TAMPA, Fla. -- A breakdown of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 2017 draft class and its progress after two weeks of training camp:
O.J. Howard, TE, first round (19th overall): It might not show up on the stat line or make SportsCenter's top plays, but the former Alabama star's run blocking is already making a noticeable difference in Tampa. That's likely where he'll make his mark early on, and the Bucs would be thrilled. He didn't have a catch in the preseason opener, but the hands will show up in games soon enough. They can leave that to Cameron Brate for now. The Bucs are very happy with Howard's progress and he'll get a significant amount of playing time right away. The one knock on him is that he has to do a better job of maintaining possession of the ball when his number is called. An opportunistic linebacker or defensive back will find a way to punch the ball loose and negate a 'wow' play. It's happened twice in practice.
Justin Evans, S, second round (50th overall): Evans missed a significant portion of the offseason because of a knee injury and had to play catch-up learning the Bucs' defense. Until last week, all of his reps came with the second-team defense. Last week, coordinator Mike Smith began rotating Evans and J.J. Wilcox in with the starters, and that's included work at both strong and free safety. Evans has the potential to be an impact player, but we probably won't see it in 2017 -- at least based on what he's shown in practice. Tackling will be his biggest issue as a pro. He has to be able to consistently wrap up. He had five tackles in the preseason opener.
Chris Godwin, WR, third round (84th overall): Godwin has been one of the most consistent receivers the Bucs have had in rookie camp, OTAs, minicamp and training camp. He had a quiet preseason opener, catching one pass for 14 yards. He's a smooth route-runner and can make contested catches. He's very mature and already has a keen understanding of how to be a pro. Head coach Dirk Koetter and Smith have compared him to a young Roddy White. Godwin will be playing behind Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson, but he should still hear his number called quite a bit this season.
Kendell Beckwith, LB, third round (107th overall): Beckwith was drafted to be a strongside linebacker but is also backing up at middle linebacker. He played the second-most defensive snaps of any player in the preseason opener, finishing with five tackles and a sack. He'll get a heavy workload this week against the Jaguars when he starts in place of Devante Bond, who is injured. Bond had been penciled in as the starter, but will be out for a few weeks with a sprained posterior cruciate ligament in his knee. Regardless if he starts, Beckwith should play a lot on special teams.
Jeremy McNichols, RB, fifth round (162nd overall): Like Evans, McNichols was behind the eight ball when training camp began because of an injury. His shoulder is 100 percent, but as running backs coach Tim Spencer mentioned during "Hard Knocks," he's got to get into his playbook. Koetter said the same thing. In a crowded running back room that already features Doug Martin, Jacquizz Rodgers, Charles Sims, Peyton Barber and Russell Hansbrough, who have all been in this system for a year or more, McNichols can't afford to fall behind mentally. The Bucs do believe he has a lot of potential as a pass-catcher.
Stevie Tu'ikolovatu, DT, seventh round (223rd overall): The 6-foot-1, 320-pound Tu'ikolovatu is a mammoth of a defensive tackle, and the Bucs brought him in to help stuff the run. He's a two-down player and is being used similarly to how they use Sealver Siliga. Ironically, that's likely who he has to beat out to earn a roster spot. Tu'ikolovatu played 23 snaps in the preseason opener, nearly double that of Siliga, a five-year veteran, but Tu'ikolovatu is third on the depth chart behind Siliga. Tu'ikolovatu has a very quick step for a player his size, which you can see in one-on-ones. It's rare for a guy that size to be able to rush the passer like that. He's powerful, has great hands and plays with good technique.