SR’s Fab 5 is a collection of inside scoop, analysis and insight from yours truly, Pewter Report publisher and Bucs beat writer Scott Reynolds. Here are a few things that caught my attention this week at One Buc Place:
FAB 1. If the Tampa Bay Buccaneers wind up keeping their first-round pick in 2013 by either dealing a different combination of draft picks to New York for Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis or not dealing for Revis at all, the Bucs have plenty of options with the 13th overall selection. Washington cornerback Desmond Trufant has to be in the mix because of the dire need at the position.
With players like Dion Jordan and Ezekiel Ansah expected to be gone in the top 10, a defensive end – at least with the 13th overall pick – doesn’t seem like a realistic option, although the Bucs do covet SMU defensive end Margus Hunt, who is viewed as a late first- or early second-rounder. Drafting a defensive tackle like Missouri’s Sheldon Richardson or Utah’s Star Loletulei makes sense because Gerald McCoy is the only super-talented player at that position.
Since PewterReport.com began writing about West Virginia wide receiver Tavon Austin months ago he’s started appearing in mock drafts at No. 13, and he’s had a pre-draft visit with Tampa Bay. Alabama offensive tackle D.J. Fluker also visited One Buccaneer Place and is firmly on Tampa Bay’s radar, too. While a case could be made for the Bucs drafting a cornerback, defensive lineman or even a unique offensive talent like Austin, getting a rare talent like Fluker with the 13th overall pick may be too tempting to pass up.
There is nothing sexy about drafting a right tackle. They aren’t flashy players. Fans don’t like it, and there aren’t any rush orders for the jerseys of right tackles.
But Fluker is no ordinary right tackle. At 6-foot-5, 339 pounds, Fluker is a massive man with 10.5-inch hand length and arms longer than 36 inches. He is an absolute road-grader in the running game and he’s a better pass protector than he gets credit for.
Keep in mind that head coach Greg Schiano loves to run the ball, and the team has first-round draft picks invested in quarterback Josh Freeman and running back Doug Martin. Spending another first-round pick on Fluker to protect those investments would be wide and only help increase the productivity of Tampa Bay’s already potent offense.
The signing of right tackle Demar Dotson to a three-year contract extension through 2016 by the Buccaneers front office means three things. First, the Bucs like the 6-foot-9, 320-pound Dotson and believe he can continue to develop as a starting-caliber offensive tackle.
Second, the team believes Dotson is loaded with potential and still has a ways to go to reach his ceiling. That’s why he received a longer, three-year extension instead of a one- or two-year contract extension.
And finally, Dotson’s contract extension was so modestly done that it doesn’t preclude the Bucs from drafting or acquiring another starting-caliber right tackle. Dotson’s base salaries stay below $2 million over the length of the deal and he didn’t receive a signing bonus or any bonus money at all. Fluker could take over as the starting right tackle and the moderately-priced Dotson could go back to doing what he does best, which is be a swing tackle that is capable of playing the left or right side of the line.
Dotson still has work to do with pass protection, but really needs to improve as a run blocker. Due to his height, Dotson will always have to be consciously bending his knees. The Bucs would like to have more power at the right tackle position next to Pro Bowler Davin Joseph and Fluker could certainly bring that to the table.
In a critical year for the future of Freeman in Tampa Bay, the Bucs cannot afford to have a starting offensive tackle go down with an injury because there is no adequate depth at the position. The acquisition of Fluker would create depth because of Dotson’s flexibility to back up the right tackle spot as well as backing up Donald Penn as Freeman’s blindside protector.
This is what ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper, Jr. said about Fluker in a conference call with the media this week.
“You know, when you go back, I think everybody looks at the tape, they go back to the games, they look at numbers, they put it all together,” Kiper said. “When you have a right tackle who can dominate as a run blocker like he can, incredibly long arms, incredible size, and very little body fat for his size. He’s very, very, very well put together. He’s a much better pass blocker than people gave him credit for. When you looked at what he did, and I said that all year, he did a good job.
“Go back to the LSU game. He wasn’t dominated. All the great pass rushers were going to get the best of D.J. Fluker, and they didn’t. There was one team that thought he could be a left tackle. So as a dominant run blocking right tackle who is adequate in pass protection, could be a little better than that, he deserves to be a top 15 pick, and Miami at 12 would make an awful lot of sense.”
Fluker also makes an awful lot of sense going to Tampa Bay at No. 13.
