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March 29, 2012 @ 11:52 pm
Current Rating: 4.67 Stars/3 Votes

2012 Free Agency Review

SR's Fab 5 - 3-30

WRITTEN_BY Scott Reynolds Scott Reynolds
Scott Reynolds


FREE SR's FAB 5 - What is the case against the Bucs drafting Trent Richardson? Why is Tampa Bay considering him with the fifth overall pick? Which sleeper tight end has the Bucs excited heading into 2012? Get the answers and inside scoop in SR’s Fab 5.
This is a FREE edition of the SR's Fab 5 column that is normally reserved for Pewter Insider premium subscribers. If you like this column and wish to become a Pewter Insider, you may do so for TWO YEARS for just $10, which is half price. Pewter Insider subscribers receive over 200 premium stories per year, including 10 issues of Pewter Report's online digital magazine, which features at least a dozen new articles and columns in each issue.

The normal price for a one-year subscription is $10, but you can subscribe online by clicking here and using the promo code MADNESS to take advantage of our Free Agency MADNESS special and get TWO years for the price of one for only $10. Hurry, this special offer expires on March 31, 2012. You can also call 1-800-881-BUCS(2827) and use your credit card to place your order over the phone.

Pewter Report’s Scott Reynolds dishes out his insight and inside scoop from One Buccaneer Place each month in SR’s Fab 5.

FAB 1. Alabama’s Trent Richardson is regarded as the most complete running back available in the NFL Draft since Adrian Peterson came out in 2007. Peterson was the seventh overall pick that year and immediately became an impact player in the NFL. He was named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year after setting the NFL record for most rushing yards in a game with 296. Peterson has become a four-time Pro Bowler and All-Pro with the exception of last season when he tore his ACL and MCL against Washington and finished just shy of rushing for 1,000 yards.

According to most scouts, Richardson may be the closest thing to Peterson or LaDainian Tomlinson or Jamal Lewis, a pair of stellar running backs selected with the fifth overall pick in 2001 and 2000, respectively. Tampa Bay’s new head coach, Greg Schiano, wants to run the heck out of the football, so spending the fifth overall pick on Richardson makes a ton of sense, right?

Of course it does. The Bucs just spent $41.5 million on Carl Nicks and over $12 million on center Jeremy Zuttah to team to with Davin Joseph to give Tampa Bay two Pro Bowl guards and nearly 1,000 pounds of beef to run between the tackles with. It seems like the hard-nosed, tough-running Richardson would be a perfect fit in Tampa Bay’s new offense.

But I’m here to argue the case against using the fifth overall pick on a running back and the Bucs not drafting Richardson.

Historically, the running back position has been more miss than hit in the first round of the draft. Dating back to 2000, a total of 34 running backs have been drafted in the first round. Here is a chronological list of the first-round rushers (running backs in bold have rushed for more than two 1,000-yard seasons in their NFL careers):

2011 – 28th overall – Mark Ingram (New Orleans)
2010 – 30th overall – Jahvid Best (Detroit)
2010 – 12th overall – Ryan Mathews (San Diego)
2010 – 9th overall – C.J. Spiller (Buffalo)
2009 – 31st overall – Beanie Wells (Arizona)
2009 – 27th overall – Donald Brown (Indianapolis)
2009 – 12th overall – Knoshon Moreno (Denver)
2008 – 24th overall – Chris Jones (Tennessee)
2008 – 22nd overall – Felix Jones (Dallas)
2008 – 13th overall – Jonathan Stewart (Carolina)
2008 – 4th overall – Darren McFadden (Oakland)
2007 – 12th overall – Marshawn Lynch (Buffalo)
2007 – 7th overall – Adrian Peterson (Minnesota)
2006 – 30th overall – Joseph Addai (Indianapolis)
2006 – 27th overall – DeAngelo Williams (Carolina)

2006 – 21st overall – Laurence Maroney (New England)
2006 – 2nd overall – Reggie Bush (New Orleans)
2005 – 5th overall – Cadillac Williams (Tampa Bay)
2005 – 4th overall – Cedric Benson (Chicago)
2005 – 2nd overall – Ronnie Brown (Miami)
2004 – 30th overall – Kevin Jones (Detroit)
2004 – 26th overall – Chris Perry (Cincinnati)
2004 – 24th overall – Steven Jackson (St. Louis)
2003 – 27th overall – Larry Johnson (Kansas City)
2003 – 23rd overall – Willis McGahee (Buffalo)

2002 – 18th overall – T.J. Duckett (Atlanta)
2002 – 16th overall – William Green (Cleveland)
2001 – 27th overall – Michael Bennett (Minnesota)
2001 – 23rd overall – Deuce McAllister (New Orleans)
2001 – 5th overall – LaDainian Tomlinson (San Diego)
2000 – 31st overall – Trung Canidate (St. Louis)
2000 – 19th overall – Shaun Alexander (Seattle)
2000 – 11th overall – Ron Dayne (NY Giants)
2000 – 5th overall – Jamal Lewis (Baltimore)

Twelve of the 34 running backs – Dayne, Canidate, Green, Duckett, Perry, Maroney, Jones, Moreno, Brown, Spiller, Best and Ingram – either didn’t or have yet to rush for 1,000 yards in any year of their respective careers. That means over one-third of the running backs drafted haven’t yet lived up to their draft status or have to be considered busts.

Thirteen of the 34 rushers (38.2 percent) taken in the first round have rushed for 1,000 yards twice in their careers, but only nine out of 34 first-round runners have rushed for 1,000 yards or more in three seasons in their careers. That’s only 26.4 percent.

