With three long weeks to go until we get to the combine, here are my thoughts on how the first two rounds of the draft will play out as well as how the Bucs will utilize their ten selections. (It’s actually a combination of what I would do and what I think they’ll look to do.) I didn’t need Mark Dominick’s press conference to know that the Bucs aren’t going to be heavy players in free agency. There won’t be much talent on the market, and in an uncapped season, the thrifty Bucs will be easily outbid for anyone in which they show interest.
That means that a team with a ton of needs must be very wise with their draft picks. Working in Dominik’s favor is the enormous depth at nearly every position in this year’s draft. Ndamukong Suh is the best player available, but as much as I’d love to see Suh in pewter, I’m afraid the price will be too high. This really isn’t the year to be dealing up, especially when you need to upgrade at nearly every position on the field. Rather, I think this is the likeliest year for the Bucs to deal down. Interest in a quarterback or tackle could allow the Bucs to gain an extra selection or two and still end up with an impact player at a position of need.
Anyways, here’s how I see the draft going:
1) STL – Ndamukong Suh (DT, Nebraska)
The worst team in the league selects the best player in the draft. I like Jimmy Clausen and Sam Bradford and acknowledge the Rams’ shoddy QB situation, but you don’t pass on the #1 dude when he fills a need. There’s also talk that they’re serious about dealing for Michael Vick, so maybe they try that out for a year. If that doesn’t work out they’ll still probably be bad enough to land either Jake Locker or Ryan Mallett in 2011.
2) DET – Gerald McCoy (DT, Oklahoma)
It’s going to be either McCoy or Russell Okung, and based on comments made by the head coach and other things I’ve read, I think they’re going to go for the defensive tackle. If you’re screaming Okung here, you’re preaching to the choir, but I just don’t think that’s what they’ll do. I’ve said multiple times that Suh and McCoy might be the two best players in the draft, not just at their positions, and now they may end up going 1, 2. McCoy and Sammie Lee Hill make a good middle on their defensive line.
3) TB – Rolando McClain (LB, Alabama)
I concede that this isn’t the most likely of picks, but I’d like to see them follow the logic I brought up earlier and upgrade two positions with one pick. McClain gives us a bigger, more physical presence in the middle and provides the Bucs with a defensive leader to compliment Freeman on offense. You could (hopefully) build upon and market the hell out of that for a decade. I think McCoy will be their pick if he’s there, but if he’s not and it’s not McClain, Russell Okung is the one that seems most likely to me. That goes towards the “all about 5” theme. Penn’s blimping up and is without a long term deal, so Okung isn’t out of the question. I still don’t see Eric Berry (draft is really deep at safety) or Joe Haden, and I don’t think they’re ballsy enough do go with Dez Bryant or CJ Spiller. Ideally, they trade down, take McClain, and acquire another pick or two.
4) WAS – Sam Bradford (QB, Oklahoma)
I’ve got to think that Jason Campbell doesn’t have much longer in Washington. He’s likely to return as a RFA next season, but beyond that, who knows? Russell Okung is still here, and their tackle situation is pretty bad. Mike Shanahan’s Broncos did take Ryan Clady in the first round when their tackle situation was ugly, so there is precedence. Still, I’ll go with the guy who seems to have the lead in the QB derby at the moment.
5) KC – Eric Berry (S, Tennessee)
Safety is certainly a position of need, and this figures to be right about where Berry will go. I think this is about as high as you’d see Dez Bryant go, but with the way Todd Haley handled Dwayne Bowe this year, bringing in a guy with a little flare like Bryant may not be the preferred choice.
6) SEA – Russell Okung (T, Oklahoma St)
Pete Carroll’s first draft pick as a Seahawk is a Big 12 tackle. Walter Jones may or may not be retiring, and Sean Locklear hasn’t looked very good there the last couple years when given a chance to replace him. Jimmy Clausen might be tempting as Matt Hasselbeck’s replacement.
7) CLE – Joe Haden (CB, Florida)
One of the league’s worst pass defenses adds a much needed shutdown corner. I don’t think that QB is going to be Holmgren’s pick in the first round. I’ve got him (and the Vikings) looking at Tony Pike a little later in the draft.