FAB 2. One of the 2013 NFL Draft prospects that is not often linked to Tampa Bay is Florida State defensive end Bjoern Werner. Once thought to be a top 5 pick in this year’s draft, Werner’s stock has cooled since a ho-hum performance at the NFL Scouting Combine.
NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock believes Werner is now viewed as a late first-round pick. ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper, Jr. feels he could even slide into the second round.
“I think Werner’s stock dropped a little bit,” Kiper said on an ESPN conference call with reporters. “He didn’t test out as well as people thought. Still a little inexperienced as a football player. A little raw. Great motor. Potential is there as a pass rusher. I think he could be a possibility at 36.”
Werner was unspectacular in Indianapolis, running a pedestrian 4.83 in the 40-yard dash, posting a 31-inch vertical jump, and turning in a 4.4 in the 20-yard shuttle and a 7.3 in the three-cone drill. But Werner is a physical defender with good striking power, quick closing ability, the skill set to redirect and the instincts to find the football. Those things can’t be measured at the NFL Scouting Combine.
With the Bucs letting last year’s leading sacker, Michael Bennett, go to Seattle in free agency, and counting on third-year players Da’Quan Bowers and Adrian Clayborn, who have 12 career sacks between them, to produce a consistent pass rush, Tampa Bay needs to have more talented depth and is looking to add another rush end in the draft.
While the Bucs have a more pressing need at cornerback and might be better served using the team’s first-round pick on that position, Tampa Bay has had a couple of defensive ends – Oregon’s Dion Jordan and SMU’s Margus Hunt – in for pre-draft visits. Both are considered to be first-rounders, and the fact that the Bucs have had both in for pre-draft visits indicates there could be interest in drafting a defensive end in the first round.
So why isn’t Werner, who left Florida State after his junior season, in play for Tampa Bay at No. 13? The truth is that he could be.
During his Seminoles career, Werner recorded 99 tackles, 35 tackles for loss, 23.5 sacks, three forced fumbles two fumble recoveries, one of which was recovered for a touchdown.
As a freshman, the German-born Werner recorded 3.5 sacks and a forced fumble while playing football for the first time. As a sophomore, Werner notched 37 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, eight pass breakups, seven sacks, one forced fumble and one interception. During his junior season, Werner notched 42 tackles, 18 tackles for loss, 13 sacks and a forced fumble.
Scouts criticize Werner for his inability to generate multiple sacks in games. In 41 career games, Werner had 15 games in which he notched a
sack, but only had two mores with more than one quarterback capture twice. Against Murray State in the 2012 season opener, Werner had a career-best four sacks, five tackles for loss and a forced fumble. Werner had two sacks against Wake Forest in 2011 and three sacks against Florida in 2012.
Scouts also knock Werner’s size because he’s not huge, but that may serve him well on draft day. At 6-foot-3, 256 pounds, Werner has the versatility to play defensive end in a 4-3 or outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. He kind of resembles Washington outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, who was a 4-3 defensive end at Purdue, but now plays in a 3-4 scheme.
The former Seminoles standout already has some limited experience playing outside linebacker.
“Teams are asking me to do that and I think I can do it,” Werner said. “I did it at Florida State when Brandon Jenkins went down, he was our 3-4 outside linebacker and I replaced him and I think I did a good job and I think I’m athletic enough to do it in the NFL.”
The Bucs would look at Werner strictly as a 4-3 left end, which is what he played at Florida State. Scouts feel that his ceiling hasn’t been reached yet because of the fact that he was born in Germany and played soccer until he started playing football at age 15. He showed improvement every year for the Seminoles and could have a career similar to that of former Cincinnati and current San Francisco defensive end Justin Smith, who is a very good, but not a great player.
Werner has also been compared to high-motor pass rusher Jason Babin, who also has shorter, 33.5-inch arms like the Florida State standout. While Werner’s arms aren’t ideal size for the NFL, he does a very good job of using his hands to get around tackles and get to the quarterback, evidenced by this scouting report on NFL.com.
“Werner’s flashes of proper hand usage is one of the aspects of his game that scouts will admire, as it shows his dedication to it in the film room and on the practice field. He excels at knocking the pass blocker’s hands away and then dipping his shoulder to get underneath their pads and turn the corner. It’s something that not all pass-rushers are able to do but Werner can, as he showed against Wake Forest this past season.”
