The SB Nation writers mock draft is under way, and I've made the pick for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. With both Trent Richardson and Morris Claiborne still on the board at #5, I went with the cornerback to help solidify the Bucs' defense. See my explanation below:
After a flurry of high-profile free agent signings, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have managed to fill a number of needs, eliminating a few prospects from consideration for their fifth overall draft pick. The team still has two major needs it must fill, though, as they need a new starting linebacker and a third-down back who can act as a complement to the limited Legarrette Blount. However, no linebacker or running back on the board would represent great value with the fifth pick. While Luke Kuechly and Trent Richardson are both terrific players, picking 4-3 linebackers or running backs in the top 5 seems like a thing of the past. The Bucs haven't viewed these positions as particularly important in the past, either, mostly relying on mid- to late-round draft picks.
Instead, the Bucs are more likely to select cornerback Morris Claiborne. While the Bucs don't have a huge immediate need at the position with Aqib Talib, Eric Wright and Ronde Barber under contract, the team does not have a lot of certainty at cornerback. Ronde Barber has had a great career, but he's been steadily declining for years. Aqib Talib's various legal problems have been well-documented, and it's not even clear whether the former first-rounder will be able to enjoy his freedom during the season. Add to that possible discipline handed down by Roger Goodell, and the fact that he's entering the final year of his contract and he can't be counted on.
All of this means the Bucs must find a long-term, reliable starter at cornerback at some point in the next year, and Morris Claiborne could easily fit the bill. The LSU cornerback is the best cover cornerback to come out in years, and could immediately start in case of an Aqib Talib jail sentence and/or suspension. Barring that, he'd get a season to learn the ropes with Ronde Barber as a mentor, before becoming a likely starter in 2013. Either way, the Bucs get a good, young player who could be a long-term starter at a position in dire need of stability.