Yardbarker Horiz

2012 NFL Draft Countdown

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.

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