Of course that number could go up as a few running backs – Bush (1,086), Wells (1,047) and Mathews (1,091) – just barely topped 1,000 yards for the first time in their respective careers in 2011.

History shows that virtually all of the greatest running backs have been drafted in the first round, including Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton, Barry Sanders, Curtis Martin, Jerome Bettis, Eric Dickerson, Tony Dorsett, Jim Brown, Marshall Faulk and Tomlinson among others. Yet, the NFL has become more and more of a passing league with the emphasis on the quarterback than the running back. And that has negated the need for spending a first-round draft pick on a running back – unless he is a future Hall of Famer like Tomlinson or Peterson.

Take a look at the running backs in the 2012 Pro Bowl. On the AFC squad, Ray Rice was a second-rounder, Maurice Jones-Drew was a second-rounder and Arian Foster was an undrafted free agent. On the NFC squad, LeSean McCoy was a second-rounder, as was Matt Forte`. Frank Gore was a third-rounder.

In 2011, the running backs for the AFC were Jones-Drew, Foster and third-round pick Jamaal Charles. On the NFC squad, Michael Turner, a fifth-rounder, was the starter, while backups Peterson and Steven Jackson were the lone first-round representatives at the running back position.

Don’t get me wrong. Chris Johnson is a three-time Pro Bowler, and Peterson has become a fixture at the NFL’s all-star game. There have been plenty of first-round running backs that have played in the Pro Bowl. But there have also been plenty of non-first-rounders that have gone to Hawaii in February also.

Plenty of modern day NFL teams have had success with running backs not drafted in the first round. LeGarrette Blount went undrafted, yet went on to lead Tampa Bay in rushing in 2010 with 1,007 yards despite playing in just 13 games with only seven starts.

The Bucs were bad offensively and defensively last year, and Blount was only able to rush for 781 yards in 14 games because Tampa Bay trailed early in most games and was forced to pass the ball in an effort to catch up.

A quick look at Tampa Bay’s team needs heading into the 2012 campaign suggest that the Bucs will likely spend their first three draft picks on a cornerback, linebacker and a running back – and perhaps in that order.

Let’s take a look at the same two most recent Pro Bowl rosters and examine the linebacker and cornerback positions as we did the running back spot. In the 2011 all-star game, three out of the five linebackers for the AFC – Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs and Jerod Mayo were first-rounders – and four out of the five linebackers for the NFC – Patrick Willis, Brian Urlacher, DeMarcus Ware and Clay Matthews – were first-rounders.

In last year’s Pro Bowl, all five of the AFC’s linebackers – Lewis, Suggs, Von Miller, Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali – were first-round picks. The same first-round linebackers – Willis, Ware, Matthews and Urlacher – represented four of the five linebacker spots for the NFC. The lone exception the past two years for the NFC has been Lance Briggs, a former third-rounder.

The cornerback position is nearly the same way. The AFC’s roster last year was stocked with three first-round cornerbacks in Darrelle Revis, Champ Bailey and Johnathan Joseph. The starting corners for the NFC in 2012 were a pair of first-round picks in Charles Woodson and Carlos Rodgers, with a second-rounder, Charles Tillman, as the reserve.

In 2011, the AFC once again fielded an all-first-round cornerback group of Revis, Nnamdi Asomugha and Devin McCourty. The NFC cornerbacks were Woodson, former first-rounder DeAngelo Hall and fourth-rounder Asante Samuel.

Despite a dip in his statistics last year, Blount still averaged 4.2 yards per carry and has a career average of 4.6 yards per rush. Tampa Bay tendered the exclusive rights free agent an offer and in 2013 he will only be a restricted free agent. The team already has a 6-foot, 247-pound bruiser for Schiano to run the ball and hammer opponents with.

The Bucs still believe Blount can be a perennial 1,000-yard rusher and have fortified an already good offensive line with the insertion of Nicks at left guard and replacing undersized Jeff Faine with Zuttah at center. But by drafting Richardson with the fifth overall pick, Tampa Bay would essentially be proclaiming him to be the team’s feature back of the present and the future and all but stripping Blount of potentially having that role.

What Tampa Bay does with the fifth overall pick in the 2012 draft will go a long way in demonstrating how much or potentially how little faith the team has in Blount during the long term. Keep in mind that there is only one ball on offense and history shows that quarterback Josh Freeman will be passing it half the time.

With defensive players growing bigger and faster these days, the NFL has become a two-back league due to the pounding that rushers take over a 16-game schedule. Blount definitely needs a complementary back to help carry the load. But is the fifth overall pick worth it for a player that will share carries with Blount and maybe have 200 touches if Richardson lives up to his draft billing as a rookie?

Conversely, Tampa Bay’s defense played over 1,000 snaps last year, and the need for a linebacker, a position that went unaided in free agency, or a cornerback are areas of greater concern. Starting cornerback Ronde Barber played 996 snaps in 2011. Should the Buccaneers draft LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne, who had 11 career interceptions over the past two seasons, with the fifth overall pick, the rookie will likely play at least 400 snaps as a nickel back if he stays healthy and learns the defense.

On defense, teams like the Saints and Falcons, whom the Bucs play twice a year as division foes, will throw three wide receivers out there with pass-catching tight ends Jimmy Graham and Tony Gonzalez, respectively, and currently the Bucs only have three capable defenders to cover them in Aqib Talib, Ronde Barber and Eric Wright without tying up free safety Tanard Jackson in man coverage. Even with Talib, Barber and Wright on the roster, drafting a player like Claiborne makes more sense than selecting Richardson, especially given the fact that Talib is in a contract year and Barber, who turns 37 in April, is only expected to play one more season.

