Yardbarker Horiz

2012 NFL Draft Countdown

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2011 NFL Draft Class

Round (Overall) Player, Position, School
1 (20) Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
2 (51) Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
3 (84) Mason Foster, LB, Washington
4 (104) Luke Stocker, TE, Tennessee
5 (151) Ahmad Black, DB, Florida
6 (187) Allen Bradford, RB, USC
7 (222) Anthony Gaitor, DB, Florida International
7 (238) Daniel Hardy, TE, Idaho

Saturday, October 8, 2011

200 Days Until 2012 Draft: First Look

To start our run-up to the 2012 NFL Draft, just a mere 200 days away, we drop the current roster (as of Week 4, 2011) for a depth check:

QB Johnson, Josh (4); Freeman, Josh (3)
RB Graham, Earnest (8); Lumpkin, Kregg (3); Blount, LeGarrette (2); Bradford, Allen (0)
FB  Lorig, Erik(2)
WR Spurlock, Micheal (4); Stroughter, Sammie (3); Williams, Mike (2); Parker, Preston (2); Benn, Arrelious (2); Briscoe, Dezmon (1); Webber, Raymond (0, IR)
TE Winslow, Kellen (8); Stocker, Luke (0); Pianalto, Zack (0); Franklin, Collin (0)
T Trueblood, Jeremy (6); Penn, Donald (6); Lee, James (4); Dotson, Demar (3); Hardman, Derek (2)
G Joseph, Davin (6); Zuttah, Jeremy (4); Larsen, Ted (2)
C Faine, Jeff (9)
LS Yount, Christian (0)
P Koenen, Michael (7)

DE Crowder, Tim (5); Bennett, Michael (3); Wilson, E.J. (2, IR); Clayborn, Adrian (0); Bowers, Da'Quan (0)
DT Okam, Frank (4); Miller, Roy (3); Price, Brian (2); McCoy, Gerald (2)
OLB Hayward, Adam (5); Diles, Zac (5); Black, Quincy (5); Hayes, Geno (4); Watson, Dekoda (2)
MLB Foster, Mason (0)
SS Jones, Sean (8); Lynch, Corey (4); Grimm, Cody (2, IR); Asante, Larry (1)
CB Talib, Aqib (4); Mack, Elbert (4); Jackson, Tanard (4, SUS); Biggers, E.J. (3); Lewis, Myron (2); Barber, Ronde (15); Holland, Devin (0); Gaitor, Anthony (0)
K Barth, Connor (4)

A quick look through this chart shows only a few possibilities for draft targets.  Another young linebacker would balance the group.  The tackle group has plenty of youth and effective starters, but there is no drafted talent working up through the ranks.  Not to say that you must have tackles which are draft choices (Donald Penn clearly breaks the mold), but a drafted player has higher rated talent, and having that type of talent in reserve competing for starting time advances the quality of the position.

There is the persistant question of when Ronde Barber will decide he's set enough records for longevity, plus the ongoing circus of Aqib Talib.  You cannot have enough good corners in the NFL and Tampa Bay has youth at the position.  But hedging against both Talib (suspension? jail?) and Barber (retirement) being gone is a serious consideration.

Most other positions have drafted talent in the pipeline, much of which is finding it's way to the field.  But, for now, we have a couple positions to consider.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Do Talib's Troubles Set Draft Priorities?

With two arrests, two court cases, and one (maybe two) suspensions in just two years has Aqib Talib gone as far as he can go in Tampa?

The answer to this question could set the path for General Manager Mark Dominik next offseason.

If Talib is not guilty, is that enough?  At his salary, is he of value for fewer than 16 games per season?  Can he keep himself out of trouble for one offseason?

Since the Dominik era began at Tampa Bay, Talib has a .330 batting average keeping his nose clean for an entire offseason.  That's really horrible in the Not For Long league.  Talib has all pro talent inside an all trouble life.  Maybe it's time for him to spend a summer in Tampa instead of back home in Texas.

Or maybe it's too late.

Talib is still young and talented enough to warrent a high pick in trade if Dominik so chooses.  This would certainly offset any talent loss.  At the beginning of the season everyone is healthy and Talib's value, while high, is not sky high.  Let a couple key corners on some playoff contenders go down before mid-year and Talib's value rises out of the atmosphere.

Finally, there is the prospect that Talib is found guilty next summer, in which case Texas law would land him in jail, resulting in his value hitting rock bottom and digging deeper.

Talib (6'1", 205lbs) could gather a third round pick.  It would then depend on how the young corners on the Buccaneer roster perform.  There are more first round talent corners in the 2012 draft than either the 2010 or 2011 drafts.  WalterFootball.com lists 4-7 first round corner prospects for the 2012 draft:

  • Dre KirkPatrick, Alabama (6'3", 190 lbs)
  • Jayron Hosely, Virginia Tech (5'10", 172 lbs, Junior)
  • Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina (6'1", 190 lbs, Junior)
  • Alfonzo Dennard, Nebraska (5'10", 195 lbs)
  • Cliff Harris, Oregon (5'11", 180 lbs)
  • Chase Minnifield, Virginia (6'0", 185 lbs)
  • Morris Claiborne, LSU (6'0", 178 lbs, Junior)

Great Blue North Draft Report lists Casey Hayward (5'11", 190 lbs) at Vanderbilt as a rising prospect as well.

Should Tampa Bay finish with a similar draft position as in 2011, they could end up getting the 3rd player from this list (or so).  In essence, with the 2012 draft, there is the potential to draft in a replacement of high value, even with the first round pick.

It's a tricky situation for Dominik, and a tough decision.  But don't be surprised if it happens, Dominik has made tough decisions since ascending to the Big Chair in Tampa Bay (for instance, releasing Derrick Brooks).

Talib needs to find a way to stop his clock from ticking.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

College FA: Bucs Find Another Young Giant

Continuing a trend which started with the drafting of Josh Freeman, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have added yet another man-mountain to the offensive line pool.

This time, it's Cory Brandon, offensive tackle from Oklahoma University.  Brandon is 6'7" and 324 lbs, which fits right in with the height already accumulated up front.

What makes Brandon an interesting prospect is he is exceptionally young.  Although at Oklahoma for four years, he played as a freshman but was injured early, receiving a medial hardship which provided an extra year of college eligibility.  However, he played in all 13 games last season (starting 7, including filling in at left tackle for Trent Williams for the final two games of the season), and so he chose to forego his extra season.

Some pre-draft reviews:

While most likely needing some time to develop, Brandon fits the mold the Buccaneers are looking for and is a strong candidate for practice squad development.

Friday, July 22, 2011

College Free Agency Could Start Sunday

It's going to become an event Buccaneers fans look forward to every year.

Each year, around 250 college football players are drafted by the NFL.  Given there are around 110 Division I (not to mention Divisions II and III, plus other smaller college affiliations) schools with anywhere from 5-25 players completing their college careers each year, that's 250 picks from a potential pool of well over 25,000 players, or just about 1%.

The other 99% gets one last chance at the dream through college free agency (well, not the absolute last shot, but getting pretty far down the line).  This is when the 32 NFL teams can descend upon the remaining college talent pool and dig deep, look for long shots, or find a diamond in the rough.

