Pewter Report has compiled a list of the Top 12 draft prospects to keep in mind for the Buccaneers in next year's NFL Draft. The early guess here is that due to the youth and inexperience at several positions, including quarterback, and new coordinators with new schemes that Tampa Bay could in fact be selecting much higher than 19th in the 2010 NFL Draft.
Retooling, revamping, rebuilding – call it what you will – the Bucs appear to be more of a sure bet to be not make the playoffs as opposed to making the playoffs this year.
So let’s assume that Tampa Bay is in position to select one of the top dozen talents in the 2010 NFL Draft. Whom might Tampa Bay target?
Obviously, it’s a little early to accurately access the team’s needs. Greg Peterson, Dre Moore or rookie Roy Miller might rise up and solidify the defensive tackle position for the long term. The same could happen at left defensive end with Jimmy Wilkerson rookie Kyle Moore, and at linebacker with youngsters like Quincy Black, Adam Hayward and Geno Hayes, as well as veteran newcomer Angelo Crowell, who will turn 28 in August.
As it stands right now, cornerback may be the Bucs’ most pressing need where aging veteran Ronde Barber and second-year player Aqib Talib are the starters and former undrafted free agent Elbert Mack is seen as the front-runner to win the nickel corner job. The bad news for Tampa Bay is that there is not a cornerback worthy of taking in the top 10 – at least not yet.
In no particular order, here are a dozen of the top prospects that might be most appealing to Tampa Bay in 2010 grouped by position.
DEFENSIVE TACKLE There was a large segment of the Bucs fan base that wanted the team to draft a defensive tackle. With Chris Hovan turning 31 in May, he is in the twilight of his NFL career. Ryan Sims is 29 years old and has not been a proven starter in the league, although he will get that chance in Tampa Bay in 2009. The Bucs also have three younger unproven players in Miller, Peterson and Moore. If none of these young tackles shows they are capable of being quality NFL defensive linemen, the Bucs will have to consider using a first-round pick on the position next year.
DT Ndamukong Suh – Nebraska 6-4, 305 The Bucs are very high on Suh, who has great combination of size (6-foot-4, 305 pounds), power and quick feet. In his Cornhuskers career, Suh has recorded 130 tackles, 29 tackles for loss, 12 sacks, broken up five passes, blocked three kicks and forced two fumbles. He was one of the Big 12 Conference’s best defensive tackles last year, racking up 76 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks and blocking two kicks in a breakthrough campaign. Suh led his teams in sacks, tackles and tied for the lead in interceptions, with both of his picks being returned for touchdowns (against Colorado and San Jose State). Suh also lined up at fullback and caught a 2-yard touchdown pass against Kansas. With Miller and Missouri’s Evander “Ziggy” Hood graduating, Suh and Oklahoma’s Gerald McCoy step to the forefront and become the Big 12’s best defensive tackles. On the heels of a dominating Gator Bowl in which Nebraska beat Clemson, 26-21, behind his eight tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and one blocked field goal, Suh is ready for a senior season that should solidify his status as the top-rated defensive tackle in the 2010 NFL Draft. Suh highlight video
DT Gerald McCoy – Oklahoma 6-4, 295 McCoy, who is entering his junior season, had a big sophomore season as a starter. He finished the 2008 season with 30 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. Against Florida in the BCS Championship Game, McCoy recorded an interception, four tackles and one tackle for loss and dominated the first half of that contest before the Gators pulled away in the second half. In his two-year career at Oklahoma, McCoy has posted 49 tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks, broken up two passes and forced a fumble. If he can add to those numbers with stats that rival the ones he put up as a sophomore McCoy will be a top 12 pick in the 2010 NFL Draft should he choose to come out. At 6-foot-3, 295 pounds, he’s smaller than Suh, but with some added weight McCoy would be a good fit in Jim Bates’ 4-3 defensive scheme. McCoy interview video
DT Terrence Cody – Alabama 6-5, 380 There used to be a day when the Buccaneers wouldn’t even give a player like the 6-foot-5, 380-pound Cody a second thought. But the days of Tampa Bay looking for quick, undersized, gap-penetrating defensive tackles are gone. A player like “Mount Cody,” who was the anchor in Alabama’s defense last year after transferring from a junior college, is now on the Bucs’ radar because Bates prefers big, 320-plus-pound defensive tackles. It’s rare that a defensive tackle with only 24 tackles (seven solo), 4.5 tackles for loss, a half sack and a forced fumble during his junior year would be so highly thought of. But then again, a 6-foot-5, 380-pound defensive tackle is quite rare, too. Cody’s numbers were down a bit due to the fact that he missed two games, but doubling his 2008 stats would ensure that he would be taken in the upper half of the first round in the 2010 NFL Draft. Cody highlight video DEFENSIVE END While the team is expecting right end Gaines Adams to breakout this year, the Bucs don’t have any proven pass rushers at the defensive end position. And by proven the implication is posting double-digit sacks in a season. In fact, between Adams, Jimmy Wilkerson, Stylez G. White, Louis Holmes and rookie Kyle Moore, the Bucs have just 31.5 career sacks combined.