Although the Bucs haven’t been linked to Werner much leading up to the NFL Draft, they weren’t linked to Alabama strong safety Mark Barron, either. Just some food for thought when Tampa Bay is on the clock and Werner is still on the draft board. I’m not saying Werner will end up in pewter and red, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it happened, either if he is the best player available on the Bucs’ draft board at the time.
If you want to check out some highlights on Werner, this is a pretty good look at his capabilities – click here.
FAB 3. The advent of YouTube has caused created hundreds – if not thousands – of wannabe NFL scouts on Internet blogs. Even die-hard fans of NFL teams can transform into scouts in their own minds after watching a couple of highlight videos of NFL prospects and advocating that their team draft these highlight monsters.
NFL teams like the Buccaneers have seen all the highlight tapes – the ones on YouTube and the ones the teams produce themselves by accessing every college game from every week of every college football season. Highlight tapes show production, promise and potential. They are powerful in showing sacks, touchdowns, interceptions, big hits, rocket throws and amazing catches.
I encourage you to stop reading this SR’s Fab 5 column right now and watch this entertaining highlight tape of Southern Mississippi defensive end-linebacker Jamie Collins, who is on Tampa Bay’s radar and recently visited One Buccaneer Place as one of the team’s 30 official pre-draft visits. You can view his highlight film by clicking here (profanity warning).
Pretty good, huh? Do you want to see a different angle of that 97-yard interception return for a touchdown? Check this out.
Do you want to see him slam down a Rice running back the way he did that Louisville rusher? Check this out.
So are you hooked on the Southern Miss star yet?
Collins has both the production and athleticism to catch the attention of NFL scouts. In 52 games for the Golden Eagles, Collins racked up 314 tackles, 45 tackles for loss, 21 sacks, 15 pass breakups, seven forced fumbles, three interceptions, including two for touchdowns, two fumble recoveries, including one for a touchdown, and two blocked kicks.
As a sophomore, Collins produced 2.5 sacks, picked off two passes, including one he returned 32 yards for a touchdown against East Carolina, forced a fumble and recovered a fumble while recording 76 tackles as a linebacker. The following year, Collins played both outside linebacker and defensive end, recording 98 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks a forced fumble and returning a pick 97 yards for a touchdown.
As a senior, Collins posted 92 tackles, 20 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, four forced fumbles and a blocked kick. He had sacks in seven out of 12 games in 2012, including a career-high three sacks and two forced fumbles against UAB.
Collins’ athleticism was on display at the NFL Scouting Combine where he was one of the top performers in the linebacker category. He was the fastest linebacker, running a 4.64 in the 40-yad dash. He had the best times in the 60-yard shuttle (11.55 seconds) and the three-cone drill (7.10 seconds), and also had the highest vertical leap at 41.5 inches.
Collins’ ridiculous 11-foot, 7-inch broad jump was the best of any Combine participant. Here’s the video in case you missed it.
Now you might be really hooked on Collins, right? Maybe you are hoping the Bucs can somehow draft him in the second round to start at Sam (strongside) linebacker and use his pass-rushing ability to blitz and help Tampa Bay get to the quarterback.
But why isn’t a 6-foot-3, 250-pound gifted athlete with his type of production considered to be a first-rounder? Because there are holes in Collins’ game, that’s why.
As much as general managers, college scouting directors and scouts like to produce and watch highlight tapes, they also have the need to produce lowlight tapes as well. That’s right. To thoroughly scout a draft prospect, teams have to review the bad plays, too.
If the number of bad plays – which may reveal a lack of instinct, a lack of discipline, a lack of concentration, a lack of conditioning or other negative factors – greatly outweigh the number of good or neutral plays there is cause for concern. Scouts want to know if they are indeed getting a pass rusher that will constantly put hit on the quarterback as a starter, or a player that is better suited to be a situational pass rusher.
As former Bucs defensive line coach Rod Marinelli told me, a player that finishes a year with 10 sacks may not be a great pass rusher because those 10 sacks are just 10 plays out of about 900 plays a defender may see action in during a season and the other 890 plays might have stunk. A case in point is Bills defensive end Mark Anderson, who was Chicago’s seventh-round draft pick in 2006.
