Yardbarker Horiz

2012 NFL Draft Countdown

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.

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