Antoine Winfield Jr.

Buccaneers Draft S Antoine Winfield Jr.

Not that long ago, Antoine Winfield was a standout slot cornerback in the NFC. His son, Antoine Winfield Jr., became a second-round pick Friday, landing with the Buccaneers at No. 45 overall.

Capable of high-end slot coverage, as his father was in Minnesota and Buffalo, Antoine Winfield Jr. finished his Minnesota career as an All-American safety.

The Bucs did not have a safety grade in the top 60, per Pro Football Focus, last season. While Tampa Bay’s defense took a big leap in 2019 — finishing fifth in DVOA — the group needed help on its back end.

Winfield finished with seven interceptions as a senior and registered 83 tackles. Scouts Inc. ranked the 5-foot-9, 203-pound defensive back as its No. 29 overall prospect.

Draft Rumors: Hurts, Giants, Jags, Tua

With the draft in less than 24 hours, several names have started to surface as potential first-round upsets. It would not surprise some around the league to see TCU wide receiver Jalen Reagor and Notre Dame tight end Cole Kmet end up as first-round picks, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com notes. The Eagles have surfaced as a Reagor candidate; the TCU product clocked two sub-4.3-second 40-yard dashes recently. The tight end class is not viewed to be nearly as strong, but an AFC coach said Kmet’s landing spot will likely be in the back end of the first round or start of the second.

Notre Dame pass rusher Julian Okwara and Ohio State cornerback Damon Arnette profile as players who could sneak into Round 1, per Pelissero. One exec compared Romeo Okwara‘s younger brother to an Anthony Barr type who could rush passers and drop into coverage. Julian Okwara registered 12 sacks over the past two seasons. Arnette would join Jeffrey Okudah as a first-rounder in this instance and follow a host of recent Buckeye corners by being a Thursday-night draftee. Arnette started 38 games in his Ohio State career.

Here is the latest from the draft world:

  • While Jalen Hurts is not expected to creep into the first round, Pelissero notes some NFL personnel believe he will go higher than most predict (Twitter link). So will Minnesota safety Antoine Winfield Jr., Pelissero adds. ESPN’s Mel Kiper has Hurts going off the board at No. 49 overall to the Steelers; Scouts Inc. grades the dual-threat quarterback as its No. 94 overall prospect. The Packers, Chargers and Raiders are among the teams believed to be interested. Winfield (29th per Scouts Inc.) is a second-generation NFLer, the son of former Vikings Pro Bowl corner Antoine Winfield. The younger Winfield intercepted seven passes last year and is also seen as a player who, like his father, could move into the slot.
  • Ex-Hurts teammate Tua Tagovailoa is “very well-regarded” in New England, per Tom Curran of NBC Sports Boston. However, Curran also believes the scenario NBC Sports’ Peter King suggested of the Patriots moving up to No. 13 (the 49ers’ slot) to draft a falling Tagovailoa doesn’t make much sense for the team, due to the Pats’ various other needs. Tagovailoa may now be back in play for the Dolphins at No. 5 anyway.
  • Buzz has surfaced about the Giants having a trade partner. While it is not certain the Jaguars are that team, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports tweets several GMs have pointed to the Giants moving down from No. 4 and the Jags climbing up from No. 8. The Giants are believed to be serious about wanting to move down. Although the Jaguars are believed to be planning to give Gardner Minshew a legitimate opportunity, JLC speculates a move up would be for a quarterback.
  • This draft could well see five tackles taken in the first round. With Hall of Fame executive Gil Brandt listing Ezra Cleveland as a player who will go higher than expected, NFL.com’s Mike Garafolo adds that the Boise State tackle is a “mortal lock” to be chosen in Round 1 (Twitter link). The Browns were believed to be eyeing Cleveland, which would be a fun fit. If they pass on a tackle at No. 10, the Browns may need to consider making an early move back into Round 1 for the rising player.

Antoine Winfield Jr. Declares For Draft

Minnesota safety Antoine Winfield Jr. is declaring for the 2020 NFL draft, as ESPN’s Josina Anderson reports (via Twitter). His name is very familiar to NFL fans, as his father, Antoine Winfield Sr., played in the league for 14 seasons after being selected by the Bills in the first round of the 1999 draft. Also a defensive back, the elder Winfield made three consecutive Pro Bowls with the Vikings from 2008-10.

The younger Winfield played in 10 games as a true freshman in 2016 and recorded 52 tackles, a pick-six, and three passes defensed. He missed much of the next two seasons due to injury, but he was a star in 2019, recording seven interceptions, 83 tackles, and three sacks. He did not win the Jim Thorpe award, as his father did in 1998, but he established himself as one of the best safeties in the class.

As such, he has a real chance of being selected in the first round. His injury history may hurt his stock, but he has good technique, is capable against the run and the pass, and has excellent ball skills to boot.

Teams like the Cowboys, Saints, and 49ers could be in play for Winfield, as could his father’s old team, the Vikings.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.