Yardbarker Horiz

2012 NFL Draft Countdown

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.

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