Inching closer and closer towards the NFL Draft (two weeks from today), we continue our spotlight on the TOP TEN.
Today, we look at what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers may do at #5.
We have already looked at the Minnesota Vikings and their options at #3. In case you missed it take a look at who I selected and who currently leads the mock draft polls.
The Cleveland Browns were also a hot topic at #4.
Indianapolis and Washington (#’s 1 and 2), have given us every indication that Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III will come off the draft boards in that same order, so where’s the fun in writing about that?
And now we find ourselves at #5.
Note: I encourage you to take the time to vote at the bottom of the page. I will be putting out the TOP TEN Results from MSF reader voting prior to the actual NFL Draft.
How Tampa Bay Got Here
If you’re a Buccaneers fan you had high hopes for last season. Something went wrong in Tampa, though.
Frankly, the Bucs were one of the most disappointing stories in the NFL last year.
Tampa went 10-6 in 2010 to improve on an atrocious 3-13 record in 2009. The Bucs barely missed out on the playoffs, but had fans hoping for big things in 2011.
The Bucs then stormed out the gates to a 4-2 record to start last season, but what followed was nothing short of total collapse: an agonizing 10-game losing streak that was painful to watch, one that witnessed Tampa Bay outscored by opponents 203-88 in their final five games.
I’ll let you do the math.
Josh Freeman showed signs of regression, the running game was non-existent, all the while Tampa went on to give up more points defensively than any other team in the NFL.
But what happened in Tampa Bay last year is history, and the Bucs are looking to get back to 2010 form this season.
Who Will Tampa Bay Pick at #5?
Perhaps the only positive of posting a 4-12 record is the high draft pick that follows. The Bucs have already made some big time free agent moves to upgrade the roster and have a shot here at #5 to pick up more major talent.
Let’s take a look at some of the players that may be available when Tampa Bay is on the clock on April, 26 and see if we can pin down the Bucs best option:
Trent Richardson, RB Alabama
Ah, yes – the Alabama star continues to make his way onto every list. Personally, I don’t think he will be here, and neither does the latest MSF poll results, but there is a possibility that he could fall so we can’t overlook him.
Do the Bucs need a running back; don’t they have LeGarrette Blount?
Yes, Blount is still there, but he may not be toting the rock as a starter for much longer according to new head coach Gregg Schiano.
Even without the fumbles, I’m not so sure Blount is feature back material.
The Bucs ranked 30th in rushing offense last season. With a ranking like that, one has to evaluate the backfield personnel, and Blount has absolutely nobody worth mentioning behind him on the depth chart.
Trent Richardson would make tons of sense here, if he were to happen to fall.
Blount wouldn’t be too happy about it, but he wouldn’t have much of a choice, and I think you would see a marked improvement from the 3oth-ranked rushing offense of last season.
Justin Blackmon, WR Oklahoma St.
I think he will still be there at #5, but I don’t think he will be drafted at #5.
Tampa did need help at WR, but with the recent free agent acquisition of 6-5, 230 lb ex-Charger Vincent Jackson I think they have covered the bases.
With Jackson opposite of Mike Williams in addition to Arrelious Benn and Preston Parker on the depth chart, I just don’t see the Bucs using such a premium pick on a receiver here.
We leave Blackmon on the list because he is one of the best players available, and because like I said before, you never know what will happen in the NFL Draft.
Morris Claiborne, CB LSU
If Claiborne makes it past the Minnesota Vikings and Cleveland Browns, the Bucs would have a very hard time passing on him.
Although Tampa brought in some corner help via free agency with the signing of Eric Wright, there are still questions in the secondary.
2008 first round selection Aqib Talib has had several conduct and legal issues since joining the team, and his status remains questionable as he is set to appear for another court date due to Felony Assault with a Deadly Weapon charges.
With Talib’s status unknown, Claiborne couldn’t come at a better time.
Even if the Bucs’ current talented corner escapes with little penalty, it would still be a wise move by Tampa to select Morris Claiborne – the draft’s most talented and versatile corner.
Keeping in mind the Bucs face Roddy White, Steve Smith, Julio Jones and Drew Brees twice a season, locking up the best defensive back in this year’s crop makes perfect sense.
Matt Kalil, OT USC
Yet another player that I don’t think will be available when Tampa picks.
Tampa made yet another upgrade via free agency on the offensive line with the acquisition of all-pro guard Carl Nicks.
The Bucs also don’t absolutely need a left tackle, as they have a very adequate starter in Donald Penn. (6-5/345)
However, if the opportunity arises to select Matt Kalil, the Bucs may opt to move Penn to the right tackle position.
Riley Rieff, OT Iowa
This may very well be way too high for Rieff to come off the board, but it wouldn’t be unheard of.
Rieff, who has received a little criticism due to his shorter than ideal arm length at left tackle, would be a good fit at RT for the Bucs, who have a lot of money invested in LT Donald Penn.
Rieff is also considered by most as the 2nd best OL prospect in this year’s draft.
If the Bucs have the intention of continuing to bolster their offensive line, there will be opportunity here to grab an elite prospect.
Tampa finished last season with the 32nd ranked rushing defense.
But don’t panic just yet.
Former 3rd overall pick Gerald McCoy will return to the starting lineup after finishing on IR last season. Also, Amobi Okoye was brought in via free agency, and there are still young players developing.
In fact, Tampa has utilized four first and second round picks to select defensive lineman and defensive tackles in the last two drafts.
I don’t see them going there again, but just to cover all the bases I’ll throw a name out there:
Dontari Poe, Memphis
This guy posted freakish numbers at the combine for his size: 6-3; 345 lbs; ran the 40-yard dash in 4.87 seconds; repped more sets on the bench press than anyone else in the entire combine.
Teaming him with McCoy in the middle along-side Bowers and Clayborne on the outside could make this Bucs defensive line menacing to say the least (if the prospects develop).
I think the Bucs are in a good position to take the most talented player that falls to them at #5.
Who do you think the Tampa Bay Buccaneers should take with the #5 selection?
My Pick: Morris Claiborne