The Tampa Bay Buccaneers‘ defense is one of those units that will fall off the end of the board on draft day. In 2012 the Buccaneers were a glorious first in the league at defending the run allowing only 1320 yards and 13 touchdowns through all 16 games. The passing defense, however, was a putrid last in the league allowing 4758 yards and 30 touchdowns through the air.
During the Raheem Morris era the Buccaneers stocked up on defensive linemen with high upside. It has taken a while for talents like Gerald McCoy and Da’Quan Bowers to get healthy and acclimated to the NFL game. There is every reason to believe that the front seven will continue to be the run stopping juggernaut they were last year.
The Buccaneers front office and Head Coach Greg Schiano went into the offseason knowing that they needed to address the defensive backfield. They attacked the problem with a vengeance. First they pursued and acquired former Pro Bowl and shutdown cornerback Darrelle Revis from the New York Jets. They followed up by drafting cornerback Johnathan Banks in the 2nd round of the NFL Draft.
By all reports, even if Revis doesn’t start on opening day, he should return to Revis Island by the middle of the season.
Not simply satisfied to upgrade their cornerbacks they also dipped into the free agent pool and acquired free safety Dashon Goldson. Not only does Goldson bring Pro Bowl talent, but he also frees up strong safety Mark Barron to spend more time in the box helping with blitz packages, run stopping and most importantly helping to cover the talented tight ends of the NFC South.
Last year the Buccaneers were 7th in the league in returning punts but dead last in the returning kicks. Neither aspect of the return game scored a touchdown in 2012. To address this problem they drafted Mike James in the sixth round and have emphasized the blocking during special teams practices.
Now I have to admit that even with all of these glowing improvements, I still want to see the Buccaneers defense play up to expectations before I’d consider starting them or drafting them as my top team defense. However, they are the definition of a sleeper defense, worth a late round flier. If they play up to their potential you could drop your first string defense and ride out the season cheering for the pewter and red.
Eric Beuning is a Fantasy Football writer for RantSports.com.