DE Greg Hardy – Ole Miss 6-5, 255 There may not be a better pass rusher in the nation than Hardy, but scouting the Ole Miss veteran’s on-field exploits isn’t what NFL scouts will be consumed with. Those NFL scouts will have to scrutinize Hardy’ off-field behavior, that has resulted in a two-game suspension in 2007 and a three-game suspension in 2008 for violating team rules. When Hardy is focused on the field, he is an absolute terror. As a sophomore, he led the SEC in sacks with 10 despite missing two games, and had a tour de force against Alabama in a close, 27-24 defeat. Hardy posted 13 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, forced two fumbles and broke up one pass against the Crimson Tide. In his three-year Rebels career, Hardy has compiled 131 tackles, 33 tackles for loss, 21.5 sacks, seven pass breakups, forced seven fumbles and picked off a pass. Despite missing the first three games of the 2008 season, Hardy finished the season with 8.5 sacks, including three against Mississippi State and 1.5 sacks against Florida, a game in which he also blocked the critical extra point that gave the Rebels a 31-30 victory at Florida. Hardy’s athleticism has also been used at wide receiver where he caught a 23-yard touchdown pass in a 20-17 victory against Mississippi State as a freshman, in addition to catching TD passes against Memphis and Missouri as a sophomore. Hardy also played basketball for the Rebels after recording three sacks and forcing four fumbles as a freshman. The Bucs may already have enough players with maturity issues on their roster, but they can’t deny Hardy’s talent and his ability to become a starter at left end opposite Adams. Hardy highlight video
DE Carlos Dunlap – Florida 6-6, 290 Jevon Kearse was nicknamed “The Freak” at Florida over a decade ago, but due to the athleticism and size (6-foot-6, 290) of junior-to-be Carlos Dunlap, it is only fitting that those within the Gators program are calling him “Freak 2” and “Freak, Jr.” After a quiet freshman season in which he recorded a sack and blocked a kick, Dunlap exploded onto the college scene as a sophomore with 39 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, one pass break-up and one forced fumble, in addition to blocking three kicks, including one in the National Championship victory against Oklahoma. If Dunlap can produce another season like his sophomore campaign or improve on it, he will have to consider foregoing his season year and entering the NFL Draft where his 4.66 speed and pass rushing ability would likely make him a top 10 pick. Dunlap has an even more impressive build than Hardy, but he must prove that he can consistently bend his knees and anchor against the run to be a force as a full-time starting left end, not just a situational pass rusher.
DE George Selvie – South Florida 6-4, 252 Selvie needs to add about 10 pounds of bulk to play defensive end in a 4-3 scheme in the NFL, but should he add the necessary size, he would make a great hometown selection in the 2010 NFL Draft by Tampa Bay. Selvie, who is blessed with 4.65 speed in the 40-yard dash, is a pass-rushing demon with 60 tackles for loss, 25.5 sacks and seven forced fumbles heading into his senior year. As a freshman, Selvie burst onto the scene with 64 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and recovered a fumble for a touchdown against West Virginia. That was the catalyst for a stunning, All-American sophomore campaign in which he notched 48 tackles, 31.5 tackles for loss, 14.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and one blocked kick. But that made Selvie a marked man, and double-teams coupled with some nagging injuries caused his numbers to drop significantly in 2008. Selvie recorded only 43 tackles, 13.5 tackles for a loss, 5.5 sacks, one forced fumble and five passes broken up. Selvie doesn’t have the size to play left end, but if Adams can’t muster double-digit sacks in 2008, Selvie may be viewed as a possible replacement for Adams. Selvie highlight video
WIDE RECEIVER Outside of Antonio Bryant and Michael Clayton, the Bucs don’t have many receivers with experience on their roster. While Clayton was re-signed to a long-term contract this offseason, he is an ideal secondary wide receiver but is not an elite receiver who can carry the offense. Bryant is that type of primary receiver, but is only under contract for the 2009 season due to the franchise tag. The Bucs could use a big upgrade of talent to find a starting-caliber wide receiver to push Clayton and perhaps replace Bryant if he does not return in 2010.