Should the Bucs trade down for Boston College middle linebacker Luke Kuechly or even stick and pick him at number five, he would probably play at least 800 snaps as a rookie should he become the starter, which would likely be four times as many snaps as Richardson might see. The Bucs desperately need a talent upgrade at linebacker where second-year player Mason Foster has yet to prove that he is a more than capable starter at middle linebacker, and strongside linebacker Quincy Black has yet to prove that he is worth anything close to $5 million per season.

The Bucs currently don’t have a starting weakside linebacker as Geno Hayes, a three-year starter, was allowed to walk in free agency after a sub-par performance in a contract year in 2011. If the Bucs drafted Kuechly, who won the Butkus Award, the Lott IMPACT Trophy, the Bronko Nagurski Award and the Lombardi Award in 2011 and amassed 532 tackles in college, Foster could slide over to Will linebacker, which was his natural position in college.

The Bucs only have one starting-caliber defensive back in Wright under contract in 2013 and need to spend a premium pick on a cornerback. Starters are needed for now and next year at cornerback and linebacker, Meanwhile, Blount will almost assuredly be back as a restricted free agent next year, so the Bucs will have a starting running back.

Drafting a running back in the modern era has not paid off statistically when it comes to producing 1,000-yard seasons and making the Pro Bowl. And the Bucs shouldn’t spend the fifth overall pick on Richardson – unless they think he is in the same caliber as that of Peterson and Tomlinson.

FAB 2. Despite the argument against drafting a running back fifth overall and the evidence to backup that argument, the Bucs are interested in Alabama’s Trent Richardson – and here’s why. Like most teams, Tampa Bay is operating under the belief that Richardson is the most complete back in the draft and the best running back to come out of college since Adrian Peterson was the seventh overall pick in 2007.

While he doesn’t have Peterson’s explosive burst and breakaway speed, Richardson is fast enough to pull away from most defenders and he has even better vision. With his 5-foot-11, 225-pound frame, the muscle-bound Richardson is just as good of a tackle breaker as Peterson.

In his three-year Alabama career, Richardson gained 3,130 yards rushing and 35 touchdowns on 540 carries. In the 2011 season, he had 283 carries for 1,679 yards and 21 touchdowns, which was fifth best in the nation. NFL scouts love his toughness, evidenced by the fact that out of 540 career carries he only had 113 negative yards rushing.

Richardson is a three-down back that can tote the rock on first and second down and stay in the game on third downs or obvious passing downs due to his pass protection skills, his hands and his ability to understand and execute pass route concepts. He caught 68 passes for 730 yards and seven touchdowns at Alabama, including 29 receptions for 338 yards and three TDs as a junior in 2011.

Because Richardson is more advanced in the passing game than Tampa Bay’s current starter, LeGarrette Blount, the team could be thinking that Richardson has a higher ceiling as an NFL running back. At the very least, Richardson could come in and contribute as a change-of-pace back on third downs and help out on special teams. Richardson returned 28 kickoffs for 720 yards and one touchdown for the Crimson Tide.

He also appears to have rebounded from offseason knee surgery as he ran a time between 4.45-4.5 in the 40-yard dash at his pro day on March 29. But Richardson’s detractors have noted that he wasn’t the feature back at Alabama until former Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram left after the 2010 season. Richardson split carries with Ingram for his first two seasons, rushing for 751 yards and eight touchdowns on 145 carries as a redshirt freshman and 700 yards rushing and six touchdowns on 112 carries as a sophomore. However, it should be noted that Ingram was no slouch, having won the Heisman Trophy during his junior season and was a first-round pick by New Orleans after his senior season.

“I think he’s a Top 10 talent,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said of Richardson a few weeks ago. “That doesn’t mean that I endorse taking him with a Top 10 pick. I have a problem with running backs, and the history of running backs in the last 6-7 years in this league, justifying a pick that high. The last Top 10 pick for a running back that has paid off in my opinion has been Adrian Peterson, who went No. 7 to the Vikings.”

But after watching more film of Richardson, Mayock has changed his tune this week.

“Boy, was I wrong,” Mayock said of the notion that Richardson might get out of the Top 10. “He’s going in the Top 10. Let’s face it, if the two quarterbacks [Andrew Luck  Robert Griffin III] go 1-2, and the Vikings are not in the market for a tailback at No. 3 because Adrian Peterson, this kid is going 4, 5 or 6. He’s the best tailback I’ve seen come out since the aforementioned Adrian Peterson. He brings toughness, he brings speed, and he brings pass protection.”

Mayock specifically mentioned how Richardson shouldn’t slip past Tampa Bay, which has the fifth overall pick.

“Trent Richardson might be the best position player in this draft,” Mayock said. “I watched 150 of his carries today. I watched every catch he made on tape today. … I watched every pass protection I could find in about a 10-game span, and he might be the best pass-protecting running back in this draft also. So when you talk about toughness and perhaps the best positional player in the entire draft, I think if he is available at No. 5, with that offensive line, they’ve got to pull the trigger.”

Mayock was referencing Tampa Bay’s revamped offensive line, which includes the addition of Pro Bowl left guard Carl Nicks and center Jeremy Zuttah lining up next to Pro Bowl right guard Davin Joseph and franchise left tackle Donald Penn. However, with the addition of the 353-pound Nicks shouldn’t the offensive line be able to make virtually any running back a productive rusher? That’s something Tampa Bay will have to consider as it contemplates using the fifth overall pick on Richardson.

FAB 3. So if the Buccaneers don’t select Alabama running back Trent Richardson in the 2012 NFL Draft, what other options does Tampa Bay have in April? Plenty. The Bucs are fortunate that there is such a deep class of running backs this year.

