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The Bucs Draft Isn't Over: Undrafted Free Agents - Running Backs

The 2011 NFL Draft may be over, but the Bucs aren't done adding players to their team. While free agency hasn't begun yet because of the lockout, when it does begin the Bucs are sure to add some undrafted free agents to their roster. Most of those players will simply be camp bodies, but some of them will make an impact at the NFL level. For the Bucs, a change-of-pace back who can act as a third-down back is most likely to stay on the roster, and several players who fit that description went undrafted this year.

Noel Devine, West Virginia - Noel Devine is an undersized running back who has been incredibly productive in his career. He's not going to be able to carry the load at the next level, but if the Bucs pick him up he won't be asked to. Devine works best in space and has plenty of experience catching the ball out of the backfield, having caught 98 passes for 710 yards over his career. He could be a real weapon for the Buccaneers on third down, but there are some questions about his past. He's had a very rough childhood, and has had a few off-field incidents at West Virginia. His biggest problem will be staying on the field on third down, though, as his size makes him a liability in pass protection. He doesn't lack in effort in that department, but he won't be stopping any NFL linebacker from getting to the quarterback.

Jock Sanders, West Virginia - We're staying at West Virginia with receiver Jock Sanders. He's another player with some off-field problems, but he's a versatile player on offense who works very well in space. He played receiver and running back at West Virginia and clearly has the skills to work as a third-down back in the NFL. He isn't good enough to be a receiver at the NFL level, but as a weapon in the backfield he can be very valuable. However, he too is undersized and will be a liability as a pass blocker at the NFL level barring some miraculous improvement. This is the problem with a lot of these third-down backs: they're electric in space, but they won't prevent people from killing the quarterback. Something that may speak in his favor: he did visit the Bucs.

Derrick Locke, Kentucky - Locke is another undersized prospect who runs fast and is elusive in the open field and has experience as a pass-catcher. Fortunately he hasn't had any off-field incidents, but there are some injury concerns, having torn his MCL and his ACL as a sophomore and never playing a full season the past three years. And again, his size will make him a liability in pass protection, though he should do better than Sanders and Devine in that area and shows the effort and technique needed to be a good blocker.

Brandon Saine, Ohio State - Unlike the previous three players, Faine is not undersized. It's a miracle! At 6'0", 220lbs he's even on the big side. He certainly wasn't the best running back in his time at Ohio State, but showed some real skills as a pass catcher. He's fast for his size and has the size and ability to carry some of the load at the NFL level as an every down running back. He caught 55 balls over his career for 616 yards, so he has the experience to work as a receiving back in the passing game. He's also a willing and competent pass blocker, and probably the most complete third-down back in the bunch. He's known as a high-character guy and a hard worker, and there's one more thing that speaks in his favor: he was a team captain in college.

Vailala Taua, Nevada - Well this kid has one obvious thing going for him: the name. He's also not undersized and showed the ability to hold up as a pass blocker, and is a tough and hard working running back. He's a competent receiver out of the backfield, but he's not especially elusive or fast. He's been the lead back for the Wolfpack for three season, totaling 692 carries for 4,476 yards through those years. He also caught 50 passes for 753 yards during that time. He has a lot of experience running the ball, and is a complete running back who might have the ability to be a feature back at the NFL level, though he'll never be special. A competent but unspectacular player, who could be useful as a role player for the Bucs.

Looking at this list it becomes clearer why the Bucs declined to draft a third-down back: plenty of them would go undrafted and are now available for the Buccaneers. And when I say 'now' I mean 'whenever the lockout ends'.