Undrafted talent currently resides on the Tampa Bay roster in the persons of Kregg Lumpkin and Ryan Purvis (undrafted in 2009) as well as George Johnson, Derek Hardman, and LeGarrette Blount (all undrafted in 2010).

If the players can get the NFLPA Union back together in the next day or so the league can get the process of signing these players underway.

And Buccaneer fans will get a new glimpse of the future!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Rookies Should Get To Camp On Time

It appears the new collective bargaining agreement, which may be put into effect before the end of the week, will contain a provision the NFL owners were looking for:  a rookie salary structure.

This is important to owners as it keeps high draft picks from consuming a large chunk of cap money when it is not clear how the player will adapt to the league.  Gone will be the days of a fresh-out-of-college quarterback getting a bigger paycheck than those quarterbacks in the NFL wearing super bowl rings.

The details will not be known until everything has a bow on it, but some things will be hard to include.  There will most likely be some personal conduct verbiage standard, but performance incentives would be hard to mandate.  Also, signing bonuses may not be hard numbers and may have associated ranges or conditions.

In any case, the fact that much is predetermined should allow teams to shorten the time it takes to get draft picks under contract.  And should everything come together this week, it will be important to get rookies in front of coaches as soon as possible.

In a year without a summer, a rookie salary structure could help get the season underway quickly.

Monday, May 23, 2011

2012 Projected Draft Needs

What a difference a year can make in the NFL.  The 2010 season featured a hoard of young players getting onto the playing field due to an insane number of injuries.  The youth filled in admirably and have become part of the young core offense and young core defense.

But has the youth movement of 2010 changed the outlook of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the front office machine turns it's eyes towards the class of 2012?  Let's see what the thinking was just after last year's NFL Draft:

From the Post-2010 NFL Draft assessment of needs in 2012:

Offensive Losses:  None.  Defensive Losses:  DE White, DE Crowder, LB Hayward, S Piscitelli, and S Jackson leave the chart
2012 will clearly have a strong swing back to the defensive side of the ball.  Now defensive end is a significant need -- so defensive end and safety look to be the primary focus as two players at each position could be needed.  The defensive end need, however, could vanish.  The Buccaneers have eight men competing for the two defensive end positions during the 2010 offseason.  If the team decides that six men competing for two positions is enough then the need vanishes (this could happen if the team decides the talent level is sufficient for good competition).  Finally, what is shaping up as an annual need at linebacker continues to appear.

The 2011 draft followed expectations and left the identified needs listed above in tact for the 2012 NFL Draft.  Now, With the 2011-NFL Draft in the books, we can again check the young core offense and young core defense and see what players will drop from the chart:

Offensive Losses: WR Spurlock
Defensive Losses: DE White, DE Crowder, LB Hayward, LB Black, S Jackson

The departure of S Sabby Piscitelli (cut Nov 30, 2010) and the emergence of WR Micheal Spurlock are important events which will influence the direction of the 2012 NFL Draft for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  With Piscitelli gone, a need is removed.  With Spurlock's arrival, the Buccaneers will need to decide if he gets a long term contract after a very short audition.  

With safety Tanard Jackson still suspended (since Sept. 22, 2010), safety is still a need.  The Buccaneers have spent draft picks at safety in each of the past two drafts, yet the need persists.  If the youth in the deep backfield shows it's talents early and Jackson is expendable, the need vanishes.  Should the NFL elect to not reinstate Jackson, then the need is more than real.  Unfortunately, the season will already have started.

Last season, Tampa Bay packed the roster full of young wide receivers, and the group responded with talent and a rapid ascent of the learning curve.  It is doubtful WR will be a pressing need next year regardless of Micheal Spurlock's status.

During the 2010 off season, the Buccaneers carried eight, even nine defensive ends on the roster looking for the best possible talent.  Two of the main contributors will fall off the young core defensive chart this season.  However, GM Mark Dominik infused the position with two dynamic young talents in the 2011 NFL Draft.  Will the Buccaneers decide to carry fewer defensive ends this offseason because of the talent upgrade? If so, this need in 2012 has been erased.  If not, look for another early pick at this position as the Buccaneers continue to pack talent onto the edge of the defensive line in hopes of finding a long term answer (or two!).

The 2011 draft also saw the first linebacker selection by Tampa Bay since Geno Hayes in 2008 (and the first at the position by the new administration and coaching staff).  The position has some youth, but also is starting to age a bit, and will most likely be a target again in 2012.

The only other position on the young core rosters without at least two players available is center (as well as long snapper).  Jeff Faine, the rock around which the current offensive line is built, will not play forever (sorry, Josh Freeman).  The Buccaneers need to develop some youth at this position.  If the center is injured, the situation is made worse if a starter at guard has to slide inside and a backup steps forward at guard (1 injury, 2 positions affected).  Young Ted Larsen played at center in college but would cause the two-for-one issue as he has entrenched himself at guard with an excellent showing last season.  The Buccaneers may need to draft in depth at center.

The rundown
Linebacker:  A definite need in 2012; possibly two.
Defensive End:  Probably not a need, but could happen if the right player is on the board.
Safety:  Not a strong need, but possibly a need just based on numbers.
Wide Receiver:  Doubtful, just too much young talent already on the roster to make this a need.
Center:  A need, possibly a draft need.  Consistency at center is important for any quarterback.
Long Snapper:  Probably not a draft need, more likely a free agent acquisition.

Two linebackers, a defensive end, a safety, and a center would be five of the seven rounds in 2012.  Looks like a solid shopping list going into preparations for the 2010 NFL Draft.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Post-2011 Draft Young Core Offense

To build this chart of the Young Core Offense, I took the most recent Buccaneers roster and sorted all the offensive players with four years of experience or less (because the average NFL player has a 3.5 year career) by position, then by years of experience (in parenthesis).  This provides a glimpse of the "core" of the offense -- these are the players who will determine Tampa Bay's playoff fortunes for the next four years or so:

2011 Draft Choices are in bold italics and some position assignments are a best guess.

QB:  Josh Johnson (3), Josh Freeman (2), Rudy Carpenter (2)
RB:  Kareem Huggins (2), LeGarrette Blount (1), Allen Bradford (0)
FB:  Kregg Lumpkin (2), Erik Lorig (1)

XWR:  Micheal Spurlock (4), Mike Williams (1), Dezmon Briscoe (1), Ed Gant (1)
YWR:  Sammie Stroughter (2), Arrelious Benn (1), Preston Parker (1)
TE:  Ryan Purvis (2), Nathan Overbay (1), Luke Stocker (0), Daniel Hardy (0)

RT:  James Lee (3), Marc Dile (1)
RG: Derek Hardman (1), Brandon Carter (1)
C:  Jeremy Zuttah (3)
LG:  Ted Larsen (1), John Malecki (1)
LT:  Demar Dotson (2), Barker, Will (1)

P:  Robert Malone (1)

GM Mark Dominik added his third running back in three drafts to this board, keeping that pipeline full (and adding some heft).  The tight end position is the oldest on the team and was in need of young talent -- can Kellen Winslow and John Gilmore give these young players time to mature?

