In the 2007 draft, the Oakland Raiders selected JaMarcus Russell with their first overall pick, mostly because they had to select JaMarcus Russell with their first overall pick. Or at least that was their foolish mindset, the same thinking that planted the seed for Lane Kiffin’s year of fun and frustration.
But Oakland’s antics aside, hype lead to Russell’s rise, and resisting that is far too difficult. The Lions sat behind Oakland at No. 2, a position that now offers some comedic hindsight. While the Raiders inevitably caved and took Russell, the Lions were more than happy to settle for Calvin Johnson, and later pair him with Matthew Stafford. A hapless franchise benefited from a poor decision above its pick early on the draft board, and with Johnson now in his prime and signed to a five-year contract, Detroit will be laughing for a while.
There’s a reason why that anecdote is leading the Bucs preview. The odds of it happening may be slimmer, but there’s a chance Tampa Bay could be in a similar situation with Trent Richardson if the Browns pass on him at No. 4. Be aware, though, that we’re still in the heart of forecasting season, and despite the constant chatter that Richardson is the exception to all the rules regarding running backs in the draft, projecting the production of an RB is always difficult given the short shelf life of the position.
1. If Cleveland passes on Richardson, the Bucs are expected to pounce. Richardson has elite talent, but are you concerned about using a top five pick on a running back given the short shelf life of the position?
I think selecting Richardson would be a huge mistake. Now granted, the second Richardson breaks a touchdown off it won’t seem like it was a mistake, but given the Bucs’ needs and current personnel, they could use the pick much better.
LeGarrette Blount is a beast. The knock on Blount has been he doesn’t handle passing downs well (either in pass-pro or as a receiving option). But between the tackles you’re not going to find many guys around the league who can be as imposing as Blount.
Blount’s style of running is highly conducive to Greg Schiano’s offense. He can handle the lion’s share of the carries, and he gets stronger as a game goes. The Bucs would be better off getting a running back in the middle to late rounds and grabbing a guy who can serve as a strong complement to Blount. Somebody with a little burst who can factor better in passing situations.
But five is high for a tailback. Any tailback.
2. Morris Claiborne is another strong possibility. What’s the greater need between cornerback and running back?
I didn’t mention Morris in my first answer because I saw this question next. Morris is the guy.
If the Bucs are planning on picking fifth, and they could still try to move back, Claiborne is likely the guy who will be the selection. Corner is a much bigger need than running back right now in Tampa. The Bucs’ defense was abysmal last year and their two best corners are huge question marks. Ronde Barber is back for another year, but he’s well on the decline (as blasphemous as that is to say in the Bay Area), and Aqib Talib has priors with a court case still pending. So neither is exactly the type of guy you want to rely on a whole lot at this point, especially not long term. Claiborne would be a guy to build around in the secondary.
3. The Vikings are almost surely blowing smoke with the reports that they’ll pass on Matt Kalil. But if he does fall, could he be tempting as an upgrade over Jeremy Trueblood?
I wrote about that a few weeks ago. Matt Kalil falling to Tampa would give the Bucs one of the best lines in the NFL.
This off-season they added Carl Nicks and upgraded at center by letting Jeff Faine go and promoting Jeremy Zuttah. Davin Joseph is signed long-term, so the interior is already very solid. The tackles are a question mark, but I’d be more inclined to replace Donald Penn than Jeremy Trueblood. Ultimately, it might be Trueblood who’s the odd man out while Penn slides over to the right side, but in my mind the bigger liability in the trenches is Penn at left tackle. Penn doesn’t handle edge rushers well at all (and that’s probably the nicest way I’ve put that in two years), and he’s not exceptionally good at run blocking.
I’m frankly a little bewildered as to why he was ever selected to a Pro Bowl (outside of his own lobbying and several drops caused by injury and the Super Bowl). Trueblood isn’t anything to write home about either, but at least he’s got a mean streak. The answer to your question though is I would jump at the chance to get Kalil in Pewter and Red. It wouldn’t be a sexy pick, but man those hogs up front would be mean for years to come.
4. Who are you looking at beyond the first round?
I expect the Bucs to target defensive backs primarily, becaseu they have needs at corner and safety.
I like Chase Minnifield out of Virginia a little later on in the draft (two or three). I got to watch him play in November and came away extremely impressed. Another guy I covered all year was Mike Harris at Florida State (I’m the FSU beat guy for the Miami Herald), he’s underrated and will likely make an impact on special teams and as a nickel guy his first year. As for safeties, I really like Antonio Allen of South Carolina, he could be around on the second day and be worth a shot.
I also like George Iloka from Boise State, though I admit I’ve bought into his measurables and potential a bit more than maybe I should. A 6’4″ free safety with flexible hips is just an unbelievable possibility. I also expect the Bucs to take an RB in the middle rounds. I like Lamar Miller out of Miami the best of all the non-Richardson backs, but after him I’d be interested in Isaiah Pead, or if they look later on I like Bobby Rainey of Western Kentucky and LaMichael James from Oregon.