You want to look at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 2007 NFL Draft in which the team landed instant impact players in first-round defensive end Gaines Adams, second-round left guard Arron Sears and fourth-round safety Tanard Jackson, and trust that this front office has once again made the right moves on draft day.

Trust is the key word because that’s exactly what the Buccaneers are doing with first-round cornerback Aqib Talib, who admitted that he had tested positive for marijuana three times at the University of Kansas. If Talib can stay clean and live up to his draft billing, he will be the future at the cornerback position in Tampa Bay.

For more on Talib and the rest of Tampa Bay’s 2008 draft class, here is Scott Reynolds’ pick-by-pick in-depth analysis.

ROUND 1 – KANSAS CB AQIB TALIB
I like the pick of Talib the player. I’m not so sure about Talib the person yet. He said his marijuana problems were two and a half years ago and were behind him. We’ll see. For now, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

I’ve watched a lot of Kansas football over the last couple of years (begrudgingly, due to the fact that I went to K-State) and there is no doubt that Talib is a ballhawk and an excellent athlete. I think he is just scratching the surface of his potential and the coaching he will receive from defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and defensive backs coach Raheem Morris should bring out the best in Talib’s game.

In Tampa Bay’s base coverage, the left cornerback position is the position that is usually on an island and where the ability to play man coverage is needed the most. For almost a decade, Brian Kelly manned that position for Tampa Bay. With Kelly’s departure in free agency this year, the Bucs were in need of a cornerback with shutdown abilities to replace him.

Jon Gruden likens Talib to Charles Woodson. As for Morris, he sees Chris McAlister when he watches Talib. I see a big, confident corner with a short memory.

Case in point was last year’s game at Kansas State. After getting torched by Wildcats receiver Jordy Nelson for a 68-yard touchdown in the first quarter, Talib regroups, catches a key touchdown on offense with 11 seconds left before the half to tie the game at 14-14. On K-State’s final drive, Talib picks off a pass in Kansas territory on fourth-and-8 to win the game.

Talib doesn’t get rattled and doesn’t lose his swagger. Instead, when a play doesn’t go his way, he rises to the occasion.

After talking to Bucs coaches and scouts, I believe Tampa Bay made the right call in drafting Talib over USF cornerback Mike Jenkins. Talib is simply a better athlete with better instincts.

Talib was instrumental in spearheading the rise of KU football, which won the Orange Bowl last year by beating Virginia Tech. He was a great teammate and a leader for the Jayhawks and should be the same in Tampa Bay with the Buccaneers.

ROUND 2 – APPALACHIAN STATE WR DEXTER JACKSON
Jackson, a Pewter Report Bucs’ Best Bet from our 2008 Bucs Draft Preview, has blazing, 4.3 speed and that’s exactly what Tampa Bay needs on offense and on special teams in the return game. Having said that, I think the Bucs reached for Jackson in the second round.

Would Tampa Bay have been able to get Jackson in the third round? Perhaps, but the Bucs may have had to trade up to do it as it is unlikely that he would have slid down to their pick near the end of round two.

Especially with the second-round run on speed receivers that saw the likes of Houston’s Donnie Avery, Virginia Tech’s Eddie Royal and Cal’s DeSean Jackson come off the board, Tampa Bay was essentially forced to reach for the Appalachian State wideout. If Jackson comes in and lights up the return game and makes strides on offense as a rookie, his selection will be more than justified. But if this Division I-AA star struggles, the fact that the Bucs reached for him only compounds the problem of drafting him.

When I watched film on Jackson I liked the second gear that I saw, especially on slants, which are the staple routes in the West Coast offense. Jackson has really good run after catch ability and wasn’t afraid to go over the middle. I certainly didn’t see Cal’s DeSean Jackson do that.

It will be interesting to see how Jackson progresses as a wide receiver, especially learning from the likes of Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard. I like this pick, but the only problem I may have with this selection is the fact that when a team drafts a pass-catcher in the second-round, that player should develop into either number one or number two receiver over time.

Do I feel confident that Jackson can be that type of player? Not right now based on college film. We’ll see how he fares in the NFL.

