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UW’s Vita Vea picked No. 12 overall by Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Apr 26, 2018, 6:39 PM | Updated: 9:42 pm
Vita Vea will start his NFL career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (AP)...
Vita Vea will start his NFL career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (AP)
(AP)

The first local player off the board at the 2018 NFL Draft was no surpise: Washington Huskies defensive tackle Vita Vea.

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The 347-pound Vea was taken by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who traded down from the No. 7 pick to No. 12 to take Vea and add a pair of second round picks along the way.

Vea was one of the 12 players 710 ESPN Seattle’s Brock Huard profiled as a potential Seahawks target in the first round with their pick at No. 18 (read the full Vea profile here).

“You’ve watched him grow and develop from a high school running back/D-lineman kind of quasi-weird unbelievable athlete into one of the most dominant forces in all of college football,” Huard said of Vea. “You just have a size, speed, and versatility component that’s truly unique. And that’s what I want to see in Seattle.”

Vea was the 2017 Pat Tillman Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, Morris Trophy winner and a second-team All-American by USA Today, Sports Illustrated, SB Nation and TheAthletic.com.

Vea is the latest addition to a reconstructed defensive unit that’s been a liability for most of the past decade in Tampa Bay.

“It’s really exciting,” Vea said by video link from Dallas, where he attended the draft. “I took a visit there. I felt like I had a great connection with the coaches … I am happy to be in this situation.”

Seahawks draft tracker

Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht described the 6-foot-4, 347-pound Vea as a dominant run-stopper who has “freakish athleticism” for his size.

“He’s going to help us in a lot of areas,” Licht said. “Great kid. … Very tough and loves football. We think he’s going to be a great fit here.”

The Bucs ranked last in the NFL with 23 sacks a year ago. Upgrading the defensive line and a porous secondary are among the top priorities after going 5-11 and missing the playoffs for the 10th consecutive season.

In addition to having an anemic pass rush, the Bucs finished 32nd in total defense at just over 378 yards per game and also allowed opponents to convert a league-high 48 percent of the time on third down.

“Obviously, we all really liked Vita’s tape, Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, extremely powerful man,” Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter said.

“We talked to him at the (NFL) Combine, we brought him in on one of our 30 visits. We found out that he loves football, he’s a family man, he’s incredibly gifted athletically,” Koetter added. “We had him high on our board, and we were able to trade back … pick up two second-round picks and still get one of the top guys on our board. It’s a win-win.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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