8) OAK – Anthony Davis (T, Rutgers)
I could go with the trendy pick and put Jason Pierre-Paul here given Al Davis’ insatiable appetite for athletic freaks, but I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and guess that he addresses his need at left tackle.
9) BUF – Bruce Campbell (T, Maryland)
Yes, I know their QB situation is junk, but so is their offensive line. Is Jimmy Clausen what Chan Gailey is looking for? What does he think of their current left tackle, Demetrius Bell? I think Campbell is too talented to pass up and both should and will end up being a top 10 pick.
10) JAX – Derrick Morgan (DE, Georgia Tech)
Their GM has talked about upgrading up front and applying more pressure to the QB, so I think they’ll go with a defensive end. Do they take Morgan or JPP? Morgan produced more in college, but JPP looks to have the higher ceiling and is quicker off the snap. Flip of the coin has Morgan as the pick.
11) DEN (via CHI) – Jimmy Clausen (QB, Notre Dame)
Here’s this year’s dropper and surprise pick. The Broncos use a pick they receive in the Cutler deal to take another QB with supposed attitude issues. Clausen is still my #1 QB, and while this may not look like a need at the moment, consider that Kyle Orton is a RFA this year and has no long term security in Denver. What he did last year is about as far as I think he’s going to take them. Left guard and nose tackle are needs, but this might be too early for Mike Iupati, Dan Williams, and Terrence Cody.
12) MIA – Dez Bryant (WR, Oklahoma State)
This isn’t very Parcells-like, but Bryant gives them a much needed receiving weapon. The Wildcat is cute, but Chad Henne isn’t taking this team anywhere without a #1 receiver. I think they’d love McClain if he was here, and Earl Thomas might draw consideration as well given Gibril Wilson’s poor season at FS.
13) SF – CJ Spiller (RB, Clemson)
It might not be a popular pick, but I think Spiller is a perfect fit for the Niners. Frank Gore is still the franchise and Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis are the top receiving options, but Spiller gives them an excellent return man and another explosive offensive weapon. With Crabtree and Davis able to work vertically and force defenses to stay honest, Spiller would have a lot of room to operate. Given their QB situation, they could certainly use more offensive talent at the other skilled positions. Spiller also allows them to continue a run-heavy offensive approach without destroying Gore. I’m not sure last year’s pick, Glenn Coffee, is that guy.
14) SEA (via DEN) – Jason Pierre-Paul (DE, USF)
The Seahakws come back with their second pick and get a much needed pass rusher. Free safety is also a need, and Pete Carroll knows all about Taylor Mays. I think Pete passes.
15) NYG – Earl Thomas (S, Texas)
Free safety is a huge need, and the Giants take Thomas, a player that might give them some cornerback versatility; another position where they could use help.
16) TEN – Everson Griffen (DE, USC)
Corner and defensive end are arguably their greatest needs, and I think this is a little high for the next cornerback. Jevon Kearse probably won’t be back, and Kyle Vanden Bosch might not either.
17) SF (via CAR) – Trent Williams (T, Oklahoma)
He has experience at both tackle positions and might be what they’re looking for at RT. The other guy I’m looking at here is Mike Iupati who seems like a Mike Singletary type pick. He’s raw, and the fact that they wouldn’t need him right away would give them some time to develop him.
18) PIT – Bryan Bulaga (T, Iowa)
As much as I’d like to set the Steelers up with two Trojans in the back of their secondary, I don’t think Mays will be the pick. Bulaga may not start right away, but I think when you look at their primary needs, he’s the best value.
19) ATL – Brandon Graham (DE, Michigan)
John Abraham will be 32, and Jamaal Anderson has been a flop. Prior to the Senior Bowl, I had him as our pick at 35 if he somehow fell that far, but I can’t see how that happens now. With his Senior Bowl performance, Graham moves up my board from the 24-32 range to this spot. Too bad he ends up in Atlanta where we’ll see him twice a year.
