ROUND 1 – WR DONNIE AVERY – HOUSTONâ€¨
Avery has been in all three PewterReport.com mock drafts, including the final two as Tampa Bay’s first-round pick. The reason? The most productive receiver in Tampa Bay under Jon Gruden has been fleet-footed Joey Galloway – despite Gruden’s affection for big wideouts. Galloway has produced three straight 1,000-yard seasons, which is something no other Buccaneer has accomplished. When a bad shoulder neutralized Galloway in the NFC Wild Card game against the Giants, the Buccaneers offense sputtered. At age 36, Galloway won’t play more than a couple more seasons in the NFL and Gruden will need to find the next Galloway. That’s where Avery comes in. At 5-foot-11, 192 pounds and blessed with 4.28 speed (from his junior day timing for NFL scouts), Avery is the closest thing to Galloway in this draft. The 2008 NFL Draft is loaded with talented cornerbacks into the fourth round, but there aren't as many receivers with the blazing speed, receiving skills and playmaking ability that Avery possesses. Avery's stock has been on the rise since running a 4.35 time at his pro day after he ran a somewhat disappointing 4.40 at the NFL Scouting Combine due to a pulled hamstring. Avery's acceleration and explosiveness are rare, and on tape and running the three-cone drill (in which he ran an astonishing 6.3, which was the best of any receiver in the draft), it is clear he has more than just straight-line speed. Avery had 210 receptions for 3,289 yards (15.6 avg.) and 19 touchdowns in his college career at Houston, including 91 catches for 1,456 yards and seven TDs as a senior. Avery has posted 14 games of 96 receiving yards or more for the Cougars, including a school-record 13-catch, 346-yard performance against Rice in 2007 in which he scored twice. The speedy Avery also has kick return ability, evidenced by his 100-yard TD against East Carolina last year. With clutch hands, good body control and plenty of speed, Avery is the playmaking receiver Gruden is looking for. On tape, he’s the most explosive pass catcher this year – even better than DeSean Jackson. He's a high character kid with a strong work ethic and would make a great teammate, which is a quality general manager Bruce Allen is always on the lookout for. Avery, who gets the slight nod over Indiana’s James Hardy, has worked out for the Buccaneers and met with the team at One Buc Place in early April.
ROUND 1 – VERSION 1.0 Tennesse State CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
ROUND 1 – VERSION 2.0 Houston WR Donnie Avery
ROUND 2 – RB CHRIS JOHNSON – EAST CAROLINA
If Avery has a counterpart at another position in this draft, it is Johnson, who blazed a 4.24 time at the NFL Scouting Combine in February. For the second straight PewterReport.com mock draft, Johnson is Tampa Bay’s second-round pick. He has all the skills Gruden is looking for in a running back, including the ability to catch the ball, which is a vital component of the West Coast offense. Johnson has 125 career catches for 1,296 yards (10.3 avg.) and 10 touchdowns, including 37 receptions for 528 yards (14.3 avg.) and six scores as a senior. But Johnson is no slouch as a running back with 2,982 yards (4.7 avg.) and 32 scores in his Pirates career running behind a mediocre offensive line. Johnson shook off a 2006 neck injury to turn in a monster season with 1,423 yards and 17 TDs on 236 carries. The 5-foot-10, 194-pound runner only fumbled once, too, and ripped off 301 yards and four touchdowns against Memphis and 223 yards and one touchdown against Boise State. Johnson is also a dangerous kick returner and has had two 100-yard touchdowns in his career. With Warrick Dunn turning 33, Michael Bennett turning 29, Earnest Graham in the final year of his deal and looking for a big contract extension and Cadillac Williams' return in question after a torn patellar tendon, drafting a playmaking running back like Johnson makes sense for the long haul and he can help out on special teams while he learns from the veterans. The Orlando, Fla. product grew up a Buccaneers fan and would love to play in Tampa Bay. Johnson visited One Buccaneer Place in early April.