The influx of offensive linemen from the waiver wire last season assures Tampa Bay when their current, aging offensive line starts to tap out there will be someone there to step in.  With LG Davin Joeseph, C Jeff Faine, and RT Donald Penn under hefty contracts, it's interesting that Tampa Bay did not draft along the offensive line this season.  Partly, that could be a matter of who was (or was not) available.  It may also be a gamble on the part of Dominik, who may think the new collective bargaining agreement (whenever completed, post-lockout) will look similar to the prior CBA, allowing him to use franchise tags and matching offers to keep his veteran line in place in front of Josh Freeman.  It could be a solid one-year gamble: with Ted Larsen at the front of the line at left guard and James Lee ascending to the starting position at right tackle last season Dominik may be able to sign some "final contracts" or, if need be, trim some cost from the roster.  Youth is on the doorstep up front.

It's not even worth talking about the wide receiver talent on this team.  Anything I could say would fall short anyway.  This is as exciting a group as there is anywhere in the NFL and expectations should remain high for years to come.  These guys can deliver.

And, of course, quarterback is rock solid.

The one thing the Buccaneers may be looking for is a long snapper, but most likely can grow one from within the current squad of offensive linemen.

29 men represented on this roster.  In some places, depth of only two young players works out fine.  In others, such as wide receiver, the competition will be fierce at a very high level.  This is exactly what Dominik and Head Coach Raheem Morris have been talking about since day 1: put young talent on the field, let them compete, and carve out a team each week of the top performers.

Looks like the offense is right where it should be.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Post-2011 Draft Young Core Defense

One way to gage the rebuilding process in Tampa Bay is to look at the young core players who have been selected to make the Buccaneers defense a dominant squad. It's a group that is getting more and more talent through the draft.

To build this chart of the Young Core Defense, I took the most recent Buccaneers roster and sorted out all the defensive players with four years of experience or less (because the average NFL player has a 3.5 year career) by position, then by years of NFL experience (in parenthesis).  This provides a glimpse of the young "core" of the defense -- the players who will determine if the Tampa Bay Buccaneer make the playoffs during the next five years or so.

2011 Draft Choices are in bold italics and some position assignments are a best guess.

LDE  Stylez White (4), Michael Bennett (2), Brandon Gilbeaux(0), Da'Quan Bowers (0)
2DT  Miller, Roy (2), Price, Brian (0)
3DT  Okam, Frank (3), McCoy, Gerald (0), Woods, Al (0)
RDE  Tim Crowder (4), Kyle Moore (2), Alex Magee (2); George Johnson (0), Adrian Clayborn (0)

WLB  Geno Hayes (3), Tyrone McKenzie (2)
MLB  Adam Hayward (4), Mason Foster (0)
SLB  Quincy Black (4), Dekoda Watson (0)

LCB  Aqib Talib (3), E.J. Biggers (2), D.J. Johnson (2), Vince Anderson (1)
RCB  Elbert Mack (3), Myron Lewis (0), Anthony Gaitor (0)
SS  Dominique Harris (0), Larry Asante (0), Ahmad Black (0)
FS  Tanard Jackson (4), Corey Lynch (3), Cody Grimm (0)

K  Connor Barth (3)

As expected, the 2011 draft filled in this chart quite cleanly, including possibly filling the need at inside linebacker.

There are 34 men listed here -- a very large number of young defensive players for any offseason roster.  This chart demonstrates the Buccaneers will have to continue to rely on youth for the next season or two.  The hope would be for the bulk of these men to continue on after their fourth year (become a "second contract" player), which would thicken the depth chart and reduce the number of young players, but mean established, experienced NFL players are leading the way.  Are White, Crowder, Hayward, Black, or Jackson players who are valuable enough to this team to make that transition?  Or will they be players signed to short term contracts while others here mature?

It's a big group with a lot of talent (six Tampa Bay draft picks on the defensive line alone) and should be improved next season just on the basis of another year under their belts.  Long term, however, it should be getting harder and harder to crack this unit.

If not, the Buccaneer Defense could be a young group for a long time.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Tampa Bay Drafts Daniel Hardy, TE, Idaho

With their 8th and final pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers used their compensatory 7th round pick (#238 Overall) on tight end Daniel Hardy (6'4", 249lbs) from Idaho Univerity.

Hardy was Idaho's leading receiver with 32 catches for 545 yards in 2010 in spite of sitting out the final five games of the season due to a broken arm.  In 2009, Hardy had 39 catches for 691 yards. A former walk-on for the Vandals, the redshirt senior first broke into the receiving rotation as a sophomore and elevated to a 2nd Team All-WAC performer as well as a semifinalist for the 2010 John Mackey Award given to the top college player at the tight end position each year.

Hardy is a developmental player who can provide some immediate impact as a dedicated receiving tight end but will need to further develop his skills to become an every-game player in the NFL.  He could be a practice squad candidate, following a path similar to current Buccaneer tight end Ryan Purvis who spent time developing on the practice squad until reaching the regular roster last season.

<< 2011 Seventh Pick (#222 Overall)

Tampa Bay Drafts Anthony Gaitor, DB, Florida International

With their 7th pick (#222 overall) and first pick in the 7th round of the 2011 NFL Draft, the Buccaneers selected defensive back Anthony Gaitor (5'10", 177lbs) from Florida International University.

Gaitor was a four year starter for the Panthers, and is only the third player from FIU ever drafted by the NFL.  The three time All-Sun Belt Conference player had 52 tackles, 3 sacks, and 2 interceptions in 2010. He is regarded as an instinctive corner with good footwork and moves smoothly in coverage.  He is not the prototypical NFL corner as far as size but plays big.

Florida International played him tighter to the line of scrimmage in 2010, and that may be telling in the Buccaneers plans.  Since the arrival of the new leadership at One Buccaneer Place in 2009, Tampa Bay has been collecting long and lean corners.  Gaitor has shown toughness in the run game and is willing to put a facemask into the opposing running game.  So, at least today, with his size and toughness, Gaitor appears closer to the mold of safety currently on the Buccaneers roster.  Add in his experience at corner and Gaitor would be a strong candidate for early time in nickel and dime situations as well.

<< 2011 Sixth Pick (#187 Overall) 2011 Eighth Pick (#238 Overall) >>

Tampa Bay Drafts Allen Bradford, RB, Southern California

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers used their 6th round pick (#22 in the round, #187 overall) on running back Allen Bradford (5'11", 242lbs) from USC.

This pick was acquired from the Kansas City Chiefs as part of the Alex Magee trade executed during the 2010 NFL regular season.  Tampa Bay gave up a fifth round pick in this year's draft for Magee plus this selection in the 2011 NFL Draft.

Bradford finished the 2010 season with 794 yards and a 7.2 yards per carry average for the Trojans.  He also had 3 catches for 74 yards and one touchdown.  The senior was a bright spot on a program going through significant change last season.  A powerful, downhill runner between the tackles, he appears to be a strong candidate as a short yardage back.  On special teams as a junior, he recorded six tackles and forced one fumble.  To make the roster with the depth at running back, Bradford will have to show a willingness to play on 4th down first, then work his way into the regular rotation.  Bradford has been in a rotation situation at USC for most of his career which could be how his career begins with the Buccaneers.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Tampa Bay Drafts Ahmad Black, SS, Florida

With the 20th pick in the fifth round, #151 overall, the Buccaneers selected Ahmad Black (5'10", 184lbs) from the University of Florida.

Safety was not a strong suit of the 2011 NFL Draft.  In fact, only five safeties total were drafted in 2011, three free safeties and two strong safeties.  Only one went before the fifth round (Rahim Moore, UCLA, to Denver).  The Buccaneers picked on of the three safeties chosen in the fifth round in Black.

