Yardbarker Horiz

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)
Center
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.

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