Copyright 2007

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By now, football fans have read through several mock drafts and seen and heard all of the pundits’ predictions as they pertain to the 2007 NFL Draft.

Bucs fans will have the opportunity to view Pewter Report’s final first-round mock draft when it’s published on later this week.

In the meantime, I’ve decided to play general manager for a day, minus the compensation and real responsibility that goes with this position, of course, by using this Pewter Insider column to explain which players I’d select with each of Tampa Bay’s nine selections in the 2007 NFL Draft.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 2007 NFL Draft

Round 1 (4th overall) – WR Calvin Johnson (Georgia Tech)
Wide receiver isn’t the most pressing need on Tampa Bay’s roster, but the Bucs are in need of a playmaker on offense and simply can’t afford to pass up the opportunity to take Johnson, who is arguably the best players in the 2007 NFL Draft. Johnson has a rare combination of size and speed and will make an immediate impact on the Bucs offense.

Round 2 (35th overall) – C Ryan Kalil (USC)
The Bucs have placed some Band-Aids on the center position by signing Matt Lehr and moving Dan Buenning over to center to play behind John Wade. However, Tampa Bay’s track record for moving players around on the offensive line doesn’t suggest Buenning or Lehr will have great success, and Wade, 32, is past his prime. The Bucs need a franchise center and will land the best one in this draft if Kalil falls to them in the second round.

Round 2 (64th overall) – DE Lamar Woodley (Michigan)
Tampa Bay entered the offseason determined to upgrade its pass rush, and it can do just that by using the pick they acquired from the Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts in the trade for Booger McFarland on Woodley, who notched 23 career sacks, including 12 as a senior.

Round  3 (68th overall) – S Aaron Rouse (Virginia Tech)
The Bucs failed to address the safety position in free agency, but they’re expected to select at least one safety in this draft. If this draft wasn’t so deep at the safety position, the Bucs wouldn’t even have the chance to think about taking the 6-foot-4 Rouse, who is hard hitter and former linebacker, this late. But it is deep, and Rouse, whom the Bucs coached at the Senior Bowl, could fall into Tampa Bay’s lap in the third round.

Round 4 (102nd overall) – DT Marcus Thomas (Florida)
Thomas could have been a first-round draft pick had he avoided some off-the-field issues (failed drug test) that eventually got him kicked off the Gators’ squad. Thomas is a tremendous run stuffer and has the athleticism and speed to rush the quarterback, evidenced by his 14 career sacks. The Bucs are in desperate need of an under tackle, and Thomas could help solidify this position if he can stay out of trouble. The Bucs have Kevin Carter playing under tackle right now, and the 33-year old veteran would be a great mentor for Thomas. This could be a risky pick, but if Thomas falls to Tampa Bay in the fourth round the reward could outweigh the potential risk.

Round 5 (141st overall) – WR/KR Yamon Figurs (Kansas State)
It’s time for Tampa Bay to upgrade its return game, and Figurs is the best return specialist entering this draft. Figurs was the fastest player at the Combine and returned two punts for touchdowns and a kickoff for a score during his collegiate career. While he’s a raw, undersized receiver, Figurs would be a dangerous return man and excellent gunner on punt coverage. Bucs head coach Jon Gruden likely could find some creative ways to use Figurs, who scored touchdowns on two 39-yard reverses at K-State last year.

Round 7 (214th overall) – OT Allen Barbre (Missouri Southern)
Bucs offensive line coach Bill Muir loves versatile linemen, and Barbre fits that description. This athletic lineman is a small school sleeper who can play guard or tackle. There’s a chance Barbre could be drafted in the fifth or sixth round, and the Bucs are unfortunately without a sixth-round pick due to the trade for tight end Doug Jolley that sent that pick to the New York Jets last year. If Barbre falls to the Bucs at the top of the seventh round they should jump all over him.

Round 7 (245th overall) – RB Jon Cornish (Kansas)
Selecting Florida State running back Lorenzo Booker, who is also a return specialist, could be tempting if he’s still available in the third round, but safety is the more pressing need since the Bucs have Cadillac Williams and Michael Pittman on their roster. While he’s undersized and doesn’t have great speed, Cornish possesses some of the attributes Jon Gruden craves in a running back, including pass-catching ability and return skills. Cornish could be a good pickup in the seventh round.

Round 7 (246th overall) – LB Zach Diles (Kansas State)
With Shelton Quarles likely to retire or be released, the Bucs will have some depth issues at the middle linebacker spot. Barrett Ruud would become the team’s starter if Quarles does retire or get released, but the team would be in need of a capable backup middle linebacker. The Bucs could find one in Diles, who started at the Mike linebacker spot in a similar version of the Tampa 2 defense under Raheem Morris, who served as K-State’s defensive coordinator last year before re-joining Tampa Bay as the team’s defensive backs coach this offseason. Diles is a good tackler and has shown the speed to drop into coverage. The 240-pound Diles would be a good value pick for the Bucs in the seventh round.

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