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2012 NFL Draft Countdown

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.

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