The Tampa Bay Buccaneers may wind up deciding between upgrading on offense or defense in the coming 2012 NFL Draft. Fans and analysts alike all seem to be split on what happens should both Alabama running back Trent Richardson and LSU corner Morris Claiborne be available with the Buccaneers 5th pick.
If you tuned into 1010am CBS Tampa Radio show “What the Buc?” hosted by “Old School” and the “Bucs Babe” on Sunday, you no doubt heard the polarizing opinions of both players. Though it may have cost this writer his “man card”, the analogy was made comparing the Bucs first draft pick battle to that of the Twilight movie’s team Edward vs. team Jacob marketing campaign. There, now it’s in print to forever haunt. Bottom line, both players will be great additions to the team but more important is the domino effect each has on the rest of the Buccaneers draft strategy.
To break it down, here are both possible outcomes as a result of selecting either Richardson or Claiborne. Morris Claiborne will serve as draft “C” and Trent Richardson will serve as draft “R“.
(C) Tampa Bay Buccaneers Round 1, pick #5:
Morris Claiborne (LSU, CB):
By now, the credentials of Claiborne have been stated well. Outside of his 11 interceptions in two seasons at LSU, his ability in the kick return game brings another dimension which the Bucs could benefit from. He would be reunited with his college coach Ron Cooper, making the transition to the NFL seamless. Claiborne also would lock up a position for at least the next four seasons. The Bucs corner back roster not only has questions this year, but could find themselves in an even bigger hole should Ronde Barber retire and Aqib Talib find himself in jail. By selecting Claiborne, the Bucs ensure the future of the secondary is secure. He has been compared and believed by some to be a better player than former LSU and current Arizona Cardinals standout Patrick Peterson.
(R) Tampa Bay Buccaneers Round 1, pick #5:
Trent Richardson (Alabama, RB):
Richardson is considered to have all the tools needed to be a 3 down starting running back day one in the NFL. Richardson possesses a combination of speed, toughness, agility and hands not commonly seen from college running backs. The Heisman trophy finalist set plenty of Alabama records and only added to his mystique after an impressive pro day. After a miserable 4-12 season which saw all Buccaneers play well below potential, Legarrette Blount has been questioned on if he can be an every down back long term. Despite finally being surrounded by a staff which will help him reach his potential, many are not willing to take the risk and pass on Richardson. At worst, Richardson serves as a change of pace/ 3rd down back. At best, Richardson becomes the best Bucs running back since Mike Alstott.
(Based on Claiborne at #5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers Round 2, pick #36
This is where things change drastically depending on which direction the Bucs go. At this point in the draft, there are solid linebackers and defensive backs whom could contribute immediately. The drop off at each position in the third round is significant. If the Bucs select Claiborne with their first selection, their selection at linebacker is one chalk full of talent. Such prospects include Lavonte David (OLB, Nebraska), Ronnell Lewis (OLB, Oklahoma) and Zach Brown (OLB, North Carolina). However, an emerging name is….
Mychal Kendricks (Cal, LB):
Cal stud Mychal Kendricks, whom posted a blazing 4.47 40 yard dash at the combine, seemingly came out of nowhere. Kendricks was named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the year and also added top scores in the vertical and long jumps among linebackers in the draft. The Bucs were hoping to land a MLB in free agency, but have a better and cheaper option in Kendricks. The knock on Kendricks is his 6′ size, but once you consider all the other options only have an inch or two on him, it negates the argument. Especially given how his performance stacks up against the competition. Though Kendricks is not a MLB, scouts believe he can make the transition as a “blitzing” MLB without issue. The move would allow the Bucs to move Mason Foster back to his natural outside position, which is the icing on the cake and could be what pushes the Bucs to select him over Lavonte David or Zach Brown.
(Based on Richardson at #5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers Round 2, pick #36
By selecting running back Trent Richardson in this scenario, the Bucs are forced to choose between linebacker and corner back. Of the two, the more long term need is corner. Remember, the Bucs mantra has been to “build” through the draft and supplement in free agency. An argument can be made that the Bucs can get by with Quincy Black, Mason Foster and either Dekoda Watson or Adam Hayward. However, the looming disaster which is Aqib Talib, a one year contract for Ronde Barber and a platoon of less than stable successors means the Bucs have a greater need to build for the future in the secondary.
Jayron Hosley (Virginia Tech, CB):
If Alphonzo Dennard is still somehow available, look for the Bucs to seriously consider him here. Otherwise, Jayron Hosley is the best available corner on the board. Hosley clocked a 4.47 40 yards dash at the combine, and is considered to have an eye for the ball with excellent set of hands. He could also contribute in the punt return game, serving as the Hokies primary return man, averaging 11 yards per return. Like Dennard, he is tough for his 5’10” frame but more importantly, he is a smart player who does not make mistakes which allow the deep ball. Of coincidence is the fact Hosley could be considered very similar to Ronde Barber’s style of play.
(Based on Claiborne at #5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers Round 3, pick #68
After selecting Claiborne and Kendricks, the Bucs focus would naturally lead to the running back position. In the third round, there are three options to select as a compliment to Legarrette Blount. Though LaMichael James (Oregon) is the sexier name, coach Greg Schiano may persuade management to select a player he is familiar with.
