WHAT THE BUCS HAVE AT GUARDS/CENTERS Tampa Bay attempted to revamp their guard and center positions after the 2013 season via free agency, trade and the draft last season, with mixed results. Last spring, Tampa Bay signed free agent center Evan Dietrich-Smith and traded for left guard Logan Mankins right before the start of the season. Mankins played well at times, but not nearly to the Pro Bowl level he did while in New England. Part of that was due to arriving just a week before the regular season and having little time to acclimate himself to the Florida heat and humidity after spending his career playing for the Patriots. An offseason in Tampa Bay is expected to help improve his play and conditioning. Dietrich-Smith was average at best, but like Mankins, the Bucs feel 2015 will be a better year for the former Packers center.
Patrick Omameh, who was a first-year starter at right guard, will be back, but the team is looking to upgrade at the guard position and he will be fighting for a roster spot along with Josh Allen and Garrett Gilkey, who also played guard at times for the Bucs in 2014 but could be released this offseason. Second-year guard Kadeem Edwards, a fifth-round draft pick last year, spent the last month of 2014 on injured reserve and Tampa Bay has hopes that Edwards is further along the learning curve in 2015.
The Bucs also have former USF lineman Jeremiah Warren on the roster as well, but he will face a tough battle to stick in 2015. Tampa Bay did add Ben Gottschalk this offseason and while listed as a center, perhaps he gets a shot at guard as well.
WHAT THE BUCS NEED AT GUARDS/CENTERS With the Buccaneers expected to draft a quarterback in April’s NFL Draft, it will be crucial that they get the offensive line playing at a much higher level. Tampa Bay needs a starting caliber guard and could also use better quality depth at every position across the line. Protecting the new Bucs’ passer will go a long way in determining the success of whoever is under center for the Buccaneers in 2015. Tampa Bay also needs to run the ball with more consistency this year to provide the balanced attack that new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter will strive to bring to Raymond James Stadium next fall.
BUCS’ BEST BET AT G/C (EARLY 1-3) G Tre’ Jackson – Florida State – Senior – 6-4, 330 – 5.52 Jackson was impressive week in Mobile, Ala. and earned Most Valuable Player honors at the Senior Bowl after an excellent week of practice and game. The former FSU standout was steady if not spectacular for the Seminoles during his time in Tallahassee, improving each year. Jackson had one of his best games of his 2014 season in a come-from-behind win against the Fighting Irish, grading out at over 91 percent and delivering four pancake blocks. In Mobile, Jackson was able to improve his stock dramatically, showing good strength and quickness off the ball. Jackson told PewterReport.com that he can get sloppy with his hands at times, but was working to improve it for scouts. Jackson also told PewterReport.com that he would love to play for the Buccaneers and potentially protect Jameis Winston at the next level.
BUCS’ BEST BET AT G/C (LATE 4-7) Jon Feliciano – Miami – Redshirt Senior – 6-4, 323 – 5.33 Feliciano is as versatile as any lineman in the draft after playing at guard, left tackle and right tackle during his career at Miami. Feliciano plays hard and has a bit of an edge. The Bucs have been missing that nasty demeanor since the departure of Donald Penn following the 2013 season, but Feliciano will be hard pressed to make an impact as a rookie. With only a late round grade, the odds of a seventh-rounder stepping in and earning a spot in the the starting rotation is slim. But as a developmental player Feliciano is promising showing versatility and leadership during his time in Coral Gables.
TOP TEN GUARDS/CENTERS 1. C Cam Erving – Florida State – Senior – 6-5, 313 – 5.15 Starting his career as a defensive end, Erving made a surprising seamless transition to the offensive side of the ball and was a three-year starter for Rick Trickett’s group of “Hogs.” Maybe even more impressive was Erving’s ability to switch from tackle to center mid-season in 2014, and not only play well but excel, earning All-ACC honors at both positions. Scouts rave about Erving’s light feet and overall athletic ability, but the senior at times relied too much on his natural athleticism and got sloppy with his technique. Erving won’t get by by just using his athleticism in the NFL, and will need to work hard on his hand placement as well as being a touch more aggressive. Still, it is hard to imagine the former FSU star not being the first center off the board later this month in the first round, as well as earning a starting job somewhere in the fall.
2. G A. J. Cann – South Carolina – Senior – 6-3, 313 – 5.18 For an NFL team looking for a power-blocking scheme suited guard, look no further than South Carolina’s Cann who started 51 games in the NCAA’s toughest conference. His experience alone will intrigue teams, but their excitement will only grow when the film is turned on, and teams see his sheer power. Cann threw up 26 reps of 225 at the NFL Combine then improved at his pro day, notching 30 reps, showing excellent strength. Cann isn’t a fleet-of-foot type guard and would probably not excel in a zone-blocking scheme, but still has plenty of room to improve according to scouts. His football awareness is off the charts and he was a leader in college earning captain’s honors as a junior. Cann projects as a second-round selection.
