Yardbarker Horiz

Friday, April 30, 2010

Post Draft Update: The Young Core Offense

Yesterday we had a look at the future of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense.  Today it's the offense, and there is plenty to be excited about here as well.

We last reviewed the young core offense as part of our pre-draft team needs analysis. The "young core" is made up of the players on the 80-man roster with five or fewer seasons.

Bold is a 2010 draft pick, italics is 2010 college free agent, slashed is cut, and bold with italics is an  exclusive rights free agent not yet under contract.  The players are arranged by experience, nothing else:

WR - Maurice Stovall (5th Year), Terrance Nunn (2), Mario Urrita (1),  Mike Williams (0)
LT - Donald Penn (5), James Lee (3), Marc Dile (1), Derek Hardman (0)
LG - Jeremy Zuttah (3), Sergio Render (0), Arron Sears (3)
C - Johnathan Compas (2)
RG - Davin Joseph (5), Vladimir Richard (0)Shawn Murphy (3)
RT - Jeremy Trueblood (5), Demar Dotson (2), Xavier Fulton (2). James Williams (0)
WR - Micheal Spurlock (3), Sammie Straughter (2), Arrelious Benn (0), Preston Parker (0)
TE - Ryan Purvis (1), Jeron Mastrud (0)
QB - Josh Johnson (3), Josh Freeman (2), Rudy Carpenter (2), Jevan Snead (0)
RB - Clifton Smith (3), Kareem Huggins (1)
FB - Chris Pressley (2)
PK - Conner Barth (3), Hunter Lawrence (0)
P - Brent Bowden (0), Sam Paulescu (1)
LS - Andrew Economos (5)

Another perfect position chart for the Buccaneers.  Competition at every position.  Some of these lists have all players at that position (QB, for instance) demonstrating the efforts put into the youth movement over the past two years.  The rebuilding process is also complete on this side of the ball.  Note also that, unlike the defense, there are still young players on this side of the ball who are not under contract for 2010 as yet. 

While some are completely confused by what they see on this side of the ball it is clear to me that the plan is in place, competition will be fierce, and there will be an offseason and preseason unlike anything in recent memory at One Buc Place.  The offensive line can still be a major strength of this team and will need to be for this team to improve over the 2009 season.

There will be some real battles at some of these positions this offseason.  There are only 22 positions on the two-deep for offense and some positions have up to 8 players competing (WR, T).  If the quality rises to the top and there is talent to back them up the Tampa Bay Buccaneers could surprise some people in 2010.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Post Draft Update: The Young Core Defense

The draft is barely over and a pandemic of hope is sweeping across the NFL.  Fans believe their teams have the players they need to improve.  Front offices around the league are celebrating their new, young stars.  It is no different in Tampa.  A closer look shows the hope is very well founded in the Bay Area.

Here is the updated young core defense, last reveiwed just before the draft. The "young core" is made up of the players on the 80-man offseason roster with five or fewer seasons.

Bold is a 2010 draft pick, italics is 2010 college free agent, slashed is cut since the draft.  Players are arranged by experience, nothing else:

RE: Stylez White (4th year), Tim Crowder (4), Maurice Evans (1), Brandon Gilbeaux (0)
DT: Roy Miller (2), Brian Price (0)
DT: Dre Moore (2), Gerald McCoy (0)
LE: Kyle Moore (2), Micheal Bennett (2), Erik Lorig (0), James Ruffin (0)
SLB: Jon Alston(5), Quincy Black (4), Lee Robinson (1)
MLB:  Adam Hayward (4), Rico McCoy (0)
WLB: Geno Hayes (3), Dekoda Watson (0)
LCB: Aquib Talib (3), Derrick Roberson (2), Brandon Anderson (1)
RCB: Elbert Mack (3), E.J. Biggers (1), Myron Lewis (0), Stony Woodson (1)
SS: Sabby Piscatelli (4), Emanuel Cook (2), Donte Nicholson (2), Cody Grimm (0)
FS: Tanard Jackson (4), Corey Lynch (3), De'von Hall (1), Dennis Rogan (0)

This is an absolutely perfect looking defensive position chart with at least two players competing at every spot.  The rebuilding phase is officially over for the defense!  From this point on it's about getting as much talent on this chart as possible each offseason and letting them fight it out through Organized Team Activities (OTAs), work in the weight room, conditioning, and finally in the preseason.  This is how and this is when depth is born.  A 3-13 team is generally not in this position due to some combination of poor drafting, poor use of the wiaver wire, poor player development, or too much reliance on veteran free agents. The Buccaneers appear to have these issues resolved.  It's an exciting indicator of progress and good things to come this fall to a unit which struggled last year.

These 33 players will compete for 22 positions on the two-deep depth chart.  Around another 4 of these players may go to the practice squad.  Best of Luck to all these men as they chase their dream of playing in the NFL!

Walk The Draft With The GM

Get a review from the GM himself -- Tampa Bay General Manager Mark Dominik held a press conference after each draft session.  Hearing them in order gives a great sense of what went on during the draft.  Also, meet Gerald McCoy and hear Head Coach Raheem Morris' analysis of the full draft.  Enjoy!

Round 1:
Rd 1: Gerald McCoy, Defensive Tackle, Oklahoma
GM Mark Dominik Post-Round 1 Press Conference
Introducing Gerald McCoy

Rounds 2 and 3:
Rd 2: Brian Price, Defensive Tackle, UCLA
Rd 2: Arrelious Benn, Wide Receiver, Illinois
Rd 3: Myron Lewis, Cornerback, Vanderbilt
GM Mark Dominik Post-Round 3 Press Conference
Rounds 4-7:

Rd 4: Mike Williams, Wide Receiver, Syracuse
Rd 6: Brent Bowden, Punter, Virginia Tech
Rd 7: Cody Grimm, Safety, Virginia Tech
Rd 7: Dekota Watson, Linebacker, Florida State
Rd 7: Erik Lorig, Defensive End, Stanford
GM Mark Dominik Post Draft Press Conference
Head Coach Raheem Morris Post Draft Press Conference

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Post 2010 Draft Fallout

All NFL teams are limited to an 80-man roster for offseason activities.  The Buccaneers have drafted, released, and signed players in the last five days to get to that limit.

First, between April 22nd and April 24th, 2010, Tampa Bay drafted nine new players:
Gerald McCoy, DT, Oklahoma
Brian Price, DT, UCLA
Arrelious Benn, WR, Illinois
Myron Lewis, CB, Vanderbilt
Mike Williams, WR, Syracuse
Brent Bowden, P, Virginia Tech
Cody Grimm, S, Virginia Tech
Dekota Watson, LB, Florida State
Erik Lorig, DE, Stanford 

Second, on April 26th, the Buccaneers released six player:
Chris Hovan, DT
B.J. Askew, FB
Shawn Murphy, G
Sam Paulescu, P
Arron Sears, G
Stoney Woodson, CB

Not really many surprises here.  Chris Hovan was noted to be nearing retirement some time ago.  Askew has had a excellent career.  Arron Sears recently developed some personal issues and did not play last year -- I hope he can solve his issues and have a long, happy rest of his life.  Paulescu was a stop-gap after a rash of injuries, and Murphy and Woodson never made it to the stat books.

Third, the Buccaneers added twelve undrafted free agents over the past couple days:
DE Brandon Gilbeaux 6-3 270 Delaware
DE James Ruffin 6-4 263 Northern Iowa
G Sergio Render 6-3 311 Virginia Tech
G Vladimir Richard 6-4 300 Tennessee
K Hunter Lawrence 6-0 187 Texas
LB Rico McCoy 6-1 220 Tennessee
QB Jevan Snead 6-3 219 Mississippi
S Dennis Rogan 5-9 185 Tennessee
T Derek Hardman 6-6 300 Eastern Kentucky
T James Williams 6-5 295 Harvard
TE Jeron Mastrud 6-5 256 Kansas State
WR Preston Parker 5-11 199 North Alabama

We will take a deeper look at what these men mean to the roster over the next few days.

This brings the Buccaneer roster to an even 80 men, ready for Rookie Camp this coming weekend (April 30th - May 2nd).

But that is not the end of the story.  Five men from the 2009 roster are now exclusive rights free agents.  They are:
S Jermaine Phillips
T Donald Penn
T Jeremy Trueblood
RB Carnell Williams

These men have only two choices remaining:  sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or not play in 2010.  Let the chess games begin here.  As each of these men sign a roster position will have to be opened by cutting someone from the current 80-man roster.

Of the offseason 80-man roster, 53 men will make the active roster and 8 will make it to the practice squad.  That leaves 19 looming cuts (plus five more when the exclusive rights free agents sign).  The 19 cuts will made during the preseason, which means these men have the summer and early fall to impress the coaches and their teammates.  Tryouts start this weekend -- good luck, men!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Buccaneers Solidify The Roster With 2010 Draft

How did the Buccaneers do against the identified needs list?