One last note on Jackson’s supposed lack of productivity at ASU. The Mountaineers were a run-first team that racked up 4,311 yards and 53 touchdowns in 2007. Quarterback Armanti Edwards rushed for 1,588 yards and 21 scores last year, while running back Kevin Richardson had 1,348 yards and 16 touchdowns. Appalachian State passed for fewer than 3,000 yards and Jackson would have posted better numbers had he had more opportunities.

ROUND 3 – RUTGERS OL JEREMY ZUTTAH
Like with the addition of Jackson, I like the player, I just don’t like the pick. I would feel better about Tampa Bay’s draft in principle if they got Maryland defensive tackle Dre` Moore in the third round and took Zuttah, another Pewter Report Bucs’ Best Bet, in round four.

But in the end, the Bucs got both players so I suppose it doesn’t really if they reached.

Zuttah is an intelligent, tough athlete. He is capable of playing any position on the offensive line, and after talking to Gruden, I think his future home will be at center, backing up Jeff Faine unless Zuttah is needed elsewhere. I also think he will be a fine addition to this football team.

Having said that, a third-round draft pick, which is still considered a premium selection, should have a chance to see the field either immediately or in a year or two. Do you see Zuttah on the field in a year or two? If so, please tell me where.

Tampa Bay has invested second-round picks in right tackle Jeremy Trueblood and left guard Arron Sears, as well as a first-rounder in right guard Davin Joseph. The Bucs have two adequate left tackles in veteran Luke Petitgout and promising reserve Donald Penn, and Tampa Bay made Jeff Faine the highest-paid center in the NFL. Where will Zuttah start?

Given Tampa Bay’s poor track record in the third round (wide receiver Marquis Walker, linebacker Marquise Cooper and uber-bust offensive tackle Chris Colmer), this pick will be considered successful if Zuttah is on the roster two years from now (and he will be).

ROUND 4 – MARYLAND DT DRE` MOORE
In terms of value, this may be Tampa Bay’s best pick. I liked Moore last year when he really started to put his game together during a solid senior year, but I really grew fond of his game when he turned in some dominating performances at the Senior Bowl. That prompted me to consider putting Moore in Pewter Report’s Mock Draft.

Moore is a big guy with the strength to push the pocket on passing downs. On film, you see him pursue the run laterally quite well, and he was much better about finishing plays as a senior.

The biggest thing Moore was lacking at Maryland was motivation, which caused him to underachieve in college and slip to the fourth round when he really has second-round talent. Putting him in a room with nose tackle Chris Hovan is probably the best thing that can happen to Moore. Hovan’s work ethic is among the best at One Buc Place and he has really developed into a role model for the team’s young defensive linemen.

Tampa Bay is a great landing spot for Moore because he will get a chance to get some meaningful snaps (as long as he earns them) as a rookie in Larry Coyer’s defensive line rotation, just like Greg Peterson did last year. That should keep him interested and focused, as well as accelerate Moore’s learning curve in the NFL.

I can’t fault the Bucs for picking Moore at all, especially in the fourth round. In fact, I would have had no problems with selecting Tampa Bay in the third round.

ROUND 5 – SAN DIEGO QB JOSH JOHNSON
Another Pewter Report Bucs’ Best Bet, Johnson becomes the seventh quarterback that Jon Gruden has acquired with a draft pick (including trades for Tim Rattay, Luke McCown, Jake Plummer and Brian Griese) in Tampa Bay. Every QB except for Rattay is currently on the roster.

So where does Johnson fit in? Expect the Bucs to start trying to unload a couple of quarterbacks – namely Chris Simms and Bruce Gradkowski. That would mean Tampa Bay would take Jeff Garcia, Brian Griese, Luke McCown and Johnson to training camp and all four likely stick.

Before you start declaring Johnson the quarterback of the future and his drafting as an indictment of McCown, remember that the Bucs passed on drafting Louisville’s Brian Brohm and Michigan’s Chad Henne in the first and second round. Had either one of those players had been drafted by Tampa Bay, that would have been an indictment on McCown.

