Tuesday, July 12, 2011

KD's NFL Draft Grades - Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The 'Young Bucs' were only a bad, late-season home loss to the Detroit Lions away from going 11-5 and taking the wild-card spot that belonged to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers. Leave it to Detroit to let the Packers win...
Anyways, the Buccaneers hit a homerun with QB Josh Freeman in 2009. Gerald McCoy and Brian Price helped stop the run and were nice picks in 2010. The Buccaneers also scooped up LeGarrette Blount off waivers after he was cut by Tennessee. GM Mark Dominik has steadily put together one of the youngest, most talented rosters in the entire league. With a boatload of cash to spend after the Glazer family cut costs to help stave off financial debt with their ownership stake in English Premier League powerhouse Manchester United, Tampa Bay has more money than any team in the NFL to spend on free agents. They also had an incredible draft haul, let's take a look.

1st round, 20th overall) Adrian Clayborn - DE - Iowa
The Buccaneers had trouble stopping the run and getting to the opposition's quarterback last year. Stylez G. White (formerly Greg White) led the team with just 4.5 sacks. When you play in a division with Drew Brees and Matt Ryan, that's not going to get it done. White and fellow ends Roy Miller and Tim Crowder didn't do enough against the run, as the Bucs allowed an average of 131.7 yards per game. Clayborn should help fill the void at the strongside end spot.

How he fits in: Clayborn was a dual-threat player at Iowa showing he was capable of stopping the run and getting after the QB. As a junior in 2009 he lit the Big 10 on fire making 20 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks. Clayborn dealth with some shoulder issues, mainly due to Erb's Palsy, which he was born with, that limited his play as a senior. He racked up 7 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. He's got experience playing the strongside, weakside, and even has kicked inside to defensive tackle in certain situations. At the very least, Clayborn should earn the starting strongside DE spot opposite White this year and will be a force against the run.

Outlook: Many people had the Bucs pegged to take a pass-rusher, it was just a question of whether it was going to be Clayborn, Cameron Jordan, or Da'Quan Bowers. In my opinion, they landed the best of the bunch with Clayborn. At 6'2" 281lbs, he's got good size, is fairly athletic, and can hold the point of attack. He's versatile enough that he can kick inside in passing situations to allow the Bucs to put in another DE, like Bowers or Crowder, and have 3 guys capable of getting to the passer surrounding Gerald McCoy. Great pick here as long as his shoulder's hold up.

2nd round, 51st overall) Da'Quan Bowers - DE - Clemson
The Bucs dipped into the DE well again here going purely with the best player available. Two years ago, Da'Quan Bowers was considered the best player in this entire draft class. Surgery on his left knee in February, rumored to be microfracture surgery - a deathnail for any athlete - hindered his abilities to perform at the Combine and he looked sluggish at his pro day workout, hence why his stock slipped so drastically, as doctors feared he'd be out of the league within 3 years. A physical specimen at 6'3" 280lbs, many 3-4 teams considered Bowers to play OLB prior to the injury; he's that athletic. After seeing part-time action behind some solid players entrenched above him at Clemson his first two years, Bowers led the nation in sacks with 15.5 and racked up 25 TFLs in 2010. Bowers is capable of playing either side, and will probably be a rotational player starting out, but he and Clayborn are the future bookends in Tampa.

3rd round, 84th overall) Mason Foster - LB - Washington
Barrett Ruud, a tackling machine for Tampa Bay is a free agent, and Geno Hayes, Quincy Black, and Dekoda Watson leave a litte something to be desired should Ruud leave. Mason Foster, an outside backer at Washington, is a very capable player and has experience in the middle and as a weakside guy. With the Bucs ample cap room, it wouldn't be a surprise if they brought back Ruud and started Foster next to him. Foster's got great size and speed for the Bucs scheme at 6'1" 245lbs and clocking a 4.75 forty. He's a tackling machine who can cover, and he's gotten got the QB a bit with 10.5 sacks over the past two seasons. He reminds me of a young, poor-mans Derrick Brooks in that he can do it all pretty well (not as well as Brooks though) but isn't overly phyiscal. He should be a day one starter, it's just a matter of whether he'll play inside our outside.