Four picks in the first three rounds:
Defensive Lineman - Round 1, Gerald McCoy, DT, Oklahoma
Corner - Round 3, Myron Lewis, CB, Vanderbilt
Safety - Round 7 Cody Grimm, S, Virginia Tech
Wide Receiver - Round 2, Arrelious Benn, WR, Illinois
Three picks in rounds 4 through 6:
Center or versatile Guard - None
Another Defensive Lineman - Round 2, Brian Price, DT, UCLA
A Middle Linebacker - Round 7, Dekota Watson, LB, Florida State
Four picks in the 7th round:
Wide Receiver - Round 4, Mike Williams, WR, Syracuse
Tight End - None
Running back - None
Another Linebacker - None

The Bucs actually had 12 picks when the draft started.  They traded two of the 7th rounders for a 5th Round Pick in 2011 and used their 5th rounder to move up in the 2nd round leaving nine total selections. Seven of the nine selections were at positions previously identified as a need.  Two later selections which fell outside my needs chart were:
Round 7, Erik Lorig, DE, Stanford
Round 6, Brent Bowden, P, Virginia Tech

The Buccaneers valued a second defensive lineman and second wide receiver more than I did.  I valued an interior offensive lineman more than the Buccaneers this year.  We pretty much agreed on the other 7 bringing youthful depth to the roster.

A considerable amount of talent has been added to the Buccaneers roster.  McCoy was rated by some as the top player in the entire draft and Price and Benn were widely regarded as having first round talent.  That means the Buccaneers scored three drafts worth of top flight talent.  If these players reach their NFL potential, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are two years ahead of where they would be after a draft with "normal" talent levels.

Mike Williams and Myron Lewis are also considered more talented than their draft position as well.  Williams, in fact, had a value which had been lowered by many teams due to factors which are not football related.  If indeed these factors are behind him he could be a significant talent for a fourth round pick.  These players represent additional acceleration of the Buccaneers talent beyond a single draft year.

The late picks were specifically targeted for special teams play according to GM Mark Dominik.  This is typical of any draft.

If you consider this draft class in three pieces, arranged by "normal draft talent", it could look like this:
A) DT McCoy, CB Lewis, S Grimm
B) DT Price, WR Williamis, LB Watson
C) WR Benn,  P Bowden,  DE Lorig
Sprinkle in some 2010 undrafted free agents into each group as "normal late round picks" (Tampa signed a dozen), and you can see how this comes close to three years of solid drafting all wrapped up in one package.

In one weekend, the Buccaneers moved forward in the rebuilding process by at least one extra year.  And that makes looking forward to this fall a lot of fun!!

Pre-Draft Tampa Media Laughers 2010

"I didn't even know Leftwich was still on the team."
-- Ron Diaz, 620 AM
You sure didn't have a problem complaining about signing the veteran to a two year contract last year, Dan.  You probably also don't know the 7th rounder GM Mark Dominik got for Leftwich from the Pittsburgh Steelers is part of a 5th rounder in 2011 now.  Don't worry, Dan, I don't expect you to remember that either.

"Who is the third quarterback for the Buccaneers now?  What's his name?"
-- Fabulous Sports Babe, 1030 AM
There are only 80 players on the offseason roster Babe, is it really too much to at least look at it once in a while?  Considering Rudy Carpenter was signed in the middle of last year there is no break for "too recent", and not noticing is unforgivable.  It's OK, we know you are a baseball fan first.

"They have 12 picks and there are only 53 players on the regular season roster -- 45 on the travelling squad.  I have no idea how they are going to fit all these rookies into the roster.  Is one fourth of the team going to be rookies next year?"
-- Anwar Richardson, TBO.com
(This gem was part of an eye-rolling talk where the 2nd quote was presented as well) Anwar, just to be clear, there are 22 starting positions on this football team (3-13 last year) plus punter and kicker.  So each rookie could back up one veteran, for instance.  I guess what I'm saying is that twelve is less than 45.  Anwar, are you assuming, before the draft, that none of the rookies can be starters next year?  In reality the Bucs ended up with only 9 selections so I hope you're feeling less confused about this point today.

Monday, April 26, 2010

2010 Draft Results: Expert Opinions

The 2010 Draft is over and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have landed a significant haul of talent.  Don't take my word for it:
"They owned this draft. For all the ripping that general manager Mark Dominik has taken in some circles in his first year on the job, there's no denying he should be standing proud today."
-- Pete Prisco, CBS Sports (full article)
"The Buccaneers may have found half a dozen potential starters, and DTs Gerald McCoy and Brian Price and WR Arrelious Benn are good bets to crack the starting lineup by Week 1."
-- USA Today (full article at The Huddle)
"Grade: A"
-- John Czarnecki, Fox Sports (full article)
 "This was one of the league's better hauls."
- NBC Sports (full article
I could not agree more -- this was an unbelievable draft for Tampa Bay.  Between now and the rookie camps this upcoming weekend we'll take a deep look at how this draft has changed the Buccaneers for 2010 and I'll make the case this draft set the rebuilding plan forward by almost two years.

I am so ready for football season already I can barely stand it.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Draft Day Final Thoughts

 So, the analysis is complete (offense and defense), the scenarios have been laid out, the needs have been listed, and a few fake runs of draft selections have been finished.  All that's left is some final notes and thoughts on the 2010 NFL Draft (and making the popcorn):

Byron Leftwich (QB) has been traded back to Pittsburgh for another 7th round pick in the 2010 Draft.  He doesn't really create a void since most teams only carry three quarterbacks during the regular season.  However, the Buccaneers will need a camp warrior quarterback for the offseason, so it's possible that one of the last picks could be used to add one extra arm to the team.  Best case is the Buccaneers find a player to push Rudy Carpenter for the #3 position.

The Buccaneers now have twelve picks in the 2010 NFL Draft, five in the 7th round.  This provides General Manager Mark Dominik a huge amount of flexibility while the draft is in progress.

Consider This:  Two of the original allotment of 7 picks of the 2010 Draft were sent to Cleveland in 2009 for tight end Kellen Winslow.  Those picks were a 2nd rounder and a 5th rounder.  Buccaneers GM Mark Dominik got the 2nd round pick back by trading defensive end Gaines Adams to the Chicago Bears and got the 5th round pick back by trading tight end Alex Smith to the New England Patriots.  The net result is getting Kellen Winslow for Gaines Adams and Alex Smith.  The original trade brought the most productive receiver in 2009 to Tampa Bay.  The subsequent moves let loose an under performing defensive end and semi-productive tight end.  Starter for starter between Winslow and Adams would certainly favor Winslow as far as production.  Add in the fact Alex Smith did not even make the opening day roster of the New England Patriots (meaning the Buccaneers got something and New England got nothing) and you see this entire set of moves was a big time win for Dominik and the Buccaneers.  The final result for Tampa Bay is having the 2nd and 5th round picks back this year plus Kellen Winslow.  This shows great savvy by GM Mark Dominik and demonstrates how to use the needs of other teams to improve your own roster.  Very impressive for a GM just starting his second season at the top.

Another quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger of Pittsburgh, could play a factor if he is indeed traded.  This would remove a possible trade-up option and may result in Detroit staying put and taking one of the top defensive linemen leaving the other top defensive lineman for Tampa Bay.

Maurice Stovall (WR) is back with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers having signed his one-year tender offer.  He is a key piece in replacing Antonio Bryant so Buccaneer fans should feel good about it.  It does not, however, remove the need to draft at least one wide receiver in the 2010 NFL Draft.

Jimmy Wilkerson (DE, 42 tackles, 24 assists) has signed a free agent deal with the New Orleans Saints.  Wilkerson had six sacks in 2009, making him the 2nd leading sack producer for Tampa Bay in 2009 (Stylez White had 6.5 sacks to lead the team).  Losing a productive player is never a good thing.  The Buccaneers, however, have already gone a long way improving this position with September 2009 September 2009 waiver wire acquision Tim Crowder (37 tackles, 10 assists, 3.5 sacks) and October 2009 waiver wire acquisition Micheal Bennett (undrafted in 2009 but picked up by Seattle) as well as Buccaneers 2009 draft pick Kyle Moore (2009, 4th round).  And White also remains with the team.  A look at the young core defense shows Wilkerson's leaving should not change needs previously identified, so I do not believe this means the Buccaneers need to draft a Defensive End in the 2010 Draft.

Barrett Ruud (LB) has signed his tender but it should not change the Buccaneers draft needs.

Elbert Mack (CB) has signed his tender as well.  This adds young depth with good experience to the young core defense.  However, considering the front office activity last year, Tampa Bay will most likely spend at least one pick at corner.