20) HOU – Dan Williams (DT, Tennessee)
I wasn’t feeling great about this pick until he bumped up his stock a little bit with a fine Senior Bowl week. If they do go the DT route, I tend to think that they go with a bigger, run stuffing tackle to free up Amobi Okoye rather than draft Brian Price to replace him. This is borderline value IMO for the next best corner.
21) CIN – Golden Tate (WR, Notre Dame)
Tate’s deep skills give a struggling Carson Palmer another offensive threat and help the run game as well by keeping defenses honest. I really like this fit.
22) NE – Sergio Kindle (LB, Texas)
Perfect fit; athletic pass rusher with versatility.
23) GB – Charles Brown (T, USC)
An athletic tackle with a solid pass protection fundamentals is just what the Packers need in order to keep Aaron Rodgers from being sacked another (NFL worst) 51 times.
24) PHI – Carlos Dunlap (DE, Florida)
I’m not completely sold on this pick, but Dunlap might make an immediate impact at LE since Trent Cole occupies the right side.
25) BAL – Jermaine Gresham (TE, Oklahoma)
Makes too much sense. Gresham is a huge upgrade to their passing game, and Flacco needs help.
26) ARI – Jerry Hughes (DE/OLB, TCU)
Adding a pass rusher will be one of their top priorities, and they get a good one here. Their top OLBs at the moment are 34, 33, 33, and 31 years of age.
27) DAL – Vladimir Ducasse (OL, Massachusetts)
Another surprise pick, Ducasse going before Iupati. I was going to go corner in this spot, but I think Jerry Jones is going to look to beef up the offensive line. Ducasse gives them actual versatility while Iupati’s is more of the hopeful variety.
28) SD – Terrence Cody (NT, Alabama)
I’m not thrilled with this pick (seems too obvious), but I really don’t think they’re going to take a RB here. I was also considering going with Maurkice Pouncey, but it’s probably a little early for that.
29) NYJ – Perrish Cox (CB, Oklahoma State)
The Jets don’t have a ton of needs, but upgrading across from Revis Island is one of them. Cox’s aggressive style of play should fit in well on the Jets.
30) MIN – Mike Iupati (G, Idaho)
He could easily go higher than this, and I could also see the Vikings going corner here. The thought of the combination of Iupati and Steve Hutchinson opening holes for Adrian Peterson is intriguing.
31) IND – Brian Price (DT, UCLA)
This is a BPA pick, not a need. Honestly, I’m still having a tough time putting him on a team, but he fits what the Colts are trying to do up front. Cornerback and defensive end are higher needs, but I’m not sure if the Colts would take the 4th corner in the draft or the enigmatic Greg Hardy here.
32) NO – Sean Weatherspoon (LB, Missouri)
Good pick for the Saints, bad for the Bucs.
33) STL – Navorro Bowman (LB, Penn State)
Bowman gives them some athleticism next to Laurinaitis at linebacker.
34) DET – Jahvid Best (RB, California)
Going with Best gives the Lions a fill-in for the injured Kevin Smith and provides them with an explosive weapon to pair with Smith when he returns.
35) TB – Jared Odrick (DT, Penn State)
We must stop the run. After getting bigger in the middle with McClain in round one, the Bucs come back and take the quick and athletic penetrating tackle. My other favorites with this pick in order of preference –Brandon Graham, Brian Price, Jerry Hughes, and Arrelious Benn.
36) KC – Damian Williams (WR, USC)
Matt Cassel needs more than just Dwayne Bowe in the passing game, and after passing on Dez Bryant in round one they get round one quality with the 36th pick.
37) WAS – Selvish Capers (T, West Virginia)
Washington needs a lot of help up front, and Shanahan gets an athletic tackle to help him transition in his ZBS.
38) CLE – Chad Jones (S, LSU)
The Browns wisely continue adding to their depleted secondary.
39) OAK – Greg Hardy (DE, Mississippi)
Davis can’t help himself and takes the boom or bust pass rusher. I really like Navorro Bowman here if he’s still on the board.
