pro Bowl voting. That was most evident in 2013, when he won first-team Associated Press All-Pro honors, which is a far more exclusive honor, but wasn't chosen for the Pro Bowl team. Can you imagine that happening at quarterback or cornerback?

So, David escapes that problem but then runs into a new one: There are only two spots on the NFC Pro Bowl roster for inside linebacker, not three. David will now be competing for fewer spots with the likes of Carolina's Luke Kuechly, Seattle's Bobby Wagner and the Cowboys' rising star, Leighton Vander Esch. Those were the three NFC choices last year after Kuechly withdrew and Vander Esch was added.

Kuechly has made each of the last six Pro Bowls (after he was the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2012). Wagner has made each of the last five. Vander Esch isn't quite as established yet but has the irritating advantage of being a Cowboy. Those guys won't be easy to unseat, and now the San Francisco 49ers have a former ILB Pro Bowler in Kwon Alexander.

So I don't think David's chances necessarily got much better, but that doesn't mean I'm saying he won't make it. In fact, that's my bold prediction: David will make the Pro Bowl and in the process will become the first Buccaneer ever to do so at two different positions. Like I said, Alexander made the Pro Bowl following the 2017 season, and I would definitely say that David is his equal as a playmaker. Remember that there are always replacements for injury or playoff reasons, which means that two positions often still produce three or four Pro Bowlers.

The big question now is, how long until David has competition for an ILB Pro Bowl position from his own teammate, rookie Devin White?

What about them drafting Shenault from Colorado next year? Put him with Evans & then put Godwin with one of the other WRs. I’d keep him with Johnson & put Lodge somewhere in there, too! They’ll probably have Miller replace Humphries. Then depending on what they decide to do with Watson. Depending on where they’re picking, too! They’ll probably go either OL, D or QB. Hopefully Arians can work with Winston & Jones. If he can’t then they might draft a QB. If they put Shenault with Evans, Godwin & Johnson (depending on if they keep him & Lodge) their WRs could be hard to contain. Especially with OJ & Brate there, too! Although I think they probably go either D or OL 1st round next year. They should consider CB Bryce Hall (Virginia) & S Javon Hagan (Ohio). Hagan might not go 1st round but Hall might. DE AJ Epenesa (Iowa) would definitely be a good pick. Bowles would probably like all of them.

- Unattributed, via email to tbbsocial@buccaneers.nfl.com

Whew! Somebody here is well ahead of me on the curve of identifying top draft prospects for 2020. Still, there's plenty to unpack here.

First of all, it probably doesn't matter too much for the purposes of this discussion where the Buccaneers end up drafting in the first round, because it's also too early to be sure who the very top prospects will be once the pre-draft process kicks into high gear next offseason. I looked around and found one of those "way too early" mock drafts for 2019, posted right after the 2018 draft, and here was its top 10: Nick Bosa, Justin Herbert, Ed Oliver, Drew Lock, A.J. Brown, Jonah Williams, Trey Adams, Rashan Gary, Greg Little and Greedy Williams. Of those 10, only Bosa and Oliver actually went in the top 10. Jonah Williams and Gary went just outside of the top 10 while Lock, Brown, Little and Greedy Williams all fell to the second round. Herbert and Adams didn't even declare for the 2019 draft.

So let's just talk about the players and positions we like without worrying about the Bucs' eventual draft spot. You brought up four specific players and, again, I'm not going to claim I have a great feel for any of them yet. That said, I'm familiar with Colorado wideout Laviska Shenault. He's a very versatile guy that the Buffalos even used in the Wildcat, and he had a huge year in 2018 with 86 catches for 1,011 yards and another 119 yards on the ground, plus 11 total touchdowns – and that was in nine games! Five of his 19 carries were scores. He had some pretty good Heisman buzz going before he missed three games due to injury. He's not a huge dude but he's not small either. It would definitely not be surprising to see him go in the top 10 next spring. For what it's worth, I went back to the same "way too early" source for a 2020 mock draft and Shenault was slotted 12th to Carolina (noooo!!). He'd have to declare early for that to happen, but that's a pretty good bet.

That said, I just can't get on board with the idea of a first-round wide receiver next year. Barring unforeseen circumstances, the team should still be set at the top with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, and by then we may have seen an emergence from Scotty Miller and/or Justin Watson. You even bring up a pair of promising undrafted guys currently on the roster in Anthony Johnson and DaMarkus Lodge…and don't forget Bobo Wilson, whom I consider a big-time sleeper here. Evans and Godwin are well-established but still quite young. Overall that's a young and promising group, and therefore I think a first-round receiver next year would be a luxury.

While checking out that 2020 mock draft, I noticed that Iowa defensive lineman A.J. Epenesa is third on the list. If he can hold his ground in the rankings like Bosa – and, to a slightly lesser extent Oliver and Gary – did, then hopefully he'll be out of range for the Buccaneers. That said, I definitely amon board with this idea. At 6-6 and 280 pounds, Epenesa might seem on the verge of being too big as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 front, but on the other hand the Buccaneers just drafted another Iowa edge rusher in Anthony Nelson, and he's 6-7 and 271 pounds. Anyway, Epenesa is considered versatile enough to play all over the line – perhaps a bit like Oliver – and with Ndamukong Suh only on a one-year deal at the moment, the Bucs could also be in the market for another down lineman.

It's a little harder to agree with you on the Bryce Hall or Javon Hagan picks just because the Buccaneers have already had a pretty dramatic youth movement in the secondary. The team has drafted nine defensive backs since 2016, all in the fourth round or higher. I think it's more likely that the Bucs take a few years to sort through all their young contenders in the secondary before they dip back into that draft pool, at least in the early rounds. For what it's worth, too, neither Hall or Hagan are in that aforementioned 2020 mock draft.

If we're just look at this from the standpoint of what position the Buccaneers are targeting in the first round next year, I very much like your notion of going with the offensive line. I have always been and remain a big Demar Dotson fan, but it's true that he's in the last year of his current deal, and he's one of the older players on the roster. We'll see. And it's not a total certainty that the right guard position will be worked out by then, though I know there are high hopes for Alex Cappa.

The defensive line and outside linebacker is another likely target for the Buccaneers next year, and if they're picking low enough in the round I could probably be talked into a running back, depending upon the extent to which Ronald Jones breaks out this year. We also have to at least consider quarterback. Personally, I think Jameis Winston is going to have a great year in his final contract season and will thus be a candidate for a new long-term deal. That said, you're definitely going to hear speculation that the Buccaneers will be back in the QB market next spring.

What's your go to road trip snack?

- newqiust_12, via Instagram

I assume you mean on Buccaneer road trips, and let me tell you there are no shortage of snacking opportunities on one of those. That starts on the plane, as you walk past a gauntlet of options at the bottom of the stairs before you board and then at the top of the stairs right after you get on. There are healthy options like assorted fruits and vegetables and less-healthy ones right up to candy, plus tons of sandwiches. Oh, and later on, after the team arrives at the hotel, there is a meal called a "snack," which is only really accurate if you consider pizza, pasta, burgers, sandwiches, etc. a snack.

For me, it's hard to pass up the Chick-fil-A when boarding the plane. I usually go for that and a cup of vegetable sticks with ranch. I know, real healthy. Also, my wife has been known to put a couple snacks into my suitcase, usually trail mix or hot peanuts. The hot peanuts are an inside joke because that's what I usually go with when I hit a convenience store on an actual driving road trip. And that's probably more about me than anyone really cares to know, so I'll stop here.

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