That is one of the other reasons Tampa Bay should think long and hard about passing on Richardson and exploring taking a premier cornerback like LSU’s Morris Claiborne. This draft is not deep at middle linebacker, which is why Boston College middle linebacker Luke Kuechly deserves consideration with Tampa Bay’s first-round pick.

The good news for the Buccaneers is that the depth at running back is three rounds deep, and they will have the fourth overall pick in the second round and the fifth overall pick in the third. The Bucs should have the chance to acquire a quality running back if they choose not to take Richardson.

ROUND 2 – Miami redshirt sophomore Lamar Miller

Miller was among the fastest players at the combine, running a blazing 4.40 in the 40-yard dash. In two seasons at Miami he rushed for 1,918 yards and 15 touchdowns, including 1,272 yards and nine scores in 2011. The 5-foot-11, 212-pound running back has rushed for 100 yards or more nine times and has six runs over 40 yards in his career. If given a crease, Miller is gone for a touchdown and rarely gets caught from behind. Should Miller be there at the top of the second round, Tampa Bay will strongly consider him with the 36th overall pick.

ROUND 2 – Virginia Tech junior David Wilson
After splitting carries for his first two years in college, Wilson burst onto the scene as a junior with 1,709 yards and nine touchdowns on 290 carries. He has rushed for 2,662 yards and 18 scores on 462 career carries. Wilson, who is 5-foot-10, 206 pounds, had 12 100-yard games at Virginia Tech with 10 of them coming during his junior season. Although he ran a 4.49 in the 40-yard dash, Wilson has just six runs of 40 yards or more in his Hokies career with only two carries going longer than 50 yards.

ROUND 3 – Oregon junior LaMichael James
Despite missing two games with a dislocated elbow, James led the nation in rushing last year with 1,805 yards and 18 touchdowns on 247 carries (7.3 avg.). Concerns about his 5-foot-9, 184-pound frame and an arrest in college could push him into the third round, but he finished his Oregon career with 5,082 yards and 53 touchdowns on a whopping 771 carries that proves he’s durable. James, who has 4.41-speed in the 40-yard dash, posted 26 games of rushing for 100 yards or more, including seven games in which he topped 200 yards rushing. He has 17 runs of 40 yards or more in his career, including 11 carries that went for 50 yards or longer. James is also an accomplished receiver, catching 51 passes for 586 yards and four touchdowns. He would be an ideal complement to Blount, his former Oregon teammate, in Tampa Bay.

ROUND 3 – Cincinnati senior Isaiah Pead
Pead rushed for 3,288 yards and 27 touchdowns on 545 carries. He showed that he was a complete back by hauling in 87 passes for 721 yards and six scores in his Cincinnati career. Pead, who has 4.45 speed in the 40-yard dash, had 10 games of 100 yards rushing or more and 10 runs of 40 yards or more in his collegiate career. At 5-foot-10, 197 pounds, Pead doesn’t have the size to be a feature back, but could make a great third down back or complementary back in a two-back set in the NFL.

ROUND 3 - San Diego State redshirt sophomore Ronnie Hillman
In just two seasons for the Aztecs, Hillman has rushed for 3,243 yards and 36 touchdowns, including 1,711 yards and 19 scores last year. He has 15 career 100-yard rushing games, including three contests in which he has topped the 200-yard rushing mark. Hillman was clocked at 4.45 in the 40-yard dash at the combine and has good hands, evidenced by 33 career catches for 338 yards and two touchdowns. He has eight runs of 40 yards or more, including a 99-yard touchdown last season and a 93-yard score as a redshirt freshman. The biggest concern about the 5-foot-9, 200-pound Hillman is the level of competition he faced playing in the Mountain West Conference and his lack of tackle-breaking ability.

ROUND 2 – Boise State senior Doug Martin

In four years at Boise State, Martin rushed for 3,431 yards and 43 touchdowns on 617 carries, in addition to catching 67 passes for 715 yards and four scores. Although he clocked a somewhat disappointing 4.55 time in the 40-yard dash at the combine, the super-productive Martin had 17 games with 100 yards or more and had eight runs of 40 yards or longer in his Broncos career. The chiseled 5-foot-9, 223-pound Martin plays faster than he times and has good tackle-breaking ability to complement his quickness.

ROUND 3 – Utah State junior Robert Turbin
After missing the 2010 season due to injury, Turbin rushed for 1,517 yards and 19 touchdowns last year to finish his Aggies career with 3,315 yards and 40 touchdowns on 565 carries. He had 11 carries of 40 yards or more in his three seasons at Utah State, including three runs of 80 yards or longer. The muscle-bound Turbin, who is nicknamed “The Hulk,” had 16 games of 100 yards or more, in addition to three more contests in which Turbin rushed for 90 yards or more. At 5-foot-10, 220 pounds, Turbin ran a pretty fast 4.50 time in the 40-yard dash at the combine, making him a speedy power back. Turbin’s pass catching ability, evidenced by 67 career catches for 845 yards and 11 touchdowns, increases his value and draft status.

ROUND 3 – Washington senior Chris Polk
Polk was a workhorse back in college, rushing for 4,049 yards and 26 touchdowns on a whopping 799 carries. He also added 683 yards and four touchdowns on 79 career catches. The 5-foot-11, 215-pound Polk shaved some time off his 4.57 40-yard dash time at the combine by running a 4.49 at his pro day. He finished his Huskies career with 21 games with 100 yards or more, but only had six runs of 40 yards or longer. The biggest concern about Polk is the wear and tear he enters the NFL with after nearly 800 carries in college.

