Draft Grades: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

This was a potential franchise changing draft for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They made the wise decision to move back in the 1st round, which allowed them to acquire the picks necessary to move back up in the late 1st and come away with a huge haul on day one of the draft.

The Bucs passed up the opportunity to land Morris Claiborne, but still upgraded their secondary with the addition of Mark Barron. The Bucs should still be worried about their cornerbacks, but Barron will be a fun weapon for defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan to use. He’s a versatile player who can be effective when lining up all over the field.

Doug Martin was arguably the most underrated player in this draft class and the Bucs got an absolute steal in the late 1st round. He’s the next star undersized running back, following in the footsteps of Ray Rice and Maurice Jones-Drew.

I wasn’t as high on Lavonte David as most, but he’s a perfect fit in Tampa. They’re one of the few teams that doesn’t mind using smaller, more athletic linebackers and David fits the mold perfectly. He’ll start at weak-side linebacker from day one.

Najee Goode will add some depth, and can play strong-side or inside linebacker, but he real value may be on special teams.

Keith Tandy adds some depth at cornerback, but I’m a little surprised they waited this long to address the position. They’re putting a lot of faith in Ronde Barber and Aqib Talib, and that’s a risky decision.

Michael Smith could prove to be a steal in the 7th round. I wouldn’t be surprised if Smith takes over the backup job from LeGarrette Blount before the season is over.

Drake Dunsmore can play tight end or fullback. He’ll have to battle for a job in training camp with a number of players at both positions.

The Bucs didn’t get much help on the third day of the draft and failed to upgrade their situation at cornerback, but that’s the only think holding them back from an A+. This was a phenomenal haul for a franchise that was in need of a boost. Considering the fact that the Falcons and Saints did very little to help themselves this offseason, the Bucs closed the gap in the NFC South in a big way.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Buccaneers, Draft Grades - 2012 Comments Off

Draft Winners: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers draft was a little top heavy due to trades, but they came away with three players who will start from day one and immediately turn them into legitimate playoff contenders.

SJSU v. Boise State

Martin will be among the game's most dangerous backs even as a rookie.

Mark Barron, Doug Martin and Lavonte David are each among the most NFL-ready prospects at their positions. And the addition of these three new starters, along with an impressive free agent class, has given the Bucs roster a much-needed makeover.

While Mark Barron will immediate become a leader on defense, the real difference maker from this class is Doug Martin. He has the skills to be a game-changing running back from the minute he sets foot on an NFL field, and will give Josh Freeman the support he needs in the running game.

This new-look Bucs team should be in the mix in the NFC South in 2012.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Buccaneers Comments Off

Tampa Bay Buccaneers select Doug Martin, Grade A+

I typically don’t like to see rebuilding teams trade up, but this was a great move by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Doug Martin is one of the most underrated prospects in this draft class, and I fully expect him to be a difference maker from the day he sets foot on the field. Martin is no Trent Richardson, but he’s still one of the most well-rounded running backs to enter the draft in recent years.

With Martin and LeGarrette Blount in the same backfield, the Bucs will be able to wear teams down the with their running game. The Bucs have now completely overhauled their offense, and should be legitimate contenders in the NFC South this year.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Buccaneers Comments Off

Pittsburgh Steelers select David DeCastro, Grade A

This is why the Pittsburgh Steelers are consistently among the elite teams in the NFL. They’re patient on draft day, and never out-think themselves. They probably didn’t expect to come away with David DeCastro in this draft, but he was simply too good to pass up here. It’s a great value pick and also fills a glaring hole on the offensive line.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Buccaneers 1 Comment

Tampa Bay Buccaneers select Mark Barron, Grade A

I love everything about this for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Yes, Morris Claiborne is a better prospect than Mark Barron. And yes, cornerback is a more glaring need. However, strong safety is a significant issue as well (he’ll replace Larry Asante) and they picked up extra picks in the process.

