If the season were to end today, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would have the first overall pick for the first time since taking Vinny Testaverde out of the University of Miami in 1987. Needless to say, having the first overall pick is a blessing and a burden. The blessing is (depending on your selection) the Bucs will have an immediate impact player on either side of the ball. The burden is the financial obligations that come into play with the first overall pick (not to mention the agony of being the worst team in the NFL) as well as the high risk for making an unwise selection.
More than any other sport, the first overall pick in the NFL draft is the most risk/reward decision a franchise can make. Teams can either be propelled into success like the New York Jets, who selected Keyshawn Johnson out of USC number one overall after going 1-15. The next year, they were 9-7 and the year after 12-4. Or your team can sink lower like the Cleveland Browns after selecting Tim Couch number one overall over Donovan McNabb (for the record that Cleveland Browns team would go from 2-14 to 3-13 and 7-9 afterwards). Note: Obviously neither Couch or Johnson alone made either of these teams win I'm just trying to prove a point that first overall selections can make an impact.
In this post I'm going to take a look at three possible targets for the Buccaneers in the number one spot. Naturally, every player is available at number one so I'm going to try to limit the possible selections to three in order to avoid carpal tunnel syndrome. With the first overall selection in the 2010 NFL Draft, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (could) select....
Target #1) Eric Berry* - S - Tennessee - Running a 4.40 40, Berry is listed at around 5-11, 203 lbs. Eric Berry is a Ed Reed 2.0. With 215 career tackles, 2 forced fumbles and 13 career interceptions, Eric Berry is the top defensive back in this years draft and will be a premier player in the NFL. Playing under defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin for one season, the Bucs should be able to get good information from former defensive guru Kiffin about Berry. Berry most likely will not be available past the 5th spot.
Why the Bucs should target him: With Jermaine Phillips' glass-like forearms and his impending free agency this year, the Bucs are going to have a spot open at starting safety alongside Tanard Jackson. Assuming the oft-injured Phillips is gone, the Bucs could turn to Sabby Piscatelli or Will Allen to fill the void. But with a future pro-bowler on the board, Berry could be too tempting.
Target #2) Ndamukong Suh - DT - Nebraska - Running a 5.02 40, Suh is listed at around 6-4, 302 lbs. Ndamukong Suh is a big boy in the middle. With 16 career sacks and 169 career tackles, Suh is the top defensive tackle in this years draft. Suh can be a run-stuffer as well as a sack finder. He's not quite the sacking ghost of Warren Sapp but the quarterback isn't the foreign object that Chris Hovan seems to think it is. Suh could be available within the top 15 spots.
Why the Bucs should target him: Can anyone disagree that we need defensive line help? Chris Hovan is 31 and not getting any better and Ryan Sims isn't as good as Hovan. Dre Moore and Roy Miller are young and should be cycled at best for the time being. As of the half way point, the Bucs rank 29th in rushing yards allowed. Suh would provide an almost immediate impact against the run as well as the pass.
Target #3) Carlos Dunlap* - DE - Florida - Running a 4.78 40, Dunlap is a listed at around 6-6, 290 lbs. Carlos Dunlap is a linebacker stuck in a lineman's body. With 65 career tackes and 16 career sacks, Dunlap can be a game changer. Dunlap is, however somewhat of a mystery. He has all the potential to become an elite playmaker on defense but seems to take plays off at times. He'll be a monster one game and invisible the next. Still, Dunlap could be an interesting selection if taken. Possibly more suited for the 3-4 scheme, Dunlap could be more of a product of his surroundings (most notably fellow Gator DE Jermaine Cunningham) than an individual playmaker. Dunlap should be available in the top 10 picks.
Why the Bucs should target him: Again, defensive line help is a must in this draft. The Buccaneers simply must get to the quarterback and stop the run to be successful in 2010. Selecting Dunlap could help solve this problem. Again, personally I believe that Dunlap is more of a risk than a reward at this point. But we need DL help and we need it bad enough to take a chance. Drafting Dunlap number one overall isn't ideal. In fact, it's downright dumb. If Dunlap holds the red and pewter on draft day it will be after a trade-down or if the Bucs somehow end up with a 5-15th pick.
Outside of those three players, I would be hard pressed to believe the Bucs would take anyone else without trading down. Let's not kid ourselves, the Bucs have absolutely been pitiful on draft days under Bruce Allen and Jon Gruden and we need picks to make up for it. Poor drafting is why we are in the position we are. Since 2002, how many players that the Bucs have drafted have made a significant impact? How many if you take away day one picks where you're supposed to draft an impact player? Exactly. Trading down makes the most sense and it's what I see happening in April. Somebody (Cleveland, St. Louis, Seattle....) is going to want Sam Bradford or Eric Berry more than fat kids want cake and they will overpay to move up. We get extra picks and hopefully an impact player outside of the 1-5 range (where the money is too rich for the Glazers blood if you believe in that sort of thing). Now the following targets I'm going to assume the Bucs look at after a trade-down in position. Potentially, depending on the trade-down, the players listed above may still be available to which the Bucs would strongly consider them as well.
Target #4) Taylor Mays - S - USC
Why the Bucs should target him: For the same reasons as Eric Berry. Jermaine Phillips has the forearms of a 4 year old girl and is going to hit the free agent market. Mays is a big safety at 6-3, 235 lbs with a 4.47 40. Not the ball-hawk like Berry, Mays is a good cover safety with great tackle ability.
Target #5) Terrence Cody - DT - Alabama
Why the Bucs should target him: Defensive line help is a must. Terrence Cody is more of a safe pick over Ndamukong Suh. Slower but bigger, Cody is a mountain on the inside. May not get after the quarterback as much but he will instantly help the run defense. Hovan and Sims are average at best. Depth is questionable.
Target #6) Brandon Spikes - LB - Florida
Why the Bucs should target him: With Ruud in the center Spikes could be moved to the outside but not without some question. His 4.76 40 time may hinder his ability to move to OLB. If for some reason Ruud is no longer a Buccaneer, Spikes would be a great fit for Jim Bates system. Regardless of his position, Spikes is a very good tackler against the run and decent in coverage against the pass. With unproven linebackers in Quincy Black and Geno Hayes refusing to claim a stronghold a starting position, linebacker is stil a possibilty.
Of course there are a million different outcomes for draft day and you and I know about as much as anybody right now. In my opinion, if the Bucs aren't blown away by a trade-down offer they should take Eric Berry first overall. If the Bucs are able to trade down, either Suh or Cody would be optimal along with another defensive pick in the second round.
*Players in their Junior Year