WR Dez Bryant – Oklahoma State 6-2, 210 Some NFL scouts think that Bryant, who will be a junior in 2009, was the best wide receiver in the Big 12 – not Texas Tech’s Michael Crabtree – last year. Bryant has a perfect mix of size, speed and uncanny leaping ability that allowed him to compile 2,102 yards and 25 touchdowns in just two years at Oklahoma State. While that’s a great career for most receivers, that tally was what Bryant put up as a freshman and a sophomore. After catching 43 passes for 622 yards and six touchdowns in 2007, Bryant exploded onto the scene, more than doubling those numbers with 87 catches for 1,480 yards and 19 scores last year. In a year in which the senior class at wide receiver may not contain a first-rounder, Bryant would almost assuredly be the first selection if he put up similar numbers and entered the draft after his junior campaign. Bryant already has eight 100-yard games, including two games in which he went over 200 yards receiving. The explosive receiver also has eight games in which he has scored at least two touchdowns, and he added two touchdowns as a punt returner in 2008, averaging 17.9 yards per return. Bryant would be an ideal fit to the Bucs’ mix at wide receiver, coming in as a number three and challenging Antonio Bryant or Michael Clayton for a starting job in 2011. Bryant highlight video
WR Dezmon Briscoe – Kansas 6-3, 200 Due to the impressive play of Bryant, Briscoe is relegated to the role of second-best receiver in the Big 12 this year. Briscoe, a junior, may not be a household name yet, but he finished fourth in the nation last year in receiving yards per game with 108, right behind Bryant, who finished third 113. While he doesn’t have 4.3 speed, Briscoe has Randy Moss-like freakish athletic ability, agility and a set of great hands, evidenced by this catch. In just two years, Briscoe has 135 catches for 1,903 yards and 22 touchdowns, including 92 catches fro 1,407 yards and 15 TDs last year. Against Big 12 champion Oklahoma last year, Bryant had 12 catches for 269 yards and two scores. He was named the Insight Bowl MVP for his 14 catches, 201 yards and three touchdowns against Minnesota last year. And Briscoe has been Nebraska’s personal tormentor, catching 11 passes for 228 yards and four scores in two games against the Cornhuskers. Briscoe isn’t in many first-round mock drafts right now, but he will be if he puts up similar numbers again for KU, which returns quarterback Todd Reesing for his senior year. Briscoe’s game is similar to Bryant’s, and he too will take advantage of a weak senior class of receivers and likely come out in the 2010 NFL Draft. Briscoe’s character will need a thorough check as he was suspended for spring ball for violating an undisclosed team rule. Bucs general manager Mark Dominik, a KU grad, will be able to get the inside scoop from his Jayhawk connections, as well as from Aqib Talib, who played with Briscoe during the 2007 season. Briscoe highlight video
RUNNING BACK Earnest Graham and Derrick Ward are two talented backs who could serve the Buccaneers well for the next couple of years, but both are 29 years old and 30 is usually the death knell for most NFL rushers. Cadillac Williams is trying to come back from a torn patellar tendon injury for the second season in a row. With the Bucs’ renewed commitment to running the ball, having a franchise running back to carry the torch when Ward and Graham are gone and provide insurance in case Williams doesn’t recover is a must.
RB Jonathan Dwyer – Georgia Tech 6-0, 235 Even though both Graham and Ward don’t have a lot of mileage on them, Tampa Bay is back to being a run-first team, and if Dwyer foregoes his senior season at Georgia Tech to enter the 2010 NFL Draft, he’ll likely be the top back on the board. Dwyer has an intriguing mix of power, size and speed, evidenced by six runs over 50 yards in his two-year Yellowjackets career. After rushing for 436 yards and nine touchdowns as a part-time player behind Tashard Choice as a freshman, Dwyer burst onto the scene in 2008 as a feature back, rushing for 1,395 yards and 12 touchdowns on 200 carries (7.0 avg.). He also added 209 yards and one touchdown on eight receptions. NFL scouts might knock Dwyer because he plays in a triple option offense, but the 6-foot, 235-pounder does plenty of inside rushing and is not a finesse back who runs exclusively on the outside. Dwyer’s vision and running style would be a perfect fit for Tampa Bay’s zone-blocking scheme. Dwyer highlight video
RB C.J. Spiller – Clemson 5-11, 190 If Dwyer doesn’t come out in 2010, Spiller, a senior, could be the best running back in the draft. Spiller possesses 4.3 track-star speed in the vein of Tennessee Titans star Chris Johnson. With five plays over 70 yards (three runs, two receptions), Spiller has the speed to go the distance on virtually any snap and is also an accomplished kick returner with three touchdowns on his resume'. Spiller has split carries with James Davis over the past three seasons and what may concern scouts is the fact that his rushing yards have dipped each year since rushing for 938 yards and 10 touchdowns on 129 carries as a freshman. In 2007, Spiller rushed for 768 yards and three scores on 145 carries, followed by just 629 yards and seven TDs on 121 carries last year. But while his rushing yards have decreased each year, his receiving yards have increased from 2006 when he hauled in 19 catches for 210 yards and two TDs. In ’07, Spiller caught 34 passes for 271 yards and two scores, followed by 34 catches for 436 yards and three touchdowns in ’08. As a junior, Spiller even threw a 15-yard touchdown pass at Virginia. While he is not a tackle-breaking runner, Spiller has the jets, quickness and cutting ability to excel in a downhill running scheme like Tampa Bay will begin to deploy this year. Spiller highlight video
OUTSIDE LINEBACKER The Bucs have a plethora of outside linebackers, but only one proven commodity in Angelo Crowell, who is coming off a knee injury. Other than that, Quincy Black, Adam Hayward and Geno Hayes have yet to start an NFL game and converted safety Jermaine Phillips has never played linebacker before. The Bucs may need to find another starting caliber linebacker in the draft if none of these players pan out.
