Over the past month we've exhaustively discussed the Bucs' options in the draft. Most of it comes down to the same old discussion about cornerback Morris Claiborne and running back Trent Richardson, something that will no doubt be discussed until the Bucs actually turn in their pick. Another option that's been mentioned is receiver Justin Blackmon. One name that has never been mentioned, however, is David Decastro's.
David Decastro was an outstanding offensive guard at Stanford, helping anchor the offensive line that protected Andrew Luck and produced an outstanding running game. Decastro looks like a special player, adapt at everything and a player who can probably make an immediate impact in the NFL. While the Bucs do have a good right guard in Davin Joseph, their left guard position is more of a problem spot as both Jeremy Zuttah (who could move to center) and Ted Larsen are too inconsistent to be counted on. Drafting David Decastro could immediately fix that problem, increasing the running game's production and helping protect Josh Freeman.
But Decastro is just a guard, and they are never selected in the top 5 of a draft. I think two trends could change that, however. Hit the jump to see what I mean.
The new CBA has lowered contracts for high draft picks
Whereas just three years ago it was unthinkable to spend a high draft pick on an offensive guard because the monetary investment was ridiculous for that position, it's now much more feasible. Last year's fifth overall pick was Patrick Peterson, who signed a four-year, $18.5 million contract. That's not a big investment at all, and certainly could help teams decide to spend a high draft pick on a guard.
The flip side is that finding good (but not great) offensive guards later in the draft is still as easy as ever. Guards weren't highly drafted not only because no one pays guards a ton of money, but also because they're relatively easy to replace. That still holds true.
Guards are becoming more important than tackles
I am convinced that elite offensive guards help an offense more than elite tackles do, provided the team has a quarterback with good pocket presence. Offensive tackles are important because they protect the quarterback against the best pass rushers: defensive ends. But good quarterbacks have long since learned to mitigate the impact of poor offensive tackle play by stepping up into the pocket. It's also easy to help out offensive tackle with chips by running backs and tight ends, something that is much harder to do for guards.
In addition, the running game doesn't revolve around offensive tackles. If you want to be able to run the ball, you must have good guards. You can't run the ball if your guards get blown off the line. But if your tackles aren't great run blockers, you can still have a productive running game inside the tackles.
The best evidence of this trend is the New Orleans Saints, who have the best interior line in the NFL with Carl Nicks and Jahri Evans at offensive guard, but have lackluster offensive tackle play. Despite that they have one of the most productive offenses in the NFL and an outstanding running game.
The Bucs may want to emulate the New Orleans Saints, and drafting Decastro would certainly help in that regard.