40) SEA – Taylor Mays (S, USC)
Pete Carroll ends his former player’s suffering. They need help at FS, and I have a hard time seeing Carroll draft another safety when Mays is out there (even though I’d take Nate Allen instead).
41) BUF – Colt McCoy (QB, Texas)
I like the fit here with Chan Gailey as head coach, a guy who is familiar with spread offenses. They could implement that in Buffalo and let McCoy do what he does best. This would also take advantage of Marshawn Lynch’s and Fred Jackson’s receiving skills.
42) TB – Kyle Wilson (CB, Boise State)
I’ve had Mardy Gilyard here, but the more I think about it, the more I feel he’s not going to be the third receiver off the board in this draft, as I have had him showing up. If the draft shakes out this way, I think Raheem sees an opportunity to pick up a young Ronde Barber and put his cornerback situation in good shape. No, he’s not 6-0 or taller, but Wilson plays with a physical nature and doesn’t shy away from contract. He’s an all-round talent that is continuing to improve. Wilson gives the Bucs something they don’t have, starter material behind Barber and Talib. My other favorites with this pick in order of preference – Chad Jones, Brandon Ghee, and Brandon LaFell.
43) MIA – Ricky Sapp (OLB, Clemson)
They need a pass rusher whether or not Joey Porter returns.
44) NE (via JAX) – Brandon Spikes (LB, Florida)
I really like this pick. Lining the physical Spikes up next to Jerod Mayo would be a nice way to rejuvenate this defense.
45) DEN – Maurkice Pouncey (OL, Florida)
Pouncey makes it back to back Gator picks and gives the Broncos a bigger force on the interior. I really like this pick.
46) NYG – Brandon Ghee (CB, Wake Forest)
With Spikes off the board, it’s probably too early for another MLB here, so they spend another pick on the secondary that gave up 31 passing TDs this past year, second worst in football (Lions were the worst).
47) NE (via TEN) – Dexter McCluster (RB/WR, Mississippi)
The Patriots come back and go offense this time with McCluster. Julian Edelman is expected to take up most of the slack during Wes Welker’s absence, but adding a guy like McCluster will go a long way in helping as well. McCluster also gives Tom Brady the dynamic weapon he’s lacked during his time in New England.
48) CAR – Arrelious Benn (WR, Illinois)
The Panthers desperately need to upgrade across from Steve Smith, and Benn is great value here.
49) SF – Patrick Robinson (CB, FSU)
Yes, he’s my second rated corner, but that doesn’t mean he’ll go off the board second. Another good value selection here in an area of need. After going offense with the first two picks, Singletary upgrades at corner.
50) KC (via ATL) – Aaron Hernandez (TE, Florida)
Here’s a big pass catching upgrade at TE. I think Chief fans would be pleased with Eric Berry, Damian Williams, and Hernandez with their first three picks. Their once meager offense now boasts Jamaal Charles, Dwayne Bowe, Williams, and Hernandez.
51) HOU – Jonathan Dwyer (RB, Georgia Tech)
I question whether or not he’ll last this long, but he makes sense with the Texans. He’s not a receiver, but adding a rushing weapon like Dwyer makes Matt Schaub even more dangerous.
52) PIT – Nate Allen (S, USF)
I think Ryan Clark leaves in free agency, and Allen is great value here.
53) NE – Lamarr Houston (DL, Texas)
Houston joins Kindle in New England and gives the Patriots a third new addition to their front seven. After four picks, the Patriots have added two linebackers, a defensive lineman, and a versatile playmaker on offense.
54) CIN – Donovan Warren (CB, Michigan)
A third corner is needed in Cincinnati, and Warren joins former Wolverine Leon Hall in the Bengals’ secondary.
55) PHI – Kyle Calloway (T, Iowa)
Stacy Andrews was a disappointment at RT, and Winston Justice has been garbage as a pro. An upgrade is needed, and I like Calloway’s potential.
56) GB – Tyson Alualu (DL, California)
Their first year in the 3-4 defense was quite a success, but they still lack all the pieces to get to an elite level. Alualu helps.