Finally, some videos worth watching:

Could this be the #1 pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2010?  Gerald McCoy on NFL Network

There have been changes to draft preparation this offseason, hear what offensive coordinator Greg Olson thinks of them:  OC Greg Olson on Buccaneers Insider (does he slip regarding drafting wide receivers this year??)

What the rest of the team has been up to:  Offseason Workouts Have Started; High Participation

That does it.  Find a great chair in a comfortable room and relax.  Best of Luck to the entire Tampa Bay Buccaneers organization on the 2010 Draft!!!

Fake Draft from Valrico, Florida

I picked this draft to post because Jesse is the youngest person to send in a draft.

Jesse used the CBS 2010 Prospect Rankings (notes in parentheses are Jesse's):
#3 - Gerald McCoy (but I want Suh) (DT, Nebraska, 6'4", 295lbs)
#35 - Carlos Dunlap (DE, Florida, 6'6", 278lbs)
#42 - Terrence Codey (to go with McCoy) (DT, Alabama, 6'4", 349lbs)
#67 - Eric Decker (to replace Antonio Bryant) (WR, Minnesota, 6'2", 217)
#101 - Brandon Lang (DE, Troy, 6'4", 266lbs)
#153 - Jason Fox (OT, Miami (FL), 6'7", 305lbs)
#172 - Emmanuel Sanders (to replace [Micheal] Clayton) (WR, SMU, 5'11", 186lbs)
#210 - Charlie Tanner (G, Texas, 6'4", 305lbs)
#217 - AJ Edds (OLB, Iowa, 6'4", 246lbs)
#232 - Darryl Sharpton (ILB, Miami(FL), 6'0", 236lbs)
#253 - Sam Shields (CB, Miami(FL), 5'11", 184lbs)

Jesse says:
We need defensive line and wide receivers.  I picked a whole new defensive line.  And lots of players from Miami because they are the best!
Jesse, I like your thinking.  Coach Dungy had a lot of success with in-state college talent.  We'll have to see if Coach Morris can have the same success.

Thanks for sending in your draft, Jesse from Valrico!!

Fake Draft from Brandon, Florida

I'm posting this draft since it's the only one I received that did not have Gerald McCoy at #3. 

Tom, who lives in Brandon, Floirda, sent along his draft using the CBS Sports 2010 NFL Draft prospect rankings:

#3 - Eric Berry (FS, Tennessee, 6'0", 211lbs)
#35 - Carlos Dunlap (DE, Florida, 6'6", 278lbs)
#42 - Terrence Cody (DT, Alabama, 6'4", 349lbs)
#67 - Cam Thomas (DT, North Carolina, 6'4", 330lbs)
#101 - Darrell Stuckey (SS, Kansas, 6'0", 205lbs)
#153 - Mike Williams (WR, Syracuse, 6'2", 221lbs)
#172 - Emmanuel Sanders (WR, SMU, 5'11", 186lbs)
#210 - Shay Hodge (WR, Mississippi, 6'1", 209lbs)
#217 - Vincent Ray (ILB, Duke, 6'2", 240lbs)
#232 - Chris McCoy (OLB, Middle Tennessee, 6'3", 261lbs)
#253 - Richard Dickson (FB, LSU, 6'3", 249lbs)

Tom says:
Defensive line is deep and I think Eric Berry is the best athlete on the board.  We gave up too many long plays last year so get the best defensive back early and get defensive line later in the draft.  In the 7th round, get big guys who can run for special teams
 Certainly a different take, and Tom found about 680lbs of defensive tackle.  Thanks for sharing your draft, Tom in Brandon!

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Tampa Media And Dominik-Tied-To-The-2010-Draft

Looks like Tampa Bay Buccaneers General Manager Mark Dominik believes that his opportunity in Tampa Bay is attached to the 2010 draft:
I think it wouldn’t be unfair for me to say that this class will have a big impact on the success of this football team going forward. If this draft class doesn’t succeed, I probably don’t, either.
-- Pewter Report press conference notes
The Tampa Media has pounced on Dominik's quote like executioners given big new axe to grind:
For a long time, they will be intertwined, Dominik and this draft. In a week, in a year, in a decade, when someone mentions one of them, you will not be able to avoid thinking about the other.
-- Gary Shelton, TampaBay.com

How this draft turns out, even short term, will almost certainly determine the fates of General Manager Mark Dominik and Coach Raheem Morris and a lot of other people not named Glazer inside One Buc Place.
-- Martin Fennelly, TBO.com

Banking on this draft to ressurect the Bucs is the football equivilent of loading the bases for Albert Pujols with two outs.
Pujols could ground out. Just as easily, he could hit a grand slam.
That’s what Dominik has done. He’s walked the bases loaded.
-- JoeBucFan.com, article titled "Draft Will Be Midway or Waterloo for Dominik"
(How about Joe Buc Fan pulling out references to World War II, Napolean, and baseball in one fell swoop on a football blog?  Sheesh!) And, more importantly, some have started to set the bar far above anything accomplished by most general managers long before this year's draft even begins:

The Bucs have 11 picks, enough to fill a huddle, and five of those are among the first 101 selections. It is not too much to suggest the Bucs should walk away with four eventual starters and two Pro Bowl caliber players.
-- Gary Shelton, TampaBay.com
Really?  Two pro bowl players per year?  As usual, the egomaniacs of the Tampa Bay Media feel it is their right, their position to dictate exactly what must be accomplished by whom and by when, while they themselves sit high above the frenzy and pass judgement.

In light of all this, I just have to say to the Tampa Media:  Can I attach my credibility to this draft as well?  Please???

Seems to me this time the hounds in the Tampa Media Elite have been tricked by a wily fox in the person of Mark Dominik.  This is the most talented draft in 20 years by some estimations with the talent running long and deep.  The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have 11 picks to mine this rich talent pool for contributors.  If your job is to drill for oil and you're standing above one of the largest finds in 20 years, be sure to look your boss right in the eye and assure them that your next raise should be based on the next 11 wells dug.  Likewise, if you are going into a draft room with a deep talent pool and lots of picks you make sure the fans know you understand the situation.  That, my friends, is called tact ("skill in dealing with difficult or delicate situations").  Now Dominik has the Tampa Media to thank for tying his name closely with the talent that comes out.  Suddenly, after the draft, they will realize they can't call it "luck" or "a can't miss draft" -- now they must give him credit when the talent matures.  And I believe that has been Dominik's plan since he dropped the quote last week.  So while the Tampa Media rushes to the gallows to wait for a mistake, misstep, or some unfortunate luck, Dominik can sit back, do what he's done for 15 years, and play the cards he has stacked in his own favor (four extra picks this year) to his strong suit.

I suspect Dominik will bring the same tact to the table starting Thursday evening, and Buccaneer fans will be extremely pleased come Saturday night.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Fake Draft 2010 II

Using the Scout.com Overall Player Rankings I assumed that all players prior to the overall position of the Buccaneers pick were already selected.  For example, when it was time to make the second pick of the second round, I could only pick from the players listed from Position 42 on (i.e. 1-41 were already off the board).  I tried to find good value at each pick (talent on par with the selection) as well as meet the prioritized needs I have laid out in prior posts this week.

Here is how my Fake Draft played out for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers:

Round 1, #3 (3rd overall) - Gerald McCoy, DL (6'4", 295lbs), Oklahoma (#3 player overall by Scout.com)
Round 2, #3 (35th overall) - Patrick Robinson, CB (5'11", 190 lbs), Florida State (#36)
Round 2, #10 (42nd overall) - Brandon LaFell, WR (6'3", 211 lbs), LSU (#46)
Round 3, #3 (67th overall) - Major Wright, S (6'0", 204 lbs), Florida (#67)
Round 4, #3 (101st overall) - Eric Decker, WR (6'2", 220 lbs), Minnesota (#108)
Round 5, #22 (153rd overall) - Dexter Davis, OLB (6'2", 255 lbs), Arizona State (#154)
Round 6, #3 (172nd overall) - Clay Harbor, TE (6'3", 240 lbs), Missouri State (#174)
Round 7, #3 (210th overall) - Travis Ivy, DL (6'4", 341 lbs), Maryland (#218)
Round 7, #10 (217th overall) - Chris Hall, C (6'4", 300 lbs), Texas (#226)
Round 7, #25 (232nd overall) - Nathan Overbay (6'5", 270 lbs), TE, Eastern Washington (#243)
Round 7, #46 (253rd overall) - Joe Pawelek, MLB (6'2", 225 lbs), Baylor (#268)

There is a very important element here which cannot be factored in: face to face knowledge of the players.  And there is no guarantee that the Buccaneers rate these players in anywhere near the same overall order.

