I think we can all agree that over the last few years the Bucs safety play has been questionable to say the least. It is one position that the team will finally upgrade this off-season as there are good options via free agency and the draft. Now the Bucs safety play was better last year especially in the second half of the season. Keith Tandy stepped up his game and has a good chance to return as a starter in 2017. Teammate Bradley Mcdougald also had a solid season and has a good chance of returning to the team with a new contract. That gives the Bucs two safeties as I think they will let Chris Conte go elsewhere and will look to add new depth at the position.
Like last year with the corner position, I think the Bucs double up on the safety position this year adding one through free agency and the draft. One player that our team here at realbucstalk really likes is Washington Huskies’s safety Budda Baker. Baker is a heat sneaking missile on the field as he is constantly all over the field making plays. Baker has good football instincts and seems to always be around the football. Here is a play of Baker showing his physical style and range as a safety.
Budda just didn’t want him catching this ball pic.twitter.com/UysWPM7cwT
— realbucstalk (@realbucstalk) February 27, 2017
Baker is a playmaker in the secondary which is something the Bucs could use more of in their secondary. Now lets take a closer look at Baker’s strengths and weaknesses as a prospect.
Budda Baker 5’10 192lbs 70 tackles, 9 TFL, 3 sacks, 2 Int, 5 PD
Strengths: Baker has very high football IQ and above average field awareness. He has good instincts and feel for the game as he is rarely out of position and is always near the football. Plays with passion and explodes towards the ball every play. Has the ability to run through receivers to knock the ball loose or force a turnover. He displays good fundamentals and takes smart angles in his tackle pursuit. Shows ability as a blitzer and can make plays coming off the edge. He plays with speed and shows range in coverage and has the ability to close on the ball like a corner. Has flexibility to play in the slot or in center field as a free safety. Baker is a leader as well and has been described as a winner.
Weaknesses: Baker’s main weakness is his size as he is only 190lbs and is under 6 feet tall which is not ideal size for safeties in the NFL. Can Baker hold up physically and maintain health throughout his career will be the main question for him. At times can be too aggressive as a tackler and get out of control. Liability going against tight ends in coverage due to lack of size.
Here is a quote from an NFC scout on Baker and what role would suit him best per NFL.com
“I would leave him as a centerfielder and then roll him down over the slot if you needed too. He’s too small to cover tight ends, but he’s got great instincts in coverage which is why he should shine as a single-high.” – NFC area scout
Overall, I think Baker is very similar to Bob Sanders or current NFL safety Earl Thomas and has the football IQ and instincts to overcome his size issues. I believe the Bucs could target Baker as early as 19th overall in the draft and would be an upgrade at the position immediately. With Baker, the Bucs could move either Tandy or Mcdougald to strong safety allowing Baker to play free safety where he can play sideline to sideline. According to reports, Baker is a outstanding guy off the field and truly loves the game of football and should make an high impact to whatever team he goes to. If the top targets on the offensive side of the ball are gone, Baker could be a top choice for the Bucs at 19.