<
>

Bucs showing strong interest in safeties Obi Melifonwu, Budda Baker

TAMPA, Fla. -- With pro days and private workouts in full swing in preparation for the 2017 NFL draft, here are some players the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been looking at this week and how they might fit onto the Bucs roster:

Obi Melifonwu, safety, Connecticut: Melifonwu had a private meeting with Bucs defensive backs coach Brett Maxie on Thursday, according to a source, after a strong showing at his Wednesday pro day, which was attended by national scout Byron Kiefer. Most of these pro days have been attended by area scouts, so the Bucs have indicated a strong level of interest. Maxie also met with him at the Senior Bowl and the NFL combine in February.

The thing that is most intriguing about Melifonwu is his length. At 6-foot-4, he posted a 44-inch vertical in Indianapolis, one inch shy of the all-time record. Considering the Bucs' two outside cornerbacks, Brent Grimes and Vernon Hargreaves, are both 5-foot-10, this could really help them conquer some size mismatches with bigger receivers in the division such as Kelvin Benjamin, even though Grimes and Hargreaves play much, much taller than their height suggests. And keep in mind, Melifonwu clocked an official 4.40-second 40 at the combine, the best mark of any safety in Indy this year.

At his pro day, his posted a 4.09-second 20-yard shuttle, just shy of the top safety mark in Indy this year by Budda Baker. His 10.69 60-yard shuttle would also have been tops. In on-field work, he showed great movement, footwork, he looked fluid in his transitions and looked explosive upon acceleration, according to one source. Several teams are looking at him as a corner, but the Bucs are looking at him as a safety.

Budda Baker, safety, Washington: While Maxie was meeting with Melifonwu, Bucs secondary coach Jon Hoke was in Washington the day before working out Baker. At 5-foot-10 and 195 pounds, Baker's a bit undersized, but watch his tape and you can tell that he doesn't shy away from contact and is a sure tackler. He also has a real knack for flying around the ball.

There's some Tyrann Mathieu to Baker. He also watched a ton of tape of Ronde Barber at UW because his position coach, Jimmy Lake, used to coach the position in Tampa when Jon Gruden was head coach and also held that spot under Raheem Morris. He certainly could be used against the slot the way Barber was in Tampa. He can blitz off the edge, get physical down in the box, he can get into the backfield and he can can cover downfield.

Baker registered 200 tackles, 18 pass breakups, five interceptions and four sacks in three seasons at Washington. He recorded 9.5 tackles for a loss in 2016 alone. He posted a 4.45 at February's NFL combine, fourth-fastest among safeties, had a 6.76 in the three-cone drill (fourth) and had the top 20-yard shuttle at 4.08. He was on the Bellevue (Washington) High School track team that won the state championship twice along with Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack.

Chris Godwin, wide receiver, Penn State: Two sources said Godwin had a private workout with Bucs assistant wide receivers coach Andrew Weidinger and has an official visit scheduled in Tampa in mid-April. Teams can work out an unlimited number of players at their schools, but can only bring in 30 prospects for official visits, with the exception of local prospects.

Julien Davenport, offensive tackle, Bucknell: Davenport met with Bucs offensive line coach George Warhop on Monday night for dinner and had a private workout with him Tuesday. He's also got upcoming private workouts with the San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants and met with the San Diego Chargers before his pro day last week. He's 6-foot-7, has an 87.5-inch wingspan and is a former basketball player, which has really helped him with his footwork. He's more of a "finesse" tackle than a powerful one, and those long arms are a huge advantage.

Scouts believe he's best suited for the left side. Unlike other positions, such as safety and tight end, this draft isn't loaded with offensive tackles at the top, but there's talent to be had later on. The Bucs also aren't afraid to take a chance on a small-school prospect, either, and you saw how much that paid off with Ali Marpet too years ago.

Kareem Hunt, running back, Toledo: Hunt had a private workout with the Bucs on Tuesday. If you watch his tape, you'll see that he runs with good pad level, has a low center of gravity and is a patient runner. He's not a burner, but he's powerful. At times he actually looks a little bit like Doug Martin. He averaged 123.6 yards per game during the last three seasons and 6.3 yards per carry in the last four seasons. His 4,945 yards are No. 3 on the MAC all-time rushing list.

He produced 113 explosive plays (runs of 12 yards or more) in four seasons -- second-most in college football. While there is a lot of attention on the running backs at the top of the draft in Leonard Fournette, Dalvin Cook and Christian McCaffrey, there's talent to be had later on and this is a great example of a value pick.

Michael Roberts, tight end, Toledo: Roberts also had a private workout with the Bucs this week. He's 6-foot-4, 261 pounds and had 16 touchdown catches in 2016, more than any other tight end in college football. There are faster tight ends in this draft class, but Roberts has far more blocking ability -- and the Bucs want both. They already have Cameron Brate as their "F" tight end and are looking for their "Y."

As his production suggests, Roberts could be a huge red-zone threat. He is another example of value not just being in the top rounds. So if the Bucs don't want to go after a guy like David Njoku at No. 19, they could have Roberts. One concern is speed. He clocked a 4.86 at the combine, but got that down to the 4.70s at his pro day -- not bad for 6-foot-4 and 270 pounds.

Rodney Adams, wide receiver, South Florida: The Bucs don't have a private workout set up with Adams at this time, but head coach Dirk Koetter was paying close attention to him at USF's pro day on Tuesday. It should also be noted that Adams has been running routes with quarterback Jameis Winston while training with Tom Shaw and Winston has made that known to Koetter.

Considering Adams' experience working with quarterback Quinton Flowers, who makes a lot of plays outside the pocket and does quite a bit improvisationally, this would be an intriguing pairing. If you watched USF closely two years ago, when then-head coach Willie Taggart's offense was still in its developmental stages, they didn't have a vertical passing game with Flowers until Adams came along. Plus, he has special-teams ability. Go back and watch his kickoff return for a touchdown against Navy in 2015.

Adams had a workout with the Carolina Panthers on Thursday and has a visit scheduled with the Minnesota Vikings in two weeks.