We’re deep into the task of opening the doors on TFQ’s NFL Draft Advent Calendar! This is our Christmas – when NFL teams get to decide what sort of new toys they get under the tree to play with next season.
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Door #25-The Bucs
2012 finish: 7-9; missed playoffs
TOTAL PICKS: 8
29 (126) (from Patriots)
28 (196) (from Broncos through Eagles)
UPDATE: Like the assholes they are, the Bucs went and traded for CB Darrelle Revis hours after this post. We broke the deal down and amended draft plans for both teams in Deep Posts. Click here.
2012 was a fairly surprising year for Tampa Bay. There were rumblings that new head coach Greg Schiano’s hard-nosed college style wouldn’t jive with professional athletes, but his players played hard and overachieved for him. Many scouts suspected that the Buccaneers had gotten themselves a steal at the 31st overall spot in last year’s draft with Boise State RB Doug Martin, but no one expected the stint of dominance he would produce – 592 rushing yards over a four-game stretch in the middle of the season, en route to 1,454 rushing yards and 49 receptions for the year. Free agent acquisition WR Vincent Jackson paid off as well, as the offense finished in the top 10 overall in the NFL.
The main thing that held this team down was their pass defense, which ranked dead last in the NFL last season, and everyone knew it. Things got especially bad once their best cornerback Aquib Talib was suspended four games during the season for Adderall use and was then subsequently traded to the Patriots. By season’s end, opponents had passed against Tampa Bay a staggering 600+ times. E.J Biggers left to sign with the Redskins, and corner-safety convert Ronde Barber has yet to decide if he will return to continue an impressive pro career. The middle of the defense looks spectacular now that Tampa has signed All-Pro Dashon Goldson from the Niners to play alongside last year’s first round draft pick Mark Barron at the safety positions. That leaves the outside edges to address.
Simply put, cornerback is a dire need for this team. And everyone knows that too – especially Bucs GM Mark Dominik, who has been trying long and hard to pull of a trade with the Jets for All-Pro Darrelle Revis. Apparently the talks have been called off until the draft, which doesn’t rule out a draft-day trade that would take Tampa Bay out of the first round – and apparently at this point it’s going to cost them another third- and fifth-round picks to get Revis, whose health is uncertain after knee surgery. (The years for those other two picks have not been disclosed.) At this point we’ll assume that Dominik won’t hamstring his franchise’s draft strength this year and/or next, and instead try to solve its CB quandary with the thirteenth overall pick. Hell, the pass D is so bad in Tampa that they could even draft another DB even if they do get Revis.
Assuming Alabama’s Dee Milliner is off the board (which he should be, since most people have him pegged as a top-10 overall talent, but ya never know), Xavier Rhodes from Florida State is net next-best play. The only problem: I’ve already mentioned that Miami would be best served to take Rhodes one spot earlier. Assuming they do, Jamar Taylor from Martin’s alma mater Boise State would be a good move. Most mock drafts I’ve looked at don’t give Taylor much props. Instead it’s mostly D.J. Hayden (Utah) and Desmond Trufant (Washington) after the typical top 2 corner prospects, Milliner and Rhodes. But Taylor was a stabilizing force through three years as a college starter. He also showed great speed (a 4.39 40-time) and footwork in predraft workouts, and had to play a variety of both press and man coverage for Boise State. He isn’t terribly tall at just under 5’11”, but he stays on receivers throughout routes. Some say he didn’t play competitive enough opposition, but he looked just fine in the Senior Bowl. Taylor seems to have huge underground support among scouts, which says a lot sometimes because teams will try to stay mum on a guy they like so that someone else doesn’t pick him first. If Tampa Bay doesn’t take a flier on him in Round 1, I think someone else will. The Bucs could opt for their highest-ranked player on defense in general, but it’s just as likely that they’ll take their highest-ranked cornerback.
Whatever they do with their first pick, the Buccaneers need to address their pass defense somehow. Next season, Martin & Co. won’t be taking anyone off-guard, and teams now know that they should challenge that D through the air until they prove they can stop it.
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STAY TUNED FOR THE REST OF THE DAYS LEADING UP UNTIL THE 2013 NFL DRAFT. WE’LL TAKE A LOOK AT EACH TEAM, AS WE OPEN THEM UP IN THE ADVENT CALENDAR. WE’LL ALSO BE DOING A LIVE TWEET-UP DURING THE DRAFT.