The Tampa Bay Buccaneers did some wheeling and dealing on the second day of the 2007 NFL Draft, trading their fourth-round pick (102nd overall) to Minnesota in exchange for the Vikings’ fourth-round selection (106th overall) and sixth-round pick (182nd overall).
The Bucs used the Vikings’ fourth-round selection to take Syracuse defensive back Tanard Jackson, who played for Tampa Bay’s coaching staff at the Senior Bowl.
“I’m happy to be a Buccaneer,” said Jackson. “I was fortunate enough to have them coach me at the Senior Bowl. I’m familiar with them and I feel I fit well with their system. Getting to know [defensive backs coach] Raheem [Morris] and Coach Kiffin that week definitely helped me. I learned a lot from them and I’m just fortunate enough to be a Buccaneer and play for them.”
The 6-foot, 200-pound Jackson can play cornerback and free safety. Scouting reports suggest Jackson does not have the speed necessary to play cornerback in the NFL, which means it’s likely he will play safety in Tampa Bay.
“The kid has some position flexibility,” said Morris. “He can play some nickel cornerback and some backup nickel for us.
“When a guy is tough, aggressive and comes and starts making some of those tackles, you immediately start thinking about the transition. You start looking at the Combine workouts and people might start saying that he’s a step too slow to play corner. Whatever. That’s the same type of stuff they said about Ronde [Barber] and he might be the best corner in Bucs history.”
Jackson, who made an extermely favorable impression on Tampa Bay’s coaching staff at the Senior Bowl, started 34 of the 45 career games he played in at Syracuse, recording 165 tackles, recovering four fumbles and notching five interceptions, 15 passes defensed and 2.5 sacks.
“When I had Tanard at Senior Bowl the kid was fun to coach,” said Morris. “We asked him to move to a new position and play safety and the kid is just a good player. He came out and worked hard, focused and locked in. He caught my attention and eye at the Senior Bowl.
“Our scouts did a hell of a job scouting this guy, and they brought him and his ability to play safety to my attention at the Senior Bowl, so we put him over there to see what he could do. We did, and it was fun. Then we put him back at corner and he acted like he had been practicing there all week. He was a fun guy to be around.”
Jackson said he’s confident he’ll be able to make a smooth transition from cornerback to safety in Tampa Bay’s Cover 2 defensive scheme.
“I’m very comfortable with it. It’s a confidence thing with me,” said Jackson. “I’m confident enough in my abilities to make the transition from cornerback to safety. I first experienced that at the Senior Bowl and Tampa Bay pretty much put it out there that they saw me as a safety in the NFL. I just took it from there.
“I played corner all four years at Syracuse, so I know what it feels like to be on an island,” said Jackson. “If they need me to do that I will do that.
“Being on an island playing corner for four years, it makes the transition from corner to safety a little easier. But there are still some different keys you have to read at safety and it’s still a process. I’m willing to work and get it down.”
This has been a defensive draft for the Buccaneers, who have selected defensive end Gaines Adams, safety Sabby Piscitelli, linebacker Quincy Black and Jackson with four of their first five picks.
Tampa Bay safeties Jermaine Phillips and Will Allen struggled throughout the 2006 season. While the presence of Bucs defensive backs coach Raheem Morris should help those players improve, Piscitelli and Jackson are expected to compete for starting jobs with Phillips and Allen, respectively.
“Anybody we pick in this draft is going to push for a starting job,” said Morris. “We always talk about that in our room. We’re looking for guys to replace each other. [Assistant defensive backs coach] Jimmy Lake is trying to replace me everyday. He should be. They’re not going to waver or fear. They shouldn’t, but they better come to work on Monday.”
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