The last player in my series of scouting reports on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2016 draft class is sixth-round pick Dan Vitale, the superback out of Northwestern. Superback is a position in the Wildcats’ offense that’s similar to the H-back in the NFL, so that’s likely the role he’ll play for the Buccaneers. Vitale’s hybrid role is evident in the fact that he was called a fullback on draft night, but he’s listed at tight end on the Bucs’ roster.
Note: I’m skipping LB Devante Bond because I couldn’t find enough tape on the sixth-round pick out of Oklahoma to compile a full scouting report. See my summary of the pick here.
At 6’1″ and 239 pounds, Vitale is a little leaner than most teams want their lead blocker to be, and his frame is basically maxed out. With Vitale’s impressive set of physical abilities, however, it would be foolish to utilize him solely as a fullback. His 30 bench press reps were tops among running backs, and his 38.5″ vertical and 4.12 second 20-yard shuttle showcase his excellent athleticism. A 4.60 second 40 time isn’t great, but Vitale’s game isn’t built around straight-line speed.
The biggest weapon Vitale has at his disposal in his quest to make the Buccaneers’ roster is his versatility. In college, he lined up in the backfield, next to the tight end, and in the slot, and the playbook sent him in motion often. He showed an ability to block and catch passes from any pre-snap position, though he probably won’t be appearing in the slot much for Tampa Bay. He runs good routes and has solid hands.
Vitale is not afraid to take on anyone, showing the physicality and toughness needed for a blocker and a core special-teamer (which is where he’ll likely make his greatest impact in the NFL). When he has the ball in his hands, he runs with power and is tough to bring down. His production speaks for itself: he led Northwestern
Because he’s about as big as he’s going to get, Vitale won’t ever be able to stack up against defensive linemen and control them. He doesn’t play with the proper leverage to overcome his smaller size. Vitale tries to circumvent this by cut blocking bigger players, but it doesn’t always work for him. Mediocre hand technique doesn’t help him much either.
Rather than attacking defenders, Vitale too often allows his opponent to initiate the contact, losing his opportunity to accelerate and power through the block. Additionally, there are plays where Vitale whiffs or simply doesn’t know who to block and ends up being a non-factor. It didn’t happen often, but it’s something to keep an eye on.
Dan Vitale is a great fit for an H-back role in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ offense next season. While there’s nothing that stands out about his game, he’s solid at many things, and that versatility is exactly what a late-round draft pick needs to make a roster. Expect Vitale to start at fullback and bring his physical approach to the Bucs’ backfield.
If you would like to receive an email each time a new Tampa Bay Buccaneers article is published, fill out our email notification form.