This is a slight reach for Barron, which is why I give it an A rather than A+, but if they traded down much further he may not have gotten past the Bills at No. 10. Barron will start from day one, and immediately be one of the few impact players on the Bucs defense.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Buccaneers Comments Off

Draft Needs: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Matt Peterson tracks the offseason needs of every team in the league. Today’s franchise, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers [full archive here].

Season Recap: The Bucs were expected to be a very competitive team in 2011, but failed to meet expectations. Head Coach Raheem Morris was fired after a 4-12 finish, and former Rutgers coach Greg Schiano was brought in to take over the underachieving team. Tampa Bay spent big in free agency bringing in Carl Nicks and Vincent Jackson. The “offseason winner” doesn’t translate to wins, but the Bucs will be improved and should finish with more victories in 2012.

Team Needs:
1. Linebacker: Mason Foster played well during his rookie year and has one of the positions locked down. Questions remain at the outside positions. Luke Kuechly is one of the best defensive players in this draft and could be a surprise selection for the Buccaneers at pick #5.

2. Safety: Talented, but often troubled, free safety Tanard Jackson was released this offseason, leaving Cody Grimm and Larry Asante as the starting safeties. Preferably, both are better served as backups. There isn’t much depth after safety Mark Barron, who will be drafted early in the first round. George Iloka and Brandon Taylor are possible picks in round two and three.

3. Cornerback: The Buccaneers have some talent at cornerback but with many questions. Aquib Talib has been rumored to be on the trade block and Ronder Barber is 37 years old. If the Bucs decide to move Talib, they will need another cornerback. Morris Claiborne, the best defensive player in this years draft, will likely be available at pick #5 and would be a great addition to the Buccaneers secondary.

Posted on by Matt Peterson in Buccaneers, Draft Needs - 2012 Comments Off

How Buccaneers free agent moves affect draft plans

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been one of the most active teams in free agency thus far. But will any of these moves affect their draft strategy?

With the 5th pick the Bucs are likely to target one of the top two players expected to be on the board, Morris Claiborne or Trent Richardson.

Obviously their recent moves won’t affect anything if Richardson is their choice. LeGarrette Blount is still on the roster, but there’s nothing wrong with having two starting-caliber running backs and Richardson is the type of talent that is tough to pass up.

If the Bucs had been entertaining the idea of drafting Claiborne, however, the addition of Eric Wright may lead them in another direction.

By no means should Wright be viewed as an elite cornerback, or even on the same level as Claiborne as an incoming rookie. However, the Bucs gave Wright a substantial five-year contract with $15M guaranteed, indicating that their front office thinks more highly of him than the rest of the league (and definitely more than the fan bases in Cleveland and Detroit).

I certainly wouldn’t endorse passing on Claiborne due to the acquisition of Wright, but it shouldn’t come as a shock if the Bucs now view their cornerback situation as settled – especially if they can talk Ronde Barber into sticking around for another year.

[polldaddy poll=6044463]


Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Buccaneers 5 Comments

Buccaneers Offseason Priority: fix the secondary

The Tampa Buccaneers have holes everywhere you look, but one glaring need stands above the rest.

Based on ProFootballFocus.com’s grading system, 11 of the 12 Buccaneers defensive backs to see the field in 2011 performed below average, the lone exception being former 1st-round pick Aqib Talib. But Talib has his own issues off the field, and who knows how long the new coaching staff will put up with his antics. Additionally, the two veterans of the group – Ronde Barber and Sean Jones – are set to become free agents.

If possible, the Bucs should wipe the slate clean and bring in a brand new batch of defensive backs. Realistically, they should aim to bring in at least one veteran free agent and add some prospects in the draft.

The best case scenario on draft day would be for Morris Claiborne to fall to them at No. 5. He would immediately give the Bucs a true No. 1 cornerback, allowing them to gradually fill in the holes around him.

