You know, it's a good thing I divided up my Draft Needs into two parts - offense and now defense - here on BN, simply because if I had posted a full list of needs before Aliq Talib went gun crazy on his sister's a-hole boyfriend, I'd be spending this time revising my list of needs on the Bucs' D. Thanks, Aliq. Thanks a load.
The rules are the same:
two men enter one man leaves. After that, there are no rules. Okay, I will post the position, evaluate current talent, and make a suggestion on how high a need the draft should go. Here we go:
Defensive End: The Bucs' defense racked up 26 sacks total in the 2010 season. They tied for dead last in that regard. Considering the Bucs pride themselves on defense, and especially on pressuring QBs, this is embarrassing.
The obvious problem spot is with the D-line, and the problem here is with the Ends. The current roster reads like a Who's Who (more exactly "Who the Hell Is Who?") of Stylez G. White, Michael Bennett, Tim Crowder, and trade add-on Alex Magee. In short, nobody who scares the hell out of anybody right now. White is the best known as our surviving talent from the Supe Bowl team, but that's it.
The Bucs' need for DE was so obvious that nearly every scout has their Mock with the Bucs taking a DE: except for the rare few who have us taking OT or RB, and now after Talib's incident that we might go for CB. All things considered - that this year's draft is DEEP for Defensive Ends - the Bucs' smartest move is waiting to taking the best pass-rushing DE left on the board. Which could be in this order: Ryan Kerrigan, Aldon Smith, J.J. Watt, and Adrain Clayborn. (rumor has it Da'Quan Bowers' injury is slipping him down the charts... but the Bucs can't afford to wait on an injured player, they need to plug in someone now)
Draft Need: Highest of the High. First Rounder
Defensive Tackle: The Bucs used their first two picks of the 2010 Draft on Defensive Tackles - Gerald McCoy and Brian Price. While injury kept Price out, and hampered McCoy's end of the year, both are prized additions and should be starters next season (and if Price pans out, both will set the middle for years to come). The depth at DT isn't too bad, with Roy Miller a solid if unspectacular young talent. Using any pick on DT when there are higher needs at other positions would be a waste.
Draft Need: Almost none. No draft pick should be used here.
Outside Linebacker: The Bucs employ two little-known but impressive OLBs as their starters - Geno Hayes and Quincy Black. While Black is a Free Agent who could leave if and when the CBA is settled, the depth at the OLB position isn't too bad. The question here is quality of depth: can Dekoda Watson or Adam Hayward earn their way up as a starter? Can a rookie OLB with better talent be had in a round lower than First (when the Bucs need to take DE)? Given the depth of the OLB talent chart for this year's draft, there's a decent chance that the Bucs could use a high round (possibly Second) on an OLB. But ONLY if other need spots - MLB, CB in particular, and maybe ROT or Guard - get taken care of via other means. If we have a vacancy at MLB and CB, then the need at OLB is for depth and development foremost and just hoping to God the guys we have left can step up.
Draft Need: If Black leaves, need is there. Second Round ONLY if MLB and CB are fixed, as any vacancies at those spots trump OLB needs. Could end up being a Fifth-Sixth Rounder if MLB, CB, and ROT are needed to fill. If Black stays, OLB isn't needed.
Middle Linebacker: For all the griping about Barrett Ruud, he's isn't that bad a middle backer. It's entirely possible he just had a bad year or two and that better coaching can get him back to high playing level. Problem here is, Ruud is a FA and he may want to test the waters. Our depth at MLB right now is Niko. If Ruud departs via FA, the need for a MLB even for depth and development jumps up to the near-top of the list. It even trumps any need we might have at OLB and CB.
While the draft board isn't great with Middle or Inside LBs, it's not shabby either, and there's not a lot of teams needing to draft MLBs at that high a spot right now. The odds are pretty good that - if Ruud departs - the Bucs can get a Second Rounder pick on Middle Linebacker and go from there. But this depends on a lot of factors.
Draft Need: If Ruud leaves, need jumps up to second overall on the list behind DE. So a Second Rounder... ONLY if Ruud leaves. If he stays, need for MLB drops to developmental need, meaning a late Rounder pick from Fifth to Seventh Rounds.
Cornerback: Gee. Thanks Talib. /facepalm
Other than this, Mrs. Lincoln, the play was awesome. This is the thing derailing the Bucs' entire off-season: yet another player misbehaving. Only this is something that's bound to lead to a suspension and possibly an end to Talib's entire career. Even the best-case scenario has Talib facing a few games on the bench. How does this affect the roster?
The depth at CB isn't too shabby... on paper. Ronde Barber is a veteran and can be counted on to lead on-field... but he's old and getting older and slower by the minute. EJ Biggers has been counted on during the 2010 season to work the field opposite Talib, and he performed well but is now counted on to do a lot more. Myron Lewis is still a raw talent and Elbert Mack is a bit below solid but has playing experience. Depth is here but quality of talent has question marks.
Problem is, team needs at DE will prevent the Bucs from using a First Rounder on an imposing CB talent. And depending on the FA market, needs at MLB and OLB could contend for the Second Rounder. By the time the Bucs can draft anybody for it, it could be the Fourth or Fifth Round.
The good news is, the Free Agency market this year is good for corners: the Bucs could contend for the top name guys and even the middle-value guys and make a massive upgrade to the CB position. The draft need for CB overall isn't high... but it will depend on 1) if the Bucs fail to get a FA Corner and 2) if Talib's removal hampers overall depth.
Draft Need: Mid-Rounds. It all depends on Talib and the FA market.
Safety: I had this as a higher draft need B.T. (Before Talib), but now everything is in flux and the Safety position could get screwed in the process.
Everything hinges on three things: Cody Grimm rebounding from his major injury, keeping overall depth with Sean Jones and Corey Lynch, and Tanard "Stash" Jackson returning from suspension and starting for the team ASAP. There's a ton of "Ifs" in this scenario and none of them are satisfying on their own.
The biggest problem is that for the draft boards, Safety isn't a quality talent pool this year anyway. Given the high needs at other positions, the Bucs won't be able to indulge in going after a Safety until the Fourth Round at best. And by then the high-quality players are bound to be gone. In most respects, the Bucs are better off sticking with the talent they have and hope for the best.
Draft Need: Mid-Rounds. If needs at MLB, OLB and CB are resolved outside of the draft, then the Bucs can indulge and look at Safety from Third or Fourth Round.
Punter: Stop drafting punters. That is all.
Draft Need: NOOOOOOOOOO.
So there's the Second part of the Draft Needs list. How bad is it?