ROUND 3 – Temple junior Bernard Pierce
Pierce has missed six games in three-year career due to injuries and lacks breakaway speed. The 6-foot-1, 218-pounder is a banger that has rushed the 663 times for 3,570 yards and an amazing 53 touchdowns, including 27 last year. Pierce is an excellent goal line back and a real chain-mover that only has five runs of 40 yards or more in over 600 carries, and his longest run is 68 yards.

Pewter Report believes the best fits in Tampa Bay would be Miller, Martin, James, Pead, Turbin or Hillman.

The Bucs don’t have a fourth-round pick in 2012 due to trading it to Philadelphia for the chance to move up in the fourth round last year to acquire tight end Luke Stocker. If Tampa Bay trades down and picks up a fourth-rounder the Bucs could have the opportunity to land Texas A&M’s Cyrus Gray, Tennessee’s Tauren Poole or Florida speedster Chris Rainey.

As you can see, there are plenty of running backs in the second or third round that could complement Blount in Tampa Bay, or possibly unseat him as the team’s feature back if the team passes up on Richardson in the first round. Now it’s up to Tampa Bay to pick the right back in the right round if it passes on Richardson.

FAB 4. There has been a lot of fan discussion regarding Tampa Bay tight end Kellen Winslow this offseason, with many fans growing tired of his costly offensive pass interference penalties and recognizing that he appears to have lost a step. When reports surfaced that the Buccaneers had discussed trading Winslow this offseason most fans weren’t complaining.

But trading or releasing Winslow isn’t an option right now for the Bucs. One of the things that general manager Mark Dominik learned from his mentor, Jerry Angelo, was if you want to cut someone you better have a replacement in mind – or better yet on hand – before you pull the trigger.

Right now the cupboard at tight end isn’t bare with bodies as the Bucs have four other ones on the roster, but it is woefully lacking in experience. Tampa Bay added third-year pro Chase Coffman, a former third-round pick from the Cincinnati Bengals, in the offseason, and returns three players that had their rookie seasons in 2011 in Luke Stocker, Zack Pianalto and Colin Franklin.

While Franklin is basically a practice squad player, the team is still high on Stocker, who has two fourth-round draft picks invested in him, despite a less than stellar rookie season. The 6-foot-5, 253-pound Stocker battled hip and leg injuries and only caught 12 passes for 92 yards last year, including a season-long 24-yarder.

With what it has invested in him, the team is hoping that Stocker, who had a disappointing 7.7 yards per catch average, can emerge as the number two tight end this year and eventually become the starter in 2013 when the Bucs will likely part ways with Winslow.

But keep an eye on Pianalto, who has the front office excited about how he contributed late last year after being a post-training camp addition. Pianalto, who stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 250 pounds, was an accomplished receiving tight end at North Carolina where he played under Bucs defensive consultant Butch Davis when he was the head coach of the Tar Heels.

Pianalto had 30 receptions for 311 yards and one touchdown prior to breaking his right leg in North Carolina’s 44-10 victory over Virginia in the sixth game of his senior season. At that time, Pianalto was leading the nation in catches and yards at the tight end position.

While North Carolina had other weapons during his tenure at the school, such as wide receivers Hakeem Nicks, Brandon Tate, Greg Little, Brooks Foster and Dwight Jones, Pianalto was able to have several standout performances. As a junior, he had seven catches for 87 yards and a touchdown at UConn and five catches for 51 yards against Miami.

As a senior, Pianalto had eight catches for 74 yards against LSU, seven catches for 62 yards against Georgia Tech and seven catches for 95 yards against East Carolina. He had three catches for 54 yards and a touchdown against Virginia prior to his injury. That injury caused Pianalto to go undrafted last spring.

Pianalto holds the North Carolina record for the most career receptions by a tight end with 94 for 918 yards and three touchdowns.

Don’t be surprised if Pianalto, who finished his rookie season with four catches for 40 yards, really challenges Stocker for the backup tight end job and some real playing time on Sundays this fall.

FAB 5. Here a couple of tidbits to hold you over until the next month’s edition of SR’s Fab 5.

• Before free agency, the Buccaneers were interested in pairing Oakland running back Michael Bush with LeGarrette Blount in 2012 – until the scouts turned on the tape. Although Bush weighs 245 pounds and is only 27 years old, the film watched at One Buccaneer Place shows that he has lost a lot of power in his lower body and cannot break tackles like he used to.

Tampa Bay was intrigued with his receiving ability, but felt that the yards after contact ability that Blount offered wouldn’t allow Bush to beat him out as the primary ballcarrier. When Bush signed a four-year, $14 million contract with Chicago that featured $7 million in guaranteed money it not only upset starting Bears running back Matt Forte’, it also opened eyes and dropped jaws at One Buccaneer Place. The Bucs didn’t think Bush was nearly worth that much money.

• Tampa Bay believes Minnesota could take LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne over USC left tackle Matt Kalil because Claiborne is that good. The junior cornerback ran a 4.39 at his pro day and comes off a season in which he picked off six passes to bring his three-year interception total at LSU to 11.

The Bucs truly believe they cannot go wrong with the fifth overall pick this year. Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck and Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III will be the first two players chosen in the 2012 NFL Draft. There are three candidates the Bucs like out of four likely possibilities to be chosen with the third (Minnesota) and fourth (Cleveland) overall picks.

Of USC left tackle Matt Kalil, Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon, Alabama running back Trent Richardson and Claiborne, the Bucs would gladly take Kalil, Claiborne or Richardson. The acquisition of primary wide receiver Vincent Jackson makes drafting Blackmon overkill for Tampa Bay.