Black is considered a reliable open-field tackler with good instincts.  He finished with 13 career interceptions for the Gators, tied for 4th most in school history.  He has started every game since his sophomore season, and was named a first team All-American by Rivals.com this past year.  The senior was also a First-Team All-SEC by both the ESPN/coaches panel and AP Writers of America.  He also played on kickoff and punt coverage teams, a highly regarded value by Tampa Bay General Manager Mark Dominik.

Black enters a Buccaneers secondary desperately searching for stability over the past two seasons.  To make the team as a rookie he will have to show his skills on special teams -- which he has plenty of.

<< 2011 Fourth Pick (#104 Overall) 2011 Sixth Pick (#187 Overall) >>

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Tampa Bay Drafts Luke Stocker, TE, Tennessee

In the fourth round of the 2011 NFL Draft, General Manager Mark Dominik moved up from position #116  to #104 in a draft day trade with the Philadelphia Eagles.  Tampa moved up and surrendered their 2012 fourth round pick to select Luke Stocker (6'5",  258lbs) from the University of Tennessee.

Stocker, a redshirt senior, is considered a well-developed pass catcher with soft hands and great body control when fighting for the ball.  He is considered a bit of a project when asked to stay back in protection but shows good run-blocking skills.  He was the only Tennessee player to have at least one catch in every Volunteer game in 2010.  He caught 29 passes for 417 yards in 2010.  In 2009, he also caught 29 passes and gained 389 yards.  Stocker also started every game as a sophomore.

NFLDraftScout.com stated Stocker could be one of the few potential starters in a weak TE class in the 2011 NFL Draft.

<< 2011 Third Pick (#84 Overall) 2011 Fifth Pick (#116 Overall) >>

Monday, May 2, 2011

Tampa Bay Drafts Mason Foster, LB, Washington

With their third pick in the 2011 NFL Draft (#84 overall), the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected Mason Foster, outside linebacker from the University of Washington.  Linebacker was on the want list after all (as previously discussed).

Foster is a true Senior (6'1", 245lbs).  First team All-Pac-10 and first team All-America by scout.com and rivals.com, Foster started all 13 games for the Huskies last season at outside linebacker.  He lead the Pac-10 and was second in the nation with 163 tackles last season (12.5 tackles per game).  In 2009, Foster started all 12 games as well, finishing 2nd on the team with 85 tackles plus three interceptions and six forced fumbles.  As a Sophomore in 2008, Foster again started all 12 games at outside linebacker and led the Pac-10 conference with 105 tackles, leading Washington with 12 tackles for loss.  As a freshman, Foster played in all 13 games, starting four.

Foster has shown versatility during his college career, starting both inside and outside at linebacker at various times.  Physically, Foster compares favorably with current Buccaneers Barrett Rudd (6'2", 241lbs) and Quincy Black (6'2", 240lbs).

Like the prior two picks in the 2011 NFL Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Foster was a team captain.

<< 2011 Second Pick (#51 Overall) 2011 Fourth Pick (#116 Overall) >>

Tampa Bay Drafts Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson

In what could be the biggest surprise in some time for the Buccaneers in the NFL Draft, former Top 10 Overall rated defensive end Da'Quan Bowers stayed on the board until the 51st pick overall, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers made Bowers their second selection in the 2011 NFL Draft.

How did it happen?  Bowers had his knee surgically repaired (torn meniscus; diagram) just after his college football season ended last year.  The true junior was outstanding in his last season at Clemson University, becoming a finalist for the Lombardi Award, Bednarik Award, and Nagurski Award and was only one of two players selected for the Walter Camp National Player of the year.

Bowers broke Clemson records for number of sacks in a season and most consecutive games with a sack, records previously held by former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Gaines Adams.  Bowers and Adams were close friends -- Bowers cites Adams as a reason he attended Clemson and wore Adams' old number, 93.  Besides the loss of Adams in February 2010, Bowers also lost his father during Clemson's fall camp last season.

Bowers was a team captain last season.

(Background information condensed from NFLDraftScout.com information at CBSSports.com)

Notable Other Possibilities Were:
Brandon Harris, CB, Miami (Fla) - to Texas with pick #60
Mikel LeShoure, RB, Illinois - to Lions (from Seahawks) with pick #56

<< 2011 First Pick (#20 Overall) 2011 Third Pick (#84 Overall) >>

Friday, April 29, 2011

Tampa Bay Drafts Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa

With their first pick in the 2011 NFL Draft (#20 overall), the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected Adrian Clayborn.

Clayborn, a defensive end from the University of Iowa (6'3", 281lbs), was an All-Big Ten player his senior year.  He suffers from a medical condition called Erb's Palsy, a syndrome caused by nerve damage in the upper arm, and was told by doctors at a young age to avoid playing contact sports.  Nonetheless, Clayborn was the 2005 Missouri Player of the Year coming out of high school in St. Louis, where he played linebacker and tight end.

At Iowa, Clayborn redshirted as a freshman, emerging as a defensive end in his second year, getting some playing time in 12 games.  As a redshirt sophomore, he started 11 games and recorded 50 tackles, 8 tackles for loss, and 2 sacks.  As a junior, Clayborn recorded an amazing 20 tackles for loss on his way to 70 tackles for the season (36 solo) and four forced fumbles.  His top-flight play brought him national attention and he was an early entry candidate for the 2010 NFL Draft.  Clayborn elected to stay in school, and while his statistics were not a jaw dropping as his junior year, he was selected team captain for a second straight year (a recurring theme in GM Mark Dominik's draft picks).

(Background information condensed from NFLDraftScout.com information at CBSSports.com)

Notable Other Possibilities Were:
Cameron Jordan, DE, California (to Saints with Pick #24)
Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson (not drafted in the first round)
Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama (to Saints at Pick #28, who traded up; first running back selected in 2011)
Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College (to Indianapolis with Pick #22)
Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin (to Chicago with Pick #29)

2011 Second Pick (#51 Overall) >>

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

2011 NFL Draft: Buccaneers Final Roundup

Less than 24 hours until the draft begins! I've had my say so here's one last look around the web regarding the possible fortunes of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2011 NFL Draft.

Mike Mayock
Tampa Bay, Round 1, Pick 20:  Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
Pat Kirwin
Tampa Bay, Round 1, Pick 20:  Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
Steve Wyche
Tampa Bay, Round 1, Pick 20:  Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
Bucky Brooks
Tampa Bay, Round 1, Pick 20:  Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado

Rob Rang 
Tampa Bay, Round 1, Pick 20: Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
Chad Reuter 
Tampa Bay, Round 1, Pick 20: Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson

Peter Schrager
Tampa Bay, Round 1, Pick 20: Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
John Crist/Scout.com
Tampa Bay, Round 1, Pick 20:  Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
Brian Billick
Tampa Bay, Round 1, Pick 20: Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
Adam Caplan
Tampa Bay, Round 1, Pick 20: Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
Mike O'Hara
Tampa Bay, Round 1, Pick 20:  Brooks Reed, DE, Arizona

WalterFootball.com's Full 7-Round Draft
Tampa Bay, Round 1, Pick 20:  Cameron Jordan, DE, California
Tampa Bay, Round 2, Pick 51:  Allen Bailey, DE, Miami
Tampa Bay, Round 3, Pick 84:  Lance Kendricks, TE, Wisconsin
Tampa Bay, Round 4, Pick 116: Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Oregon State
Tampa Bay, Round 5, Pick 151: Cortez Allen, CB, The Citadel
Tampa Bay, Round 6, Pick 187: TJ Yates, QB, North Carolina
Tampa Bay, Round 7, Pick 222: Jeff Maehl, WR, Oregon
Tampa Bay, Round 7, Pick 238: Doug Hogue, OLB, Syracuse

Pro Football Weekly (Yahoo Sports)
Tampa Bay, Round 1, Pick 20:  Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue

Great Blue North Draft Report
Tampa Bay, Round 1, Pick 20: Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
Tampa Bay, Round 2, Pick 51: Danny Watkins, OG, Baylor
Tampa Bay, Round 3, Pick 84: Chimdi Chekwa, CB, Ohio State

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Is Linebacker On the Want List?

