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The 2008 NFL Draft class is considered deep at the cornerback position, which is good news for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who had the No. 2-ranked defense in the NFL and ranked No. 1 against the pass under defensive backs coach Raheem Morris last season.
At first glance the cornerback position might not appear to be one of need in Tampa Bay since the Buccaneers have Ronde Barber, Phillip Buchanon, Eugene Wilson, Sammy Davis, Torrie Cox and Marcus Hamilton under contract for the 2008 season.
However, the Bucs are indeed in the market for a cornerback. Brian Kelly bought himself out of his contract and signed with Detroit this offseason. Barber, who notched just two picks last year, is 33. Plus, Buchanon, Davis and Wilson are each in the final years of their respective contracts.
Because the draft is considered deep at cornerback, the Bucs could take one anywhere between the first and fifth round (Tampa Bay's doesn't have a sixth- or seventh-round pick).
The cornerback Tampa Bay likely will target in the first round if he's there is USF's Mike Jenkins, who is a local product and has a nice combination of size and speed. He can also return kickoffs.
The Buccaneers also like Virginia Tech CB Brandon Flowers, but he's rated more as a second-round player. Tampa Bay's predicament is that Flowers probably won't make it to the Bucs in the later part of the second round, which could force the Bucs to either trade down or take Flowers with the 20th overall pick.
Tampa Bay may not even have a first-round pick this year if it executes a trade for Kansas City Pro Bowl defensive end Jared Allen or Philadelphia CB Lito Sheppard, the former of which seems more likely than the latter at this point.
Arizona's Antoine Cason is another player the Bucs could target in the second round. Tampa Bay's secondary accounted for just 13 interceptions in 2007, which is why Morris is stressing the need to create more turnovers in 2008. Cason might have better ballhawking skills than Jenkins and Flowers, evidenced by his 15 career interceptions.
Should Tampa Bay elect to wait until the second day of the draft to select a cornerback, players like Iowa's Charles Godfrey, San Jose State's Dwight Lowery and Kent State's Jack Williams could be options.
Another USF cornerback, Trae Williams, could be a player the Bucs take a hard look at in the fifth round if they haven't already addressed their need for a cornerback earlier in the draft.
Don't expect the Buccaneers to invest one of their five draft picks in a safety this year. The Bucs used two draft picks to select Sabby Piscitelli and Tanard Jackson last year.
Jackson notched 78 tackles, two interceptions and 12 passes defensed en route to an impressive debut as Tampa Bay's starting free safety. The Bucs also have Will Allen under contract and he will compete with Jackson for playing time while providing depth.
Piscitelli suffered a broken foot in the first quarter of the 2007 regular season and wound up on injured reserve. However, Piscitelli, who led the Buccaneers in interceptions in training camp, is expected to push Jermaine Phillips for the starting strong safety job.
Unseating Phillips won't be easy for Piscitelli to do, though, as Phillips is coming off an impressive season where he led the secondary in tackles with 120 and interceptions with four.
The Bucs will add at least one defensive back, most likely a cornerback, to their roster through the 2008 NFL Draft. It's just a matter of which round they do it in.
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