57) BAL – Brandon LaFell (WR, LSU)
You’re going to hear the word “value” a lot this year due to this draft’s depth, but the Ravens get more of it here. It will be very un-Baltimoreish of them to go offense with their first two picks, but let’s get Flacco some help. Gresham and LaFell are the new Heap and Mason.
58) ARI – Devin McCourty (CB, Rutgers)
They need another corner, and the rising McCourty might be the best one on the board at this point.
59) DAL – Morgan Burnett (S, Georgia Tech)
The Cowboys get Ken Hamlin’s replacement.
60) SD – Ryan Mathews (RB, Fresno State)
With or without Sproles, they need a back they can run out there for the early downs. Michael Bennett isn’t that guy, but Mathews is. If they go with Dwyer in the first, they could take Cam Thomas here to fill the nose tackle need.
61) NYJ – Eric Norwood (LB, South Carolina)
The Jets go defense with the second pick in a row and get a pass rusher. About two thirds of their sack total was provided by the trio of Calvin Pace, Shaun Ellis, and David Harris. They need help.
62) MIN – Dominique Franks (CB, Oklahoma)
Antoine Winfield finished the year banged up, and Cedric Griffin tore both his ACL and MCL in their season finale against the Saints. Corner is an obvious weakness, and Franks is a guy with upside that can be worked into the rotation.
63) IND – Jon Asamoah (G, Illinois)
I’d like to give them a run stopping defensive end here like Alex Carrington, but after going with a defensive tackle with their first pick (at least here) and with two corners going just before them, I think they shift the focus towards the offensive line and bring in a guard who excels in pass protection.
64) NO – Kareem Jackson (CB, Alabama)
The Super Bowl champs select a collegiate national champion to close out the second round. With their six draft picks the Saints need to get one offensive lineman and spend the rest of them on upgrading the defense.
END ROUND 2
Some of the highest rated prospects still on the board after two rounds:
QB – Tony Pike
RB – Anthony Dixon, Joe McKnight, Toby Gerhart
WR – Mardy Gilyard, Dezmon Briscoe, Jordan Shipley, Demaryius Thomas
TE – Rob Gronkowski
OL – Jason Fox, Jared Veldheer, Mike Johnson, Matt Tennant
DE – Corey Wootton, Alex Carrington
DT – Cam Thomas, Geno Atkins
LB – Darryl Washington, Koa Misi, Roddrick Muckelroy, Sean Lee
CB – Amari Spievey, Javier Arenas
S – Reshad Jones, Darrell Stuckey, Larry Asante
So with their first 3 picks, the Bucs have upgraded at 5 spots – MLB, SLB, DT, CB, and PR. That leaves DE, WR, and SS as the positions in the greatest need of addressing. If we’re somehow able to get an additional pick in the first two rounds, I’d like it to be used on Chad Jones, Brandon Graham, Jerry Hughes, Arrelious Benn, Brandon LaFell, or Jahvid Best.
What to do with the remaining 7 picks:
Mardy Gilyard (WR, Cincinnati)
There’s a good chance he’s still here three picks into the third round, and I think you’ve got to take him if he is. Gilyard gives Freeman a legitimate deep weapon who can give you at least one field flipping play per game. He also gives us a second dynamic return man in our first three picks; more of that field flipping ability. He can handle kickoffs while Wilson fields punts. No, I haven’t forgotten about Clifton Smith, but I’m not taking his concussions lightly nor am I passing up versatility and depth.
My other favorites with this pick in order of preference – Amari Spievey (if no corner so far), Dezmon Briscoe, Anthony Dixon, Darrell Stuckey, Corey Wootton, and Javier Arenas.
Brandon Lang (DE, Troy)
I’ve been mentioning him for a while now. He really brings it as a pass rusher and has a variety of ways of getting into the backfield. Austen Lane and Jermaine Cunningham are other options here at DE, and I’d be fine with either one. This might be a little later than most would like for a pass rusher, but I think the value of the other selections was too great to pass up given the minimal pass rushing options available in those spots.