Again, it's a very interesting exercise.  There are players available at or near what I consider the top positional needs for the Buccaneers going into the 2010 season.  The first four selections dropped into place and if the first part of the draft plays out this way for Tampa Bay there will be great new talent at positions of need.

Then the same thing happened as in the first Fake Draft -- things got tough.

There was not a great positional need player in Round 4 so I took a wide receiver.  I did manage to get a linebacker in the middle rounds, but a tight end was a better value in the 6th round.  And I did not get a second defensive lineman until the seventh round.

This is fun!  So, again, I make the following offer:  If anyone else would like to go through the same process and then write a short paragraph about why you made the selections you made (and you aren't silly, like picking a quarterback first because you think Freeman is a bust), I'll post as many as I get all the way until the start of the draft on April 22nd so we can compare and contrast.  Interested?  Open your favorite word processor, notepad, or text program, grab the draft order and check out the Scout.com rankings and have at it.

PLEASE INCLUDE YOUR NAME/NICKNAME AND YOUR CITY and STATE (or country if you're outside the US).   Put your draft in the comments with this information and submit it.

If you're a real diehard, give yourself 10 minutes to make your first round pick, seven minutes to make each of your second round picks, and just five minutes to make each pick after that.

Best of Luck!!

Fake Draft 2010

Using the NFLDraftScout overall player rankings I assumed that all players prior to the overall position of the Buccaneers pick were already selected.  For example, when it was time to make the second pick of the second round, I could only pick from the players listed from Position 42 on (i.e. 1-41 were already off the board).  I tried to find good value at each pick (talent on par with the selection) as well as meet the prioritized needs I have laid out in prior posts this week.

Here is how my Fake Draft played out for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers:

Round 1, #3 (3rd overall) - Gerald McCoy, DL (6'4", 295lbs), Oklahoma (#3 player overall by NFLDraftScout)
Round 2, #3 (35th overall) - Patrick Robinson, CB (5'11", 190 lbs), Florida State (#37)
Round 2, #10 (42nd overall) - Nate Allen, FS (6'1", 207 lbs), South Florida (#48)
Round 3, #3 (67th overall) - Brandon LaFell, WR (6'3", 211 lbs), LSU (#76)
Round 4, #3 (101st overall) - Darrell Stucky, SS (6'0", 205 lbs), Kansas (#104)
Round 5, #22 (153rd overall) - Phillip Dillard, ILB (6'0", 245 lbs), Nebraska (#155)
Round 6, #3 (172nd overall) - Ted Larson, C (6'3", 304 lbs), North Carolina State (#177)
Round 7, #3 (210th overall) - David Reed, WR (6'0", 191 lbs), Utah (#212)
Round 7, #10 (217th overall) - Adrian Tracy, OLB (6'3", 248 lbs), William & Mary (#220)
Round 7, #25 (232nd overall) - Colin Peek, TE (6'5", 252 lbs), Alabama (#232)
Round 7, #46 (253rd overall) - Keith Toston, RB (6'0", 213 lbs), Oklahoma State (#256)

There is a very important element here which cannot be factored in: face to face knowledge of the players.  And there is no guarantee that the Buccaneers rate these players in anywhere near the same overall order.

But, on the whole, it's a very interesting exercise.  There are players available at or near what I consider the top positional needs for the Buccaneers going into the 2010 season.  The first four selections dropped into place very nicely and I will be bouncing off the walls if the first part of the draft plays out this way for Tampa Bay.

Then things got horribly tricky.

Starting with the #5 pick the overall talent board was filled with players at positions the Buccaneers do not have a pressing need for (running backs, defensive ends, offensive linemen, quarterbacks, etc).  While I would rather have had a wide receiver I opted for another safety with the 4th round pick.  I did not find a value pick for another wide receiver until the 7th round.  And at all points a value pick for a tight end or a center is hard to find.

But man was that fun!

So I make the following offer:  If anyone else would like to go through the same process and then write a short paragraph about why you made the selections you made (and you aren't silly, like picking eight wide receivers because you're really worried about replacing Antonio Bryant), I'll post as many as I get all the way until the start of the draft on April 22nd!  Interested?  Open your favorite word processor, notepad, or text program, grab the draft order and check out the NFLDraftScout rankings and have at it.

PLEASE INCLUDE YOUR NAME/NICKNAME AND YOUR CITY and STATE (or country if you're outside the US).   Put your draft in the comments with this information and submit it.

If you're a real diehard, give yourself 10 minutes to make your first round pick, seven minutes to make each of your second round picks, and just five minutes to make each pick after that.

Best of Luck!!

Update:  Another Fake Draft using Scout.com player rankings

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Tampa Bay Draft Summary

Having completed a review of the young offensive core and young defensive core on the rebuilding Tampa Bay Buccaneers on this blog, I offer a prioritized list of positions I hope the team hits during the 2010 draft.  But first, lets check out what the Buccaneers have to work with.

The Buccaneers have 11 picks in the 2010 NFL Draft:
Round 1, #3 (3rd overall)
Round 2, #3 (35th overall)
Round 2, #10 (42nd overall) -- via the Gaines Adams (Defensive End) trade to Chicago in 2009
Round 3, #3 (67th overall)
Round 4, #3 (101st overall)
Round 5, #22 (153rd overall) -- via the Alex Smith (Tight End) trade to New England in 2009; this pick replaces the fifth round pick given up to Cleveland for Tight End Kellen Winslow in 2009
Round 6, #3 (172nd overall)
Round 7, #3 (210th overall)
Round 7, #10 (217th overall) -- via the Luke McCown trade to Jacksonville in 2009
Round 7, #25 (232nd overall) -- via the Marques Douglas trade to Baltimore in 2008
Round 7, #46 (253rd overall) -- compensatory pick

Analysis posted here over the past two days show the Buccaneers needing six defensive players and between four and six offensive players to keep the rebuilding process moving along.  What a perfect time to have four additional picks available!

Here is my prioritized list for the picks above:

Four picks in the first three Rounds
Defensive Lineman (looks like the first pick is going to nail this solidly)
Wide Receiver

Top corner talent is hard to find, so the hope is that there is some great talent at the first pick in the second round to get a corner (I'll be cheering for lots of linemen to come off the board in the first round!).  I have no preference for safety or wide receiver as the second pick in the second round -- I just hope one position or the other is at the top of the draft board when the pick comes around.

Three picks in rounds 4 through 6
Center or versatile Guard
Another Defensive Lineman
A Middle Linebacker

Again, the order really doesn't matter.  These are not players that need to start on day one of the 2010 season.  Get football players who will be ready to compete, play special teams, and step it up for 2011.  If there is a wide receiver at the top of the board for one of these picks. . . it would be tempting.

Four picks in the 7th round
Wide Receiver
Tight End
Running back
Another Linebacker, any position

These are special teams warriors, hidden gems, or all out athletes.  Can the Buccaneers possibly catch lighting in a bottle with another 7th round wide receiver in 2010?  I would not complain if there was no running back taken and a third wide receiver or third linebacker were taken instead.  To be honest, at this point in the draft you are looking for someone who can play at an NFL level.  To try to fill a positional need here is very challenging, so if none of the seventh round picks line up with these positions then you just carry the need over to next year (hoping the needs fulfilled early in the draft this year don't come back again next year).

The Buccaneers rebuilding process would take a monsterous step forward if all eleven picks in the 2010 draft could find a way into the rotation for playing time on Sundays this fall.  However, this is not realistic, as some players will have injuries, not fit the systems as hoped, or perhaps not have exactly the right personality to meld into the team.  But with 11 chances to find the right player, the 2010 draft will determine how short or how long it takes to rebuild the team into a playoff contender.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tampa Bay Draft Needs: Offense

To build a team through the draft means to build a nucleus of young players and allow them to mature and gain experience through rotation during the season.  You need to find youth which is talented enough to get into a positional rotation or youth which can develop on the coverage teams and find it's way into the rotation later.

To find draft needs while rebuilding it makes sense to look at the young core of players instead of the starting lineup.  Holes in the starting lineup should be filled by free agency, but must be added carefully to allow the youth on the team to continue maturing.  In the case of the 2010 Tampa Bay Buccaneers young players need more experience (i.e. the rebulding process means creating depth across the board).  The status of the rebuilding process can also be measured by looking at the young core.

