TAMPA, Fla. (AP) – The Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected Texas A&M safety Justin Evans in the second round of the NFL draft, addressing a need for help in an overhauled secondary.
Evans was the 20th pick Friday night, No. 50 overall as general manager Jason Licht and second-year coach Dirk Koetter continue to try to surround Jameis Winston with pieces the young quarterback needs to be successful.
Alabama tight end O.J. Howard was the club’s first-round selection. The hope is Evans will contribute right away in a defense that Licht began rebuilding two years ago, when the Bucs landed middle linebacker Kwon Alexander in the fourth round.
Cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III and pass rusher Noah Spence were taken in the first two rounds a year ago.
Evans becomes just the sixth defensive player Licht has selected over the four drafts the GM has run since joining the team in 2014.
In two seasons at Texas A&M, the 6-foot-1, 195-pound Evans was one of the Aggies’ leading tacklers and was the team’s primary kick returners as a senior. He led the team with four interceptions last season, finishing his college career with five.
Running back and defensive end are other areas of need for the Bucs, who went 9-7 last year while missing the playoffs for the ninth consecutive season.
In selecting Howard with the 19th overall pick, Licht passed on an opportunity to reunite Winston with college teammate Dalvin Cook, the Florida State running back picked by Minnesota in the second round on Friday night.
Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon, who visited Tampa Bay in the weeks leading up to the draft, was also gone by the time the Bucs selected Evans.
The signed veteran safety J.J. Wilcox in free agency. Evans will also compete with holdovers Chris Conte and Keith Tandy for playing time.
“I’m coming in believing in my mind, thinking I’m definitely a starter,” Evans said. “I’m also coming in with a humble mindset.”
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