This isn’t like 2007 when the two players the Bucs wanted – wide receiver Calvin Johnson and left tackle Joe Thomas – went second and third overall to Detroit and Cleveland just ahead of Tampa Bay. The Bucs were left taking Gaines Adams as a result because defensive end was also a team need. Yet it should be noted that the Bucs passed up on drafting running back Adrian Peterson (seventh), linebacker Patrick Willis (11th) and cornerback Darrelle Revis (14th) that year.

Still, the Bucs will have at least one player they potentially covet available at number five, and possibly two if the Browns select Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill or another team trades up with Minnesota or Cleveland to draft him. And there is always the possibility the Bucs could trade down a few spots – potentially with Miami at number eight – to acquire more picks and draft Boston College middle linebacker Luke Kuechly. If Tampa Bay winds up trading down it doesn’t want to slip past No. 12 because Seattle is very interested in taking Kuechly.

• While general manager Mark Dominik has openly discussed the possibility of trading down (hint, he’s fishing for a trading partner to move up to the fifth overall pick and draft Texas A&M QB Ryan Tannehill) it should be noted that the phone has never rang before the Bucs were on the clock nor when Tampa Bay was on the clock in the past when the team has owned a pick inside the top five. The Bucs have held the fifth pick in 2005 (running back Cadillac Williams), the fourth pick in 2007 (defensive end Gaines Adams) and the third pick in 2010 (defensive tackle Gerald McCoy) and received zero inquiries from other teams interested in trading up.

Last modified on Monday, 02 April 2012 11:55

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Scott Reynolds

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  • avatar

    If we take Kalil, I assume Penn is open to moving to the right side?
  • avatar

    Penn will stay so I doubt the will draft Kalil
  • avatar

    Good article SR. The Trent Richardson debate will continue right up to the draft. He has the talent and paired with Blount, they could wear down defenses with a physical running game. The problem I see with the plan of having a run heavy team, you need to have a stout defense to keep the opponents out of the end zone. It would make more sense to me if the #5 pick was used on defense. The offense isn't far from being good, in fact there aren't many holes, aside from a RB to pair with Blount, an upgrade at RT and TE depth. The defense is way behind the offense from a talent perspective. Upgrades at LB are definately needed and even with the signing of Wright and the return of Ronde, the CB position is still a weak spot. If we fast forward to next year, we possibly have Wright at CB, that's it. Claiborne makes the most sense to me if he's there. There are plenty of running backs in this draft that can compliment Blount.
  • avatar

