Reporting Justin Pawlowski
Usually, when people talk about a 4th round pick being a starter from day 1, it’s not a positive. Actually, it tends to mean your team was so bad and had so many holes that a 4th round pick was the best you could do for that position.
Well, this wasn’t your usual draft.
As day three began of the 2013 NFL draft, the Buccaneers spent little time attacking a position they still had a need for and a player they thought could fit that need immediately.
“As you went into bed Friday night, you looked at that defensive tackle class and it had been hard,” Bucs GM Mark Dominik said after the selection of Akeem Spence. “For us, he was a beacon for us in terms of all the defensive tackles that we felt was still a guy that we felt could be an instant impact with a chance to go in their day one and be a starter for us.”
That was the reason the Bucs quickly pounced and called the Oakland Raiders, swapping 4th round picks and throwing in a 6th round selection, and selecting that beacon in Illinois DT Akeem Spence.
“When I got the call from the Bucs and heard coach Schiano’s voice, I almost had a heart attack,” Spence said following his selection in the 4th round.
As Mark Dominik alluded to, Spence has the talent and the opportunity to step right in for the Bucs and start at nose tackle.
“I feel that I can be a plus and take some pressure off of him (McCoy),” Spence continued.
Spence fits the mold the Bucs look for in their nose tackles. I believe we learned that the Buccaneers are not just looking for a fat space-eater playing the nose tackle in their 4-3 defense. At nearly 310 lbs, Spence can not be considered fat. He is a gym rat and proved that with 37 reps of 225 lbs on the bench press. Spence also displays surprising quickness and excellent pursuit. On film, it appears that Spence rarely gets tired.
“When I was in high school, I was the state weight lifting champ, ” Spence said. “The weight room has always been real important to me. It’s a big part of who I am. I like to work out a lot when I am bored.”
He likes to work out when he is bored? Well, now you know why he is in the NFL, while you and I are playing Madden on our PS3 at home!
Despite Spence’s outstanding natural strength and condition, NFL Network’s Mike Mayock wants to see more.
“He’s as strong as they come,” Mayock said of Spence on the NFL Network immediately after the Buccaneers selected him in the 4th round. “I didn’t always see that strength turn into functional strength on the football field. I like him. I think for Tampa Bay, he’ll be a good player, but I’d like to see the weight room strength translate onto the field a little more often.”
The positive with Mayock’s comments is that Spence’s work ethic is already there. If Greg Schiano and his coaching staff can get Spence’s abilities to translate to the field more consistently, the Bucs might have a very good player on their hands.
I was not a big Roy Miller fan. I thought Miller did his job, but that was it. I believe teams never needed to double team him and that he was not efficient enough in beating solo blocks. This allowed teams to double team Gerald McCoy more often. From what I have seen, Spence is a stronger and more athletic version of Roy Miller.
I believe that Spence is a good example of the depth of this draft. I anticipate Spence being given every opportunity to start at nose tackle, and I also expect him to take advantage of that opportunity.
Catch The Commish weekdays from 9-12 on 98.7 The Fan