Here is the young core offense (Pre-Draft 2010) of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (players with five or fewer seasons):

WR - Maurice Stovall (5th Year), Mario Urrita (1), Terrance Nunn (2)
LT - Donald Penn (5), James Lee (3), Marc Dile (1)
LG - Jeremy Zuttah (3),  Arron Sears (3),
C - Johnathan Compas (2)
RG - Davin Joseph (5),  Shawn Murphy (3)
RT - Jeremy Trueblood (5), Demar Dotson (2), Xavier Fulton (2)
WR - Sammie Straughter (2),  Micheal Spurlock (3)
TE - Ryan Purvis (1)
QB - Josh Freeman (2), Josh Johnson (3), Rudy Carpenter (2)
RB - Clifton Smith (3), Kareem Huggins (1)
FB - Chris Pressley (2)
PK - Conner Barth (3)
P - Sam Paulescu (3)
LS - Andrew Economos (5)

Players in italics are unsigned free agents who have pending offers from the Buccaneers.  Should another team make an offer for the player, the Buccaneers have the right to match the offer.  If the Buccaneers do not match the offer, the other team may have to give up draft picks for the player.  Unrestricted free agents are not listed.

The breakdown is:
5 players with 5 years of experience
0 players with 4 years of experience
9 players with 3 years of experience
8 players with 2 years of experience (2009 draft, 2008 practice squad, some free agents)
4 players with 1 year of experience (2009 waiver/free agent pick-ups and practice squad)

This group represents 26 members of the 80-man offseason roster.  There is an obvious hole at four years of experience and, as a result, a lack of "internal free agents" on this side of the ball (as was the case a five years experience on the defense).  This shows inadequate player development stemming from the 2007 draft when only three offensive players were selected.  Arron Sears would be a fourth year player from that draft but was unable to participate last year (so it could have been one, but just one would be no less of an issue).  The lack of fourth year players means there will be a bit of a gap as far as leadership and experience which will continue to upset the rebuilding process.  Time will correct this problem if the 2nd and 3rd year players can get to the field and gain experience.

(The first note for the 2011 Draft is that four of the five 5th year players are offensive linemen -- look for that to be a draft priority next year.)

There is very little experience at the wide receiver position.  Granted that these men have been behind Michael Clayton and Antonio Bryant for some time, but with Bryant gone and 4th year receiver Brian Clark signed by Detroit somebody here will have to step up.  Stroughter had an unbelievable rookie year for a 7th round selection.  The Buccaneers need to get a couple more playmakers in this group to increase the competition, perhaps even play in the starting rotation, to keep this position well stocked. 

The offensive line is stocked to perfection.  While you can never have enough talent on the front line, this group gained a lot of playing experience last year and remains a great part of the young core to build around.  One need did become obvious last year when center Jeff Faine went down.  Instead of inserting someone from the roster the Buccaneers went to the free agent market and got journeyman Sean Mahan to fill in while Faine healed.  This suggests the Buccaneers need to consider drafting a center to compliment young Johnathan Compas (and Compas needs to progress strongly this offseason and preseason).  It is possible that one of the reserve guards can fulfill this need, in which case this unit does not require an update from the 2010 draft.

Tight End is a major area of need, with just one player with less than five years experience on the roster.  In fact, two of the veteran tight ends are also among the five oldest players on the roster (Jeremy Stevens and John Gilmore).  This tight ends as a whole did pack a lot of punch last year as well as producing the top receiver on the team (Kellen Winslow).  However, the Buccaneers would be well served to haul in another young tight end in the 2010 draft to sustain the position as these players wrap up their careers.

The quarterback position was in a state of flux from the first preseason game until the bye week.  With the waiver-wire pickup of Rudy Carpenter, the Buccaneers have no pressing need at this position for the next couple years.  It is likely a fourth quaterback will be brought in as an offseason warrior (perhaps that 7th round compensatory pick?) to challenge Carpenter for the #3 spot.  But using a draft slot for a quarterback is most certainly not a priority this year.

In the backfield there is a good, young core, but no heir apparent once Cadillac Williams and Derrick Ward step aside.  While not pressing, additional talent here to push the youth would be a luxury pick.

As far as specialists go, I'd be happy with only having to have one punter and one kicker for the entire year this season!

So, in summary:
Wide Recievers (2 would be great)
Tight End
Running Back and/or Quarterback (but only as a luxury pick in the later rounds)

That's a solid four player need and two nice-to-have picks.  Only the wide receiver position needs an immediate boost.  Not too bad at all for a very young and rebuilding team.  The rebuild is nearly complete on this side of the ball, but that gap in 4th year players will need some time to play out.

2010 Free Agency: The Rules Change Today

According to Buccaneers.com:
Restricted free agents have until Wednesday, April 14, to negotiate with other teams. After that date, any remaining unsigned restricted free agents may only negotiate with their original teams. The majority of restricted free agents end up re-signing by simply accepting that one-year tender offer, whether they choose to do so before or after next week's deadline.
Look for a large number of players to resign with their teams over the next 72 hours.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Tampa Bay Draft Needs: Defense

To build a team through the draft means to build a nucleus of young players and allow them to mature and gain experience through rotation during the season.  You need to find youth which is talented enough to get into a positional rotation or youth which can develop on the coverage teams and find it's way into the rotation later.

Knowing this, it makes sense to find draft needs by looking at the young core of players instead of the current starting lineup.  If the starting lineup has a need, free agency is probably the right place to look since experience is needed immediately.  In the case of the 2010 Tampa Bay Buccaneers young players need more experience (i.e. the rebuilding process means creating depth across the board).  The status of the rebuilding process can also be measured by looking at the young core.

Here is the young core defense (Pre-Draft 2010) of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (players with five or fewer seasons):
RE - Stylez White (4th year), Tim Crowder (4), Maurice Evans (1)
DT - Roy Miller (2)
DT - Dre Moore (2)
LE - Kyle Moore (2), Micheal Bennett (2)
SLB - Quincy Black (4), Lee Robinson (1), Jon Alston(5)
MLB -  Adam Hayward (4)
WLB - Geno Hayes (3)
LCB - Aquib Talib (3), Derrick Roberson (2), Brandon Anderson (1)
RCB - Elbert Mack (3), E.J. Biggers (1), Stoney Woodson (1)
SS - Sabby Piscatelli (4), Emanuel Cook (2), Donte Nicholson (2)
FS - Tanard Jackson (4), Corey Lynch (3), De'von Hall (1)

There is only one free agent in this list, Elbert Mack (in italics), and he is an exclusive rights free agent.  He can only resign with the Buccaneers.

The breakdown is:
1 player with 5 years of experience
7 players with 4 years of experience
4 players with 3 years of experience
7 players with 2 years of experience (2009 draft, 2008 practice squad, some free agents)
6 players with 1 year of experience (2009 waiver/free agent pick-ups and practice squad)

That group represents 24 members of the 80-man offseason roster.  This breakdown points out one very significant question:  Where are all the 5th year players??  The answer is basically they were never really here to begin with.  In 2006, the Buccaneers drafted six offensive players and four defensive players.  None of the defensive players chosen in 2006 returned in 2007.  In fact, the only 5th year player on the defensive roster (Jon Alston) is a 2010 offseason free-agent pickup!  This void is a troubling player development problem as it means there is a lack of "internal free agents" ready to lead the defense for the next few years.  It also means there will most likely be some continuing growing pains because of a lack of playmakers with a high level of experience on defense.  Unfortunately, only time can fix the problem.

Going into the Organized Team Activities it would be preferred to have at least two young players at every position.  Once this is achieved there is youth competing at every position and the first phase of rebuilding is over.  After that, you look at the roster at the beginning of the season and see how many survived the summer and the preseason.  When there is youth, experience (youth and experience can sometimes be the same player), and quality depth at every position the rebuilding process is over.

Let's check the defense position by position.

Five players are listed at defensive end.  At right end, Stylez White has played in every game but one since his arrival in 2007.  He posted 6.5 sacks and 30 tackles, his best numbers to date.  Tim Crowder, a waiver pickup in 2009, had 3.5 sacks and 37 tackles.  On the other side, Kyle Moore was a 2009 draftee who spent the 2009 season working through injuries and did not play a game before the bye week last year.  Micheal Bennett was a 2009 waiver wire pickup after being drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in 2008.  Likewise, Maurice Evans was also a 2009 waiver wire pickup.  There is plenty of youth and competition at defensive end so this position is not a need.

The interior of the defensive line contains only 2009 draft pick Roy Miller and 2008 draft pick Dre Moore.  Miller played in 15 games during the 2009 season, Moore in 7.  Obviously this is a position of need, and actually could use two additional players.

There are five players listed at the various linebacker positions.  Hayes finished second on the team in tackles and Black finished tied for third (with the ageless Ronde Barber).  Hayward played in every game but the first in 2009 (including one start) behind the team's #1 tackler Barrett Ruud.  Hayward also played in all 16 games in 2008, and 12 games in 2007.  So there is a lot of experience in this group.  However, only practice squad promotee Lee Robinson has less than three years experience.  To keep good depth here, the Buccaneers should add one or two additional players, one specifically at middle linebacker.

