The Less Discussed Draft Scenario: Claiborne Gone at #3


One subject that's never been discussed here is whether the Bucs should take Morris Claiborne or Trent Richardson with the #5 pick. Oh, wait....my mistake...that's the subject that's been discussed so much that one side could easily make the opposing side's argument if we wanted to mix it up. But what's been less discussed until recent days is what the Bucs should do if Claiborne is off the board, but star left tackle Matt Kalil is not.

The Minnesota Vikings have long been presumed to be drafting Kalil at #3. However, they've recently indicated that they will strongly consider Claiborne. There's good reason for them to do so. The Vikings fielded a terrible secondary in 2011 (26th in opponent's passing yards) and their best cornerback Cedric Griffin just left for the Redskins in free agency. Many believe that the reports of their interest in Claiborne are a smokescreen and intended to drum up interest in teams trading up for the pick. But if their interest is genuine and they take Claiborne, what then?

The Browns already have a franchise left tackle in Joe Thomas, so they're almost certainly not going to draft Kalil. Which leaves them with four basic scenarios: trade down with a team that wants Kalil, draft Trent Richardson, draft Justin Blackmon, or draft Ryan Tannehill. If Cleveland were to find a partner willing to trade up to take Kalil, the Bucs would essentially have two options: draft Richardson or try to find a partner willing to trade up for Richardson or Blackmon. The latter scenario is a very slim probability, so if it goes Claiborne at #3 and Kalil at #4 then I'm fairly certain we're taking Richardson.

If the Browns take Richardson though, we have ourselves a more interesting question on our hands: draft Kalil or trade back with a team that wants him? Kalil is an excellent prospect, as near to a surefire long term starter as you can find in this year's draft. 6'7", 306 pounds, elite in pass protection, solid as a run blocker with the capability to grow on the next level. Franchise left tackles come along very rarely and you have to be at the very top of the draft to legitimately have a shot at them when they do. Drafting Kalil would provide the Bucs with the final piece in what would almost certainly be considered the best O-line in the league.

On the opposite side, the Bucs o-line is already a strength and with Donald Penn already at left tackle and Jeremy Trueblood guaranteed money for this year, the Bucs could easily address the weaker right tackle position by simply adding a right tackle prospect in the later rounds. There are many teams that would love to draft Kalil, and trading down with one of them could put the Bucs in a position to gain extra picks while still drafting Luke Kuechly, Stephon Gilmore, Dre Kirkpatrick, or even Richardson (if he falls far enough) in the first round.

The final two scenarios for the Browns (they draft Tannehill or Blackmon) present us with an even trickier three-sided question: draft Kalil, draft Richardson, or trade down? Richardson's strengths as a prospect are well known here: he's a complete package running back, a three-down back with receiving, rushing, and pass protection skills with an excellent combination of strength and speed. He's considered one of the safest and most pro-ready RB prospects in years, and is often favorably compared to Adrian Peterson. But is he worth a #5 pick if Kalil or a trade down for a bounty of extra picks are our other options?

Only one thing seems certain: the Bucs will field a better team next year for their choice, no matter which one they make.

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