OLB Sean Weatherspoon – Missouri 6-2, 245 Posting 155 tackles, 22.5 tackles for a loss, five sacks, seven pass breakups, forcing a fumble and three interceptions (two of which were returned for touchdowns) might make a nice career for some college linebackers, but that’s what Weatherspoon did during his junior season at Mizzou. Blessed with an intriguing mix of size, speed and instincts, Weatherspoon demonstrated in 2008 that he is a do-it-all linebacker with the ability to tackle, create turnovers, cover offensive weapons and rush the quarterback. In his two years as a starter for the Tigers, Weatherspoon has compiled 285 tackles, 29 tackles for loss, 15 pass breakups, eight sacks, three forced fumbles, three picks and one blocked kick. All Weatherspoon needs is a senior campaign that comes close production-wise with what he did in 2008, and he’ll solidify himself as a top 15 pick. Because of his size and athleticism, Weatherspoon will be sought after by both 4-3 and 3-4 teams, which will only increase his draft value. If the Bucs wind up needing an outside linebacker after the 2009 season, Weatherspoon might be hard to pass up. Weatherspoon highlight video (#12 INTs at 5:53 + 6:22 marks)
CORNERBACK Ronde Barber is in his mid-30s and Aqib Talib only has one year’s worth of starting experience. The Bucs like Elbert Mack and Kyle Arrington, but both are untested on Sundays. Tampa Bay will have to address the cornerback position in the 2010 draft if nothing more than trying to find an eventual replacement for Barber.
CB Trevard Lindley – Kentucky 6-0, 175 In a draft class that is weak at the cornerback position, Lindley, a senior, may be the only first-rounder unless some of the top juniors forego their senior seasons. Lindley has great man coverage skills, respectable size and superb leaping ability. Through three seasons at Kentucky, Lindley has hauled in nine interceptions, broken up 34 passes, forced two fumbles and made 157 tackles. He has also returned a fumble recovery 66 yards for a touchdown against Arkansas and a pick against South Carolina that was returned 28 yards for a score as a junior. Lindley is battle-tested and has gone up against some of college football’s best quarterbacks, such as LSU’s JaMarcus Russell, Tennessee’s Erik Ainge, Florida’s Tim Tebow, Georgia’s Matthew Stafford and Louisville’s Brian Brohm. Cornerback may be the most glaring weakness on Tampa Bay’s roster from an experience standpoint, and if Lindley can have a great senior season to get his stock to climb, he may be worthy of being selected in the top half of the first round. Lindley highlight video (#32 INT in first minute)
Even if the Buccaneers pick in the middle of the first round instead of near the top of the first round, Tampa Bay should be able to have their choice of a few of these players. The reason is because with the drafting of Josh Freeman and trading for Kellen Winslow in 2009, it rules out the drafting of the top four quarterbacks in the 2010 NFL Draft – Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford, Texas’ Colt McCoy, Florida’s Tim Tebow and Ole Miss’ Jevan Snead – as well as Oklahoma tight end Jermaine Gresham. All five of those players could conceivably be drafted in the top 15, which would push five more players down to the Bucs if they wind up selecting in the middle of the round.
Also, with Barrett Ruud anchored in as the team’s middle linebacker and the safety position set with Tanard Jackson and Sabby Piscitelli, you can probably scratch Florida middle linebacker Brandon Spikes and USC safety Taylor Mays off the Bucs’ first-round draft list, too.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org