3. G Laken Tomlinson – Duke – Senior – 6-3, 323 – 5.33 Tomlinson’s game tape shows a good athlete who used his lower body as well as any one in college football. With thick legs and a stout base, Tomlinson excelled at drive blocking and getting to the second level for the Blue Devils. Tomlinson was named a captain as a senior and was a four-year starter at right guard. The Chicago native possesses very high character and doesn’t take shortcuts and has a strong work ethic. Scouts say his biggest weakness is his limited range and has short space of effectiveness, meaning within a few yards in either direction he is solid, but loses some effectiveness when asked to get into space. Tomlinson has upped his stock to the second round.
4. C Hroniss Grasu – Oregon – Senior – 6-3, 297 – 5.03 Just the opposite of Cann, Grasu is built to play in a zone-blocking scheme after spending five years working in the Oregon spread offense. The California native moves well in space, finds targets at the second level very well, has excellent feet and an excellent football I.Q. Grasu struggles at times with strong bull rushes as he tends to dip his head where he can lose the advantage over the defensive player. Still for a team like the Eagles, Grasu could be an immediate contributor and earn a starting nod as a rookie. He could be a second-round selection.
5. G Tre’ Jackson – Florida State – Senior – 6-4, 330 – 5.52 Jackson was extremely durable during his time at FSU and scouts love how he uses his large frame and leg drive to drive opponents off the ball, as well as keeping his pad level low. Jackson has some deficiencies that include struggling with balance at times and limited change of direction. Jackson was very impressive during his time in Mobile, Ala during Senior Bowl week. and really saw his stock improve dramatically after allowing NFL personnel to see him up close and personal. A no-nonsense type of player, Jackson sees football as a job and seems to be dedicated to his craft. He will likely come off the board in the second or third round.
6. G Ali Marpet – Hobart – Senior – 6-4, 307 – 4.98 Hailing from tiny Hobart College, Marpet turned the heads of scouts and the media, PeterReport.com included, with an impressive week of work at the Senior Bowl in January. Marpet was tenacious, and his compact body works to hid advantage. Marpet doesn’t have the ideal length and some of the other size intangibles that some of the bigger named school recruits have, but makes up for it with his bulldog mentality and attitude. Marpet never backed down from some of the best defensive players in Mobile and held his own against some of the top pass rushers coming out this year. Marpet played left tackle at Hobart, then center at the Senior Bowl, but is projected to be a guard at the next level as a third-round pick.
7. G Arie Kouandjio – Alabama – Senior – 6-5, 310 – 5.48 Without some medical concerns (knee issues at Alabama) Kouandjio would most likely be in the mix for a second round or even late first round pick in this month’s draft. Kouandjio had ideal size and plays with a wide base while keeping his pad level exactly where scouts and NFL coaches love. The former Crimson Tide star does have some bad habits according to scouts including tending to overextend himself, while also occasionally failing to recognize late pressure. Despite these issues a number of teams will be willing to take a shot on Kouandjio on day two of the upcoming draft, and if he can stay healthy he could end up being a great value for the team that pulls the trigger in the third round.
8. C Reese Dismukes – Auburn – Senior – 6-3, 296 – 5.31
Dismukes had a solid career for the Tigers at Auburn and scouts rave about his low center of gravity and above average knee bend. The Alabama native has excellent hands and ability to clamp onto defenders and steer them where he chooses. Dismukes was a four-year starter for the Tigers in addition to being a two-time first team All-SEC selection and also being voted the top center in the country as a senior. Scouts say there are some areas to work on, particularly his strength and power, as Dismukes had some issues with stout nose tackles in college. At the NFL level every nose tackle will be as good if not better to the best ones he faced in the SEC. He has the chance to be a third- or fourth-round pick.
9. G John Miller – Louisville – Senior – 6-5, 309 – 5.20 Miller started as a true freshmen and in 46 games during his Louisville career, played both left and right guard, something that will be attractive to NFL teams. Very quick off the ball, Miller likes to take it to defensive players first, but at times lunges and overextends, getting beat by quicker defensive tackles. Miller will need to learn to know when to shoot off the ball and when to invite defensive players into him, where he can turn them where he needs to. Teams love his thick upper and lower body build and also love his nasty streak and aggressive style of play and he should come off the board in the third or fourth round.
