Yardbarker Horiz

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)
Guards/Centers:
- G Mike Iupati (Idaho, 19)
- C Maurkice Pouncy (Florida, 35)
Tackles:
- 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)
Corners:
- 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.

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