4th round, 104th overall) Luke Stocker - TE - Tennessee
Kellen Winslow's an outstanding tight end, but his physical style of play and injury history are always going to leave you concerned. After Winslow, there's not much depth to speak of. The reliable John Gilmore is nearing his last legs, and there's little else on the roster. Stocker can be a very nice number two TE and complement Winslow well. I'd draw the comparison of Stocker to being Anthony Fasano in Dallas when the Cowboys had Jason Witten. At 6'4" 258lbs, Stocker's a big guy who can block better than most prospects in this draft class. He's got decently soft hands and is a little more sneaky quick than you'd think. He's an experienced player having entered 52 contests for the Vols and had two nice seasons as a junior and senior despite some bad QB play in Knoxville. He's not going to stretch the seam by any means, but he's a guy who can do everything a TE needs to do well enough to get a decent amount of playing time.

5th round, 151st overall) Ahmad Black - S - Florida
Tampa Bay's got some talent in their secondary with Aqib Talib - legal issues aside - Ronde Barber, Tanard Jackson - off-field issues aside - and Sean Jones. Corey Lynch made some nice plays, but ended up on IR. With Jackson on a 50/50 chance of returning due to off-field problems, the Buccaneers took a chance on another best player available scenario in Ahmad Black. The Gator safety, who owns one of the most ridiculously thugged out Twitter accounts I've ever seen, is a solid player who lacks size and speed. Black's just 5'9" 184lbs and only ran a 4.76 forty, but if you watch his film, he's got game speed and covers decent ground. A three year starter and team captain, Black registered 7 INTs his first year as a starter and 13 throughout his career. He's got experience playing CB in Florida's system, and the Tampa 2 style might leave him better suited to be Ronde Barber's (or Aqib Talib's) replacement if Jones, Jackson, and Lynch all return at safety. Either way, the Bucs got another good player who fills a hole.

6th round, 187th overall) Allen Bradford - RB - USC
The Bucs found a true steal in LeGarrette Blount last year and made the most of him as he led all rookies in rushing. With Earnest Graham and Cadillac Williams reduced roles, the Bucs looked around for a new number two back. Bradford, once a workhorse starter for the Trojans, is almost a carbon copy of Blount. At 5'11" 242lbs, Bradford cuts like a dull blade, but he's got good speed for a big back, has nice hands, and decent blocking ability. To give you a fair comparision, he's equivalent to what Willis McGahee is for the Ravens; a big back that can come in and blow people up in short yardage and goaline situations and catch passes out of the backfield. With Blount's ability to shoulder a full load, adding Bradford to Cadillac Williams gives Tampa Bay a nice trio of backs who can do some different things and still wear out a defense.

7th round, 222nd overall) Anthony Gaitor - CB - Florida International
The Bucs still need some depth at CB and they might have added some more here. A typical Bucs-type CB, Gaitor is 5'9" 177lbs, but was a four year starter and brings plent of experience to the table. He's got pretty good straight line speed and racked up 11 career INTs. He's shown some decent return ability on those picks racking up 263 return yards. He might be able to stick as a 5th or 6th corner for Tampa Bay if he shows something on special teams. They do have a good number of young players there, so it might even take something more in preseason action, how much there is, for him to stick. At the very least, he could be a practice squad candidate and get rostered somewhere down the line.

7th round, 238th overall) Daniel Hardy - TE - Idaho
Again, back to having little depth behind Kellen Winslow, the Bucs added a versatile prospect to potentially add to the roster. Converted DE Erik Lorig did a decent job as a FB last year, but Tampa could really use a full-time solution after losing Chris Pressley to the Bengals last year. At 6'3" 249lbs, Hardy fits more of an H-Back/FB size profile and could very well find himself playing in that role. He was the second leading Vandals receiver last year despite missing 5 games with a broken arm hauling in 32 catches for 545 yards and a TD. He's not much of an in-line blocker, so moving to the backfield could be an option for him, though Tampa Bay might feel compelled to keep him as a 3rd TE.

Overall Grade: A+
In my opinion, this was one of the two best draft classes in the entire NFL this year. The Buccaneers got two major, albeit slightly risky, talents at their most glaring position of need with Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers. Adding Mason Foster to the LB corps is a huge coup, and one move that will reap benefits for Tampa Bay's defense more than people expect. They also filled some backup roles with talent players with Luck Stocker, Ahmad Black, and Allen Bradford, though Black could very well challenge for a starting spot depending on where he's played. Even their last two picks both have a chance to make the roster and contribute in some capacity as rookies. The only knock I might give Tampa Bay is that they didn't address the interior of the OL with G Davin Joseph slated for free agency. However, given the Bucs tremendous amount of salary cap room with which to maneuver, they very well could retain him, or even go after someone better like Harvey Dahl or Carl Nicks in free agency. They've certainly got money to throw at free agents like Nnamdi Asomugha if they so choose to, and at the end of the day, all they did with this draft class was get even better. And that's the point.

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