Cornerback seems to be in good shape with plenty of youth and plenty of young depth to slug it out in the preseason.  But something else is going on here.  The Buccaneers went through wiaver wire cornerbacks during the 2009 season like a machine.  So while there is plenty of youth, the amount of waiver wire activity suggests to me the talent level is not where the Buccaneers want it to be.  So the Buccaneers will probably add at least one player at this position.

Safety plays out like cornerback -- looks good but seems that the front office was looking for more.  Jackson appears to be the real deal, so a young strong safety seems to be a need.

In summary, the Buccaneers have the following defensive needs:
Defensive Linemen (2, one for each interior technique)
Linebackers (1 MLB, 1 other)
Cornerbacks (1 or more)
Safety (1 or more)

That's at least six defensive players needed -- nearly as many needs as a full draft in a normal year.  It goes to show how much the team misses those four defensive players drafted in 2006 (2 corners and 2 defensive ends).  Obviously, the rebuilding process on this side of the ball is still in progress and may not end this season.  But it's going to get a great boost from the 2010 draft as there seems to be plenty of defensive line and defensive back talent to make an impact.  It would not shock me to see at least three of the first four picks on the defensive side of the ball.  Look for this area to be where the early action happend on April 22nd, the first day of the 2010 draft (and April 23rd as well!).

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Replacing Antonio Bryant

Antionio Bryant became an Unrestricted Free Agent on March 5th, 2010.  Five days later he signed with the Cincinnati Bengals.  He takes two years of experience, 122 catches, and 1848 recieving yards with him.  Even hobbled by injury for a good part of 2009, Bryant still contributed 600 yards to the Tampa Bay offense. While he was the #1 wide receiver, he was not #1 in production in the passing game during the 2009 season -- that honor goes to tight end Kellen Winslow.

Offensive Coordinator Greg Olsen showed late last year that the Buccaneers will utilize a base package consisting of the quarterback, one fullback, one halfback, two tackles, two guards, a center, one tight end and two receivers.  The fullback position transitions in and out for an extra tight end as a jumbo package or for an extra wide receiver as a 3-wide package.  Expecting this package to carry over to 2010 means Tampa Bay needs two starting wide recievers, a productive third, and enough depth to overcome injuries.  Antonio Bryant was one of those starting wide receivers in 2009.

How will the Buccaneers replace him? 

With Existing players?

The only wide receivers to catch a pass in each game last year were Sammie Stroughter and Maurice Stoval.  Three of the wide recievers currenly on the Buccaneers roster did not catch a single pass in 2009.

Maurice Stovall is currently a restricted free agent with a 3rd round tender, meaning a team would have to give up a pick in that round of the draft this year to get his services.  He is coming off his best year of NFL football with 24 catches for 366 yards.  In two of the three games Bryant missed in 2009, Stovall started in his place (against Green Bay and Miami) while the third game started with a two tight end set.  Stovall will likely enter the preseason as the favorite to take over Bryant's starting position.

Sammie Stroughter, a 7th round pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2009 NFL draft, had a phenomenal first year in the NFL considering his draft position.  He finished 2009 as the #16 rookie WR by yards and tied for #15 by number of catches.  For comparison, Percy Harvin (MIN) and Jeremy Maclin (PHI) had 55+ catches and 700+ yards.  The top rookie wide receiver in 2009 was 4th rounder Austin Collie (IND); Maclin and Harvin were 1st rounders.  Brian Hartline had 31 catches (tied with Stroughter in the rookie rankings) for 506 yards (no TDs) as a 4th Round pick of the Dolphins.  Stroughter's year also stands out stubstantially against the season of the other 7th round recievers:
#15, #224, Demetrius Byrd (SD), no regualr season stats
#20, #229, Manuel Johnson (DAL), no regular season stats
#24, #233, Sammie Stroughter (TB), 31Receptions for 334 Yards
#28, #237, Jake O'Connell (KC),  2 Receptions for 7 Yards
#34, #243, Marko Mitchell (WAS), 4 Receptions for 32 Yards
#42, #251, Derek Kinder (CHI), preseason cut
#43, #252, Freddie Brown (CIN), no regular season stats
#44, #253, Tiquan Underwood (JAX), no regular season stats
The Buccaneers know they got a player with talent much higher than his draft placement.  Stroughter should be a key piece in the replacement of Antonio Bryant.

Micheal Clayton was not able to take a big step forward for the Buccaneers passing game last season.  Clayton caught 16 passes for 230 yards in 2009, both career lows.  It is not clear if Clayton will be the player to make up for the loss of Bryant, but one thing is certain:  Clayton is now the most experienced player among the Tampa Bay wide receivers.  He truly needs to make his mark this year by becoming a consistant player on the starting unit.  This could be his final year to get things figured out.

Mark Bradley was a 2009 waiver pickup from the Kansas City Chiefs.  While he did not see any game action for the Buccaneers in 2009 he did produce 54 receptions and 700 yards in two years for the Chiefs.  Although he is a virtual unknown to Buccaneers fans, the team obviously thought enough about him to claim him from waivers so I expect he will be called on to produce during the 2010 season.  Physically, Bradley (6'1", 201lbs) is a clone of Antonio Bryant (6'1", 205lbs).

Terrance Nunn (2nd year) was picked up on November 24, 2009, after being waived by the New England Patriots.  He has seen preseason action but no regular season action.  That could certainly change in 2010.

Micheal Spurlock is known to Tampa Bay fans as the player who first returned a kickoff for a touchdown for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  While he is an outstanding return man he has not been a very productive player with high water marks of 4 receptions for 31 yards for the Arizona Cardinals in 2006.  He was signed to the roster when Clifton Smith (also an excellent kick returner) went onto IR in 2009.  What is noteable about Spurlock is that Smith has returned to the roster but Spurlock has remained.

Mario Urrita, a 6' 6" 2nd year player with big upside, spent the 2009 season on the practice squad and remains an unknown quantity.  It is not a stretch to say this is a pivotal year for the youngster's career.

Through Free Agency?
Antonio Bryant was the 2nd highest paid wide reciever in the NFL last year (behind Randy Moss in New England).  His 600 total yards placed him 66th among wide receivers in the NFL in 2009.

During free agency the Tampa Bay Buccaneers sent a 2011 draft pick to Philadelphia for wide receiver Reggie Brown.  During the 2006 season, Brown caught 46 pases for 816 yards and 8 touchdowns, his high water mark since entering the league in 2005.  Last year in a diminished role he caught nine passes for 155 yards.

The Buccaneers have stated they will not be big participants in the free agent market in 2010 so I do not believe a replacement for Antonio Bryant will come from free agency.

Through the Draft?
The wide receiver crop in the draft this year seems very typical.  The question is:  What priority does the Buccaneers front office put on this position?  Coach Raheem Morris has stated, and backed up, the intent to be a power running team.  The fact is the offense returns Freeman, Williams, Trueblood, Joseph, Faine, Zuttah, Penn, and Winslow as incumbent starters for the 2010 season.  Wide reciever appears to be the only position of flux on the offensive side of the ball this offseason, so from that perspective it appears wide receiver is a priority.  However, is it a bigger priority than the needs on the defensive side of the ball?  The early picks will most likely be on the defensive side of the ball as it seems that unit needs more help (last in the NFL against the run in 2009, for starters).  Will there be starting talent capable of contributing this season from the mid- to late-round picks this season?

I do expect the Buccaneers to pick at least one wide reciever during the 2010 draft.  We'll certainly revisit this topic once we see who the player or players chosen in April are and what they bring to the table.  For now, however, it does not appear the draft will replace Antonio Bryant.

Certainly replacing Antonio Bryant is important for the long term success of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  A case could be made for the starting pair of Stovall and Clayton with Stroughter as the slot when three wideouts are needed.  But there are questions regarding depth.  Unfortunately, we fans will only get pieces of the answer to look at between now and the preseason.  Once the players get into camp we'll know if there is any measurable loss with Bryant leaving.  At this point, I'm not sure we'll find a gap worth measuring.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Redskins Went The Wrong Way With McNabb

Looks like business as usual in Washington.  The Redskins traded their 2010 2nd round pick (number 37 overall) and either a 3rd or 4th round pick in 2011 to the Philadelphia Eagles for quarterback Donovan McNabb.  It's been a couple days since the news and I still don't understand why the Redskins did it.

Don't get me wrong -- I understand the Redskins need a quarterback.  And I understand McNabb is a great player with a long list of stats as proof.  I completely get it that Mike Shanahan runs a west coast variant similar to Andy Reid.  And if it was that simple then it wouldn't be confusing.

It's just not that simple.