Tampa Bay will be very cautious with the expectations regarding Johnson. He will likely take even more developmental time than Gradkowski and McCown have had to endure due to the fact that Johnson played Division I-AA football. Having said that, expect Johnson to shine and dazzle this preseason and become a fan favorite.

I predict that Bucs fans will be divided into two camps – ones that support McCown as the future franchise QB and ones that support Johnson instead. They will take their QB arguments to Internet message boards and sports talk radio. Hey, if Tampa Bay has two young, promising candidates to vie for the starting job after Garcia retires – that’s a good thing.

Drafting Johnson was a smart move as long as Tampa Bay keeps four quarterbacks this season. Getting him in the fifth round could prove to be a steal down the road.

ROUND 6 – FLORIDA STATE LB GENO HAYES
What a waste of a pick. With Houston running back-receiver-kick returner Anthony Alridge still on the board, in addition to receiver-returner Kevin Robinson, it’s a shame that the Bucs blew a pick on a player with character issues (he was suspended for getting into a fight and played in FSU’s bowl game despite dropping out of school).

Yet, Tampa Bay has not been known to hit on sixth- and seventh-round players in the past – unless you count the daring exploits of quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, wide receiver Paris Warren and punt returner Mark Jones – so maybe we shouldn’t have expected much to begin with.

Can you tell me how Geno Hayes is going to make this team, let alone get a rep in practice with the likes of Derrick Brooks, Cato June, Barrett Ruud, Ryan Nece, Quincy Black, Adam Hayward, Teddy Lehman, Matt McCoy, Antoine Cash, Leon Joe and Sam Olajabutu? The Bucs now have 12 linebackers with Hayes and will likely be keeping only six.

Tampa Bay likely drafted Hayes only to cut him. The guess here is that he is the only practice squad-eligible linebacker on the team and that’s where he ends up if he has a good preseason.

Evaluating Hayes as a player, he’s a fairly good one, but he’s young. He’s only 20 years old after foregoing his senior year at Florida State to enter the draft (he didn’t have a choice as he apparently flunked out or dropped out of school). Had Tampa Bay not signed a handful of linebackers this year, I would be on board with this one.

ROUND 7 SOUTH CAROLINA RB CORY BOYD
At 6-foot-1, 212 pounds, Boyd reminds me of a poor man’s Kevin Smith. Boyd is an upright runner who has some elusiveness and tackle-breaking ability, but he is not a breakaway runner. He lacks the speed to go the distance just like Kenneth Darby, last year’s seventh-rounder, and former undrafted free agent Earnest Graham.

Boyd will make things interesting in training camp because he is a hard worker and a good receiver. He is essentially battling Darby for a roster spot, provided there is one if Cadillac Williams winds up on the PUP (physically unable to perform list).

I would have preferred to see the Bucs draft Houston running back Anthony Alridge, who is a great receiver and a return specialist, but I can’t fault Tampa Bay for drafting Boyd. Boyd will have an uphill battle to make the team and he better embrace special teams.

OVERALL COMMENT: I think Tampa Bay had a fairly solid draft. It was not great, but it wasn't terrible, either. The Bucs gambled on KU CB Aqib Talib, reached for Appalachian State WR Jackson and Rutgers OL Jeremy Zuttah, which started things off a bit shaky. But Tampa Bay got great value in drafting Maryland DT Dre` Moore and San Diego QB Josh Johnson in rounds four and five that improved the rating of this draft in my eyes. I think Talib, Jackson and Moore are the three players that will provide the most immediate impact, and if they can surprise like the trio of DE Gaines Adams, LG Arron Sears and FS Tanard Jackson did a year ago, Tampa Bay will be in even better shape.


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PEWTER REPORT DRAFT RECAP THIS SUNDAY ON ABC Watch Pewter Report's Scott Reynolds on Sunday night at 11:30 p.m. on Sports Zone with Al Keck and Tom Korun on ABC Action News in Tampa Bay for a recap of the Buccaneers 2008 draft. And for the best local coverage of Tampa Bay sports and Tampa Bay news, check out ABCActionNews.com

 

 

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: sr@pewterreport.com
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