Beyond the Third Round: Assessing Our Late Round Draft Needs


Regardless of where we stand regarding who the Buccaneers should choose with their first pick, most fans seem to believe that there are three positions to be addressed with our first three picks: cornerback, linebacker, and running back. For the sake of argument, let's presume that the Bucs address all three of those positions with the first three picks (and leave the arguments about who we should draft out of this article). We now have a fifth, sixth, and seventh round pick remaining. What positions should the Bucs address with those picks?

Let's eliminate three positions from consideration immediately, namely: quarterback, wide receiver, and defensive end. We have three quarterbacks under contract already (Freeman, with Orlovsky and Carpenter available as backups); we are, if anything, overstocked with receivers at the moment between Jackson, Williams, Benn, Briscoe, Parker, Gant, etc.; and, with Clayborn, Bowers, and Bennett ready to go (and the overlooked George Johnson waiting in the wings, as well as Daniel Te'o-Neisheim), the front office is very unlikely to burn another pick on a DE this year. Let's also eliminate another three positions- kicker, punter, and longsnapper- where we appear to have a long term starter of high quality locked in to the specialist role.

Now let's look at the three positions we've already (theoretically) addressed: could we use a second pick at any of these positions? At cornerback, the biggest criticism which is made of our current roster is that we have a ton of #2 and slot cornerbacks while our only potential #1 (Aqib Talib) has an uncertain future. If we find the #1 guy of the future in this year's draft, I see no reason to add another #2 or slot CB to simply throw onto the pile with Biggers, Lewis, etc. At running back, we currently have LeGarrette Blount, Mossis Madu, and our theoretical first-three-rounds rookie. Certainly, we could use another RB on the roster besides those three: but it seems wiser to find an UDFA or (better yet, seeing as how this roster lacks experience) a veteran who won't have to play a ton of snaps but who can provide mentorship and finesse (paging Carnell Williams?). At linebacker: here we enter the murkiest portion of Schiano's intentions. The lack of action during free agency has caused any number of us anxiety. Would adding another LB in the late draft appease our worries about this sieve of a run defense? If it's Tank Carder or Nigel Bradham, perhaps. But that possibility, as with many late draft speculations, rests on the decisions that other teams will make for us.

So let's look at the other positions, and ask what late rounders might be able to have an impact. I'll give a few possibilities for each position, trying to picking only those low on the boards and quite possibly available in the fifth round or later.

Tight End

Faith in Kellen Winslow, Jr. is at an all-time low after his 2011 season, where his effectiveness plummeted and his need for attention was on wide display. Luke Stocker may yet wow us all with his abilities, but he's so far proven unworthy of the extra fourth round pick used to acquire him. Zach Pianalto or Chase Coffman might yet wow us and prove to be diamonds in the rough. But for now, it looks like the Bucs could really use another tight end.

Possibility #1: George Bryan: Bryan was a break-out star at a small school in the ACC, and thusfar has had little widespread exposure. However, he's got great hands, a good frame, and blocking skills. At worst, he projects as a journeyman tight end (then again, so did Chase Coffman).

Possibility #2: Josh Chichester: Regular readers know that I've been high on Chichester for a while now. To my mind, everything about Chichester screams under the radar diamond. He's a huge player (converted from being a basketball player): 6' 7", 240 lbs. He's got good hands having playing WR before converting to TE, though he'll need to add some weight and hit the books (and the blocks) to develop the blocking skills to function as a tight end on the next level.

Fullback

Erik Lorig has been a quintessential team player for us and I hope he'll bring his game to the next level for us in 2012. But with Earnest Graham out, we need at least one more man to function as FB in our offense.

Possibility #1: Evan Rodriguez: Rodriguez has really caught my eye over the past few weeks. He's a tweener prospect: a hybrid tight end/fullback, which happens to meet our late round needs like a glove. Great hands, vision, and speed. Not the world's best blocker, but looks to be a tough kid ready and willing to develop.

Possibility #2: Brad Smelley: As a shout-out to the Crimson Tide fans in the house, you've got to consider Smelley in the late rounds. Total blue collar player: gives 100% effort with some great strength and decent receiving ability.

Offensive Line

Well, if Kalil doesn't fall to us, we're looking at developmental right tackles to compete with Trueblood and potential back-ups in the event that the blue-chip players go down. My thinking? Look for the versatile players, preferably those who can back up Zuttah at center if he goes down.

Possibility #1: Andrew Datko: Datko has superb potential: he's been considered an NFL LT possibility for a while. The concern? Injuries and more injuries. Worth a late round gamble?

Possibility #2: Levy Adcock: Adcock is more of a developmental prospect with only two seasons of college football under his belt after coming out of junior college, but has all of the physical gifts to potentially thrive as an RT.

Possibility #3: Scott Wedige: Sleeper from a small school who's flashed some superb physical talent in anchoring the Northern Illinois line. Polish is required, of course.

Possibility #4: Moe Petrus: Yes, I'm a UConn fan so I'm indulgent towards my alums. That said, I like Petrus' versatility and experience at both center and guard and think he could be a great role player with potential to develop.

Defensive Tackle

Call me crazy, but I still believe that Gerald McCoy and Brian Price will be the long-term starters. But it's undoubtedly true that they have had injury issues and we need depth: I like Frank Okam, but the rest of our backups (Roy Miller? E.J. Wilson?) leave me cold and clammy. With Coach Schiano talking about more hybrid looks, the Bucs could easily burn a pick on a defensive tackle, preferably one with some size who could play nose.

Possibility #1: Akiem Hicks: Hicks is very raw but has massive upside. But for some JUCO recruiting controversy, he might be talked up as a starter for the LSU team he nearly played for this season. As it is, he's huge in Canada (where he played for the University of Regina) but virtually unknown in the States, aside from us draft geeks.

Possibility #2: Travian Robertson: Robertson is a fifth-year senior from an SEC program and thus about as pro-ready as it gets. He lacks fundamentals but could thrive under good coaching

Safety

Quick! What's our least-mentioned position of weakness? If you answered safety, you're half-right. We're overloaded on free safeties between Tanard Jackson, Cody Grimm, Ahmad Black, and Larry Asante (not to even mention potential converts from the CB corps such as Ronde Barber or Myron Lewis). Our real weakness is strong safety. If we draft a safety, it needs to be a strong safety and not yet another free safety (or free safety/cornerback hybrid project).

Possibility #1: Brandon Taylor: A rising tide lifts all boats and Taylor, as a member of the heralded LSU secondary, certainly benefited. Claiborne advocates will love the idea of reuniting him with his former teammate.

Possibility #2: Duke Ihenacho: Great tackling skill and an accomplished run supporter who's overlooked as he comes from a mid-major, but lacks consistency and some fundamentals.

Possibility #3: Sean Richardson: Richardson's a consistent, excellent-sized safety who's had an unspectacular college career (in his defense, he played for Vanderbilt). Good? He knows how to tackle solidly. Bad? One career interception despite being a three year starter- that has to raise some eyebrows.

What are your thoughts? Who have I missed that we should consider in the late rounds?

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