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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.

As the 2008 NFL Draft approaches, Pewter Report’s resident draft expert, Scott Reynolds, has spent countless hours watching over 12 college games per week and scouting which prospects would look good wearing red and pewter next year. With over 500 college games to review dating back over the last four years and countless scouting contacts throughout the NFL, Reynolds 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.

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 next April when Tampa Bay is on the clock.

HOUSTON WR DONNIE AVERY
VITAL STATS:
Houston wide receiver Donnie Avery is 5-foot-11 and weighs 190 pounds. He may be the fastest wide receiver in the 2008 NFL Draft and has been timed in the 40-yard dash between 4.25 and 4.29 by NFL scouts. Avery’s stock is rising after a great senior campaign, and he is viewed as both a wide receiver and a kick return specialist by the NFL.

CREDENTIALS
Avery has shown improvement in each year he has played for Houston. As a freshman in 2004, Avery hauled in 18 catches for 293 yards and two touchdowns, followed by 44 receptions for 688 yards and five scores as a sophomore in 2005.

In 2006 during his junior campaign, Avery caught 57 balls for 852 yards and five touchdowns. As a senior in 2007, he is currently fifth in the nation in receiving yards per game, averaging 113 yards per contest. Avery has 81 catches for 1,336 yards and seven touchdowns as a senior with one bowl game to go. He has also been a bigger factor as a kick returner with 424 yards on 15 returns (28.2 avg.), including a 100-yard touchdown against East Carolina.

RECORDS AND SUPERLATIVES
On October 13, 2007 in Houston’s 56-48 win over Rice, wide receiver Donnie Avery caught 13 passes for 346 yards, while running back Anthony Aldridge rushed 24 times for 215 yards. That was the first time in major college football history that such a feat had been accomplished.

Against Rice, Avery showed off his jets, catching touchdown passes of 67 and 76 yards. During his standout career, Avery also has logged a 60-yard catch vs. Tulane, a 67-yard touchdown against Memphis, a 70-yard touchdown vs. Oregon and a 76-yard score against UCF.

He has recorded 10 games with over 100 yards receiving, and has three more games with at least 90 yards receiving.

HIS BIGGEST GAMES
11/4/07 vs. SMU 10 rec. for 116 yards with 1 TD
10/13/07 vs. Rice 13 rec. for 346 yards and 2 TDs with 3 KRs for 81 yards
10/6/07 at Alabama 4 rec. for 104 yards with 1 TD and 2 KRs for 34 yards
9/29/07 vs. ECU 9 rec. for 189 yards with 2 TDs and 4 KRs for 161 yards and 1 TD
9/1/05 vs. Oregon 4 rec. for 100 yards with 1 TD

WHY HE COULD BE A RED AND PEWTER PLAYER
The Bucs love Avery’s blazing speed and his penchant for making big plays. Avery is not as good as Joey Galloway was when he came out of Ohio State as a top 10 pick over a decade ago, but he has some of the same traits. Think of him as a cross between Galloway and Green Bay’s Greg Jennings, a player the team liked out of Western Michigan a couple of years ago.

With Galloway reaching the twilight of his career, the Bucs might want to draft a player who has the speed to make explosive plays. With his deep speed and short-area quickness, Avery could be an ideal player to replace Galloway at the X (split end) receiver spot in a few years. Not only is he deadly on “Go” routes, he has the speed to take a short, quick slant in Jon Gruden’s version of the West Coast offense the distance.

TOUGHEST TRANSITION IN TAMPA BAY
With good – but not great – hands and sharp route-running ability, Avery would be a good fit in Tampa Bay’s offense, but the biggest hurdle he faces is head coach Jon Gruden. The Bucs’ offensive playcaller loves big, tall wide receivers in the mold of Michael Clayton and Maurice Stovall. Clayton is close to 6-foot-4 and Stovall is 6-foot-5. Both weigh over 215 pounds.

If Gruden can overcome his prejudice for smaller receivers not named Joey Galloway, Avery has a chance to land in Tampa Bay. Gruden loves speed though, and Galloway can’t play forever.

SPECIAL TEAMS FACTOR
Let’s face it. Players like Earnest Graham and Maurice Stovall aren’t going to return a kickoff for a touchdown in Tampa Bay. The Bucs need a speedster like Avery to end the team’s embarrassing drought of not scoring on a kick return in 33 years.

His 28.2-yard kick return average, as well as his 100-yard touchdown against East Carolina makes him a tempting prospect. With a decent-sized frame and toughness, Avery could flourish as a rookie on special teams covering kicks and punts.

DRAFT PROJECTION
Avery’s lack of elite size and the fact that he has produced only one 1,000-yard season will likely keep him out of the first round. However, his sub 4.3 speed should be on display at Indianapolis for the NFL Scouting Combine and at his pro day workout. That, plus his superb senior season should put Avery in the second round of the 2008 NFL Draft. If he doesn’t run in the 4.2’s or 4.3’s next spring, Avery likely becomes a third-round pick.

THE QUOTE
"No one in the country has faster or more talented guys than we do," Avery said. "I feel sorry for anybody that tries to man up. I'm going to use my 4.2 speed to separate from them."

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Scott Reynolds is in his 23rd 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 protected]