In the flurry of the 2010 regular season while Tampa Bay Buccaneer fans were starting to believe in the playoff run (around Week 9, remember?), there was a move attempted by the Buccaneers which failed.  It's  time to take a closer look at that transaction because it may determine what Tampa Bay is looking for in the 2011 NFL Draft.

Back in early November, the Buccaneers attempted a waiver claim of Shawn Merriman but lost out to the Buffalo Bills.  This is a big reveal of the thinking in the Buccaneer's front office.  Merriman would be an outside linebacker in the Buccaneers Tampa-2 system, where Quincy Black plays currently.

Clearly, the Buccaneers were looking for an upgrade at the outside linebacker position -- a player who can not only drop back in coverage, but also rush the quarterback when necessary.  The top prospect at the outside linebacker position is Von Miller (6'3", 246lbs, Texas A&M University) and he is a consensus Top 5 pick this Thursday.  However, the next two could be on the board when Tampa Bay picks at #20.

Akeem Ayers (6'3", 254lbs, UCLA) is a physical player with good gap discipline.  However, he may be more suited to a 4-linebacker defense. Ayers currently has an overall rating of #30 by NFLDraftScout.com.

The more intriguing pick could be Justin Houston (6'3", 270lbs, University of Georgia).  Houston played outside linebacker in the Bulldog's 3-linebacker defense, making him a good fit for the Buccaneers.  With big size and a big motor he resembles what Tampa Bay may have gotten had they landed Merriman (6'4", 265lbs).  Houston currently has an overall rating of #40 by NFLDraftScout.com.  Walterfootball.com currently has Houston being one of the players the Buccaneers may be targeting at #20 in the first round.

Targeting Houston may also provide the Buccaneers the opportunity to trade down 3-6 spots as he may not be coveted by the Chiefs, Colts, or Eagles who have other pressing needs, but the Saints have the 24th pick and Houston may fill a defensive end need for them because of his size.

If this is the position the Buccaneers are looking to fill there should be good opportunities in the first round.    If the draft goes a different direction, by the time the Buccaneers pick in the second round (#51 overall), as few as four outside linebackers could be off the board, allowing an opportunity for a value pick.

Again, the Buccaneers can stay put in round one this year and still get good value with their pick.  It's another indicator the rebuilding process is over in Tampa Bay.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Big Choices For Offensive Line

With less than a week to go until the 2011 NFL Draft, we've looked at the possibility of the Buccaneers picking a running back, cornerback, and even considered if Tampa Bay would look favorably on an out-of-favor top flight talent at defensive end.

There is another position which may play heavily into Tampa Bay's first round pick of 2011.  There should be a good group of offensive linemen still on the board when the commissioner puts the Buccaneers on the clock.  And, given recent trends on the offensive line, there are two prospects which might be a perfect fit.

Gabe Carimi (6'7", 314lbs, University of Wisconsin) is considered by some to be the best natural left tackle in the draft, with 49 starts over his college career at the position.  Carimi has also played at guard, but some scouts consider him an NFL right tackle prospect.  In short, the man can play where he is needed.  If you consider he has played against three of the 2011 first round defensive ends (Kerrigan/Purdue, Clayborn/Iowa, Jordan/California) and the Badger's team total of 3,402 yards rushing in 2010, Carimi has solid pedigree and appears to be well prepared for the next level.

Nate Solder (6'8", 319lbs, University of Colorado) was a finalist for the Outland Trophy after playing every down in 2010 and giving up just one sack.  Most likely a right tackle, the man has an 81-inch reach which means it takes a long (, long) time for a defensive player to get around him.  He showed tremendous athleticism at the combine but did not wow with his strength.  He comes from a pro-style, balance offense.

Another offensive lineman who may be there when the Buccaneers make the 20th pick of 2011 is Mike Pouncy, an offensive guard (6'5", 303lbs, University of Forida).  Pouncy is the top rated interior offensive lineman in the 2011 draft, which made him my first round pick in my first Buccaneer Mock Draft.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will have to pick one of an excellent set of pro prospects if they lay back and let the draft board play out next Thursday night.  They may even get a chance to add another giant up front.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Will Top Defensive End Fall To Buccaneers?

What does it feel like to be Da'Quan Bowers these days?  It has to be long, restless days and fitful, sleepless nights.

Bowers (6'3", 280lbs) was the de facto top rated defensive end coming out of his junior year at Clemson University where he recorded 15.5 sacks last season.  He declared early and headed for the 2011 NFL Draft as both the Bronko Nagurski and Ted Hendrick award winner.

The former ESPN.com #1 rated high school player has strong pedigree, following Ricky Sapp (Philadelphia, 5th round, 2010) and Gaines Adams (Tampa Bay, 1st round, 2007) through Clemson.  Bowers considered Adams a mentor, and has cited losing both Adams and his father (seizure) within 12 months of each other as inspiration for his stand out season last year.

As recently as January, Bowers was considered a potential #1 pick in the upcoming draft.  However, things have not gone smoothly for the underclassman as he has prepared for the NFL.  Shortly after the college football season, Bowers had meniscus (knee) surgury.  He was insufficiently healed by the NFL combine to participate in any running tests (he did participate in strength tests).  At his Pro day (on-campus workout), he still did not appear to be fully recovered from the surgury, recording a 40-yard dash time in the low 4.9s as well as other results not up to his standards.  After all this, he is starting to fall down draft boards.

Can he fall all the way to Tampa Bay?  Rob Rang, who scouts for CBSSports.com currently (4/18/2011) has the Buccaneers selecting Bowers with the #20 pick.  The latest mock draft from WalterFootball.com actually has Bowers falling past the Buccaneers to the New Orleans Saints.  So it is possible that Bowers is in play for Tampa Bay.

Would the Buccaneers take him?  This is where General Manager Mark Dominik shines.  Dominik took Josh Freeman in 2009 and Mike Williams in 2010, both generally considered "risky" picks due to various reasons.  Both picks have paid off handsomely, showing Head Scout Dennis Hickey and his staff dig deep enough to give Dominik the right information on which to make his decisions.

If Bowers is the pick, then the Buccaneers will have to be patient as he recovers -- and they can be after the strong showing by the young squad last season.  If Bowers is there, and the Buccaneers make him their pick, they could be getting a Top 5 talent late in the first round.