Donovan McNabb has only played 16 games in 4 of his 11 seasons.  McNabb has also played 10 games or less in three seasons.  For the Redskins, this means they must count on Rex Grossman or the incumbant Jason Campbell (who now is asking to be traded) to win games if (or when) McNabb needs to sit.  Jason Campbell got punished last year (the Redskins gave up 22 sacks in 2009) and McNabb cannot take that kind of beating.  These factors eliminate McNabb from being "the answer" at quarterback of the Redskins.  I would fully expect the Redskins to offer McNabb a new, back-loaded contract which gives Washington an easy out if they need to cut McNabb for reasons of health or durability in the next couple years.

So, what price do you pay for a most likely not-quite-full-time quarterback who has already passed that magical age of 30 in the NFL?

Consider there are 53 underclassmen coming out for the draft this year.  A large fraction of those players, something like 40, are expected to be taken in the first three rounds of the 2010 draft (picks before the overall 125th pick or so).  This punch of talent into the top of the draft board makes the talent available in the top of the 2nd round comparable to the bottom of the 1st ound in a "normal" draft.  The talent forces excellent players into the 3rd round this year, making the 3rd round talent similar to a "normal" 2nd round.  In this context, the Redskins gave up late first round talent for McNabb, plus another pick next year (3rd or 4th rounder).

There are other things to consider as well.  Consider the Rams cutting Mark Bulger and practically assuring that the top pick overall will be Sam Bradford. Consider the Lions not needing a quarterback after drafting Matt Stafford last year.  Plus, the Buccaneers obviously covet one of the highly rated defensive linemen.  So the Redskins will most likely be able to select Jimmy Clausen if they so choose (perhaps his visit over the weekend did not go so well).  Not only that, but it's quite possible that the rest of the top five quaterbacks would have been available when the Redskins would have picked in the 2nd round:  Colt McCoy (6'1", 216lbs, Texas), Tim Tebow (6'3", 236, Florida), and Tony Pike (6'6", 223, Cincinnati).

By trading away that second round pick, the Redskins reduce themselves to only have four picks total in the 2010 draft, one of the deepest and most talented drafts in some time.  Not only will their picks be few, their second selection this year will not come until the fourth round (#103 overall).  This being the case, the Redskins have basically set themselves up for only two possiblities at the #4 position of the 2010 draft:  Jimmy Clausen (as the quarterback of the future) or an offensive lineman to protect their investment in Donovan McNabb.  Any other pick means revisiting the quarterback position again in a not-too-distant offseason.

At this point, Buccaneer fans should be getting that eerie feeling in the back of their minds that this seems very . . . familiar.  New Washington Redskings General Manager Bruce Allen spent a great deal of money bringing older quarterbacks to the Buccaneers roster.  Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder also seems to favor buying accomplished talent on the far end of their career.  Perhaps it's a match made in heaven allowing both men to dedicate themselves to a single, focused philosophy.  Perhaps not:  I find it weird that Mike Shanahan simply released a statement (a cookie cutter one at that) about the trade instead of going in front of the media to brag about what he has to work with now.  One can only wonder if Shanahan wanted a young quarterback to mold and was told "No" in favor of the Allen/Snyder craving for older free agents.

In a see-how-it-works learning moment, it has been reported that the Redskins offered last year's high-priced free agent trophy, Albert Haynesworth, as a component in the McNabb trade (which the Eagles did not accept).  Rejecting this line of negotiating was a no-brainer.  You have to wonder if, finally, the Redskins understand there may be chemisty issues when dropping a sky-priced free agent into a locker room.

Consider how Philadephia, who won this trade in my mind, got to this point:  They have a young, up-and-coming quarterback already on the roster in David Kolb, a player they drafted and have developed behind the veteran McNabb.  They have a two defensive tackles they drafted who have five and six seasons of NFL experience on a squad who finished 11th against the run (giving up 198 yards/game in 2009).  These quality draft picks made resisting a questionable trade component (Haynesworth) easy and made a veteran quarterback expendable.  And they could take that 2nd rounder from Washington and turn it into Demarius Thomas (WR, 6'3", 236, Georgia Tech), Bruce Campbell (OT, 6'7", 314, Maryland), or Terrence Cody (DT, 6'4", 349lbs, Alabama).  Or Tim Tebow.  Or Colt McCoy.  You get the picture.

It seems to me that Washington gave up far too much for a short term solution.

Monday, April 5, 2010

A Big Day for Jimmy Clausen Is A Big Day For Tampa Bay

Today, April 5th, is the Notre Dame Fighting Irish pro day.  It's the first time that Jimmy Clausen, injured during in the 2009 college football season, will throw in front of NFL scouts.

That means it's a big day for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

If Clausen is impressive it could drastically improve his draft stock.  The Rams have made several moves which demonstrate they are working toward resolving a weak quarterback position with the #1 overall pick, but Sam Bradford rates higher than Jimmy Clausen and seems to be their preference.  That could leave a scramble to get the #2 overall pick away from Detroit by Seattle, Cleveland, or Washington

If the Rams select Bradford #1, they guarantee the Buccaneers will either have DL Ndamukong Suh or DL Gerald McCoy available to pick at the #3 position.  If anyone picks Jimmy Clausen at #2, the Buccaneers would be able to choose from the top players at all other positions.  Suh and McCoy are the top at their position and a would fill in nicely in the young core defense next to 2009 draft pick Roy Miller.

A good showing for Clausen could mean a better defensive line for the Buccaneers.  Have a great workout, Jimmy!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

2010 Draft: Two Defensive Linemen Off the Board

Worth A Look:  Check this video for offseason information like the Organized Team Activities (OTA) schedule and what types of training the players go through from Buccaneers Insider. (March 25, 2010, buccaneers.com).

#1 Pick:  Saint Louis chooses Ndamukong Suh, DL, Nebraska
#2 Pick:  Detroit chooses Gerald McCoy, DL, Oklahoma
- OR -
#1 Pick:  Saint Louis chooses Gerald McCoy, DL, Oklahoma
#2 Pick:  Detroit chooses Ndamukong Suh, DL, Nebraska

Either way, this would be the "bummer" scenario for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  The two best players are off the board and the Buccaneers do not need a quarterback or an offensive tackle.  Granted, they could pick a tackle, and getting the best tackle in the draft is not a bad thing for those of us in the "you can never have too many good players in the trenches" camp.  But with this pick you really want someone who is not only an impact player but one who fills a need.

Here are the top two players at each position (as ranked by NFLDraftScout.com) with school and overall ranking:
Running Backs:
- CJ Spiller (Clemson, 7)
- Ryan Mathews (Fresno State, 24)
Wide Receivers:
- Dez Bryant (Oklahoma State, 18)
- Golden Tate (Notre Dame, 30)
Tight Ends:
- Jermain Gresham (Oklahoma, 26)
- Rob Gronkowski (Arizona, 45)
- G Mike Iupati (Idaho, 19)
- C Maurkice Pouncy (Florida, 35)
- Russell Okung (Oklahoma State, 5)
- Trent Williams (Oklahoma, 6)
Defensive Linemen:
(Well, the top 2 are gone in this scenario, so these are the next two)
- Dan Williams (Tennessee, 14)
- Jared Odrick (Penn State, 27)
Defensive Ends:
- Derrick Morgan (Georgia Tech, 9)
- Jason Pierre-Paul (South Florida, 21)
Inside Linebackers:
- Rolando McClain (Alabama, 11)
- Sean Lee (Penn State, 65)
Outside Linebackers:
- Brandon Graham (Michigan, 17)
- Sergio Kindle (Texas, 22)
Strong Safeties:
- Chad Jones (LSU, 63)
- Reshad Jones (Georgia, 70)
Free Safeties:
- Eric Berry (Tennessee, 4)
- Taylor Mays (USC, 13)
- Joe Haden (Florida, 8)
- Earl Thomas (Texas, 15)

So where in this high-powered list of football talent might the Buccaneers go under this scenario?  The question boils down to V-A-L-U-E, and at pick #3, it starts with the money.  The third pick is going to demand a big contract -- what player can provide performance for your team equal to the money you'll be forced to dish out?

WalterFootball.com has a great study of the top three picks going back to 1998.  The short version:  12 years of 3 picks is 36 picks.  They break down like this:  15 of them were quarterbacks, six were offensive tackles, six were defensive ends, and 5 were wide receivers (plus one defensive tackle, and one linebacker).  Personally, I am totally shocked none of the picks were cornerbacks.  A great cornerback is very rare and can take out the best playmaker in the opposition's passing game in man-on-man coverage.  But that is not where teams have gone.  If the Buccaneers follow history, then an offensive tackle, defensive end, or wide receiver is most likely.  Blindly following history, however, is a sure shot at a bad pick.

