ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 3: Morris Claiborne #17 of the LSU Tigers returns an interception for a touchdown against the Georgia Bulldogs during the SEC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome on December 3, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
There's an old saying in football that says the eye in the sky doesn't lie. Well, the eye most have closed shut in 2011 after watching the record setting abysmal display of Raheem Morris' "youngry" defense.
Gerald McCoy broke like a porcelain china doll once again, while Brian Price may never get his hamstrings right. The young, highly drafted defensive line that was supposed to dominate didn't (although Adrian Clayborn had his moments, as did DaQuan Bowers). The linebacking core went from young, crazed dogs to doggin' it.
Tanard Jackson returned from suspension while Aquib Talib seems destined to replace him on that suspended list. We learned EJ Biggers is not the nickel corner we thought he was and Myron Lewis should get a tattoo that reads BUST.
Ronde is not the Ronde of old and Sean Jones just plain sucked (sorry, couldn't come up with a better descriptive word that fit better for him).
In the off-season, the Buccaneers sign Lions CB Eric Wright to a funny money deal and got a value contract out of former Bear and Texan DT Amobi Okoye. T-Jack was given his walking papers and Sean Jones was told, "Um, yeah uh...it's been great. I'll...uh...call you...yeah. See ya!"
The Bucs have two schools of thought. One - there's talent on the defense that was held back by shoddy coaching the last couple of year. Two - the Bucs have no talent anywhere and need help everywhere.
I subscribe to the first school. When the Bucs flew across the pond to play in London, it was like the Titanic crossing the Atlantic and hitting the iceberg. Before it hit, it was this big, beautiful ship with a ton of potential. After, it was a sunken disaster.
Thankfully, unlike those poor souls who met their end in the frigid North Atlantic, the Buccaneers have the ability to raise their ship from the depths of despair thanks to the NFL Draft.
I give you ten potential defenders who would look just swell in Pewter and Red...
1. Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU, First Round
He's been connected to the Bucs for awhile now and for good reason. Mo Claiborne is an extreme talent with excellent ball skills. While not overly physical, he can blanket opposing wideouts with the best of them and has the ability to trail and then accelerate to make a play on the ball.
He's fond of baiting QBs into thinking the wide out is wide open before closing the gap and snatching the ball away.
While Minnesota is threatening to take him with the 3rd overall pick, I still believe that they'll go Kalil. If Cleveland does as expected and goes Richardson, Claiborne is a logical landing spot for the Buccaneers at number five.
With Aquib Talib continuing to be a question mark and Ronde Barber losing the battle with father time, Claiborne appears to be a no brainer if he's there. An speaking of no brains, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the low Wonderlic score.
I don't care. I didn't see Claiborne making any stupid mistakes out there on the field. From all reports, he hasn't gotten into any trouble off the field and is an all around good kid. Okay, so he's not going to be splitting atoms any time soon - so what? All I care about is him being able to cover his man on Sunday afternoons.
If his former college DB coach and current Bucs DB coach Ron Cooper gives him the thumbs up than that's good enough for me.
2. Luke Kuechly, MLB, Boston College, First Round
If Claiborne and Richardson are off the board, unlike many - I have absolutely no qualms about taking Kuechly with the fifth overall selection. Yes, I know - he's not projected that high but I say so what? If the guy can make an immediate impact on your football team and he fills a need, who cares if he's projected at ten instead of five? Does four or five spots really make it a reach?
When I first began my study of Kuechly, I had the pre-conceived notion that this kid was a Barrett Ruud clone. Then I watch the tape. On a defense that had little around him, Kuechly jumped off the video, seemingly making every single play.
Further, not only was he solid against the run, quick to read and diagnose while possessing superb football instinct he also was tremendous in pass coverage.
No one was beating Kuechly down the middle of the field.
Kuechly also displayed leadership and seemed to have a passionate love for football. While I'd like for him to bring a little more thump to his game, I feel Kuechly is a complete middle linebacker.
Unlike Mason Foster, who was forced out of position, Kuechly is a natural for the middle of the defense and I believe would instantly make the Bucs defense better.
3. Lavonte David, OLB, Nebraska, 2nd Round
If the Bucs decide to go in a direction other than Kuechly in the first round, then they may just have enough confidence that Mason Foster can man the middle of the defense. In that case, there's still a glaring hole at weakside linebacker. Lavonte David would make an excellent choice to fill that gap.
David is a Dominic kind of draft pick. A team captain and Nebraska's defensive MVP, David seems to have all the leadership skills to become a force.
Extremely productive in college, David displays a good tackling technique and does a nice job at shedding blockers.
He's an asset in pass defense, showing good coverage ability covering targets out of the backfield and tight ends up the slot.
It would surprise me if Dominic continued the same tradition he's done the past two drafts by doubling up on linebackers in the first two rounds.
4. Mychal Kendricks, MLB, Cal, 3rd Round
If the Bucs want to bring a little toughness to the middle of their defense and decide to pass on Keuchly, Kendricks is the guy to do it. A reliable tackler, Kendricks is known to drop the hammer on opposing running backs the same way the Hardware man used to do it for the Bucs back in the Mid-90's.
Kendricks reminds me an awful lot of Hardy Nickerson with his speed, thump and strong technique.
He's reliable against the pass and can definitely be a three down linebacker in most schemes.
Kendricks seems to be able to diagnose and react quickly but sometimes appears to guess a little too quickly and sometimes gets caught out of position.