Maybe this pick can turn out golden as well.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

First Mock 7 Round Buccaneer Draft

Using the CBSSports.com prospects rankings (by NFLDraftScout.com), I took a shot at what a seven round draft may look like.  The assumption made is prior picks will result in all players ranked above the Tampa Bay overall pick number are no longer on the board.  That is, for Pick #20, assume all players rated 1 to 19 are already picked.  This draft is based on the player rankings as of April 17th, 2011.

Round 1 (Overall #20)
Based on the assumptions, the Buccaneers would arrive here with six defensive ends already off the board. Adrian Clayborn, the Buccaneers darling across most mock drafts, is still on the board.  But there are others worth looking at -- Mike Pouncey (6'5", 303lbs, University of Florida), the #1 offensive guard in the draft, is still available.  As is Gabe Carimi (6'7", 214lbs, University of Wisconsin), the #1 left (not overall) offensive tackle the the 2011 NFL draft.  As previously discussed, Jimmy Smith (cornerback) and Mike LeShoure (running back) are on the board with compelling reasons to select them.  Right tackle Nate Solder (6'8", 319lbs, University of Colorado) is also on the board.  And although quarterbacks Jack Locker (Washington) and Christian Ponder (Florida State) are available, it's probably the only position the Buccaneers would strictly avoid this early in the draft.
The Pick:  Mike Pouncy, OG, University of Florida
The Reason:  Best Player Available.  Also, if last year didn't show you how important offensive line depth is, you were just not paying attention.

Round 2 (Overall #51)
Only three more defensive ends have come off the board since the last pick so value there is improving, but still we're one and a half rounds in and nine defensive ends are gone.  Christian Ballard (6'4", 283lbs, University of Iowa) is the highest rated defensive end available.  There are several offensive linemen at the top of the board as far as value, but having taken one in the first round the Buccaneers would probably look elsewhere.  One compelling possibility is Davon House (6'1", 200lbs, New Mexico State University), a cornerback who matches the tall, lanky frame the Buccaneers have looked for recently.  Also, speedster DeMarco Murray (6'0", 213lbs, University of Oklahoma), who ran a sub-4.4 forty yard dash at the combine, is still on the board.  Interestingly enough, not one defensive safety would have been taken by this point -- and none of them rate high enough to make them of value with this pick, making safety by far the weakest position in the 2011 NFL Draft.
The Pick:  Christian Ballard, DE, University of Iowa
The Reason:  The value is there, plus Ballard brings good speed to the position and can play both inside and out on the defensive line.

Round 3 (Overall #84)
The value pick here swings to linebacker, with the top two being Chris Carter (6'1", 248lbs, Fresno State) at outside linebacker and Greg Jones (6'0", 242, Michigan State).  There is value at wide receiver, but, like quarterback, the Buccaneers added plenty of youth and talent there in the Class of 2009 and Class of 2010, so here it would be a pass.
The Pick:  Chris Carter, OLB, Fresno State
The Reason:  Great value, and Carter is bigger and faster than Jones based on combine results.

Round 4 (Overall #116)
Safety Robert Sands (6'4", 217lbs, West Virginia) is the #4 rated safety and an interesting consideration considering the flux Tampa Bay has experienced at the position the past two years.  Curtis Marsh (6'1", 197lbs, Utah State) fits the mold at corner.  But I think the Buccaneers will duplicate positional picks again in this draft.
The Pick:  Pierre Allen, DE, University of Nebraska
The Reason:  Allen, at 6'4" and 273lbs, plays on the left (opposite side from Ballard), giving the Buccaneers two young bookends.

Round 5 (Overall #151)
Looking back at the projected needs for the 2011 draft, it would be great to find a tight end or a defensive back as a value pick at this point in the draft.  GM Mark Dominik and crew have proven again and again they can get good value from later round picks.  Hopefully, this year brings more of the same. There is value at this position in the offensive backfield and wide receiver positions (both which the Buccaneers can calmly pass on).  One interesting possibility is Zach Hurd (6'7", 316lbs, University of Connecticut), who fits the mold but would overload the youth on the offensive line.
The Pick:  Deunta Williams, FS, University of North Carolina 
The Reason:  Williams (6'2", 205lbs) is as fast as players ranked higher, but physically smaller.  Also, Sean Jones can only be awesome for so much longer.

Round 6 (Overall #187)
At this point, we're looking for players who can make a difference on fourth down and find the field a year or so down the line.
The Pick:  Mike Mohamed, ILB, California
The Reason:  At 6'3" and 239lbs, Mohamed has good size and showed good speed (sub 4.6 at the combine), and linebackers can contribute on special teams.

Round 7 (Overall #222)
The Pick:  Markus White, DE, Florida State
The Reason:  White is 6'4" and 266lbs, both of which are reasonable for an NFL defensive end.

Round 7 (Overall #238)
The Pick:  Lee Smith, TE, Marshall
The Reason: Tampa Bay is very, very old at tight end and Smith (6'6", 266lbs) would get a couple years to develop.

I picked heavy on defense, particularly up front.  Nothing wrong with a draft like that! 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Value at #20: Cornerback

There are reasons why the Buccaneers do not have to take a defensive end in the first round of the 2011 draft, and there are reasons for the Buccaneers to consider selecting a running back.

And there is another interesting position to consider for the first round:  Cornerback.  Not just because they can, but because there is a player there which matches the profile of recent Tampa Bay defensive back signees.

In the 2011 draft, there are two cornerbacks who are generally considered to be Top 10 talents:  Patrick Peterson (6'0", 219lbs) from LSU and Prince Amukamara (6'0", 206lbs) from Nebraska.  The Buccaneers would have to trade up to get a shot at either of these players.  While recently there has been some rumblings about trade rumors with the 49ers, most likely the Buccaneers will not trade up and let the draft come to them.

The first two drafts by GM Mark Dominik have each included a defensive back prospect.  In the Class of 2009, cornerback EJ Biggers (6'0", 180lbs) was selected in the 7th round.  The Class of 2010 includes Myron Lewis (6'2", 203 lbs) , a 3rd round pick.  In addition, Tampa Bay added free agent safety Sean Jones (6'1", 220 lbs) formerly of the Philadelphia Eagles.  Finally, one of the practice squad players gathered up after the training camp last year who is now on the roster is Vince Anderson (6'2", 205lbs) who was plucked from the New York Giants.  In fact, there are two more 6-foot-plus defensive backs on the current 2011 offseason roster in Dominique Harris (6'2", 213lbs) and DJ Johnson (6'1", 191lbs).  Clearly the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are looking for long and lean defensive backs since the 2009 front office and coaching staff changes.

Which brings us back to the 2011 draft.  The player regarded by some ranking services as the 3rd best cornerback in this years draft is Jimmy Smith (6'2", 211lbs) from the University of Colorado.  Smith appears to fit the mold of the tall, lean defensive back the Buccaneers have been hoarding for the past couple seasons.  He is also a fifth year senior which could mean he is well seasoned for the NFL game. This would also put a high-caliber talent on the field across from Aqib Talib, giving the Buccaneers the physical edge presence making the Tampa-2 even more devastating for opposing quarterbacks.

The Buccaneers have done well the past two seasons getting a good balance of talent spread across the roster.  On draft day, they may find they have a chance to get another solid defensive back, and you can never have enough top-flight corners in the NFL.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Curveball at #20: Running Back

The upcoming draft is well known to be deep at defensive end.  Those who only give Tampa Bay's Draft "needs" an occasional glance may rubber stamp a defensive end pick at #20 in the first round of this year's 2011 NFL draft.  We already know the difference between a fantasy evaluation and a reality evaluation of the Buccaneer's need at defensive end.