    I am pretty sure Deuce McAllister and LT both ran for 1000 yards in multiple years.
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    I get what we're saying here about the RB risk in the draft, but look at that list. Donald Brown was a risky pick. CJ Spiller had speed but questions about his ability to translate to the NFL. Beanie Wells and Jahvid Best have been oft injured. Knowshon Moreno...admittedly was a bust. He beasted in college. Mark Ingram plays in a pass happy offense with 3 other RB's to share the load. Ryan Matthews is a pretty darn good RB. Also, keep in mind that from around 2007 on, the NFL has quickly gone away from the ground game and evolved into a passing league. Any backs that are still getting 1,200-1,300+yds a season are rare. Schiano wants to pound the dang rock and the ONLY thing Richardson would have in common with any of those other backs is that he would be drafted in the 1st round. He's as complete as they come. I've been saying Claiborne is the smartest pick for us for the past few months but after watching his pro day I'm now leaning towards Trent Richardson as the best pick for our team. He and LeGarrette Blount will straight up grind defenses into the ground, leaving Josh Freeman and the rest of our offense open to torch teams with a vertical passing game. Everything that Schiano has said he's wanted to do on offense since he took the job. I can't see a situation, now, where we SHOULD pass on Richardson if he's there at #5.
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    Awesome info on the inquires for trading down. Never knew that was the case. - 3sk
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    My thing is runningback this high of a pick! Too risky to pass on someone like Moris Claiborne because what happened the last time we drafted runningback 5th overall.... Cadillac was supposed to be franchise running back and of right now is not wearing a bucaneers jersey... plus he got HURT! JUST LIKE ADRIAN PETERSON JUST DID!!! I understand its a rough position but i don't think it is worth passing on Morris Claiborne for this potentially re ocurring with the bucs drafting a runningback 5th overall! Morris Claiborne will for surely last a lot longer and be just as valuable when ronde retires next season and Talib most likely gets traded after next! If he even does play! Plus Legarrete Blount will improve I think and if we can nab LJ 3rd round thats just as dangerous of a back field...
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    I believe trading down is the best move! Let blount run the ball. The offense will open up holes I could run through. We need alot of help, so let's go for more picks. I'm excited about this team and what it can become.Lets give them all the help we can. Let's get this season started now!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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    I believe the only way we won't draft Richardson is if he's already gone or if we somehow trade down, which is unlikely. We have to draft this guy. We can find quality corners later but to have the greatest impact right now we should plug in the best RB in the draft. What happened in the past with our #5 pick is the past. Him and Blount running behind our O-line would be devastating to opposing defenses. We will not be able to fill all of our needs this off-season. But I would rather our team be in shootouts instead of blowouts. But we need to be able to score and help Freeman with the run game. Hopefully we will be available. Then all we'd need is a legit FB.
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    Scott, very good article. I believe there is a strong possibility that Claiborne will be gone. I believe Richardsen will fall out of the top 10. His real size at 5'10", not 5' 11" and weight of 225 doesn't help either . He shows big signs of being injury prone too. I would absolutely be shocked if we took Kalil. I think if Claiborne is gone and we can't get a trade going then we take Luechly because of our huge need at LB. In round 2 we would have to take a CB and maybe another one in round 3. I don't believe a RB is going to be drafted until after the 6th round because we still need another LB and TE.
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    2007 Draft - we missed out on Willis, Beason & Revis. Dang! Oh well, its EZ to pick them 5 years later.
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    2006 – 21st overall – Laurence Maroney (New Orleans) Laurence Maroney was drafted by the New England Patriots.
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    Everything that is said about Richardson is true – excellent RB. But I’ve seen the tape and I’ve seen the stats. 75% of his yards come after contact, which means that he runs over people more often than he runs around them. In my opinion that is a hand-delivered invitation to IR in the NFL – a probability supported by the eventual landing spot for the first 4 high octane RBs taken in last year’s draft – Ingram, LeShoure, Ryan Williams, and DeMarco Murray – all spent last year on IR. For that reason, I think his running style makes him a risky pick at #5 (here’s hoping that regardless of who picks him that he has a long and productive injury-free career in the NFL). But I have to deal with the realities of the NFL. I could have also mentioned AP, Mendenhall, McFadden, Jamaal Charles, Matt Forte, Foster (for a while), to ad infinitum. All are great RBs that never won anything and with the exception of AP and Ingram (NO would not do this again), none were drafted in the first round, but were certainly not immune to serious injury last year. Nobody is immune, but certain positions are more prone to injury than others, like RB. There’s a reason Ronde is still playing and Tiki is not! Schiano is going to find out that a bell-cow RB is a difficult way to make a living in today’s NFL. This is not your father’s NFL. That is why most teams have gone to the RB tandem utilizing the 3rd down back to vary the offense and extend the shelf life of their RBs. Careful now, I’m not saying he shouldn’t be a 1st round pick, I’m saying at #5 the risk may outweigh the reward. You can’t get on the field if you’re on IR until the next year (NFL did not change that rule) and they’re not going to put you on the field if we’re 21 points behind in the 4th quarter.
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    Really good Fab 3 Scott. Fans want to see the running back because it's far more exciting to watch him plow over people than a cornerback racing down the field looking over his shoulder. Of course watching E. J. "Toast" Biggers was pretty exciting too......for the opponent.
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    I am a huge fan of Richarsen, I whole heartedly agree with the best back since Peterson thing. Watching his highlights I find myself with a perma-grin on face as he displays his unique vision, power and (if you watch the way he separates) speed. The guy is an absolute stud. But for the first time today I find myself saying I might pass on him if he was there. He'll be productive and will make us all wish we had taken him this upcoming season but over the long haul, we need franchise players. That is, cornerstones. Running backs dont make good foundations these days. They are the furniture. Mo at 5? Yep im sold enough to take that. Admitedly I dont have much perspective on how far behind the rest of the draft is at his position but do know its supposedly deep. Trading down for more picks looks favorable. Kuechly? Please no. Look at Scotts list of NFC Pro Bowl LBs with 1st round status and Kuechlys tape then tell me seriously that kid is going to scare any offense the way those guys do. Even Briggs who was a third rounder brings more than Kuechly ever will. He reminds me( like others have said) way too much of a former 3rd round selection of ours.(You know who) Ive never been a Ruud hater like some but agree you need someone much more physical and straight up nasty to set the tone for the D. Trade back for Hightower would be my goal.
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    Look at the history of 1st round RB's? You could have just said Caddy & I would be scared. Delvil's Advocate here, BUT, do you believe in Free? How many of those 1st round RB's had Franchise QB's? Cause we're saying that's what he is. I love the 2ndary. But is that what the Giants were is a stiff 2ndary? The Patriots were a strong D? With a Great running game, a massive O-line, a head hunting defensive front and a big deep threat...what we need is a corner? We have to replace Aquib with a top 5 pick? He's that good? From what I read, he's not worth resigning. I'm very open to who we draft. Think we need a few more years anyway. But for what I'm reading, some of you need to get your story straight' cause it don't make sense. If we don't have Mo, in a fairly strong DB draft, we're going to be garbage? Not everybody said this, but I have read it, and I am asking.
