Mel Kiper has been pumping out opinions and mock drafts like there's no end to draft season, as has his trusty companion Todd McShay. But this is a new feature for ESPN and its draft coverage, trying to project an optimal draft for every team, while still adhering to the principle of a mock draft. That is: a player can't go to more than one team. Here's what they projected for the Bucs:
Top needs: CB, RB, LB, SS, TE
Rd. 1 (5) CB Morris Claiborne, LSU
Rd. 2 (36) RB Doug Martin, Boise State
Rd. 3 (68) LB Demario Davis, Arkansas State
Analysis: I know the pick of Claiborne won't be a surprise to anyone, but it's just a really safe pick. Claiborne doesn't blind you with speed, but everything else is there to make him a Pro Bowl-caliber corner for a long time. I have running back as a big need for this team, and Martin makes a lot of sense to me early in Round 2. I actually have LaMichael James rated higher on my Board, but Martin is a really complete back and could become the lead horse if LeGarrette Blount is around for only one more year. It's also clear the team is looking for a complement to Blount in the meantime, and coach Greg Schiano hasn't been shy about Blount's fumbling issues. Linebacker is a need spot, and Davis is right about there in terms of where I have him graded.
This draft really would be quite ideal for the Bucs. They get their future shutdown cornerback early on, and Claiborne could immediately step in as a starter. If not, the selection would at least allow the team to move on from Aqib Talib following the 2012 season, when his (and Ronde Barber's) contract runs out. Doug Martin is one of the few running backs in this draft who could immediately step in as a reliable third-down back, and he'd look good as a change-of-pace back for Legarrette Blount as well. Finally, the Bucs get another linebacker to compete for a starting spot in the third round.