Pewter Report continues its annual draft preview listing the top players at each position and also offers up two Bucs’ Best Bets, one in the early rounds and one in the late rounds. See where Pewter Report ranks the players and who they think makes the most sense for the Buccaneers. Up next are the defensive linemen.
WHAT THE BUCS HAVE AT DEFENSIVE LINEAdding an impact defensive end was a priority for the Buccaneers heading into the offseason, and they made a big splash by signing former Cincinnati defensive end Michael Johnson to a deal on the first day of free agency. Former Iowa Hawkeye defensive end Adrian Clayborn is currently Johnson’s bookend, but his starting spot isn’t guaranteed heading into 2014. Also on the roster is William Gholston, who flashed towards the end of last season as a rookie. He figures to be fighting for playing time across from Michael Johnson. Fourth-year defensive end Da’Quan Bowers has been a massive disappointment since being drafted by the team in 2011. Tampa Bay also has second-year pass-rushers Steven Means and Scott Solomon on the roster, who are viewed as developmental prospects.
At defensive tackle, The Buccaneers have the sensational Gerald McCoy, who racked up 9.5 sacks in his fourth season. He’s entrenched as the team’s staring under tackle. Tampa Bay added former Seattle Seahawk Clinton McDonald in free agency, who could start or be in a rotation at the nose tackle position. Also on the roster are Akeem Spence, Everett Dawkins, Matthew Masifilo, and David Hunter, who are young players with upside but Spence is the only player with a decent record of NFL performance.
WHAT THE BUCS NEED AT DEFENSIVE LINEWith Gerald McCoy locking down one of the three-technique spot, Tampa Bay could look for a sidekick for the Pro Bowl defensive tackle. Akeem Spence versus Clinton McDonald is the current battle for the open spot, but the Buccaneers could add another explosive interior rusher into the mix. Considering the Buccaneers have William Gholston and Adrian Clayborn, Tampa Bay has some talent capable of lining up across from Michael Johnson. However Gholston is still raw and Clayborn may lack explosion, so maybe the team will look for a smaller, quicker situational edge-rusher to complement their big men.
BUCS BEST BET EARLY (1-3) – PITTSBURGH DT AARON DONALDDonald is a legitimate top 10 prospect that can step in and play right away for the Buccaneers next to Gerald McCoy. Showcasing excellent hand usage and constantly moving feet, Donald is arguably the most technically sound defensive lineman in this year’s class. He’s a great athlete and it shows on film, where he beats opponents with his first step and quickness consistently. His only true weakness is his size (6-0, 285), but smaller defensive tackles, like Cincinnati’s Geno Atkins have had success at the NFL level. If Donald is on the board when the Buccaneers pick, the Pitt Panther could be the next player in red and pewter.
BUCS BEST BET LATE (4-7) – BALL STATE DE JONATHAN NEWSOMESpeed is a trait that the Tampa Bay defensive ends lack, and it’s a trait that Newsome would bring to the table. Having a quick edge-rusher who can burst off the line and flatten would be a nice addition and change-of-pace to a Buccaneers team that features a lot of big, powerful defensive ends. The drawback with Newsome is he isn’t particularly strong in run-defense, and is sometimes overpowered and taken out of the play by offensive lineman. That being said, his athleticism and upside as a pass-rusher should warrant a late-round draft grade. In April, Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times reported that Newsome had a pre-draft workout with the Buccaneers.
TOP TEN DEFENSIVE LINEMAN1. DE Jadeveon Clowney – South Carolina – Junior – 6-6, 266 – 4.51Clowney is an athletic freak that is gifted with and incredible combination of size and speed. He has excellent burst off the snap and wins with his excellent arm-over swim move consistently. The South Carolina product is a solid run-defender that pursues quickly from the backside of plays. After recording 13 sacks as a sophomore, he only managed to sack the quarterback three times in 2013. The concerns with Clowney lie in his drive and work-ethic, which have been questioned throughout the pre-draft process. If he proves his doubters wrong and works hard, Clowney could become one of the best defensive linemen in the league and fast.
