Although not as dominant in the early rounds as last year, a whopping six players were taken from Auburn and into the NFL via the 2019 Draft. Top of the class of Auburn alum this year is defensive back Jamel Dean, who was snapped up by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the 94th overall pick in the third round.
Despite having suffered three major knee injuries over the course of his young career, Dean proved to be NFL-ready at the NFL combine. Standing 6’1’’, 206 lbs, and 31 ¾’’ arms, Jamel Dean is quite the presence in the secondary, but it was his absurd 4.3-second 40-yard-dash time which made coaches take notice. Clocking in the best time at his position was good enough, but the 4.3 seconds proved to rank him second-best among all participants, per CBS Sports.
Dean’s showing at the combine and in various interviews was enough for plenty of teams to get him on their big boards, and despite the previous injuries that would terrify many general managers, he landed a Day 2 selection. So, what are the Auburn alum’s prospects for this upcoming season?
Improvement expected from the Buccaneers
Last season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers sat at the bottom of the NFC South amidst injuries, clocking in a 5-11 record. It wasn’t a great year for the team, but there is an emerging hope around the fan base that a strong team is being pieced together, especially now that Bruce Arians is at the helm with Todd Bowles as the defensive coordinator. As exciting as it is to have Arians in, the work that Bowles does with the defense may be the most telling story of the season, as shown by the Tampa Bay Times.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers focussed on making the defense stronger, with the 464 points against last season – good for second-worst in the league – appearing to be the final straw for the franchise. So, in came Ndamukong Suh from the free agency, as well as the team using six of their eight selections to bring in defensive players, including Jamel Dean and linebacker Devin White with the fifth overall pick out of LSU.
Even with a new coach, a star defensive lineman, and a great crop of defensive talent out of the draft, the Buccaneers don’t look set to be causing too many upsets next season. They are at the bottom of the odds to win the NFC South with the NFL Picks highlighting their potentially close match-up against the Tennessee Titans as such an under-the-radar game that it will help those wanting to have success in NFL betting.
The Bucs likely won’t contend for the top of their division or be part of a highlight matchup on any given game week, but an improvement from their 5-11 record is what is craved most of all.
Will Dean be a starter for the Bucs?
Despite the defense conceding a huge number of points last season, the defensive back positions are fairly well-manned coming into this season. Vernon Hargreaves III and Auburn alum Carlton Davis are the go-to starters next season, but with Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting being drafted to add size, speed, and competition to the position, they’ll both have to perform at a high level if they don’t want to be usurped by a rookie.
As reported by the Buccaneers, Dean has enjoyed a very strong spring and has been adapting well to the step-up in level. Having played with Davis in college, Dean has been given a helping hand in adjusting to life as an NFL player. But most of all, Dean has been getting plenty of practice against Pro Ball receiver Mike Evans in preparation for potential matchups against divisional foes like Michael Thomas, Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Calvin Ridley, and D.J. Moore.
Bar any injuries to the more experienced players, Dean most likely won’t start in the opening game of the season, but his ability to quickly adjust, his athleticism, and his driven attitude will certainly provide competition for the role as the season progresses.