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Bucs pick Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III with first pick

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The pass rush will have to wait. The coverage, the Tampa Bay Bucs hope, will not.

The Bucs picked Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III Thursday night with their first-round pick in the NFL draft. Together with free agent signee Brent Grimes, the Bucs are hopeful to have a better secondary this year than last.

The Bucs said they liked Hargreaves better than any player in the draft at No. 9. However, they moved backward two picks with a trade with the Chicago Bears, who gave them an extra fourth-round draft pick.

“Vernon is a guy we feel brings a lot of versatility,” said Bucs’ general manager Jason Licht. “He can play outside and he can play inside. Great players come in a lot of different sizes and different packages. We feel that with his thickness and his build, he’s a sturdy player, he can press, tackle, very quick and athletic and has good ball skills.”

Licht said that Hargreaves was the player the team wanted at No. 9. He said the team’s intel had Chicago (which took Leonard Floyd) and the Giants (Eli Apple) would go elsewhere and Hargreaves would still be there.

“It’s always a gamble, but we felt good about it,” Licht said.

Together with Brent Grimes, Hargreaves should give the Bucs a solid secondary. Still, Licht pointed out that the team still has needs, a pass-rushing end chief among them.

As for the concerns about Hargreaves’ height, Licht said the team was not worried.

“You can ask Brent Grimes if a lack of height has affected his career,” Licht said. “You can ask Ronde Barber if a lack of height affected his career. Two corners that where shorter than Hargreaves. A lot of Pro Bowlers have been his size. He plays big. He has instincts, football intelligence, quickness, intelligence.”

Asked if his heart skipped a beat when the team moved down, Hargreaves credited his agent. He said he was told the night before the draft that the Bucs could move down to No. 11 and still take him, which is what happened.

Hargreaves comes to the Bucs as a player confident in himself.

“I have a lot of confidence,” Hargreaves said. “I’m confident in myself and my abilities.”

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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