2. DT Aaron Donald – Pittsburgh – Senior – 6-0, 285 – 4.65 Donald is an elite defensive tackle prospect with tremendous hands and feet. To go along with his terrific technique, Donald supplements his game with an excellent amount of athleticism, as he fires off the ball and is quick to engage. His only downside is his 6-0, 285 pound frame. He could be a top-10 pick when it’s all said and done.
3. DT Dominique Easley – Florida – Senior – 6-2, 288 – 512Easley is an extremely disruptive, athletic defensive tackle prospect that would’ve gone much higher if he hadn’t injured his knee last season. The Florida product was one of the fastest linemen off the ball in the country, which allowed him to cause disruption consistently for the Gators. He uses his hands well and has a very strong punch. Easley recorded four sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss as a junior. It’s likely that Easley is selected on Day 2 of the draft, but he can quickly return his value if he is healthy.
4. DT Timmy Jernigan – Florida State – Junior – 6-2, 299 – 4.97 Jernigan is a talented prospect with a lot of upside. The Florida State product uses his hands well and shows a nice repertoire of pass-rushing moves. With some more coaching and experience, Jernigan could become a dominant interior defensive lineman. The junior is very athletic, but his quickness doesn’t show up in his first step. His snap anticipation could also be improved. Jernigan recorded 63 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, and 4.5 sacks as a junior in 2013.
5. DT Louis Nix – Notre Dame – Junior – 6-2, 331 – 5.39 For a 6-foot-2, 331 pound nose tackle, Nix is a terrific athlete that can move side-to-side with great balance. He’s very quick off the snap and engages with offensive line with terrific speed. Nix is a consistent player that will fit multiple defenses as a nose tackle. Nix notched 50 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, and two sacks as a sophomore.
6. DE Kony Ealy – Missouri – Junior – 6-4, 273 – 4.64 Ealy is a raw prospect with great size and speed. The Missouri standout notched 9.5 sacks before declaring for the draft as a junior. Ealy broke out in 2013 as a junior, where he finished the year with 9.5 sacks. He’s more than capable of playing the edge, but he could also kick inside to defensive tackle on third downs and make an impact there. Ealy is a little rough around the edges, but he still projects as a first-round pick. 7. DT Ra’Shede Hageman – Minnesota – Senior – 6-6, 310 – 4.94 Hageman has tremendous potential due to his excellent combination of size and athleticism. He can dominate when the switch is flipped on and is too explosive and fast for sluggish interior offensive lineman. The problem is that he disappears during games and doesn’t play with tenacity or drive. Hageman recorded 38 tackles and 13 tackles for loss as a senior, and should be a late first or early second-round pick.
8. DT Will Sutton –Arizona State – Senior – 6-0, 295 – 5.34 Sutton is an explosive defensive tackle that is a consistent disruptor. His excellent hand usage keeps offensive lineman away from his frame. Combine that with his terrific first step and quickness off the snap and you have quite a dominant player. Sutton added weight in 2013 and it looked like it slowed him down on tape. Shedding some weight would allow him to regain some of that coveted quickness. Sutton was named the Pac-12 defensive player of the year twice and has recorded 17 sacks over the last two seasons.
9. DT Stephon Tuitt – Notre Dame – Junior – 6-5, 304 – 5.05 Tuitt is a big, athletic interior defensive lineman that was a major producer as a sophomore in 2012, where he notched 12 sacks. After a somewhat underwhelming junior season, he heads into the draft with a day two grade. Tuitt would fit best as a five-technique in a 3-4 defense.
10. DE Dee Ford – Auburn – Senior – 6-2, 252 – 4.58 Ford is an explosive edge-rusher who beats the opposition with speed. He had a great week at the Senior Bowl, where he showed he could win against the top tackles in the country. Ford had a great senior season, where he recorded 14.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks. At this point in his development, Ford is somewhat of a one-trick pony, as he doesn’t have any great counter moves to supplement his explosive edge rush. He’s also undersized, which hurts him in run defense.