10. G Josue Matias – Florida State – Senior – 6-5, 309 – 5.52 Matias quietly started 41 straight games for the Seminoles and was a reliable member of one of the better units in the country over the last two seasons. While not getting the same attention as some of his FSU teammates, some scout think Matias will be an better long-term prospect than Tre’ Jackson. Matias lacks the strength and power that Jackson has, but was a more natural pass blocker during his time in Tallahassee. Matias has a solid wide base and sets up very well in pass protection but will need to get stronger and better as a run blocker. He’s likely a fourth-round pick.
BEST OF THE REST 11. C B.J. Finney – Kansas State – Senior – 6-4, 318 – 5.25 One of the toughest and most reliable centers in the country, Finney started 52 straight games for the Wildcats. With above-average feet and lateral movement, Finney also excels using his hands to lock onto opponents, while also being a natural leader with high character. Finney will need to learn to rely on his lower body more at the next level as he tended to get too rigid and lacks some flexibility below the waist. He could be a steal in the fourth round.
12. G Mitch Morse – Missouri – Senior – 6-5, 305 – 5.14 Morse was a solid player for the Tigers who went to the SEC title game the last two seasons, where he showed versatility, playing center, guard and left tackle during his time at Mizzou. Most scouts see him as a guard at the next level and his skill set most likely fits better as an interoir lineman. With a quick, stout punch in pass protection, along with the ability to absorb the power of premier powerful pass rushers at the college level, Morse could be a great mid-round value in the fourth round.
13. C Andy Galik – Boston College – Senior – 6-2, 306 – 5.52 Galik’s short, squatty frame makes him an ideal center candidate at the NFL level, along with his tenacity and desire to mix it up in the trenches. Galik started 41 games for Boston College and never had any major injury issues, showing NFL teams he is a durable player. Galik is a quick-punch player that can occasionally get overpowered if the defender can absorb his first shot of contact. He should be a fourth- or fifth-round selection.
14. G Jami Douglas – Arizona State – Senior – 6-4, 304 – 5.25 Douglas does a great job in space and has above-average agility and ability to hit moving targets, but the biggest knock on him is his lack of ideal arm length which hurts in pass protection. Douglas is a nasty player who loves to drive opponents past the whistle at times. He was an All-Pac 12 performer at left guard for two years and left tackle last year and should be a fourth- or fifth-round draft choice.
15. G Mark Glowinski – West Virginia – Senior – 6-4, 307 – 5.20 At first glance Glowinski has the looks of a solid offensive tackle but too often gets beat by counter moves, making him a liability playing in space and on the edge. His game appears to better suited for the interior. With very good athleticism some teams may look to move him back to tackle where he began his Mountaineer career. Glowinski will likely be a fifth-round pick.
16. C Shaquille Mason – Georgia Tech – Senior – 6-2, 304 – 4.99 Teams love aggressive players but Mason can get too greedy at times with his aggression, leading to sloppy play and poor technique. Still the former Yellow Jacket standout is very fluid pulling and moving laterally. Mason played center at the Senior Bowl and impressed scouts with the ability to move to the middle. At 6-2, that may be a better long-term spot for the Tennessee native. Mason is considered to be a fifth- or sixth-round pick. 17. G Cody Wichmann – Fresno State – Senior – 6-5, 319 – 4.98 Wichmann started every game of his career at Fresno State (50 games), tying a school record for offensive linemen. With excellent size, Wichman had a great Bulldog career, but didn’t get the notoriety that some of the other guards and centers did from the larger more noted schools. Expect him to come off the board in the fifth or sixth round.
18. G Robert Myers – Tennessee State – Senior – 6-5, 326 – 5.44 Meyers is a project, but one who showed scouts some versatility by playing both tackle positions and guard while in college. Myers was a three-year starter and former teammates of current Bucs’ guard Kadeem Edwards, and also played at the Senior Bowl. He’s likely a sixth- or seventh-round pick.
19. G Jon Feliciano – Miami – Senior – 6-4, 323 – 5.33 Feliciano is as versatile as any lineman in the draft after playing at guard, left tackle and right tackle during his career at Miami. Feliciano plays hard and has a bit of an edge. A strong East-West Shrine game caught the eyes of several teams last January. Teams view Feliciano as a sixth- or seventh-round candidate.
20. C Max Garcia – Florida – Senior – 6-4, 321 – 5.24 Garcia moved inside to center as a senior for the Gators and started all 13 games and earning second team All-SEC honors for Will Muschamp. Garcia rarely dominated but is a tough player who played through some injuries that would have sidelined many. He’s a possible seventh-round pick or undrafted free agent.
Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, the beach and family time.Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org