5 Undrafted Tampa Bay Buccaneers Players Who Could Prove to Be Gems
There's a certain magic to undrafted free agents that comes with the low expectations for their ultimate contribution to their team. When an undrafted rookie proves worthy of the final 53-man roster, it validates the savvy of the scouting team and the front office to find and evaluate a player every other team passed on in the draft.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers enjoyed some success with undrafted free agents in recent years, including the acquisition and development of right tackle Demar Dotson to last year's breakout of converted tight end Tim Wright.
Predicting which undrafted free agent will actually break out is like throwing darts blindfolded. It's risky, but in steady, experienced hands the result could be a bullseye.
Some of the rookies will have greater chances to distinguish themselves due to holes they fill on the roster. Others are athletic freaks who were overlooked for the level of competition in college or glaring holes in their game.
Here are some of the undrafted free agents who could have that something special and improve the Bucs roster.
At 5'8" and 179 pounds, wide receiver Solomon Patton does not fit the Bucs' prevailing strategy to get bigger at the wide receiver position. What he does bring is speed and quickness the Bucs sorely lack in the pass game.
Patton was the Florida Gators' leading receiver in 2013, catching 44 balls for 556 yards and six touchdowns. He also returned kickoffs and punts, scoring twice during his collegiate career.
Special teams may be the former Gator's clearest pathway to the final roster. The key for Patton will come when the team dons pads in training camp to see if his small frame can handle NFL-caliber hits.
The Tampa 2 defense is reliant on speed, and former Texas A&M linebacker Nate Askew has that in spades.
A converted wide receiver, Askew only played linebacker for a year at College Station. Lovie Smith recognizes both his ability and his inexperience.
"He came into A&M as a receiver and now, having him make that move, he has potential." Coach Smith said, per the Tampa Bay Times' Greg Auman. "But you know, potential is scary sometimes. He has a long way to go, but it will be fun watching him."
Askew has not played linebacker long enough to have the instincts needed to thrive on an NFL defense. However, he does bring the hands of a wide receiver, which should prove useful for Tampa 2 linebackers who are frequently dropped into coverage.
Not many teams will take a flyer on a player from outside the NCAA. Former Virginia University of Lynchburg cornerback is getting just that from the Bucs.
Lewis looks the part of an NFL cornerback. At 6'1" and 190 pounds, he has the height and weight to hang with larger wide receivers which are so in vogue these days.
Speed is Lewis' greatest asset, posting a 4.45 40 time at his pro day, according to the National Football Post's Aaron Wilson. Few corners in the NFL can match that kind of size-speed ratio. With the careful development, Lewis has the athletic profile to be an effective defensive back in the NFL.
Mentored by Gerald McCoy and coached by Lovie Smith, former Georgia Tech defensive tackle Euclid Cummings couldn't ask for a better environment to start his NFL career.
Cummings is no athletic phenom and at 275 pounds, is a tad undersized to play defensive tackle in the NFL. What he does possess is quickness and speed, hallmark traits of a successful Tampa 2 3-technique tackle.
Almost by default, Cummings is likely to be the Bucs' fourth defensive tackle behind McCoy, Clinton McDonald and Akeem Spence. With the talent surrounding him, Cummings has a better chance at success than many of his peers both drafted and undrafted.
It's deja vu for former North Carolina State wide receiver Quintin Payton. Once again his success is contingent upon the arm of quarterback Mike Glennon.
Payton was Glennon's favorite target at NC State in 2012, connecting for 51 catches and 758 yards, per the Tampa Bay Times' Greg Auman. That rapport can only benefit Payton since Lovie Smith anointed Glennon the Bucs' "quarterback of the future," according to Pro Football Talk's Josh Alper (h/t NFL.com's Dan Hanzus).
Payton is also another big body the Bucs have collected in their receiving corps, standing 6'3" and 211 pounds. His size and connection with Glennon resembles tight end Tim Wright's ascendance last season, who practiced with Glennon on the Bucs' second team and became his security blanket after they became starters.
Patience is the key for Payton. Not only must he elevate his game to be an NFL-caliber receiver, he will probably enjoy his best chance at success with Mike Glennon throwing to him.