Yardbarker Horiz

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!).

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