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All right, draftniks. you know that Pewter Report is the undisputed king of Tampa Bay Buccaneers draft coverage. We've listed players, such as defensive end Gaines Adams (2007), linebacker Quincy Black (2007), wide receiver Maurice Stovall (2006), quarterback Bruce Gradkowski (2006), middle linebacker Barrett Ruud (2005), cornerback Torrie Cox (2003) – among others, at their respective positions in the Bucs' Best Bets sections of Pewter Report's annual Bucs Draft Preview.â€¨â€¨
As the 2008 NFL Draft approaches, Pewter Report's staff has done countless hours of research and has watched the prospects thoroughly, Virginia Tech cornerback Brandon Flowers included. Using league sources Pewter Report is armed with the inside scoop needed to put together these scouting reports on players who might fit Tampa Bay's schemes on offense and defense.â€¨
The casual football fan already has a good deal of knowledge on likely first-round draft prospects, such as LSU defensive tackle Glen Dorsey, Louisville quarterback Brian Brohm and Virginia defensive end Chris Long. The goal of these regular Pewter Insider features on PewterReport.com is to inform you about players that will likely go in rounds 2-7 that might help the Buccaneers.
Will one of these players wind up being the next Ruud, Stovall or Gradkowski? We'll all find out in April when Tampa Bay is on the clock.
VIRGINIA TECH CORNERBACK BRANDON FLOWERS
VITAL STATS: At 5-foot-10, 189-pounds, Virginia Tech cornerback Brandon Flowers has adequate size for an NFL cornerback. Flowers is physical on the line of scrimmage and when the ball is in the air. The knock on Flowers is a slower 40-yard dash time and overall athleticism. At the combine Flowers ran a 4.50 40-yard dash and had a poor vertical jump. Flowers makes up for those negatives by being a pure football player. He hits hard and loves to attack in the running game.
Flowers has been reliable, starting his final 27 games at Virginia Tech. In his true freshman year Flowers played in one game where he made one tackle and one interception that was returned for a touchdown. A right fibular fracture sidelined him for the rest of the season and a medical redshirt was granted for Flowers.
His first significant playing time came as a redshirt freshman in 2005. Playing behind Jimmy Williams that season Flowers had 20 tackles, broke up four passes, and made one interception.
During his sophomore season Flowers became a starter and burst onto the scene in the Atlantic Coast Conference. In 13 games Flowers tallied 51 tackles, 7.5 tackles for a loss, 3.5 sacks, two hurries, one forced fumble, 18 passes defensed, and three interceptions. Flowers also did not allow a receiver to catch a pass against him in his final three games of the season.
Virginia Tech saw the Delray Beach, FL product turn in an outstanding year in his junior season. Flowers made 86 tackles, eight tackles for a loss, nine passes defensed, one fumble recovery, three hurries, five interceptions, and one of those returned for a touchdown. His season statistics where even more impressive considering teams were avoiding throwing the ball to his side of the field.
After his stellar junior and sophomore seasons, Flowers decided to declare entry into the 2008 NFL Draft. For his career Flowers had 10 interceptions, 31 passes broken up, 158 tackles, 17 tackles for a loss, and 3.5 sacks. His 10 interceptions were returned for 172 yards and two touchdowns.
RECORDS AND SUPERLATIVES
For his last season of college football Flowers was selected as a second team All-American and first team All-ACC. In his sophomore season Flowers was a third team All-American and was a first team All-ACC selection. Flowers 17 tackles for a loss is a Virginia Tech record for a defensive back.
HIS BIGGEST GAMES
11/24/2007 vs. Virginia 7 tackles, 1 INT, 1 pass breakup 10/25/2007 vs. Boston College 4 tackles, 1 INT, 1 pass breakup, 1 QB hurry 9/22/2007 vs. William & Mary 1 tackle, 1 INT 49 yds for TD 11/4/2006 vs. Miami 2 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, 2 INT, 3 passes breakups 9/11/2004 vs. Western Michigan 1 tackle, 1 INT 38 yds for TD
WHY HE COULD BE A RED AND PEWTER PLAYER
The cornerback position is one of the biggest needs for the Buccaneers going into the 2008 NFL Draft. Longtime Bucs cornerback Brian Kelly bought out the remaining year in his contract and signed with the Detroit Lions in free agency. Phillip Buchanon, Sammy Davis, and Eugene Wilson are in the final year of their contracts with Tampa Bay. Torrie Cox is coming off of season-ending knee surgery. Ronde Barber just turned 33 years old, and the Bucs are not ready to plan on Marcus Hamilton as a future starter, nickel, or dime back. Flowers could be a talented replacement for Kelly and eventually Barber.