What those "glancers" are overlooking is, by some accounts, possibly seven defensive ends could already be gone by the time the Buccaneers make their first selection.

This means the Buccaneers have a chance to be a "surprise" pick this year.  And there is good reason for that surprise to be a running back.

It's not much of a stretch, either.  Cadillac Williams and Earnest Graham have more gas in the tank but are getting up there in terms of mileage.  Legarrette Blount ran for more yards than any other rookie in 2010, but he was signed to a practice squad contract, meaning Blount will probably be on the free agent market this offseason once the players and owners kiss and make up.  Other youth at the position includes the intriguing Kareem Huggins (sidelined by a knee injury last season) and Kregg Lumpkin, another one of General Manager Mark Dominik's practice squad steals committed in 2010.  The last of the six running backs listed on the Buccaneers current roster is Rendrick Taylor, who is possibly a fullback.

Most draft boards have either one or zero running backs getting drafted in the first round in 2011.  The top of the list of available running backs is Mark Ingram from the University of Alabama.  Ingram was the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner.  An early-entry college junior, Ingram has nonetheless scored more rushing touchdowns than anyone in the history of Alabama football.  He is listed at 5'9", 215 pounds.   If Ingram falls to the twentieth pick, which I think is very unlikely, the Buccaneers would have a very serious value pick staring them in the face.

The other interesting possibility for Tampa Bay should Ingram be gone is Mikel Leshoure out of the University of Illinois and also an early-entry Junior.  Leshoure is bigger than Ingram at 6'0" and 227 pounds.  His 40-yard dash time at the NFL combine was also better than Ingrams.  Generally, he is considered a second round pick, projected to go anywhere from around 35 to 55.  If the Buccaneers are interested in one of the two best running backs this year, they will probably not be able to wait until the second round, which makes Leshoure an interesting consideration if Ingram is off the board.

The strong work by the Buccaneers' front office and scouts have put them in a strong position to get a high quality player in the first round without having to position hunt.  Running back might be just the right spot.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Combine 2011: The GM Speaks

With the 2011 Combine in the books, it's time to look for relevant information we can use to figure out who is on the radar at One Buccaneer Place and why.

A great start is listening to Tampa Bay GM Mark Dominik from NFL Network on 2/26/2011:

Significant quotes:
  • @1m 10s:  "It is a good offensive line year . . . It's talented in offensive line, specifically at the tackle spot"
  • @2m 30s: "We're going to let the draft come to us . . . I like where we're at . . . it's been an active spot for trades . . . a good spot to possibly pull a deal if you want to."
  • @5m 17s: "When you look at the Packers now and where they're at in terms of age but what they just accomplished this year, certainly, again, it gives you another blueprint to say we're going in the right direction in our beliefs"
  • @7m 41s : "Mike Williams led all rookies in receiving yardage and catches; LeGarrette Blount led all rookies in rushing, and Josh Freeman is younger than both of them.  He's just touching what he can become . . ."
  • @ 8m 5s : "We're going to use the draft and stay true to our board; and make sure we take the best player that can help us.  And it may not be the position that everybody thinks we're supposed to take first, but it will be the best one we think can help our football team."
The video is 9 minutes long and well worth a watch.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Why Tampa Bay Will Not Trade Up

One draft publication I really watch is Great Blue North Draft Report (GBN).  They do have a Packer's slant, but they also have a lot of good information.

However, right now, their 2011 draft projection looks to be off by quite a bit to me.  They are currently speculating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will trade their first and second round draft choices to move up in the first round from the 20th to the 12th position. With this pick, they are thinking the Buccaneers will take a defensive end.

Now I enjoy draft speculation just like any other fan this time year.  But this seems to me to be way, way out on a limb.  I don't see any reason for the Buccaneers to make such a desperate move and, according to GBN, Tampa Bay would still only get the 4th best defensive end in the draft class at the 12th position.  It does not sound like a value move to me.

Buccaneers General Manager Mark Dominik has demonstrated he and his staff make the most out of everything they are given on draft day. There is no reason at this point in the rebuilding process to give two draft picks for one single player, particularly a player who is not at least in the top five overall.

It's another symptom of the general feeling that the Buccaneers will do anything for a defensive end in the 2011 draft. Not only are there plenty of reasons not to pick a defensive end (or any specific position), this draft is not as talented as recent drafts. Teams at the top of the order will be fortunate enough to get an impact player from a small group; the rest will get typical second round talent. Those up high in the order this year are not going to give up their position easily, if at all.

Dominik has spent the past two years refurbishing a roster which needed young talent and playmakers. If you go down the roster today there is no glaring need for a specific position. It's a situation that should be the envy of other general managers across the NFL. Dominik has put himself in position to select the best available player on board with each pick in 2011, and he should. No trades are needed to make this draft a solid crop.

Consider this: in 2009, Tampa Bay picked at nearly the same position. Their first two picks were Josh Freeman (1st round) and Roy Miller (3rd round, Tampa Bay did not have a 2nd round pick). Is there another player in that draft worth those two players?  Picks 10-14 that year were Micheal Crabtree (49ers), Aaron Maybin (Bills), Knowshon Moreno (Broncos), Brian Orakpo (Redskins), and Malcolm Jenkins (Saints).  No way any one of them could possibly have meant as much as Freeman and Miller have meant to the Buccaneers.

So don't look for fireworks from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the first round of the 2011 draft. We just aren't that desperate anymore.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Barber Outlasts Classmates

With the signing of Ronde Barber, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Class of 1997 appears to have reached "Sole Survivor" status.  And what a class it has been.

Of the ten players selected in 1997, eight went on to have solid NFL careers of five or more seasons:
  • 3rd Rounder Ronde Barber - 14 Seasons (all with Tampa Bay)
  • 6th Rounder Al Harris - 13 Seasons (7 with Green Bay, 5 with Philadelphia, 1 with Miami)
  • 1st Rounder Warrick Dunn - 12 Seasons (6 with Tampa Bay, 6 with Atlanta)
  • 4th Rounder Alshermond Singleton - 10 Seasons (6 with Tampa Bay, 4 with Dallas)
  • 2nd Rounder Jerry Wunsch - 9 Seasons (5 with Tampa Bay, 4 with Seattle)
  • 3rd Rounder Frank Middleton - 8 Seasons (4 with Tampa Bay, 4 with Oakland)
  • 5th Rounder Patrick Hape - 8 Seasons (4 with Tampa Bay, 4 with Denver)
  • 1st Rounder Reidel Anthony - 5 Seasons (all with Tampa Bay)

Nigea Carter and Anthony DeGrate, also drafted by Tampa Bay in 1997, failed to make the team.

Is there a more impressive group of draft picks?  Currently, only the 1987 Draft Class is the only draft class in the history of Buccaneer football which has played more games in a Tampa Bay Buccaneer uniform.  Yet only Barber and Singleton won SuperBowl rings with the Buccaneers.

Al Harris, one of the all time "one that got away" stories in Buccaneer Draft history, may have just completed his carrer this past season.  After being cut by the Green Bay Packers, Harris landed with Miami last season.  However, as of today, he is not shown on the Dolphins offseason roster.  Imagine the decade the Harris and Barber tandem would have posted if Harris had remained a Buccaneer.

