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WHAT THE BUCCANEERS ARE LOOKING FOR:
Tampa Bay needs to add a young, playmaking running back to upgrade its rushing attack, which ranked 29th in the NFL in 2004. The Bucs will be looking for an all-around player who can run, catch and pass protect. Expect the Bucs to spend a first day pick on a halfback unless they can come up with salary cap room to trade for Edgerrin James or Shaun Alexander. While this running back class is deep, the Bucs will be looking for players who are the most well-rounded. Tampa Bay may also get a fullback on day two.
While Tampa Bay is contemplating taking a running back in the first round, there are a group of close to 10 running backs in rounds 2-5 that fit what the Bucs want to do offensively. A quick look at some of the more successful backs in the NFL will tell you that they are around 5-foot-10, 210 pounds, which is the prototype size the Bucs are looking for to compliment the taller (6-foot) Michael Pittman, who has an upright running style. Luckily for Tampa Bay, this draft is full of running backs that fit that mold. The Bucs want someone who has the ability to develop into a starter as Charlie Garner may not be around past 2005 due to age and salary cap reasons. This could be Pittman’s final year in Tampa Bay if his case of fumbilitis is not cured.
IDEAL PLAYERS FOR THE BUCS’ SCHEME:
Jon Gruden really came to appreciate Auburn’s Carnell “Cadillac” Williams at the Senior Bowl, and he will get strong consideration at No. 5. Williams’ shifty and tough running style fits what the Bucs want in a halfback. His hands are good enough. Auburn’s Ronnie Brown is also a great fit, but will likely be gone when the Bucs pick in the first round. In the second round, California’s J.J. Arrington could also be an option. Arrington has speed and receiving ability and was ultra-productive for California in 2004. The Bucs are also high on Louisiana Tech’s Ryan Moats, who is a flashy scat back with speed. Moats reminds some of Warrick Dunn with his playmaking ability. West Virginia’s Kay-Jay Harris and Florida’s Ciatrick Fason have some appeal due to their receiving ability, but their upright running style is a turnoff. Virginia’s Alvin Pearman is an option in rounds 3-4 and compares favorably to Mewelde Moore, whom the team was high on in 2004. He’s a great pass catcher and special teamer. K-State’s diminutive Darren Sproles gets mixed reviews at One Buc Place, but don’t count him or Minnesota’s Marion Barber out in round 4. Citadel’s Nehemiah Broughton and Washington’s Zach Tuiasosopo are fullback options in rounds 6-7.
The Bucs have spent a great deal of time debating which Auburn running back was better – Brown or Williams? While Brown has great size, and perhaps, along with Pearman, the best hands in the draft at the running back spot, Williams was the back that the coaches trusted most near the goal line and in third-and-short situations. The Bucs have already had private visits with Benson, Williams, Moats, Pearman and Arrington, and will also meet with Brown before the draft. The interest in Benson appears to be a smoke screen from what we have been able to figure out. Another name to keep in mind is Miami fullback Talib Humphrey as a late-round, priority undrafted free agent possibility. Humphrey has had an assortment of injuries, but was Gore’s lead blocker last year and showed great hands and the ability to make clutch plays in the passing game in the Hurricanes’ victory at Virginia last year.
BUCS’ BEST BET – RB ALVIN PEARMAN (Virginia) Pearman, who has great character and unselfishly split carries with Wali Lundy, played in a West Coast offense at Virginia and can be a real running or receiving threat. Because he can return punts and be a personal protector on punts, Pearman is the type of player who can dress on Sundays and contribute as a rookie.
CURRENT BUCS RUNNING BACKS:
Michael Pittman, Charlie Garner, Earnest Graham, Ian Smart, Jonathan Reese, Mike Alstott (FB), Jameel Cook (FB), Tom Lopienski (FB)
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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