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WHAT THE BUCCANEERS ARE LOOKING FOR:
Tampa Bay is in dire need of some more cornerbacks after cutting nickel corner Mario Edwards after a sub-par year. Not only will the Bucs need to draft a player to challenge Torrie Cox and Juran Bolden for the nickel cornerback spot, they will need to groom someone who can eventually take over for Pro Bowler Ronde Barber. Barber will be 30 this year, his salary is escalating and he is only under contract through 2006. Brian Kelly, the Bucs’ other starter, will be 29 this season and may be fishing for a raise in the near future. Cornerbacks who play for Tampa Bay don’t have to be blazing fast, just quick, instinctive and smart. The Bucs also demand that their corners be tough and physical against the run.
Behind the likes of Barber, Kelly and Bolden, Tampa Bay has some young, exciting cornerback prospects in Cox, Ronyell Whitaker, and free agent additions Rod Babers and Blue Adams. But the question is whether any one of those four players could ever develop into a starter or if they will top out as a nickel or dime back. The answer is probably the latter. That’s why the Bucs will likely take a cornerback by the fourth round of the 2005 NFL Draft. Tampa Bay needs to hit on the corner they draft and hope he can develop into a starting-caliber player quickly. Barber is grumbling his contract, which expires after 2006, behind the scenes and could be trade bait or a cap casualty next year, depending on how his 2005 campaign goes.
IDEAL PLAYERS FOR THE BUCS’ SCHEME:
Tampa Bay will actually consider drafting West Virginia corner Adam “Pac-Man” Jones in the upper part of the first round. Miami’s Antrell Rolle, the second-best corner this year, is also a Buc favorite. Tampa Bay also grew fond of Auburn’s Carlos Rogers at the Senior Bowl, but he’ll be gone in the first round. Expect the Bucs to draft a cornerback on the first day, but more likely in the second or third rounds. Michigan’s Marlin Jackson, Clemson’s Justin Miller, Florida State’s Bryant McFadden, Virginia Tech’s Eric Green and Nebraska’s Fabian Washington are Bucs’ targets on the first day. Jackson and McFadden have the physical nature to come up in run support, while Miller is a dynamic punt and kick returner. Oklahoma’s Antonio Perkins is one of college football’s best punt returners and could slide to the fourth round, where he would be a steal for Tampa Bay. LSU’s Travis Daniels, Stanford’s Stanley Wilson and Louisiana Tech’s Jerron Wishom could be options in rounds 4-5. Arizona State’s Chris McKenzie and Missouri’s Shirdonya Mitchell could be options in rounds 6-7.
The Bucs still covet Jones, Rolle and Rodgers, but it is doubtful that the team would draft a cornerback in Round 1. It’s looking more and more like the Bucs will draft a cornerback in rounds 2-3, but they could wait until the fourth round – depending on how big of a run on corners has happened in rounds 1-3 – because of the depth at the position in this year’s draft. Another name you could add with Jackson, Miller, McFadden and Green is LSU’s Corey Webster, whom the Bucs coached at the Senior Bowl. The Bucs appear to be high on Washington and have brought him for a visit, as first reported by PewterReport.com, but there are some concerns about his toughness and willingness to support the run defense. The team has also taken a liking to Ohio State’s Dustin Fox, who can both cornerback and safety. Tampa Bay has been scouting Fox for some time now, likely watching him last year while scouting Will Allen, whom the team took last year in the fourth round. You can likely scratch Mitchell off the list as he hurt his ACL during his pro day workout and could be out for some time. The Bucs may sign him as a free agent as he will likely go undrafted now. In his place, add Iowa State corner Ellis Hobbs, who is a tough, short cornerback with good speed and hitting ability. He may need time to develop his cover skills, but Hobbs is a special teams demon in the Corey Ivy mold and is the best gunner on punt coverage in the nation. The fact that Ivy was not re-signed could prompt the Bucs to use a second day pick on Hobbs.
BUCS’ BEST BET – CB BRYANT McFADDEN (Florida State)
McFadden is a great Cover 2 cornerback prospect because he is aggressive in run support and breaks on the ball well in coverage. He impressed the team at the Senior Bowl where he was coached by the Bucs as a South squad participant. McFadden has the traits and confidence to be a Buccaneer cornerback.
CURRENT BUCS CORNERBACKS:
Ronde Barber, Brian Kelly, Juran Bolden, Torrie Cox, Ronyell Whitaker, Rod Babers, Danny “Blue” Adams
For more detailed analyis on each draft prospect, refer to the positional draft previews in the on-line version of the Pewter Report Bucs Draft Preview.
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