With the 2012 NFL Draft only days away and the Buccaneers free agency spree slowed, a better picture of where the team stands has formed. Here is an in depth look at how things may play out.
ROUND 1 Pick #5
MORRIS CLAIBORNE, CB LSU
(5’11″, 188 lbs./ 4.47-40 yd. dash)
Where the Bucs will go with their first pick has been a polarizing debate for weeks. It all boils down to team Richardson vs. team Claiborne. While either player is going to improve this team, the decision will most likely be made for the Bucs. Cleveland is either going to trade out of the four spot or stand pat and select Richardson. As I’ve repeated numerous times, they are not going to select Claiborne. They already have the 2nd ranked secondary in the NFL and don’t need any more talent at the one position they are strong. That leaves Richardson or Blackmon as the two top candidates. Though Blackmon is a potential pick, Richardson fits their biggest need and can make an immediate impact. Unlike Blackmon, Richardson’s success won’t be contingent upon Colt McCoy. That leaves Claiborne as the perfect fit for the Bucs, reuniting with his former coach Ron Cooper. Possibly most important is that by selecting Claiborne, Ronde Barber moving to safety becomes a reality. It takes the uncertain future of Aqib Talib out of the equation, and ensures that Barber can focus on his new job. With Alfonzo Dennard getting arrested for allegedly assaulting an officer this week and the rumors of Janoris Jenkins character issues, the gap between Claiborne and the rest is wider than the Grand Canyon. Unless Mike Holmgren has lost his marbles and passes on Richardson, Claiborne should be the best available.
ROUND 2, Pick #36
LAMAR MILLER, RB MIAMI
(5’11″, 212 lbs./ 4.38-40 yard dash)
Previously, I had the Bucs moving on the best linebacker available. After some re-evaluation, the Bucs are even worse off at the running back position in terms of depth than they are at linebacker. By selecting a running back here, the Bucs ensure they have a back-up plan should Legarrette Blount fail to perform and if he should fall to injury. They also add to their backfield a change of pace guy with the potential to carry the load. While there are critics on his ability as a 3rd down back, the Bucs goal is “Power Run” and not dynamics. There are better rated backs in Doug Martin and David Wilson, but each saw their stock jump due to good combine performances, especially receiving. Martin may not even make it out of the first round. Lamar Miller was still faster than both backs and at 5-11, has the bigger frame. In terms of a power run game which is not looking to use their backs as receivers, Miller fits the bill. We know the Bucs have said to expect a scheme somewhat similar to Mike Sullivan’s time with the New York Giants. Between Jacobs and Bradshaw, they totaled only 49 receptions. The only time the Giants employed a heavy pass game to their backs, it was because they were losing. The belief the Bucs are looking for a pass catcher out of the backfield could be over stated. Being a former Miami alumni won’t hurt Lamar Miller either. Butch Davis was one of a handful of coaches at Miami’s pro day and will have the inside scoop on Miller. If he believes Miller is the pick, Schiano will buy in and both will push Dominik to select him.
Why not OLB or ILB? After the Bucs first 3 day mini camp, we saw Mason Foster move to OLB, Quincy Black at MLB and Adam Hayward at ILB. Hayward is a savvy veteran who we really have not seen enough of to gauge his full potential. Though the likes of Mychal Kendricks, Lavonte David and Zach Brown are sexier, in the “4-3 Dallas” type of defense I believe the Bucs will run, linebacker really is the unit least prized. The emphasis falls on the front four, corners and safety.
ROUND 3, Pick 68
TANK CARDER, ILB TCU
(6’2″, 236 lbs./ 4.56-40 yard dash)
Carder worked out at both middle and outside linebacker for scouts at his pro day. Carder is widely believed to be a solid fit at MLB if he adds to his frame. He has excellent fundamentals and could thrive in the right situation. The move would also allow Foster and Black to play their natural positions. Carder was the Mountain West conference defensive player of the year the last two seasons. He is considered among the most underrated linebackers in the draft and could provide great value in the third round. At worst, Carder serves as a reserve with big upside. At best, he lives up to his third round billing or surpasses it. The third round has bigger drops at the corner and running back positions, which is why the shift in focus on drafting them early. After stellar pro day and combine showings, Carder is on par with many of the linebackers the Bucs would have considered in the second round.
ROUND 5, Pick #140
AARON HENRY, FS WISCONSIN
(6’0″, 205 lbs./ 4.50-40 yard dash)
Even with Barber potentially at SS, there are plenty of long term questions at both safety positions. Barber is no guarantee to be around in 2013. Cody Grimm and Corey Lynch have each shown flashes of promise, but injury and lack of consistency give cause for concern. The Bucs recent signing of Rutgers alumni Ron Girault could be a long term answer at strong safety, but the free safety position needs attention as well. Aaron Henry is still pretty raw, but he does have a combination of ball hawking skills and run stopping prowess.
ROUND 6, Pick #174
JOSH OGLESBY, OT WISCONSIN
(6’7″, 338 lbs.)
There is a reason the Bucs brought Bob Bostad to Tampa. He was possibly the best offensive line coach when it came to the power running game. In Oglesby, he has not only a player he knows well, but a beast of a kid. At 6’7″ and 338 lbs. Oglesby is at the top in terms of stature. Like Aaron Henry, he would have time to work behind Trueblood and earn his stripes. You can’t teach size and with one of the best coaches at the position, Oglesby has the unique advantage of working with the same coach since 2009. That would make the transition time much quicker and productive than the typical player drafted this late.
ROUND 7, Pick #212
JACQUIES SMITH, DE MISSOURI
(6’3″, 253 lbs./ 4.75-40 yard dash)
Smith was expected to be a possible mid round selection in 2012, but injury and a reportedly bad combine had him drop off the radar. The Bucs need some warm bodies behind the big three defensive ends. He is a bit undersized, but displays some speed and agility. Smith will be a project, but one with potential.