If Claiborne is gone, things get more complicated. While there should be a number of quality prospects available at the beginning of Round 2, none would have a dramatic immediate impact. The Bucs would be left to chose one of two paths: select a guy with the upside to develop into a shutdown corner (Stephon Gilmore for example) or add a more polished product who can contribute immediately, but may have less long-term upside (such as Chase Minnifield).

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Buccaneers Comments Off

2011 Draft Grades: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

I’m not exactly sure how to evaluate the Bucs draft. Individually, I like all of their picks. Collectively, however, it is a very risky draft class. While this class could push them into the game’s elite within the next two to three years, it could also prove to be a blown opportunity.

Adrian Clayborn has shown obvious 1st-round talent at various points in his career, and his skill set is a great fit in Tampa, but I still have concerns about the selection. For one, it’s unknown how Erb’s Palsy will impact his career. It hasn’t limited him significantly to this point in his career, but could it prevent him from reaching his full potential? Additionally, his disappointing senior year is a red flag for me. As an elite lineman playing on a deep defensive line there was no excuse for his disappearing act in some games.

I really don’t know what to make of the selection of Da’Quan Bowers. Ignoring the injuries, he was No. 2 on my draft board. However, 31 teams passed on him – including the Bucs – meaning there is obviously something seriously wrong with his knee. I want to applaud them for taking a risk, but coupled with the selection of Clayborn I’m not sure it was worth it. Do you really want each of your top two picks to enter the league with injury concerns? Like I said, it could pay off and propel the Bucs to elite status – or it could be a wasted draft.

I like the selection of Mason Foster in the 3rd round. He has the ability to play all three linebacker positions in the Bucs defense and could compete for the starting job on the inside.

Luke Stocker is an interesting prospect. I’m not as high on him as most, but he was worth a 4th round pick. He definitely has the measurables to be an impact player, but his lack of production at Tennessee is concerning – it’s not like he was buried behind a long list of playmakers during his years in Knoxville.

You can’t ignore Ahmad Black‘s production at Florida, but he may simply be too small and too slow for the NFL. He’ll have a chance to earn a backup job, but I wouldn’t expect much out him in the long run.

Allen Bradford is more of a fullback and I’m not sure he’s a great fit for the Bucs. They needed to add a smaller back to compliment LeGarrette Blount, not add another 240 pound bruiser.

Anthony Gaitor is vastly undersized, but he has the athleticism to develop into a quality nickel corner. I’m surprised the Bucs waited this long to add depth at corner, but he had good value here and could compete for playing time.

Daniel Hardy was a productive pass-catching tight end at Idaho. He’s a developmental prospect who may end up on the practice squad.

Five years from now this class is going to either get an A or an F, because there isn’t much middle ground with Bowers and Clayborn. Both are boom-or-bust prospects who come with a ton of upside but are also huge risks. Due to the upside, I can’t give them a poor grade. But I also can’t give them an A because they didn’t land anyone that projects as a can’t-miss starter.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Buccaneers, Draft Grades - 2011 Comments Off

Draft Needs: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Matt Peterson tracks the offseason needs of every team in the league. Today’s franchise, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers [full archive here].

Season Recap – The Buccaneers surprised many this season, as the league’s youngest team finished the season 10-6. Quarterback Josh Freeman took major strides in his second season and finished with a 96 quarterback rating. GM Mark Dominik has done a great job of bringing in the right personnel, especially last years draft where 10 rookies became starters. This young team will be a year older and is expected to be a top competitor in 2011.

1. Defensive End
– Dominik did a good job of fixing the defensive tackle need with Gerald McCoy and Brian Price, but now he must fix the outside. The Bucs ranked 30th in the league in sacks with only 26. Getting pressure on the QB is very important as seen through Super Bowl participants Green Bay and Pittsburgh who finished first and second in sacks, respectively. The Bucs could use two new starters on the outside. There should be a capable D-End available for the Bucs in the first round. Ryan Kerrigan or Adrian Clayborn would be nice additions. Read more

Posted on by Matt Peterson in Buccaneers, Draft Needs - 2011 2 Comments