TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers acquired another offensive playmaker in the third round of the NFL draft, selecting Vanderbilt running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn No. 76 overall.
Vaughn joins first-round selection, tackle Tristan Wirfs, and second-round pick, safety Antoine Winfield Jr., as the latest players acquired to help six-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady be successful with his new team.
Winfield, selected 45th overall after a standout career at Minnesota, is the son of three-time Pro Bowl cornerback Antoine Winfield, Sr., a 1999 first-round draft pick of the Buffalo Bills who played against Brady during a 14-year pro career.
“I’ve dreamed about this moment ever since I was a kid watching my dad play,” said Winfield, who was part of a stunning turnaround at Minnesota in 2019, when the Gophers had their most successful season in decades.
He said he was aware that his dad had an interception against Brady during a career that spanned five seasons with the Bills and nine with the Minnesota Vikings.
“It’s crazy that my dad played against him,” Winfield added. “”That’s crazy to think about.“
The 5-foot-10, 205-pound safety lined up all over the secondary in college, and the Bucs were attracted to that versatility.
“They’re getting a relentless football player with an incredibly high IQ. He’s a lot in a little frame,” Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck said this week.
“Everybody talks about his frame, but I think that’s what gives him an advantage,” Fleck added. “You’re getting a linebacker-type tackler. You’re getting a corner coverage person. And then you’re getting a wide receiver with the catch radius and the catch-ability.”
Drafting Wirfs addressed a glaring need on offence, where Tampa Bay has a chance to be among the best in the league after adding Brady and one of his favourite targets, Rob Gronkowski, this off-season.
The 6-foot-5, 265-pound All-Big Ten selection and Outland Trophy semifinalist was the last of four highly regarded tackles selected within the first 13 picks.
And while general manager Jason Licht declined to say how the Bucs rated the former Iowa star among that group of players, the GM and coach Bruce Arians liked Wirfs enough that they traded up one shot from No. 14 to get him.
The price was a fourth-round draft pick.
“We had to give up a little capital. … But in this case, we thought because of the player, the position — but especially because of the player — it was worth it,” Licht said.
“On the tape he’s a powerful, powerful run-blocker — extremely light-footed. You see everything you’re looking for, it’s just when is he going to be ready,” Arians said, adding that the Bucs are not in a position where they have rush Wirfs’ development.
“We did spend a lot of time talking to him. We did virtual interviews. Did everything to get to know him,” Arians added. “He’s a very, very humble, quiet guy. I really like the guy. I think it’s going to be a really good fit.”
Arians and Licht are also confident the Bucs will be improved defensively, too, after placing the franchise tag on NFL sack leader Shaquil Barrett and re-signing linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul and tackle Ndamukong Suh.
The remainder of the draft is about bolstering depth.
Vaughn will be paired with third-year pro Ronald Jones at running back. He began his college career at Illinois before transferring to Vanderbilt in 2017 and rushing for 2,272 yards and 21 touchdowns in two seasons with the Commodores.
Winfield will compete for playing time in a young secondary that finished last season with three rookie starters — cornerbacks Sean Murphy-Bunting and Jamel Dean, as well as safety Mike Edwards.
Winfield is thrilled to be joining a team with expectations of making a deep playoff run.
“My dad and I were talking about that,” Winfield said. “I.m just ready to come in and be that additional piece to help win a Super Bowl.”
Fleck is confident his former player has what it takes to be successful in the NFL.
“Just because you have NFL bloodlines doesn’t make you a great NFL player, but he’s got natural instincts. He is so aggressive and so instinctual, and he loves the game,” Fleck said.
“They’re getting a great teammate. He’s going to love the game, play the game the right way, respect his teammates, and one thing people don’t ever talk about enough is respecting the organization, respecting his head coach, respecting his GM, his owner, the reputation of the organization,” Fleck added. “They’re getting a gem, that’s for sure.”