Isaiah Pead (Cincinnati, RB):
Pead torched the Schiano led Rutgers squad in 2010 with 4 rushing scores and one receiving. Pead racked up 249 total yards in the contest, en route to the second most points Rutgers had given up to a team in 9 years. Another reason to consider Pead over James is the fact he ran a 4.47 40 time at the combine, only .02 seconds slower. However, Pead has 2 inches and 15 pounds on the smaller James, and has shown a willingness to throw his body around in pass protection. In addition to running back, Pead also lined up in the slot at times for Cincinnati, a result of his pass catching skills.
(Based on Richardson at #5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers Round 3, pick #68
If the Bucs go Richardson and Hosley, the choice is narrowed between selecting yet another running back in the span of three rounds, or addressing the linebacker position. Depending on Earnest Graham’s recovery and the development of Mossis Madu, running back could be a valid possibility. However, the more important need is linebacker.
Sean Spence (Miami, OLB):
“Special Assistant” Butch Davis will no doubt play a role in this selection. Davis was among those in attendance at Miami’s pro day last month and has strong ties with the program after serving as their head coach for a time. In Spence, the Bucs can select an all ACC player and Butkus Award semi-finalist. Spence was 5th in the ACC with 106 tackles and racked up 47 of those for a loss, 2nd among active NCAA players. The only issue here is Spence’s size, considered smaller than his listed 6’0 frame. However, he has good instincts and closing speed on ball carriers.
There is wild card whom the Bucs could consider over-reaching for with this pick. Safety Brandon Taylor from LSU. Like Spence, Taylor will have connections with the coaching staff in Tampa. Ron Cooper coached Taylor in college and more importantly, used Taylor in a similar fashion he is likely to be used in should he come to the Bucs. If coach Schiano does employ a ” 4-3 Dallas” type scheme where the SS if very active in the box, Taylor makes a perfect fit. Given there is no 4th round pick for the Bucs and Spence is a bit undersized, reaching for a safety of Taylor’s caliber is far from unreasonable.
Coach Schiano has proven with his hiring process he wants guys he’s comfortable with and can trust. If his staff vouches for certain players, there is little doubt the above mentioned players will be selected. Especially when coming from mentor Butch Davis.
(Based on Claiborne at #5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers Round 5, pick #140
At this point, the Bucs have selected Claiborne, Kendricks and Pead. Now that each position has been shored up by qualified starters, the team must address the Safety position.
Janzen Jackson (Tennessee/McNeese State, S):
Jackson was at a major college program in the Vols before reportedly being let go for alleged substance abuse issues. Though it is an all too familiar resemblance to Tanard Jackson, the Bucs stuck by Jackson and could commit to the new Jackson should he prove to be over his issues. Before leaving the Vols, Jackson had 5 interceptions, 69 tackles, and 4 for a loss in 2010. In 3 games for McNeese State, Jackson totaled 3 interceptions, leaving plenty of questions as to the lack of starts.
Should the Bucs consider avoiding the headaches, Wisconsin safety Aaron Henry becomes the top candidate. The connection to Bob Bostad and his clean record make him the smarter, but less talented pick.
(Based on Richardson at #5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers Round 5, pick #140
As the above scenario, the Bucs have selected a RB, LB, and CB in Richardson, Hosley, and Spence. The problem arrives on if they will truly believe Spence is a long term option with his drawbacks. Unlike the scenario if Claiborne is selected first, the picks are not as secure. If they do believe Spence is the answer, all picks from here out will match with the Claiborne picks. However, some solid linebacker prospects remain if that is not the case.
Terrell Manning (LB, NC State):
Manning played all three spots at times for NC State, and at 6’3″ holds physical advantage over Spence. Much like Mason Foster, he is very active and aggressive as a tackler. He is projected as a MLB in a 4-3 system, so if coaches can properly develop his talent, it would allow Foster to move to the outside, while allowing Spence time to develop and add to depth at the position.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Round 6, pick #174:
This is where only management knows what they’re looking for. The biggest need at this point becomes a body to add to the offensive tackle unit and possibly a defensive tackle to assist in case the often injured Brian Price and Gerald McCoy go down once again this year. This is where need is a need and best available becomes the focus.
Levy Adcock (OT, Oklahoma State):
With the release of Jeff Faine, the Bucs lost offensive guard depth in Jeremy Zuttah. Demar Dotson was signed to assist as a reserve at tackle, but the roster gets very slim after that. Adcock is considered to lack the frame to overpower defenders which leads to doubts for his ability in the run game. Since the run game will be a focus for the Bucs this year, Adcock is not a perfect fit. However, his work ethic and foot work do show a foundation to build upon. Scouts will see Adcock as a player whom can reach full potential should he be able to use his 6’6″ -322 pound frame properly. Jeremy Trueblood is listed at 6’8″-320 pounds, so it isn’t too much of a stretch to believe Adcock can adjust at the pro level with some time to develop.
Chigbo Anunoby (DT, Morehouse College):
As stated, given the constant issues with Gerald McCoy and Brian Price, the Bucs would be wise to hedge their bets by selecting a player with upside. At 6’5″-324lbs. Anunoby has a bigger frame than both McCoy and Price. Obviously, playing at small Morehouse College shows he will have a learning curve, but scouts will be drooling over his potential. With Butch Davis, Greg Schiano and Bryan Cox as his mentors, Anunoby could prove to be the latest unknown to have a stellar career once he is ready.