If the Bucs really like him, they may not want to take a chance he won't make it to the third round and pull the trigger earlier.
5. Brandon Taylor, SS, LSU, 3rd Round
Another Cooper disciple, Brandon Taylor may be the best safety available after Harrison Smith and Mark Baron are taken in the first round.
Taylor is an alpha dog leader - voted permanent team Captain by his LSU teammates and bestowed the honor of wearing number 18 for the Tigers (given to the player who overcomes adversity and represents what it means to be an LSU Tiger).
Taylor doesn't just talk a good game, he's a ferocious hitter who can play up in the box. While he doesn't have blazing wheels, he can do well in coverage and has the ability to read the quarterback and quickly diagnose where they're going with the football.
Taylor broke his foot in 2010 but was able to bounce back in 2011 with a solid campaign.
He doesn't have the best hands, battling down more balls than putting it away for a pick.
6. Vinny Curry, DE, Marshall, 4th Round (The Bucs currently do not own a 4th round draft pick)
Curry is interesting. He is overly gifted athletically with size or speed. Yet this guy just seems to have a knack for getting a hat on a quarterback. Gifted with a nice first step and the ability to penetrated on the inside shoulder, he gets good pad level and seems to have just enough strength to win the battle.
Curry's best role might be as a 3rd down pass rush specialist.
7. Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama, 4th Round (The Bucs currently do not own a 4th round draft pick)
I don't expect Janoris Jenkins to fall into the fourth round - but because of the red flags for the off-the-field stuff, it wouldn't shock me to see him fall this far.
As a football player, Jenkins could very well be one of the best cover corners in the draft. Before he was kicked out at Florida, Jenkins blanketed opposing wide outs like Julio Jones on a week in and week out basis, excelling against top competion.
Tremendous ball skills, excellent speed and strength plus the ability to quickly diagnose what route the receiver is running and jump it. He's also solid against the run.
Of course, the elephant in the room is the off the field stuff. Jenkins has a weed problem and it doesn't look like he's gone anywhere to help him out. Kicked out of the University of Florida for being arrested twice in three months, Jenkins simply cannot stay out of trouble.
If you pick Janoris Jenkins, you have to accept the fact that he could end up suspended or on the late night police blotter.
8. Josh Robinson, CB, UCF, 5th round
Thanks to a blazing forty time 4.33, it's quite possible that UCF corner Josh Robinson could be long gone by this pick. He's certainly risen on a lot of draft boards.
While I haven't seen the kid play that much, I like his measurables and his statistical numbers at UCF are outstanding. If, for some reason, he slips through the cracks he's definitely worth taking a flyer on in the mid-rounds.
9. Brandon Boykin, CB, Georgia, 6th Round
A speedy corner with some excellent ability in the return game, Boykin has excellent hands and was used all over the field at Georgia, including on offense. While he lacks ideal size, Boykin has shown some ability in pass coverage and is athletic enough to contest for balls.
Boykin's biggest knock (besides his size) is his durability. He was injured multiple times during his career at Georgia and suffered a fractured leg at the Senior Bowl, which prevented him from working out for a lot of teams.
10. Vontaze Burfict, MLB, Arizona State, 7th Round
I don't know what happened with this guy. About midway through the college football season - he was a can't miss top ten prospect in the NFL draft. Now some draft experts are saying he may not even be drafted.
A bad attitude and work ethic led to him being benched this past season. He also seemed to have a propensity to draw dumb personal foul penalties. Now there's a report that surfaced that he tested positive for a substance during the combine.
Who knows why this kid suddenly decided he didn't care about football? Perhaps there's some underlying personal issue that no one is aware of (drugs)?
Whatever it is - the Bucs risk nothing by taking Burfict in the 7th round. If he becomes a problem, cut him. If he has a drug problem, get the kid into rehab. If Greg Schiano and the coaching staff can some how harness the raw talent this kid has and make him into a professional football player - then why the heck not take a chance on him?
Not on this list
Mark Barron - Barron would definitely fill a need but I don't see the Bucs reaching on a safety with the 5th overall pick. If they can find a trading partner and trade down, Barron could come into play.
Fletcher Cox - While he's definitely a talented football player, I don't believe the Bucs have completely given up on Gerald McCoy and Brian Price, although they did bring in some insurance with Amobi Okoye.
Stephon Gilmore - If Richardson and Claiborne are off the board could the Bucs go with Gilmore? I don't think so. Gilmore has been rocketing up draft boards but in the end, it's all about the tape. He's a solid corner but a Top Five corner? Nah.
Dontari Poe - Again, I think the Bucs still believe in McCoy and I also think Poe is this year's Mamula.
Don'ta Hightower - I wouldn't mind Hightower in Pewter and Red, but I think he'll be long gone by the time the Bucs pick in the second round.
Quinton Coples - I don't want the Bucs anywhere near this kid. He's a non-effort guy.
Which defender would look the best in Pewter and Red?
Morris Claiborne (126 votes)
Luke Kuechly (96 votes)
Lavonte David (6 votes)
Mychal Kendricks (4 votes)
Josh Robinson (3 votes)
Brandon Taylor (1 vote)
Vinny Curry (1 vote)
Janoris Jenkins (3 votes)
Brandon Boykin (1 vote)
Vontaze Burfict (13 votes)
Other (9 votes)
263 total votes