As far as overall talent, the remaining top flight non-quarterback talent still on the board would be Eric Berry (Safety, Tennessee), Russell Okung (OT, Oklahoma State), Trent Williams (OT, Oklahoma), CJ Spiller (RB, Clemson), Joe Haden (CB, Florida), Derrick Morgan (DE, Georgia Tech), Bryan Bulaga (OT, Iowa), and Rolando McClain (LB, Alabama).  Granted, there are other defensive tackles out there but they would not bring third-pick-value and would be too risky.  The 2010 draft is deep at defensive tackle this year, so in this scenario waiting until the second round (or later) would probably the right place to get good value for that need.

A quick review of the young core offense of the Buccaneers shows that offensive tackle is not a need.  And with Cadillac Willams returning to form, free agent Derrick Ward, old-timer Earnest Graham, and BJ Askew at running back there is plenty of talent and depth on the current roster.  One thing to consider is both the Buccaneers starting offensive tackles are restricted free agents this year, meaning Tampa Bay may soon be forced to buy in long term with them or allow them to leave town with a bigger contract.  This adds a bit of weight to the argument for offensive tackle, but offensive tackle is also a very deep position in the 2010 draft.  Again, better value may be found in later rounds among the Buccaneers other 10 draft picks.

There are four interesting options -- all on defense -- for consideration worth picking at #3 overall.  Each one is considered the top player at their position in this draft.
Joe Haden (CB, Florida) - bookend Haden with Aqib Talib and the field becomes very narrow.
Eric Berry (Safety, Tennessee) - would add depth to a defensive backfield already improved by free agency. 
Derrick Morgan (DE, Georgia Tech) - to increase the pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Rolando McClain (LB, Alabama) - to divide the field in half against the runing game.

This is an exciting bunch of players!  I have them listed in my order of value for a #3 pick -- a shutdown corner, a playmaker at safety, and the top defensive end.  McClain would lead this list if he was an outside linebacker and he is still a worthwhile pick with Barrett Ruud having held out of offseason workouts in 2009 (is he happy in Tampa?).

While these players have not had the hype of the top defensive linemen they are still top-flight talents and each can bring playmaking ability to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense.  So even though this would be the most disappointing scenario I believe the Buccaneers will still find good value if they use the pick.

Finally, with Sam Bradford (QB, Oklahoma), the top QB of the 2010 draft still on the board, the Buccaneers could see trade offers from several teams (as previously discussed).  The most likely candidates are the Cleveland Browns (said they want a QB from the draft), Washington Redskins (appear to be courting quarterbacks), and San Francisco 49ers (two picks in the first round) based on the interest in Bradford these teams have shown[link].  Outside chances are the Kansas City Chiefs (close pick proximity) and the Seattle Seahawks (two picks in the first round).  In fact, given the correct offer, most any team in the league is a candidate to move, but certainly the Buccaneers would not talk with any of their NFC South rivals and would prefer to trade with an AFC team over an NFC team.

This scenario will test the meddle of Buccaneers General Manager Mark Dominik and his staff to pull good value for a high pick in a great draft class.  Even if this occurs, the Buccaneers should still be able to address a team need and build a stronger core for the future.

2010 Draft: Quarterback and Offensive Lineman Off the Board

Here is the scenario:

#1 Pick:  Saint Louis chooses Sam Bradford, Quarterback, Oklahoma
#2 Pick:  Detroit chooses Russell Okung, OT, Oklahoma State

I'm not the only one who thinks this is a possibility.

The only question with this scenario:  Would the bedlam in Oklahoma (top 2 picks!!) be crazier than the bedlam in the Buccaneers draft room?  The only two teams ahead of the Buccaneers go offense with picks for positions Tampa Bay is probably not concerned about this year.  They leave the board wide open with every top ranked defensive player available.  Certainly the pick would be Ndamukong Suh, DL from Nebraska, or Gerald McCoy, DL from Oklahoma (rumor has is that Suh would be preferred).  What could possibly be better?

Believe it or  not, there is one trade offer in this situation which may be worth considering. 

Pick #4 is the Washington Redskins and Pick #5 is the Kansas City Chiefs.  I suspect that the Redskins are interested in Jimmy Clausen.  I also suspect since Charlie Weis is the offensive coordinator for the Chiefs that the Chiefs would not pass on Jimmy Clausen (QB, Notre Dame) should he fall past the Redskins.  Clausen would have extra time to develop behind Matt Cassel in Kansas City.  Cassel is locked up in a very heavy contract until 2014, but that is just 4 seasons away.  Cassel took a beating last year and even if the Chiefs look to the 2010 draft for help on the offensive line it will take time to develop.  So holding a quarterback on the bench for a year or two would not be a bad idea and the Chiefs would be well served to pick up a good offensive linemen and ignore Clausen.  However, there are eight 2010 offensive line prospects thought to project into the first and second rounds.  Depending on how their draft board stacks up the Chiefs may be comfortable putting off an offensive line selection until either of their second round picks (36th and 50th overall).  If that is the case and they value Clausen highly they could try to trade up above the Redskins.  If the Redskins also value Clausen, they may try to trade up to assure they get the quarterback they want.

In this scenario, if the Bucs were to trade with Washington, they would still get their choice of the defensive linemen they covet, plus additional picks in who-knows-what rounds or years.  If this offer is on the table, this would be the no-brainer oprtion, adding twice as much bedlam to the Buccaneers war room.

Under this scenario, the Bucs could also opt to trade with the Chiefs and still have (at least) one of the top defensive linemen in the draft still available.  Again they would also gain some variety of additional picks.  If this offer is on the table it is a harder choice.  If the Chiefs do indeed want to take Clausen, this trade only makes sense if Tampa Bay considers the two defensive linemen absolutely equal.  If they prefer one over the other for any reason they would most likely not trade with the Chiefs.

If the Bucs trade with any other team they cast the dice on seeing either defensive lineman drop to them.  Is there any price that could make that happen?  Perhaps.  Keep in mind that the Seattle Seahawks and San Franciso 49ers have two first round picks this year and the New England Patriots have three second round picks this year.  In a draft this deep more picks can make for a very bright future.  I am quite sure it would have to be a very, very nice fat offer to move the Buccaneers.

All in all, this scenario is the best of all worlds for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  At worst they end up with the defensive lineman they want the most.  At best they pull a trade, get extra picks, and still get one of the top defensive linemen.  This is the situation I'll be hoping for all day on April 22nd.

Friday, April 2, 2010

2010 Draft: Quarterback and Defensive Lineman Off the Board

Worth A Look:  Check this video to hear from last year's #1 pick Josh Freeman and how he is approaching the offseason from Buccaneers Insider. (March 10, 2010, buccaneers.com).  

There are two possibilities in this scenario which make sense:

#1 Pick:  Saint Louis chooses Sam Bradford, Quarterback, Oklahoma

Possibility A:
#2 Pick:  Detroit chooses Ndamukong Suh, DL, Nebraska
Possibility B:
#2 Pick:  Detroit chooses Gerald McCoy, DL, Oklahoma

It's a very safe bet that Tampa Bay would gladly (and quickly) take the other top rated defensive lineman.  The Buccaneers are not looking for a quarterback.  And if you look at the youth on the offensive line, there is no need to go that way.  Plus, by many accounts, you are getting one of the top 2 players in the draft with the 3rd pick which means it's a good value.

The Buccaneers are not really a threat to pull the second rated quarterback off the board and in this scenario there may not be many trade offers.  I believe any offers would be by teams that want the other defensive lineman so there is no chance for the Bucs to drop back but still get what they are looking for.

If this scenario plays out, the Buccaneers will have the impact player they have been looking for and at a solid value.  What a fantastic way to start the draft with 10 more picks to go!

Clausen to Visit Redskins This Weekend

NFL.com has reported that Jimmy Clausen will be spending the weekend with the Washington Redskins.

This is no surprise to Stowaway regulars, and great news for all Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans.  The more the quarterbacks move up the draft boards, the more likely Tampa Bay will get one of the two coveted defensive linemen with the overall third pick.

Clausen still has his pro day coming up and most likely will be making visits to other teams.  Here's hoping he has a great time in the nation's capital this weekend!!

Visitors and More Visitors

Worth a Look:  Check out this video of Tampa Bay General Manager Mark Dominik as he gives a preview of the run up to the draft, what he is looking for in free agency this year, and the development of a young core to build around:  Behind The Flag, 3/12/2010 (buccaneers.com).

TampaBay.com has reported additional visits to One Buccaneer Place (of both the have-happend and will-happen types) for the following players:

Have Visited
Russell Okung (OT, Oklahoma State)
Mike Iupati (OG, Idaho)
Brandon Spikes (LB, Florida)
LaGarrette Blount (RB, Oregon)

Will Visit
Ndamukong Suh (DL, Nebraska)
Gerald McCoy (DL, Oklahoma)
Dez Bryant (WR, Oklahoma State)

This is in addition to the Eric Berry (S, Tennessee) visit previously reported.  Looks like the welcome mat is getting a fine workout this offseason!