NFL experts and draftniks everywhere are praising the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' haul in the 2012 NFL Draft. The Buccaneers took chances, moved down, moved up, traded picks, and it looks like all the moves may pay off for them.
It's obviously premature to give the Bucs a grade for this draft given that none of these guys have played a down at the pro level, but Buccaneers101.com is here to give their impressions and analysis of Tampa Bay's draft picks.
The Bucs were initially slated to pick fifth overall in the draft. That changed while the Bucs were on the clock. Tampa Bay traded back to No. 7 with Jacksonville in exchange for a fourth-round pick, which the team did not have going into the draft. The Bucs used that pick on a defensive back, but not the one everyone expected them to take. Instead of landing LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne, who was picked one pick ahead of Tampa Bay by the Cowboys, the Bucs selected Alabama safety Mark Barron.
Barron fills a huge need at the safety position. He is a high-character guy and put up some great numbers while at Alabama. Barron won two National Championships with the Crimson Tide and amassed 237 tackles, 12 interceptions, 22 passes defensed and five sacks. Barron was the only safety with a first round grade and was one of the top defenders on most team's draft boards.
But the Bucs weren't done in round one. The Bucs traded their second and fourth-round picks to Denver for their first and fourth-round selections. With the No. 31 overall pick, Tampa Bay selected Boise St. running back Doug Martin, who most team had as the No. 2 tailback in the draft.
Martin was ultra-productive during his collegiate career. He averaged 5.4 yards per carry and scored 43 rushing touchdowns. Martin is also a good receiver out of the backfield and will complement LeGarrette Blount very well.
After trading up to land Martin, the Bucs didn't have a second round pick. However, general manager Mark Dominik was not done making moves and he traded his third and fourth-round pick to move up to No. 58 and select Nebraska linebacker Lavonte David, who Buccaneers101.com correctly predicted would be Tampa Bay's selection in the second round.
Like Barron, David projects to be a starter from day one and will give the Bucs stability at the weakside linebacker position. David was a monster for the Cornhuskers and will bring that physicality to the Bucs defense. As a senior, David racked up 133 tackles, 12 tackles for a loss, 5.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, and two interceptions. That is the type of playmaking that Tampa Bay needs from its linebackers.
Round 3: No Pick
Round 4: No Pick
The Bucs weren't done upgrading their linebackers and selected West Virginia's Najee Goode. Goode is a versatile 'backer that can play all three positions in Greg Schiano's defense. He was an All-Big East First Team defender his senior season after amassing 87 tackles, 14 tackles for a loss, five sacks, one interception, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery.
Expect Goode to make a splash on special teams during his rookie season and provide the Bucs with a solid backup that can step in a play any position if needed.
Although it may have been a bit late, the Bucs finally addressed their need at the cornerback position by selecting West Virginia's Keith Tandy. He wasn't the fastest or biggest corner in the draft, but Tandy fits the slot corner mold very well. His strength is zone coverage and he plays better with the man and ball in front of him. At West Virginia, Tandy had 188 tackles, 13 interceptions, and 24 passes defensed.
Like Goode, who was Tandy's roommate at college, Tandy's initial production will come on special teams. Look for him to make the final roster as the team's fifth cornerback if he has a decent training camp.
The Bucs had two picks in the seventh thanks to the trade with Houston that landed them David in the second round. Tampa Bay went with a speedy tailback in Michael Smith from Utah State with their first pick. Smith ran a 4.3-40 at his pro day and if he makes the final roster will give the Bucs a nice homerun threat in the backfield. He averaged over 7.1 yards per carry during his collegiate career and scored 15 touchdowns on the ground.
Then, the Bucs went with a crafty, versatile tight end out of Northwestern – Drake Dunsmore. Dunsmore can play tight end or in the backfield as a fullback. He is a talented receiver and hauled in over 40 passes his last three seasons at Northwestern. Expect him to challenge Luke Stocker for the team's backup TE spot.
Final Analysis and Grade:
The Bucs did a fantastic job in the draft. The landed two sure-fire starters in Barron and David and perhaps a third in Martin. They landed three players who were in ESPN's Mel Kiper's Top 25 prospects and even gained an extra pick in the process.
The Bucs got good value on their picks in the later rounds and landed a guy in Smith who could give the team some much needed speed at the running back position.
Although it would have been nice to see Tampa Bay go after a cornerback a little earlier, the team filled most of their needs and got a lot of high-character guys that will help in the locker room.
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