Anderson led all rookies with 12 sacks and four forced fumbles as a situational
pass rusher – not a starter. The next year, Anderson started 14 games for the Bears because they thought he had the talent to match his production, but he finished with just five sacks and a forced fumble. Anderson would only start three more games for the Bears over the next three and a half seasons, recording 4.5 sacks as a reserve. In 2007, Chicago thought he was a starting-caliber defensive end, but he really wasn’t.
Anderson played in 11 games with Houston where he recorded four sacks in 2010 before moving on to New England. As a reserve with the Patriots, Anderson notched 10 sacks and two forced fumbles in 2011, but wasn’t re-signed by New England. Why? Because Anderson is just a situational pass rusher and the Patriots knew it.
Coming off a big year in New England, Buffalo made the mistake of signing Anderson to a four-year, $19.5-million deal in 2012. He recorded just one sack while starting in four games before missing the rest of the season with an injury.
So what is Collins? His athleticism and production will likely make him a second-round pick. But what is keeping him out of the first round is some bad tape.
Now it’s your turn to really play NFL scout and watch the highlights and the lowlights. Here are three game tapes of Collins that include every one of his plays – good and bad. I’ll tell you right now that the box scores look good and he gets a sack in every game.
Start by watching Collins’ performance against Houston in the Conference USA Championship. He records nine tackles, two tackles for loss and a 17-yard sack.
Did you see how slow Collins could be off the ball sometimes despite him supposedly being such an explosive athlete? Does that mean he lacks anticipation or instincts? Did you see how Collins seemed out of position and lost at times?
Now watch his game against Nebraska in the 2012 season opener. He had 13 tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack. Seems pretty productive, right?
There was certainly some improvement from his 2011 tape to his 2012 tape, but Collins didn’t dominate the game as his stats sheet might indicate. Now look at the tape against Western Kentucky where he notched seven tackles and a sack.
Did you see the runs that Collins gave up in Southern Mississippi’s 42-17 loss? He was still slow off the ball at times as a pass rusher and seemed disinterested in pursuit at other times as he was against Houston and Nebraska.
Now read this accurate write-up on NFL.com about Collins’ weaknesses as a draft prospect. I couldn’t have written it better myself.
“Lacks sand in his pants and upper-body strength to be an every-down defensive end against NFL tackles, and gets consistently pushed back by double teams. Inconsistent coming off the snap quickly, at times looking like he can beat tackles with a strong first step but being among the last moving on other plays. Motor runs cold, don’t pursue plays well. Loses track off his position in zone coverage. Can be eluded in space by quicker ballcarriers or in the backfield by mobile quarterbacks. Must speed up his hands to win battles against pro linemen, slow to disengage.”
Collins has plenty of good attributes, too. To be fair, here’s the write-up of his positives on NFL.com.
“Presents a long, lean frame that NFL teams look for in a stand-up pass rusher. Quick feet and long strides help him close on quarterbacks, move down the line to crash on runs, as well as give him the short-area agility to move in coverage with slot receivers for short periods despite his height and length. Short area quickness, and the ability to redirect in an instant. Power hands at times. Capable of shedding in either direction to contain or fill a gap. Knows to knock receivers at the line and crossers off their routes with his strong arm extension. Has the length to wrap up ballcarriers trying to avoid him in the backfield, as well as grab backs running away from him.”
The scouting report on NFL.com suggests Collins’ game is like that of linebacker Clark Haggans. Haggans, who was a fifth-round draft pick in 2000, has played 13 years in the NFL, but never made a Pro Bowl.
What type of linebacker or defensive end will Collins be in the NFL? There’s good tape and bad tape, good plays and bad plays for the Bucs to sift through. Collins is an intriguing prospect, and that’s why the Bucs brought him in for a pre-draft visit to try to get some more details.
FAB 4. Did you know that Tampa Bay nearly acquired record-setting return specialist Trindon Holliday last year? The Buccaneers contemplated putting a waiver claim in for Holliday, but opted to sign aging veteran Roscoe Parrish instead because of Holliday’s fumbing issues. Bucs general manager Mark Dominik liked Holliday’s big-play ability, but new head coach Greg Schiano insisted on having a return specialist that puts a premium on ball security.
Holliday returned two punts and a kickoff for a touchdown in the 2012 preseason, but was waived by Houston on October 10 because of fumbling. He was claimed by Denver, and in his first game as a Bronco he fumbled the ball, which at the time justified the Bucs not adding him to their roster.
