In what appeared a bit of a surprise move, the Buccaneers went for defense Over a running back in the second round of the NFL draft grabbing safety Antoine Winfield Jr. from Minnesota.
With the selection of Winfield, the Bucs now appear to be loaded at safety with Jordan Whitehead, Andrew Adams, Justin Evans, Mike Edwards, and D’Cota Dixon all on the roster.
Winfield will be another Swiss army knife for the Bucs as he can and will be used in a variety of roles for the Buccaneers.
PJ Fleck his college coach at Minnesota talked before the draft about Winfield’s many talents. “He’s a linebacker tackler, he’s a wide receiver when he catches the ball, he’s a corner when he covers. He has that type of ability to do everything. He’s a very special player, one of those players that comes around once every decade, an incredible overachiever who gets the most out of his frame.”
WinfieldJr. , is the son of former NFL defensive back Antoine Winfield Sr. Who enjoyed a very good NFL career from 1999-2012.
At five feet nine and 203 pounds, Winfield Jr. is on the small side for a defensive back, but in his conference call with the media on draft night indicated that he can do it all as a defensive back. “I can play pretty much anywhere. I can play on tight ends, can play on slot receivers, I can blitz, I can play in the post. My versatility is my biggest asset, and I feel like Tampa Bay is going to use me well that way.”
Another area that Winfield’s talents will be utilized will be in the punt return game, as the Bucs were near the bottom off the league last year in punt returns averaging 5.2 yards per return.
Bucs GM Jason Licht compared Winfield Jr. to safeties Budda Baker and Tyrann Mathieu, who were both drafted by Bruce Arians when he was with the Cardinals.
Licht then had to back track a bit before talking about what Winfield Jr. will bring to the Bucs. “I’m not putting him in that category yet, but we feel he has the ability to play free and strong. We play interchangeable in our scheme. He’s dropped down to nickel and done a really nice job there, too. You got a safety who could do all those different things. It really raises his value to you. And he’s a very smart guy. He’s an intense guy who loves football, and we’re excited to get him here and get him going.”
What does this mean for Justin Evans who has been hampered by injuries the last two years and has had trouble getting on the field?
Nothing according to Jason Licht. “We think if he (Evans)gets healthy, at that point we’re going to have a hell of a competition there because Justin is an extremely talented guy. We are not writing Justin off whatsoever.”
The only negative with Winfield is he spent a lot of time in the trainers room before having his breakout 2019 season.
Winfield played in only four games in 2017 because of a hamstring injury and played in only four games in 2018 after tearing a ligament in his left foot.
Playing in all 13 games in 2019, Winfield JR.had 88 tackles, seven interceptions and three sacks.
Winfield was the Big Ten’s Defensive Back of the year and a first-team All-America selection in his final season at Minnesota.
Winfield is expected to earn a starting spot opposite Jordan Whitehead for the 2020 season.