Heading into training camp, it’s worth taking a look at a few IDP position battles that have yet to be resolved. There is potential production available on the waiver wire depending on who wins each role. And knowing who’s competing in each battle will give you a leg-up when injuries inevitably occur.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers CB
When you spend an 11th overall pick on a guy, you expect him to be a stud. The Bucs drafted Vernon Hargreaves III as the 11th guy off the board in 2016. His rookie year was solid with 76 tackles and 9 PDs including one interception. His sophomore campaign was a little rockier. Hargreaves started seven games, played poorly, and was demoted to only playing the slot in the nickel. He lasted two more games before a hamstring injury sent him to IR. His season ended with 42 tackles and 5 PDs with 0 interceptions. This was a guy Tampa expected to be a playmaking ballhawk coming out of Florida.
Tampa brought back Brent Grimes on a 1-year deal. Grimes has to be ready to hang ‘em up at 35-years old. That’s old for a QB and ancient for a CB. Grimes will likely begin the season as a starter but may start to lose snaps to some of his younger competitors. While missing three games last season, Grimes put up 49 tackles and three interceptions among 11 PDs.
Fourth Round sophomore Ryan Smith was the primary outside CB across from Grimes once Hargreaves was demoted. Smith is fantasy gold when he gets on the field. Of course, this is usually a bad sign for CBs… From Week 8 on, Smith started all but one game and played at least 85% of the snaps in each game. He averaged exactly six tackles per game.
Robert McClain handled slot snaps for the season outside of Hargreaves two demoted games. He also had a couple of games playing outside snaps as well when forced by injury. He was on the field for 695 defensive snaps over 14 games. He’s still a free agent, and following the draft, an injury would be the only thing that would motivate Tampa to resign him.
A team confident in their starting CBs doesn’t draft two CBs in the 2nd Round. The Bucs added M.J. Stewart at 53 overall and Carlton Davis at 63 overall.
Hargreaves is now battling to start on the outside. He’s also battling to play in the slot in the nickel. If he wins both jobs, he could play on the outside in base and on the inside in the nickel which is the perfect role for a CB, outside of being a consistent starter across from a shutdown stud. Hargreaves has some competition for both spots, but Tampa hasn’t given up on their former 1st Rounder. Surprisingly, I’ve seen him still stashed on rosters. I think the IR trip so quick after the demotion saved him from Dumpsville for a lot of teams.
Hargreaves likely has the lead in both competitions based on the sunk costs, but both Davis and Stewart will see the field this season. Davis has been playing on the outside with the 1st team defense in OTAs. Scott Smith of Buccaneers.com thinks part of the reason they drafted Stewart was that they like him in the slot. I’m curious, however. The 2nd Round is a high price to pay for someone you expect to play in the slot. Slot CB is becoming an increasingly important position in the NFL, but the top slot CBs in the league are usually late round or UDFA. Desmond King was a 5th Round pick. Brian Poole, Nickell Robey-Coleman, and Bryce Callahan were all UDFAs. If the Bucs like Stewart on the inside, they likely think he can play on the outside as well, which would make him very valuable for IDP.
Smith will likely only see substantial snaps if the depth chart is shortened due to injury, the same as last season.
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