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By now, football fans probably have read through several mock draft and listened to all of the pundits’ predictions as they pertain to the 2006 NFL Draft.
Bucs fans will have the opportunity to view Pewter Report’s third and final mock draft when we publish it on PewterReport.com on Wednesday.
While Bucs general manager Bruce Allen, head coach Jon Gruden and his staff are much more qualified than I am, I’ve decided to use my on-line column this week to play general manager for a day, minus the pay and real responsibility, of course, and tell Tampa Bay fans which players I’d select with each of the Bucs’ 10 draft picks.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 2006 NFL Draft
Round 1 (23rd overall) — C Nick Mangold – Ohio State
This might not be a popular pick, but Tampa Bay has needs along its offensive line, and although John Wade and Sean Mahan are under contract, the center and guard positions are ones that could use an upgrade. Mangold (6-3, 296), who is a great run blocker and turned in excellent performances at the Senior Bowl and Combine, is easily the best center in the 2006 NFL Draft, and many scouts believe he could play guard in the NFL. Wade, 31, isn’t getting any younger or better, and Mahan, whose future is at the center position, is unproven at that position and will become an unrestricted free agent after this season. That said, I’d first field trade offers as Mangold likely could be had toward the latter part of the first round, but I’d feel pretty comfortable taking Mangold with the 23rd overall pick in the NFL Draft.
Round 2 (59) – TE Leonard Pope – Georgia
Tampa Bay is extremely thin at the tight end position. Alex Smith is an up-and-coming player, and Anthony Becht is serviceable in the run-blocking department, but after that the Bucs have nothing to work with and they’re an injury away from being in deep trouble at this position. UCLA TE Marcedes Lewis would be awfully tempting in the first round, but offensive line is a more pressing need. Plus, the tight end position is fairly deep in terms of talent this year, and there’s a good chance Pope (6-7, 254) will be there when the Bucs pick in the second round. Pope is an early-entry junior that brings nice size and leaping ability to the offensive side of the ball. He needs to work on his blocking technique, but his hands are very reliable. The addition of Pope would allow head coach Jon Gruden’s offense to be more flexible when working out of two-tight end sets. If, for some reason, Pope is off the board by the time the Bucs pick in the second round, the selection here in terms of position wouldn’t change. Notre Dame TE Anthony Fasano would be the next best option, but hopefully Pope will be there when the Bucs pick in the second.
Round 3 (90) – DT Claude Wroten – LSU
A few months ago, Wroten (6-2, 300) was projected to be a first-round draft pick, but some off-the-field issues (marijuana charges that were later dismissed, failing to show up at Senior Bowl, and a more recent report that claims he tested positive for marijuana at the Combine) have caused his stock to slip big-time. He might not have first-round character, but Wroten has first-round ability, and he’d be worth taking a chance on toward the end of the third round, which is where he could fall to. Wroten would be a perfect fit at under tackle in the Tampa 2 as long as he gets his act together. In 1995, Tampa Bay took a chance on a player with similar character concerns. That gamble paid off when the Bucs used one of their two first-round picks to select DT Warren Sapp, who fell out of the top 10 due to reports and rumors of drug usage. The Bucs might not be able to pass up the opportunity to draft Wroten if he falls to them in the third round.
Round 4 (122) — CB Alan Zemaitis – Penn State
With Tampa Bay cornerbacks Ronde Barber, Brian Kelly and Juran Bolden all 30 years of age or older, and Barber scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent after 2006, the Bucs need a cornerback, and Zemaitis would be a good fit and pick in the fourth round. Zemaitis recorded five interceptions and 10 passes defensed during his senior season, but a poor pro day workout really hurt his stock in the draft. Zemaitis (6-1, 200), who thrives in zone coverage, would bring good size, technique and playmaking ability to the Bucs defense, not to mention the immediate impact he’d have on their special teams.
Round 5 (156) – DE Parys Haralson – Tennessee
Penn State DE Tamba Hali, North Carolina State DE Manny Lawson and Virginia Tech’s Darryl Tapp will be hard to pass up, but Haralson (6-1, 252) would bring a lot of similar attributes to the Bucs defense, and he can be had much later in the draft. Haralson has plays with a non-stop motor, and he’s got tremendous pass-rushing skills, which the Bucs would require out of any defensive end they draft this year since they’re looking for sack master Simeon Rice’s successor. Haralson could be that guy.
Round 6 (194) – OT Brad Butler – Virginia
After D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Winston Justice, there’s no offensive tackle worth taking at No. 23 overall, and the second-round pick is used for a tight end, not an offensive tackle like Boise State’s Daryn Colledge. That said, Butler (6-5, 289) is a player the Bucs like and could land much later in the draft. Butler has a great work ethic and has playing experience at both tackle positions. While he will need work, including the need to add some bulk to his frame, Butler would be a good value pick in the sixth round.
Round 6 (202) – WR Brad Smith – Missouri
Tampa Bay needs a receiver, and it tipped its hand earlier in the offseason when it brought Seattle QB Seneca Wallace in for a visit. The Bucs are looking for an Antwaan Randle El-type player, and Smith could be that type of player. Smith (6-3, 207) is a former quarterback that is transitioning to the wide receiver position in the pros. He’s got great speed and is very elusive. Using a sixth-round pick on an “experiment” like Smith would be worth it, especially if it eventually pays off.
Round 7 (235) – WR Cory Rodgers – TCU
Tampa Bay averaged just 19.5 yards per kickoff return in 2005, and it could find a potential remedy to that problem by drafting Rodgers. An early-entry junior, Rodgers (6-1, 195) has good size and speed, and was quite productive at the college level. He hauled in 150 passes for 2,111 yards (14.0 avg.) and 17 touchdowns during his three-year career at TCU, but his hands still need some work. His biggest impact came as a return specialist, where he returned 17 kickoffs for 515 yards (30.3 avg.) and scored two touchdowns, including a 100-yard return for a score. Rodgers also returned punts, averaging 14.5 yards per attempt. While he’d be a bit of a project, Rodgers could prove to be the return specialist the Bucs, who have never returned a kickoff for a touchdown in a regular season game during their 30-year history, have been searching for.
Round 7 (241) – S Scott Ware – USC
If they sign Charles Woodson, the Bucs might not feel the need to draft a safety this year, but they could still invest one of their late-round picks on one. With new defensive backs coach Greg Burns coming over from USC, the Bucs naturally will take a hard look at Trojans S Scott Ware. Ware (6-1, 210) is a physical player, and his hard-hitting style reminds some of former Bucs S John Lynch. Ware is an aggressive player against the run, which he’ll need to be if he plans to make Tampa Bay’s 53-man roster. Even if he didn’t earn an active roster spot, Ware would be a player worth grooming on the practice squad.
Round 7 (245) — DE Frostee Rucker – USC
Given the fact that Tampa Bay’s starting defensive ends, Simeon Rice and Greg Spires, both will be 32 by December, the Bucs need to get younger and cheaper at that position, and backup DE Dewayne White will be an unrestricted free agent in 2007. That said, using two of Tampa Bay’s 10 draft picks to address needs at the defensive end position makes sense. Once again, the USC-Tampa Bay connection comes into play, with new Bucs defensive line coach Jethro Franklin reuniting with one of his former players – Rucker – in the seventh round. Rucker (6-3, 262) has good size and plays well vs. the run but needs work as a pass rusher.
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