With the draft so far away, it’s all speculation. The mock drafts across the internet include juniors who still may return to school for their senior seasons. The draft order is not yet set. Teams’ needs may change after free agency in a potentially uncapped year.
Still, Tampa Bay’s love affair with Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh is burning red hot.
But, let us remember the 2007 draft, when wide receiver Calvin Johnson was snatched out from under Bucco Bruce’s nose by the Lions. All the draft boards had Johnson either falling to the Bucs at No. 4 overall or the Bucs trading up to get him.
Today, Johnson is still a Lion and a dynamic NFL receiver. Gaines Adams, who the Bucs took with that No. 4 pick, is in Chicago, and all the Bucs have to show for it is a 2nd round pick.
So, how do we avoid repeating history? Have a plan B.Let’s say, Eric Berry, safety from the University of Tenessee.
Berry is near the top of almost all experts’ draft boards, and he fits another Buccaneer offseason shopping need: The secondary. Should Suh be gone by the time the Bucs are on the clock, Berry may be not only the best player available, but the best fit for Tampa Bay.
The 5-foot-11, 203-pound junior recorded 83 total tackles in 2009, 54 of them solo, a career best. Described by many as physical and violent, Berry is highly praised for his instincts and initial quickness, making him a threat not only against the pass, but also in run support, an area in which the Bucs have suffered in 2009.
Though he only recorded two interceptions this year, a career low, he played his junior year in Monte Kiffin’s NFL-type system. Should the Bucs draft Berry, it would be a relatively seamless transition from Kiffin’s system to the one Morris has implemented after taking over for Jim Bates as defensive coordinator. Additionally, Morris is a former defensive backs coach, so his knowledge of the safety position and his experience in evaluating such talent may lead him to make a push for Berry rather than Suh if both are available.
Naturally, both Suh and Berry are tremendous college talents who will likely make a significant impact in the NFL. So, put your GM hat on, because whether the Bucs have the first overall pick or the third, one of these dynamic players will likely still be there. Unless the Bucs score big in free agency and fill either the safety or defensive tackle vacancy (unlikely), or if they rattle off three wins to close out the season and drop out of the top five (ridiculously unlikely), one thing is likely: Either Suh or Berry will have their Bucs jersey on sale at a Sports Fan-Attic near you.