If we’re able to trade someone on the roster, maybe we can get an additional fourth round pick at some point. With that pick, I’d have to go with Charles Scott (RB, LSU). He’d also be my fourth round selection if we were to pick up a pass rusher prior to this pick.
Other options would be – Pat Angerer (if no McClain), Syd’Quan Thompson (if no Wilson or Spievey), Ciron Black, and Andre Roberts.
Danario Alexander (WR, Missouri)
His medical history is a reason he’s likely to go this low in the draft, but there’s quite a bit of upside given a healthy future. I want to come out of this draft with two receivers and getting a big possession guy like Alexander (6-5, 212) to go with the dynamic Gilyard would be a nice pairing. There should still be a decent number of quality receivers available at this point, and given that we took Gilyard earlier, I’d be looking for someone like Mike Williams Taylor Price, Seyi Ajirotutu, or Eric Decker (if he’s still there) with this pick.
Other preferences include – Micah Johnson, Alterraun Verner, Myron Rolle, and Brandon Carter.
Barry Church (SS, Toledo)
I’m still on the Church bandwagon and thanks to the depth at this position I think he’s still there at the top of round 6. He’s one of the most decorated players in the history of the MAC and provides a well rounded game that fits our defense. What stands out most to me is the way he consistently makes textbook tackles; something our current SS has yet to master.
If we’ve already addressed safety or add another pick along the way, here’s who I want – James Ruffin (DE, Northern Iowa), Corey Peters (DT, Kentucky), and John Skelton (QB, Fordham – a lot like Freeman; big dude with an arm and upside).
Patrick Stoudamire (CB, Western Illinois)
James Starks (RB, Buffalo)
Drew Davis (T, Alabama)
Here the Bucs cap things off with a corner with upside, an all-round back who will fall due to missing last year with an injury, and a run blocking right tackle. Freddie Barnes (WR, Bowling Green), Malcolm Sheppard (DT, Arkansas), and Antonio Coleman (DE, Auburn) are three other guys I like late in the draft.
That gives the Bucs:
1 – Rolando McClain (LB, Alabama)
2a – Jared Odrick (DT, Penn State)
2b – Kyle Wilson (CB, Boise State)
3 – Mardy Gilyard (WR, Cincinnati)
4 – Brandon Lang (DE, Troy)
5 – Danario Alexander (WR, Missouri)
6 – Barry Church (S, Toledo)
7a – Patrick Stoudamire (CB, Western Illinois)
7b – James Starks (RB, Buffalo)
7c – Drew Davis (T, Alabama)
Or…the “Geaux Crazy Draft”
This includes the Bucs trading down in the 1st to gain a 2nd and 4th and trading a player to gain another 4th.
1 – Rolando McClain (LB, Alabama)
2a – Jared Odrick (DT, Penn State)
2b – Kyle Wilson (CB, Boise State)
2c – Chad Jones (S, LSU)
3 – Mardy Gilyard (WR, Cincinnati)
4a – Brandon Lang (DE, Troy)
4b – Charles Scott (RB, LSU)
4c – Ciron Black (T, LSU)
5 – Danario Alexander (WR, Missouri)
6 – James Ruffin (DE, Northern Iowa)
7a – Patrick Stoudamire (CB, Western Illinois)
7b – Freddie Barnes (WR, Bowling Green)
7c – Malcolm Sheppard (DT, Arkansas)
- Don’t be surprised if the Bucs take…
Chad Jones (S, LSU) in the 2nd or
Aaron Pettrey (K, Ohio State) in the 7th
- If the Bucs draft a tight end, I’d want it to be either Dennis Pitta or Jimmy Graham in the 4th or Colin Peek in the 5th.
- Tim Tebow goes to the Jaguars in the 3rd round.
With 10 selections we’ve improved at MLB, SLB, DT, CB (twice), PR, WR (twice), KR, DE, SS, RB, RT, and kick/coverage teams. And this is without the Bucs acquiring additional picks which is something I feel strongly that they’ll do this year. This mock won’t please everyone, but I tried to address each of our needs and do so in a manner that allows us to get the best value out of each selection.