With the impending retirement of Harris, Ronde Barber has now established yet another milestone in his carrer.  As the Last Man Playing for one of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers all-time draft classes, Barber continues to highlight one of the most amazing careers in Tampa Bay history.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Tampa Bay Continues Tight Grip On Draft Choices

Back on Halloween we did a mid-season assessment on how many Tampa Bay draft choices were still on the roster.  These counts consider both the active roster and players on injured reserve.  The breakdown was as follows:

(as of 10/31/2010):
  1. 8 - 2010 Draft Class
  2. 5 - 2009 Draft Class
  3. 4 - 2007 Draft Class
  4. 4 - 2008 Draft Class
  5. 3 - 2006 Draft Class
  6. 2 - 2005 Draft Class
  7. 1 - 1997 Draft Class
Now, with the completion of the 2010 season, we can check the direction of the various draft classes by checking the closing day roster:
  1. 8 - 2010 Draft Class
  2. 5 - 2009 Draft Class
  3. 4 - 2008 Draft Class
  4. 3 - 2007 Draft Class
  5. 3 - 2006 Draft Class
  6. 2 - 2005 Draft Class
  7. 1 - 1997 Draft Class
The only difference is a player lost from the Class of 2007.  That player is Sabby Piscitelli.

Piscitelli started most of 2009 then was shuffled out of the starting lineup when the Buccaneers signed Sean Jones during the 2010 offseason.  Jones ended up on the opening day starting lineup with Tanard Jackson as the starting safeties.  When Jackson was suspended by the NFL, 2010 Draft Class member Cody Grimm stepped in and became a solid performer.  It was reported that Piscitelli did not like losing his starting job nor did he like not getting the spot when it became available.

This shows a character flaw which Coach Morris (and GM Dominik as well) have been railing against for two years -- there is no entitlement on this team.  All playing time is earned, and the players which put the team in the best possible position to win will play on Sundays.

Later in 2010 against the Baltimore Ravens (11/28 to be exact), starting Safety Cody Grimm went down with a season ending injury.  Piscitelli was inserted and the next play TE Todd Heap streaked down the left hashmarks (Piscitelli's side) for a long catch-and-run touchdown.  Clearly a blown coverage.

Tampa Bay released Piscitelli on 11/30/2010.  If his play against Baltimore was any indication, he was probably on track to, again, not start the following weekend.  Either he became a locker room problem or the Buccaneers decided his skills had plateaued in their system and he was released.  Piscitelli was picked up by the Cleveland Browns on 12/2/2010 and played in 4 of their final five games, recording three tackles and an assist.

With 26 of their own picks (half that number coming from the Class of 2009 and the Class of 2010) on the roster, the Buccaneers have formed a solid core around which to build.  Look for this number to steadily climb into the 40s over the next several seasons.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Final 2010 Roster: 63% Drafted

Here are (in alphabetical order) the players Tampa Bay has drafted and retained on their roster through the 2010 season:

Ronde Barber (1997)
Arrelious Benn (2010)
E.J. Biggers (2009)
Quincy Black (2007)
Josh Freema (2009)
Cody Grimm (2010)
Geno Hayes (2008)
Adam Hayward (2007)
Tanard Jackson (2007)
Josh Johnson (2008)
Davin Joseph (2006)
Myron Lewis (2010)
Erik Lorig (2010)
Gerald McCoy (2010)
Roy Miller (2009)
Kyle Moore (2009)
Brian Price (2010)
Barrett Ruud (2005)
Maurice Stovall (2006)
Sammie Stroughter (2009)
Aqib Talib (2008)
Jeremy Trueblood (2006)
Dekoda Watson (2010)
Cadillac Williams (2005)
Mike Williams (2010)
Jeremy Zuttah (2008)

These 26 men represent 63% of the 67 players on the Buccaneers final roster of 2010.

The ageless Ronde Barber continues to be the old man of the group from the Class of 1997, but every class since 2005 still has two or more players on the team.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

2011 Projected Draft Needs

With the end of the season drawing near it's time to slowly start ramping up the offseason.  While all eyes are focused on the labor issue, as well it should be, Tampa Bay will still be working on molding the youngest team in the NFL into a perennial playoff team.

Just after the 2010 draft last spring I posted projections on what the Buccaneers might be looking for heading into the 2011 draft.  It's as good a place to start with the 2011 offseason as any, so let's get it started.

To project the needs for the 2011 draft we'll take a look at the young core offensive and young core defensive positional rosters.


A lot of young talent has found it's way onto the offensive line during the season this year due to injuries to long term starters like G Davin Joseph, T Jeremy Trueblood, and C Jeff Faine.  This influx of youth offsets the transition out of the young core by T Donald Penn (along with Joseph and Trueblood).  This may remove the impending need for offensive linemen as noted last Spring.  The question, however, is if these young players are of the caliber needed to compete year in and year out in the NFL, or were they players who filled in admirably but do not have the raw skills and talents the coaching staff is looking for.  The offensive line will be a long-running theme throughout the offseason.

Another possible need could be Tight End.  With 2010 draftee Eric Lorig moving to fullback (or will he?), there are two young Tight Ends on the roster:  Ryan Purvis and Nathan Overbay, both promoted from the practice squad during the 2010 season in that order.  Are either or both of these young men the long term replacments for Kellen Winslow and John Gilmore?  We'll find out this offseason.

The offensive backfield and wide receiver groups appear to be in great shape with youth, talent, and production.  It was clear over a year ago the quarterback position was solid for the next couple years (and isn't it nice not wondering what free agent QB may show up next season?).  These are all positions which just need to stay together and grow with experience.


The 2010 draft was defense-heavy, and many of those players saw the field and were contributing in 2010.  Last season, a lot of talent was brought in on the waiver wire at the defensive end and defensive back positions.  And while two of the defensive ends cracked the starting lineup at various times this season (Michael Bennett and Tim Crowder both were 2009 waiver wire pickups), most of the defensive backs did not.  However, the 2010 draft supplemented the defensive backfield very nicely.  Both end and safety seem to be stable.

A superior cornerback is hard to find in the NFL. There are only a handful of elite corners in any given draft. Equally valuable is elite speed at defensive end.  
Top-flight talent at these positions are rare, and so are worth the first round pick (even a Top 5 pick) if the right player is available regardless of team needs.  Corner and Defensive End are always on the mind in round one.

And what to do with Tanard Jackson, a young man with some personal issues and less and less time on the field?

That leaves linebacker, and while there are plenty of bodies there, the current organization has not brought in many players to compete at the linebacker positions.  Are they happy with what they have?  Were they just more concerned with "up front" to this point?  The defense did have six second-half shutouts this past season and there is youth and production in this group, so it may not be a necessity this year.  But can you wait until Quincy Black, Adam Hayward, and Geno Hayes complete their careers together?  The biggest hint for linebacker being a possibility for the 2011 draft may be the fact the Buccaneers made a waiver wire play for Shawn Merriman during the 2010 season.

There are plenty of spots in Tampa Bay for fresh, young talent to mesh with the current roster.  The key will be trying to figure out what pieces will be available (and when) for the Buccaneers in the 2011 NFL Draft.