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    Upon Further Review.. Disregard Hightower.. NO good. I had seen some highlight reel footage but just watched some actual game tape. Hes too stiff and doesnt shed many blocks. For a big man he gets pushed around a lot. Doesnt have the hips.
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    @moody - I agree. The offense dosent have as many needs as the defense, therefore it'll be quicker to fix. We're a RB and a FB away from a pretty good offense. Because a pass catching RB will take some pressure off the TE. We have a chance to get the most versatile complete RB in the draft. He runs with speed and power, can catch and block. And return kicks. And did I mention block? We need a lot more than a corner to make this defense great. Its at least 5 or so players away. I've stated before that we won't fill every need this offseason. We need to score points, the offense needs as many explosive players it can get. The Pats D was very mediocre and they made it to the Super Bowl. Can you picture Free, handing off to Richardson and Blount, passing to Jackson, Benn, Brisco, and Winslow, with our O-line? Sounds good to me...
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    LT has 8 years of over 1000 yards http://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/T/TomlLa00.htm
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    I double checked Tomlinson after the commenter above mentioned they thought he had had more than 2 1,000 rushing seasons. He's had 8 of them. I agree with the point that SR's making here, but overlooking Tomlinson is a fairly large oversight.
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    I like all the information that Mr Reynolds mention.I agree, But If Richardson is there and Claiborn is gone Howdy Trent, But if CB is there sorry Trent.GO BUCS
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    Draft Ryan Tannehill if he is there. Then the Bucs' phone will ring! Trade down. Pick up at least another 3rd round pick. Draft Kuechly. Take OLB in 2nd (Vontae David or the kid out of NC). Take CB and LaMichael James with your two 3rd round picks. t
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    You completely lost the argument when you stated that Kuechly is a Middle Linebacker. Come on, he's an inside linebacker. I shouldn't have to be the one to tell you that. If you did know that, are you suggesting we move Foster, then have another inexperienced LB attempt to play a position he's not familiar with??? I sure hope Dominik isn't thinking the same way you are, because that makes no sense to me whatsoever.
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    You mean move Foster to the position he played the most in college? Bad argument................................................................... But I don't like Kuechly at all. Everything he does on tape looks like Barrett Ruud. The lazy angles, the constant giving ground with the drag down tackles, the inability to cover well in man... All of it.
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    And why are we judging the success of players by the Pro Bowl? Half of the best players don't play because they don't want to, or they are too banged up. Also, it's a popularity contest anyway, so the best players don't always get voted in. Another silly argument.
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    Trent Richardson played behind a o-line with 5 guys who will get drafted. 5 great road-grader type lineman with experience (90 starts going into last year). Richardson got 114 carries in college with the score tied or within 7 points and averaged 4.5 ypc. FOUR point FIVE YPC ................................................ Trent got 60 carries with his team up by at least 15 points and averaged over 10 ypc then... OVER TEN............ Can you say Padded Stats boys and girls........ Richardson IS NOT AP GREAT............................................................ Trent Richardson probably won't be as good as 2 of these 3 guys: David Wilson, Doug Martin, Lamar Miller. All three may be there at our pick in round 2. Trent Richardson at pick 5 in the draft is LAUGHABLE. I only hope Cleveland keeps the joke from being on us.
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    And as for not getting an offer for our high draft picks... Get proactive. Call up the suckers like Jerry Jones and make him a "more then fair" deal. Say his 1st rounder this year, his 3rd this year and 1st next year to swap spots this season. Jones would get better "value" (by the charts) this year. Call the Phins and take their #2 to swap first rounders. Heck, take their 3rd rounder. We can still get a great player at 8. Dom's got to plant the seeds sometimes to sprout a trade... And don't always go by those stupid value charts. The 8th pick should be worth 99% to us, with all our holes, as pick # 5. The 14th or 15th pick is worth 97-98% as much to us. Way more value to us in trading down and adding picks then forcing a pick on a player who isn't elite. And in this draft from pick 4 through about 15 there simply isn't a big gap in talent at any position we need................................................. Trade Down. Make it happen.
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    As usual, great article PR. I completely agree with holding off until rd 2 or 3 for RB and drafting M Claiborne in rd 1 (but would be just as excited if we get T. Rich). Also of note, it would be more difficult to find trade partners for top 5 picks in previous years due to inflated salaries (ie. too much guaranteed money to rookies who hadn't played a down in the league). My belief is that with the implementation of the rookie wage scale, a team will be more willing to trade into pick 5 than previous. GO BUCS!!!!!!!!!!
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    The Cards spent their 1st pick last year on the best corner Peterson, did it translate to wins? He made the team better, but didn't make the playoffs. The Jets might have the best secondary in the NFL, with the best corner in all of football Revis, they finished 8 and 8, didn't make the playoffs. Balt made the playoffs,as did the Texans, Foster,and Rice. You can make arguments till the cows come home on who to pick at 5 either way we get a good player, but it's a team game, no one player is going to turn us around. It's hard to compare college players because they don't play against the same teams. Scott mentions big backs from Boise St, and Utah, are you kidding me, who did they play against? Richardson did it in the SEC. Should we pick Kuech at #5, we'd be reaching to fill a need, he's not rated that high on any ones draft board. We're not talking Lewis, Urlacher here. Kiper has Trent rated as the 4th best player in the entire draft! Don't know why no ones mentioning Blackmon, Scott says it would be over kill, but l like the idea of V Jac, and him split out wide, with Benn in the slot. Good receivers keep their value, look at free agentcy this year. Speaking of value, if the L.T. from USC slips to #5 you'd be crazy not to put him next to Nicks. April draft, can't wait.
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    Kuechly at 5 is a classic Bucs draft of desperation~he might be the best LB but this years batch aint the greatest.... Richardson at 5 is exciting and scary ~since we grabbed Caddy in the same place (draft of desperation)..If Clarborne is gone and we have a choice between Kalil and Richardson ~ I'd go Kalil. He is solid and should have a nice long career of service~Richardsons future is a bit hazier...
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    Personally I think RB is a hard position to predict like that mainly because what he can do depends quite a bit on the offensive line and most teams picking in the top 5 don't have good offensive lines. The Bucs, on paper do have one and Richardson could thrive here. The flip side of that is a corner does depend on the defensive line and how much time he needs to cover his guy but his play is more independent of the rest of the team than an RB spot. Especially a cover corner in charge of taking one guy, the lead receiver out of the game.
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    If you have no trade partner to trade down and Richardson and Clairborne are gone, I would be fine with taking a can't miss OT. You can never have enough great OL for Blount and whoever we draft in the 2nd or 3rd round to run behind....Look at how our lack of depth on the OL cost us last year when injuries hit.
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    "History shows that virtually all of the greatest running backs have been drafted in the first round, including Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton, Barry Sanders, Curtis Martin, Jerome Bettis, Eric Dickerson, Tony Dorsett, Jim Brown, Marshall Faulk and Tomlinson among others."...uh, Curtis Martin was the 74th pickin the 95 Draft...a third round pick, not a first rounder.
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