Numerous scouts and analysts have likened Flowers' game to Barber. The similarities are obvious in their ability to play the run. Saying that Flowers is physical is an understatement. He is down right violent. A hard hitter on receivers and running backs, Flowers also takes on blocks in the run game from tight ends among others. Coming from the corner to do this sets the edge of the play and allows his teammates to make the tackle. That is rarely seen from a cornerback.
He has shown a great burst off the edge as a blitzer and plays bigger than he measures. Flowers has good footwork and change-of-direction ability that allow him to play man-to-man as well as zone. A student of football, Flowers is known to watch a lot of tape and has found aspects of his game that he has improved from those film sessions.
Ball skills are a strength of Flowers as evidenced by his ten interceptions in 40 games. He has displayed good hands for catching the ball and breaking passes up. At the line of scrimmage Flowers has a nice punch that is reminiscent of Kelly. With that punch Flowers is very good at re-routing receivers in press coverage.
Flowers seems to be a perfect fit for the Tampa 2. He understands zone concepts and excels playing zone. With his ability to play the run, blitz the quarterback, and get physical Flowers could be a superb slot corner. That would make him a tailor made long-term replacement for Barber. What better way for Flowers to be groomed to be a top-notch corner than to learn under the All Pro Barber and defensive backs coach Raheem Morris.
TOUGHEST TRANSITION IN TAMPA BAY
There are the concerns about Flowers' straight-line speed. Another aspect he would needs to improve on for the Bucs is wrapping up in tackling. At times his tackling is textbook, and he is one of the better tackling corners in the draft. However, due to his desire to punish the opposition he can sometimes get in the bad habit of trying to knock guys down rather than wrapping them up.
If Flowers had a faster forty time and a better vertical jump he would probably go high in the first round. Some character concerns came up when on his Facebook page he posted a picture of a pile of cash with a small baggie of what looks like drugs and a disturbing caption. Flowers said he did not take the photo and posted it because he liked the look of money. The Buccaneers front office will have to do their homework on the integrity of Flowers.
SPECIAL TEAMS FACTOR
With the excellent returner Eddie Royal as a teammate, Flowers was not a kick or punt returner while at Virginia Tech. If the Bucs were to draft Flowers he would be good contributor on special teams, especially the coverage units. The physicality of special teams would be a perfect fit for him. Coming from "special teams U" and the expert Frank Beamer, Flowers could be a real playmaker covering punts and kickoffs.
It has been difficult to project where Flowers will get drafted later this month. By watching tape he looks like a first round pick. Looking at his measurables from the combine Flowers would be closer to the third round. Prior to the combine NFL Network draft guru Mike Mayock had Flowers as the best corner in the draft. Now he has him much lower.
Throughout the league the consensus seems to be that Flowers is a zone corner that is best in a Cover 2 scheme. Corners that have the ability to shut down receivers man-to-man seem to get drafted in the first round. Zone corners like Flowers are more likely to be taken in the second or third round.
Right now it appears that Flowers is best suited as a late first- or second-round pick. There is the possibility that Tampa Bay could pull the trigger on Flowers at No. 20. If the Bucs make a deal to trade down from 20 into the second round, a player like Flowers could be a good selection.
Tampa Bay has never been hesitant to draft cornerbacks with slow 40-yard dash times. Kelly, Barber, Dwight Smith, and Alan Zemaitis all had slower 40 times that hurt their draft position. Only Donnie Abraham had high-end speed of the cornerbacks that the Bucs have selected in the past 12 years.
Fortunately for the Bucs, cornerback is one of the deepest positions in this year's draft. Getting a player like Flowers at pick 52 in the second round would be excellent value.
Last year the Buccaneers benefited by a deep safety draft getting Sabby Piscitelli and Tanard Jackson in the second and fourth rounds respectively. This year is a weak safety draft and those players probably would not make it to those draft slots. Perhaps the Buccaneers should follow suit again this year by pursuing the strength of the draft and selecting a cornerback like Flowers in the first or second round.
Tampa Bay seems to have serious interest in Flowers. The Buccaneers worked Flowers out at his pro day and had him in for a pre-draft visit in April.
THE QUOTE "I've been training since I was six-years-old," said Flowers. "I used to write in the back of my bible in church when I was small, ‘Brandon Flowers the pro.'"
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