Alan Dell

Bucs play it safe in selecting Vernon Hargreaves with first pick

Sometimes drama is revealing. Sometimes what you say is truth and other times an exercise to justify an action.

So Vernon Hargreaves III is a Tampa Bay Buccaneer, and let the debate begin.

He could be a good one even for the 11th overall pick, but this is no slam dunk. In some ways Bucs GM Jason Licht put his reputation on the line for picking the Florida cornerback though Hargreaves is not a high-risk selection.

He says Hargreaves was the guy he wanted. But his actions make us think otherwise. Licht could've picked Hargreaves with the ninth pick, but he traded down to 11th to add a fourth-round pick.

You can call it a gamble, but it sounds more like a move made by a guy who was willing to go to another pick if he lost him and not fear there would be much backlash

What Hargreaves seems to be more than anything is a safe pick. He will not be a bust, but he might not be an impact player either.

With a questionable pass rush, the Bucs could've gone with Louisville defensive linemen Sheldon Rankins or Clemson's Shaq Lawson or even earlier with Georgia's Leonard Floyd who was a late favorite to go to the Bucs.

Hargreaves brings a lot of positives while some question his lack of size and and speed to be a shutdown corner.

"Vernon is a guy we feel brings a lot of versatility. He can play outside and he can play inside," Licht said. "Great players come in a lot of different sizes and packages. We like his thickness and his build. He is a sturdy player, can press and tackle. You can ask Brent Grimes if lack of height affected his career or Ronde Barber. There have been a lot of Pro Bowl corners that have been 5 (foot) 10-and-a-half. He plays big in the run game especially."

In the secondary, Hargreaves joins offseason acquisitions Grimes and Josh Robinson, and the Bucs are counting on Johnthan Banks and Alterraun Verner to have comeback seasons in 2016.

The Bucs' biggest need is putting pressure on quarterbacks and though Hargreaves was the guy most figured they would pick there was a feeling they would try to build up front with an edge rusher or defensive tackle.

But the draft is only in round one and Licht did prove last year he was good at getting talent in the later rounds by picking offensive linemen Ali Marpet, Donovan Smith and linebacker Kwon Alexander, who wound up as a quality starters.

"This guy's reminds a lot of Brent Grimes. This guy has excellent plant and drive; he is quick and he can play off and he can play press," Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter said. "He can play on both sides. He can play inside on nickel. I think it's a good win."

Koetter said everyone in the Bucs war room was on board to move down to 11 because they had a good idea they would still be able to get Hargreaves and that the decision on Hargreaves was decided on how the draft fell.

"There was a little risk involved, but it worked out good," Koetter said. "It (selecting Hargreaves) depended on how the draft went. We had an order in which we liked the guys. If the draft would've gone a different way in front of us then our pick might have been different, but we don't control that. We had to pick the best guy with the pick we had. We were able to pick the best guy we had at nine and get him at 11."

Alan Dell, Herald sports columnist/writer, can be reached at 941-745-7056. Follow him on Twitter @ADellSports