However, Holliday went on to return a kickoff 105 yards for a touchdown against Cincinnati, and then added a 90-yard punt return for a TD and a 104-yard kick return score in the AFC playoffs against Baltimore. Holliday set an NFL record for return yards in a playoff game with 256 return yards in that game, but the Broncos lost in overtime, 38-35.
The Bucs missed out on a 5-foot-5, 170-pounder who may be the shortest player in the league, but one that describes himself as a the fastest. He ran an official 4.34 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, but some scouts had him hand-timed at 4.22.
With Tampa Bay needing a replacement for Parrish, who has not been re-signed, in addition to Sammie Stroughter, who also wasn’t re-signed, they added Eric Page, an undrafted free agent from 2012 who spent some time in Denver before being released with an injury settlement after having knee surgery. While Page was an accomplished receiver at Toledo where he caught 306 passes for 3,446 yards and 25 touchdowns in his career, including 125 receptions for 1,182 yards and 10 scores as a junior before leaving for the 2012 NFL Draft, the Bucs like his return ability even more.
Not only was Page a first-team All-MAC receiver, he was also a first-team All-MAC punt returner and a first-team All-MAC kick returner during his senior year. Page returned 46 punts for 365 yards and a touchdown and returned 80 kickoffs 2,184 yards and four touchdowns during his Rockets career.
Page is a nifty, neat little receiver who stands 5-foot-10, 180 pounds. He’s even thrown four touchdown passes and a two-point conversion pass in his career. I happen to like this signing more than the Bucs signing Kevin Olgetree and Steve Smith.
Click here to check out the highlights of Page’s junior season at Toledo. He just may be Tampa Bay’s return man in 2013.
FAB 5. Here are a few things to hold you over until the next edition of SR’s Fab 5:
• Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik got right tackle Demar Dotson to sign a three-year extension at a bargain price. Dominik has been very opportunistic when it comes to re-signing some players at the right time, and Dotson is the latest example of that.
Dotson received no signing bonus or roster bonus and will have a $1 million base salary in 2013, which is a bargain for a starting right tackle in the NFL. His base increases to $1.25 million in 2014, climbs to $1.5 million in 2015 and rises to $1.75 million in 2016. Bargain, bargain, bargain – and bargain. Well done by Dominik.
Dotson benefits because the Bucs like him enough to sign him for the next three years and half of that money – $3.25 million – is guaranteed. He’s worth more than that, but he jumped at an early extension instead of playing out 2013 as a starting right tackle and testing unrestricted free agency.
The Bucs’ plan at right tackle may be to draft someone like Alabama’s D.J. Fluker that can take over the position and have Dotson be the swing tackle behind the rookie and left tackle Donald Penn in the interim. In a few years if Penn should retire or if his play should decline, Dotson would be available to start at left tackle – and at a bargain price.
• Did you know there was only one player in the NFL went undefeated in 16 regular season games last year? Return specialist Trindon Holliday was a part of a Houston Texans team that started the year 5-0 before he was waived. Denver claimed him and had him on the active roster for the final 11 games of the season, which were all victories. Add the records of those teams together and you get a 16-0 season.
Of course Holliday and the Broncos did suffer a loss in the playoffs, a heartbreaking 38-35 defeat at home to eventual Super Bowl champion Baltimore.
• Bucs general manager Mark Dominik currently has $32.8 million worth of salary cap space at his disposal right now. That includes the cap room that was saved by re-signing backup quarterback Dan Orlovsky to a $620,000 base salary and restructuring the contract of Eric Wright, who will earn $1.5 million in 2013.
One thing that greatly helps the Bucs’ salary cap is the fact that there is very little dead cap money on the books in 2013. The largest amount of dead salary cap money comes from Brian Price’s rookie deal in the form of $680,000. That came from signing bonus money that Price, who was traded to Chicago last August, received from his rookie deal.
The Bucs are believed to have the least amount of dead salary cap space in the NFL with just around $1 million. Part of the reason for that is Dominik’s insistence on using guaranteed base salary money in contracts rather than signing bonus money, which is prorated over the life of each contract when given, but accumulates and hits a team’s salary cap the following season when a player is released or traded. Dominik has been an NFL trend setter when it comes to using guaranteed money over signing bonuses in contract negotiations and that is paying off – literally and figuratively – in terms of Tampa Bay’s salary cap.
Scott Reynolds is in his 22nd year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds enjoys giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: email@example.com
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