Do the Buccaneers need an offensive tackle in the 2010 NFL Draft? If so, which offensive tackle should the Bucs target in April? Former Bucs tackle and PewterReport.com contributing writer Jerry Wunsch shares insight in this column.
Former Bucs offensive tackle Jerry Wunsch is a regular and exclusive print contributor to PewterReport.com. Wunsch will share expert insight and opinions regarding the Bucs and the NFL based on his observations and previous playing experiences.
The former Wisconsin standout spent his first five seasons (1997-2001) as a pro with the Buccaneers before finishing his nine-year NFL career with the Seattle Seahawks (2002-05). The former second-round pick started 51 of the 113 games he played in during his NFL tenure.
Although he finished his career in Seattle, Wunsch still lives in the Tampa Bay area and is an active member of the community. He owns three different businesses, including a credit card processing company called Enablest, and heads up WunschFamilyFoundation.org.
The overall depth looks solid in the 2010 NFL Draft. The flood of juniors that entered this year's draft has elevated the level of talent and will push guys that should be first-round picks down into the second round, and that will trickle down throughout the entire draft.
Everyone would probably agree that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers picked a good year to have a bad year because it resulted in the Bucs earning the third overall pick in a draft class that appears to be extremely rich in terms of talent at a number of positions. That includes the offensive tackle position, where as many as six players are projected to go in the first round in April.
While Oklahoma State T Russell Okung, Iowa T Bryan Bulaga and Maryland T Bruce Campbell are considered the top three tackles in the draft, the player I really like USC T Charles Brown.
Brown has a 6-foot-5, 303-pound frame, and he's got the frame to get bigger by about 10-15 pounds in the NFL. His ability to move is unbelievable based on what I've seen. He's a really good pulling tackle. Athletically, I compare him to Walter Jones. I can't quite tell from the film I've seen how strong he is, but he had 21 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press at the combine. He's very aggressive in run blocking and has the ability to drop his anchor in pass protection. He has the speed to play left tackle - you can tell he played tight end at some point. With 35-inch arms it would be difficult for defensive ends to get leverage on him. This guy can pretty much play anywhere along the offensive line, and he's easily a top 25 pick. He is the most athletic tackle of the group and probably has the most upside. Unless there are some issues I don't know about, Brown is a slam-dunk first-round pick. I could see him going as high as 14 to Seattle.
Okung (6-5, 310) is probably going to be the first offensive tackle taken in the draft, likely in the top 5 and possibly as early as the number two pick, which Detroit owns. He's a true left tackle and could be a team's left tackle from now until forever. He's a Paul Gruber-type or a Joe Thomas-type, meaning he will be a steady left tackle. He's not at the level Walter Jones was athletically, but he definitely can be a good, strong left tackle.
Bulaga (6-5, 314) is probably the offensive tackle I like most behind Brown. He's a really aggressive tackle. The only question I have about Bulaga is whether he's a true left tackle, or if he might project to right tackle at some point in the NFL. Worst case scenario, Bulaga could be a great starting right tackle for a long time, but he's worth taking a hard look at over at left tackle.
When you look at the rest of the group, guys kind of bunch together and are about equal in terms of overall talent, so whether a team goes with Maryland T Bruce Campbell (6-6, 314), Oklahoma T Trent Williams (6-5, 314)) or Rutgers T Anthony Davis (6-5, 323) will just depend on teams' personal preferences and needs.
The Bucs are coming off a 3-13 season, so they obviously have a lot of needs on both sides of the ball. Anytime you have the opportunity to land a long-term offensive tackle that can basically do anything, like Brown, it's hard to pass that up. If the Bucs feel the need to upgrade either one of their offensive tackle positions because of the contract statuses of Donald Penn and Jeremy Trueblood, they could be safe trading down to get a quality tackle while acquiring more picks, which is really needed.
This is a very talent-rich draft, so the more picks the Bucs can acquire the better chance they have of improving their team. This year's draft reminds me a lot of the 1997 NFL Draft, which is the one I entered the league in. The Bucs drafted running back Warrick Dunn, wide receiver Reidel Anthony, myself, guard Frank Middleton, cornerback Ronde Barber, linebacker Al Singleton, tight end Patrick Hape and cornerback Al Harris that year. Almost all of the picks in that draft class played at least five years in the league, including Harris, who was a sixth-round pick. There was a lot of talent in the '97 draft, but this year's draft appears to have even more talent.
There's a good chance Seattle is going to take an offensive tackle at some point because Walter Jones is probably going to retire, but the Bucs could trade down and remain ahead of them to land a player like Brown if they deem offensive tackle a top priority. Given the amount of talent at the tackle position, I wouldn't be in a hurry to take Okung with the third overall pick if I were the Bucs. The need for a defensive tackle there is much greater.
If the Bucs select a left tackle in the first round their relationship with Penn immediately changes because he obviously wouldn't be in Tampa Bay's long-term plans. If they don't take a left tackle they really ought to make a long-term commitment to Penn by signing him to an extension.
The second or later rounds also offer some talent at offensive tackle that would allow the Bucs to address the position after the first round if the team is stuck with the third overall pick. Miami T Jason Fox (6-7, 303) is a very good athlete and could play left tackle or right tackle. There are some medical issues there, but if Fox clears those hurdles he could be a good value pick later in the draft.
Where should offensive tackle rank in terms of Tampa Bay's needs in the 2010 NFL Draft? Put it this way; if the Bucs lose Penn for some reason, whether it's via trade, contract or injury, you better have a good left tackle ready to replace him because you've already put the franchise in the hands of your first-round quarterback in Josh Freeman. If the Bucs don't have a good left tackle there's a good chance the Bucs will lose Freeman to injury or poor play with pressure coming off the blind side. If you invest in an offensive tackle, one that can play left tackle, then that player and Freeman will grow and play together for a long time. By Jerry Wunsch as told to PewterReport.com editor-in-chief Jim Flynn.
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