ROUND 2 – VERSION 1.0 Houston WR Donnie Avery
ROUND 2 – VERSION 2.0 East Carolina RB Chris Johnson
ROUND 3 – CB JACK WILLIAMS – KENT STATEâ€¨
Williams, who was a fourth-rounder in PewterReport.com’s previous mock draft, isn’t a big cornerback (5-foot-9, 177 pounds), but neither is Ronde Barber. Williams did have some durability concerns (injured both ankles during his senior season) in college, but he is an aggressive, physical player who is a great athlete. He has NFL scouts buzzing with a 4.32 in the 40-yard dash and a 41-inch vertical jump. Williams was the Golden Flashes' second-leading tackler in 2007 with a career-high 93 stops (70 solo), 6.5 tackles for loss, three interceptions, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble. Williams is always around the ball, evidenced by 25 pass breakups, 13 career interceptions (including two for touchdowns), seven forced fumbles, seven fumble recoveries, three sacks and one blocked punt. Williams would be an instant asset on special teams and has already proven that he can cover kicks and punts. He also has kick and punt return experience. Despite his smallish frame, Williams is big-time hitter and his play is reminiscent of former Bucs great Donnie Abraham.â€¨Williams visited One Buccaneer Place in early April.
ROUND 3 – VERSION 1.0 West Virginia RB Steve Slaton
ROUND 3 – VERSION 2.0 Maryland DT Dre` Moore
ROUND 4 – DE JASON JONES – EASTERN MICHIGANâ€¨
The Bucs might give some consideration to drafting Virginia Tech’s Carlton Powell or an offensive tackle in the fourth round, but PewterReport.com adds Jones to its final mock draft. Jones, who played defensive tackle at Eastern Michigan, is one of the best players in the country when it comes to tackles for loss. He finished with 19.5 TFL for 67 yards as a senior and 18.5 TFL for 71 yards as a junior. Jones really opened eyes this year against Michigan in which he had six tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, one sack and a blocked field goal in the Eagles’ 33-22 loss at Ann Arbor. He has some pass rush ability that could be improved at the next level, but he did notch 14 sacks in three years. Jones is a very good athlete who averaged 24 points, 14 rebounds and five assists as a senior. He entered EMU as a tight end as a freshman, but was quickly moved to defensive tackle due to his aggressiveness once he added bulk to his frame. Jones proved he could play at the next level by holding his own at the Senior Bowl as a defensive end, which most NFL teams predict he will play due to his 6-foot-5, 272-pound frame. But Jones is candidate to play either position in Tampa Bay as he has a similar frame to current Bucs tackles Jovan Haye and Greg Peterson. Defensive line coach Larry Coyer loves position flexibility and Jones has the ability to play at tackle and end. Jones visited One Buccaneer Place in April.
ROUND 4 – VERSION 1.0 San Jose CB Dwight Lowery
ROUND 4 – VERSION 2.0 Kent State CB Jack Williams
ROUND 5 – CB TRAE WILLIAMS – SOUTH FLORIDAâ€¨
Tampa Bay comes back and drafts another cornerback (a team can never have enough good corners) named Williams in the fifth round. This time it's local product Trae Williams, who recorded 16 interceptions (four for touchdowns) in his USF career. Over the past two years, Williams broke up 25 passes and has excelled on special teams. At 5-foot-9, 193 pounds, Williams is big enough to defend NFL wide receivers, but there are some concerns about his lack of foot speed (4.52) that may prevent him from developing into a starter down the road. He could become a better tackler, but is physical enough for the Bucs.â€¨â€¨He visited One Buccaneer Place shortly after his pro day in March and watched film with defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. Sources say that the Bucs may be more interested in drafting Williams than his teammate, Mike Jenkins, who will be a first-round pick.
ROUND 5 – VERSION 1.0 Appalachian State WR Dexter Jackson
ROUND 5 – VERSION 2.0 South Florida CB Trae Williams
*Note: Tampa Bay currently does not have a draft selection in the sixth or seventh rounds due to trades for RB Michael Bennett (sixth) and QB Jake Plummer (seventh).
Stay tuned to PewterReport.com late Friday night for a last-minute Pewter Insider article with the latest inside scoop on who the Bucs are targeting and the latest on the Lito Sheppard situation.
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