They say that it is better to go undrafted and pick the right situation on the right NFL team than it is to be drafted in the seventh round. Luckily for Western Michigan cornerback E.J. Biggers, the first of Tampa Bay’s two seventh-round picks, he gets to have the best of both worlds.
Not only did he fulfill his wish of being selected in the NFL Draft, he also went to the best possible situation in terms of depth chart at the cornerback position. After starters Ronde Barber and Aqib Talib, the Bucs’ cornerback situation is largely young and unproven. Aside from oft-injured veteran Torrie Cox, who has been out of football since the early part of the 2007 season and is trying to come back from a torn ACL that was torn in back-to-back years, experience at the cornerback position is extremely limited.
Last year’s starting corner, Phillip Buchanon left for Detroit in free agency. Elbert Mack, an undrafted cornerback in 2008, is the leading candidate to be the team’s nickel corner. Former practice squad players Kyle Arrington and Greg Fassitt are legitimate competitors for a roster spot.
Yes, Tampa Bay is the perfect place for a seventh-rounder like Biggers to get a real opportunity to make a 53-man roster.
“My agent has been saying from day one that Tampa would be a great fit for me. There is a great opportunity to play and I’m going to learn a lot,” Biggers said. “This is a defense that has changed from the Tampa 2 to the press-man coverage, and I think that fits me real well. I did that a lot in college. That’s my strength. From what I’ve seen so far, I love the system here.”
Not only does Biggers love the fact that the opportunity is there to compete for a roster spot, he also is excited about playing for head coach Raheem Morris, who spent his years in the NFL working with defensive backs.
“He loves the DBs. He’s got a soft spot for us,” Biggers said. “He’s very energetic and he is always challenging the DBs a lot. I think it’s great having a defensive-minded coach. He makes you really want to get out there and play hard for him.”
Biggers had a solid career as a three-year starter at Western Michigan, recording 161 tackles, breaking up 18 passes, intercepting seven passes and forcing two fumbles. During his senior season, Biggers recorded 62 tackles, broke up four passes and picking off two others, but was overshadowed by safety Louis Delmas in the eyes of the NFL scouting community.
Delmas, the first pick in the second round pick by Detroit, had a bunch of pre-draft hype during his senior season and for good reason. Delmas, who was Biggers’ life-long friend and roommate, recorded 309 tackles, 18 passes defensed and 12 career interceptions during his Western Michigan career and played a big role in helping Biggers get drafted.
“It was to my advantage to see Delmas get all that attention from NFL scouts,” Biggers said. “Watching him play and seeing him make plays made me want to make plays. With him having a lot of scouts come to watch gave everybody else an opportunity to show what they could do. Everything he would do, we would do together. We were both out there playing hard. We would feed off each other. We lived together. We did everything together since we were in sixth grade. I think it was to my advantage to watch him make big plays and then me follow his lead.”
So why did a productive, 6-foot, 180-pound cornerback like Biggers, who ran a 4.34 40-yard dash, fall all the way to the seventh round?
“I don’t know why I was drafted so late,” Biggers said. “All I know is that I am here now and I’m going to make the best of the opportunity. I have to go out every day and practice hard. I have a chip on my shoulder, but a lot of guys in this league have chips on their shoulders. We have to fight for our jobs. I feel like I’m just like all the other rookies – from the first-rounders to the seventh-rounders.”
The fact that Biggers went undrafted through six rounds despite a good college career and impressive measurables is question that not only baffles Biggers, but also Bucs director of college scouting Dennis Hickey.
“That’s a good question. That’s something that we were questioning,” Hickey said regarding Biggers’ draft status. “We brought him in and liked him. He wasn’t a highly touted guy going into the Combine. When we put on the tape we liked what we saw. We saw some potential there. We saw a guy that played a lot of football there. It was curious to us. We were hoping to get him where we got him. And to be honest, we had him rated higher. We didn’t have a sixth-round pick, so we had to wait until the seventh round to get him. We saw a lot of things we liked about him.”
The traits that the Buccaneers like most about Biggers include his quick feet in man coverage and his aggressiveness at the line of scrimmage.
“I like to get in a receiver’s face and use my hands,” Biggers said. “I’m good at cutting off routes with my quick feet. That’s what press coverage is. It’s using your hands and your feet and your eyes. I’m pretty good at it.”
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th 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 spent six years 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: firstname.lastname@example.org