I keep seeing different mock drafts around the web giving the Bucs a cornerback - someone like Jimmy Smith or Brandon Harris in round 1, or someone like Kendric Burney in round 2. The reasoning seems to be that Ronde Barber is old, Aqib Talib can't be counted on in the future and that's about the extent of the Buccaneers group of cornerbacks. But I can't agree with any part of that reasoning. Well, except for Ronde being old. I can agree with that.
Let's start with the idea that Talib is unreliable. While Talib has encountered some off-field troubles in the past, he's only been suspended once: for an incident that occurred during the 2009 offseason. That incident was indeed serious - hitting defenseless taxi drivers isn't something to take lightly. Here's the thing though: Talib hasn't gotten in trouble since, unless you want to count some unconfirmed reports about a shouting match with Raheem Morris in London. Better yet, throughout the offseason we kept hearing about Talib's newfound serious approach to the game: he has supposedly cleaned up his life and has started to take his job more seriously. While it's impossible to know if the reports of his off-field behavior are true, he certainly improved as a player on the field. The fact that he has become a much more physical player and a more willing tackler is evidence of his improved approach to the game. More importantly it seems that the Bucs themselves think they can depend on Talib now and in the future. And if the the team thinks it can depend on him, it won't draft a replacement for him.
Of course, that doesn't mean the Bucs won't draft a cornerback early in the draft. After all, a team needs two good cornerbacks, and three or even four good cornerbacks are certainly no luxury with the proliferation of the spread offense in the NFL. But the Bucs do have three good cornerbacks right now: Aqib Talib, Ronde Barber and E.J. Biggers. Biggers has shown in 2010 that he is a dependable cornerback, and there certainly is no need to replace him. Talib, Barber and Biggers form a very solid cornerbacking group, and the Bucs certainly have bigger needs than adding a fourth cornerback to that group.
But then what about when Ronde Barber retires? Certainly the Bucs will need a cornerback then, right? They sure will. But even that player's on the roster right now: Myron Lewis. He's as talented as any cornerback on the roster, including perhaps Aqib Talib, but he's extremely raw. He's the kind of player who, after one or two years of maturing behind Ronde, Aqib and E.J., can emerge as a star cornerback. That's far from a sure thing, but there's certainly a good chance he will at least be a solid cornerback with time.
The Bucs don't need a cornerback now or in the near future. That doesn't mean they can't use one - a developmental cornerback would look good and would act as insurance in case Myron Lewis doesn't pan out, Aqib Talib gets into serious off-field trouble or E.J.Biggers loses a leg. But you don't spend a first or second-round pick on a player that won't see the field unless there's a calamity - that's what late-round picks are for. And there's a good chance you'll see the Bucs picking up either a physically talented but raw or a hard-working but undersized cornerback late in the draft. A cornerback in the first two rounds of the draft, though? No chance.