BEST OF THE REST11. DE Marcus Smith – Louisville – Senior – 6-3, 251 – 4.67 Projected by most as a late second or early third-round pick, Smith is one of the more underrated pass-rushers in this draft. He’s a playmaker that wins the most with his speed rush off of the edge. He’s a bit undersized and might be better suited as a pass-rushing outside linebacker. Smith recorded 13.5 sacks as a senior.
12. DE Demarcus Lawrence – Boise State – Junior – 6-3, 251 – 4.77 Lawrence is a talented, underrated pass-rusher with good athleticism and pass-rushing technique. He’s a tweener that could fit with a 3-4 team, and that lack of size sometimes hurts in run defense at the point of attack. Lawrence has recorded 20 sacks over the last two seasons.
13. DE Scott Crichton – Oregon State – Junior – 6-3, 273 – 4.78Crichton is an athletic defensive end prospect that brings a well-rounded game to the table. The Oregon State junior is big enough to line up as a defensive end in a 4-3 scheme, which is where he played in college. Crichton’s biggest drawback is that he has some trouble in run defense at times. He finished his senior season with 47 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, and 7 sacks.
14. DE Kareem Martin – North Carolina – Senior – 6-6, 272 – 4.68 Martin has the prototypical size and athleticism for a 4-3 defensive end, and he’s been a productive player for the Tar Heels. Blessed with great athleticism, Martin is quick off the ball and can flatten around the arc. He gets lazy sometimes and plays to high on occasion, but both are correctable issues heading into the NFL. Martin was very productive as a senior, recording 82 tackles, 20.5 tackles for loss, and 11.5 sacks.
15. DE Jackson Jeffcoat – Texas – Senior – 6-3,247 – 4.62 Jeffcoat is a great pass-rusher that is being underrated heading the draft. He’s lethal off the edge and can flatten himself and dip under offensive tackles. Jeffcoat is great in pursuit and is very athletic, but his size hurts him in run defense. He could be a liability on early downs at the NFL level. Jeffcoat racked up 86 tackles, 22 tackles for loss, and 13 sacks as a senior.
16. DE Taylor Hart – Oregon – Senior – 6-6, 285 – 4.86Hart is a good athlete with a great motor and technique. He’s an underrated defensive lineman with great size and is player that can be molded and improved. Hart’s game isn’t flashy but he’s a consistent player that would fit great as a five-technique. The Oregon product finished 2013 with 75 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, and 3.5 sacks.
17. DT Daniel McCullers – Tennessee – Senior – 6-6, 352 – 5.32 McCullers is a monstrous nose tackle that is impossible to move off a spot with just one defender. The Tennessee product never live up to expectations and isn’t a great athlete McCullers also shows some stiffness and a weak motor on tape. He only recorded 4.5 tackles for loss and a half sack as a senior.
18. DE Brent Urban – Virginia – Senior – 6-6, 295 – 4.95 It’s hard to not be intrigued by Urban’s incredible size. Standing just under 6-foot-7 and weighing close to 300 pounds, the Virginia product will provide whatever team that drafts him with a great canvas to work with. Urban recorded 40 tackles and 11.5 tackles for loss as a senior. He’s a raw player, but his strength and athleticism should get him drafted on day two.
19. DT Ego Ferguson – LSU – Junior – 6-3, 315 – 5.14 Ferguson is a raw defensive tackle with great size and strength. He can be developed but he has some serious flaws to his game, including poor arm extension and hand usage. Ferguson wasn’t very productive and isn’t a great athlete, which is why he is projected to go in the fourth or fifth round. He only recorded one sack as a junior.
20. DE Adrian Hubbard – Alabama – Junior – 6-6, 257 – 4.67Hubbard has the size and the athleticism to play defensive end in a 4-3 scheme or outside linebacker in a 3-4 front. He was an underachiever at Alabama, but he brings great tools to the NFL. Hubbard finished his junior season with 33 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, and three sacks.
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