Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2012 Pre-Draft Breakdown
It is now Day 2 of the draft. The Bucs have already added an immediate starter at a position of need in Round 1. Which position of need? We will have to wait a few more days to find out. I believe the team has four major holes to fill coming into this draft: Linebacker, Safety, Cornerback, and Running Back. I would be surprised if three of those needs weren’t addressed with the first three choices. There could be a surprise pick if value presents itself, but I’ll mostly focus on who Dominik and Co. will focus on beyond Trent Richardson, Luke Kuechly, and Morris Claiborne.
Doug Martin – Running Back – Boise State
At this point it looks pretty likely that the Bucs will miss out on the Trent Richardson sweepstakes. If that ends up being the case, they will try to address that need on Day 2. Several sources have linked Martin to the Bucs and we are supposedly very interested in the Boise State product.
Scouts say that Martin could be this draft’s version of Ray Rice, who coincidentally played for Greg Schiano at Rutgers. Not only is Martin capable of being an every-down, workhorse back at the next level, but he is talented enough as a receiver and blocker to complement LeGarrette Blount perfectly for the time being. Most analysts agree that Martin does everything well. He has great footwork, is capable of breaking big plays, possesses excellent cutting skills and vision and provides a good combination of speed and power. He is well built (5’9”, 223lbs) and even excelled in limited opportunities as a kick returner, another potential area that the Bucs could look to improve upon in this draft.
Martin was largely successful in his final three years at Boise State. In his sophomore season, he ran for 765 yards on just 129 carries (5.9ypc) and was able to get in the endzone an impressive 15 times. As a full-time starter in 2010, Martin had his best season, rushing for 1,260 yards on 201 carries (6.3ypc) and scoring 12 times on the ground. He also added 338 yards on 28 catches and another two touchdowns. In his final season, Martin managed 1,299 rushing yards on 263 carries (4.9ypc) and scored 16 rushing touchdowns. He also added two more touchdowns through the air while catching another 28 passes for 255 yards.
Martin showed of his athletic intangibles at the NFL Combine. He ran a solid 4.55 forty-yard dash and led all running backs with 28 reps on the bench press. Maybe most impressively, he finished second in the 3-cone drill, a drill that measures change of direction skills, balance, and acceleration. Speedster Chris Rainey was the only back to beat Martin in this drill and another dynamic playmaker, LaMichael James trailed just behind. That’s an impressive showing for a stout, 223lb. running back. Martin would be a great choice in the second round but there is still a decent chance that he could be off the board by the time the 36th pick rolls around.
NFL Comparison: Ray Rice
Here’s Martin against some tough SEC competition:
Harrison Smith – Safety – Notre Dame
With the recent release of Tanard Jackson, the safety position immediately jumps almost to the top of the list of needs for the Bucs. Cody Grimm should be able to step back in as the starting free safety. That leaves the staff hoping that either Ahmad Black or Larry Asante can develop quickly into a starting caliber player or that Ronde Barber or maybe even Myron Lewis can make the switch to strong safety. Drafting safeties could be a delicate process this year. At first glance, it looks like a relatively weak class. Harrison Smith seems like a guy that the Bucs would target if he is available in the 2nd round. He’s a smart, hard-working, athletic, two-time team captain of the Fighting Irish.
Smith has emerged as the unquestioned number two safety in this class behind Alabama’s Mark Barron. Scouts describe him as a rangy centerfielder (maybe he could move to free safety allowing Grimm to move to a more natural spot at strong safety). He displays flexible hips to turn and run downfield. He can be an explosive player and is a good tackler, with good instincts and above average ball skills. There are a few concerns with Smith as he was inconsistent at times and recorded zero interceptions as a starter.
He was a reliable, durable starter at Notre Dame and has loads of experience, starting 47 games in his college career. Smith eclipsed 90 tackles in his junior and senior seasons but did not force many turnovers. Given his instincts, ball skills, and athletic ability, this is something likely to change at the next level.
Smith wowed onlookers at the Scouting Combine. He measured in a 6’2” and 213 pounds. Beyond his solid numbers in athletic drills (4.57 40-yd dash), he was extremely fluid in positional drills. Some scouts and analysts (specifically Deion Sanders) said that he was so impressive in the on-field drills that you couldn’t tell whether he was a safety or a cornerback. Morris Claiborne may have been the only defensive back that displayed better movement in the drills. Smith has a ton of potential at the next level and looks to be a very safe pick. It would be surprising if Dominik doesn’t have his eye on this kid.
NFL Comparison: Mike Brown
Here’s Smith displaying some pros and cons against Andrew Luck and Stanford:
Lavonte David – Outside Linebacker – Nebraska
Lavonte David is a highly productive linebacker who has seemingly been linked to the Buccaneers for many months. If the Bucs don’t add Kuechly, or another middle linebacker prospect that could push Mason Foster outside, they will surely look to draft a potential starter to fill the void left by Geno Hayes. David seems like a perfect fit for the traditional scheme and some analysts have likened him to Derrick Brooks.
The scouting report certainly sounds similar. David is described as having blazing speed, excellent instincts, and athleticism. He creates splash plays, is a reliable wrap-up tackler, can rush the passer, and excels against the run and pass. The few negatives that I’ve read are that he is undersized and may have a maxed out frame (go figure) and needs to take on blocks better.
Luke Kuechly isn’t the only tackling machine available in this year’s draft. David can stake claim to that title as well. In his final two seasons at Nebraska, he racked up 285 tackles, including 28 for a loss. Over that time, while starting 27 games, David also recorded 11.5 sacks, 2 interceptions, 3 fumbles forced, and 2 fumbles recovered.
David wasn’t overly impressive at the combine. He ran a solid 4.65 second forty-yard dash and a very good vertical leap of 36.5 inches. He added a little bit of bulk, weighing in at 233 pounds and measured in at 6’1”. He did excel in positional drills and showed very fluid movement. I think he would be a great second round pick assuming a linebacker is targeted.
NFL Comparison: Derrick Brooks (sure why not)
Here’s David having some success and struggles against a very fast Michigan offense:
Jayron Hosley – Cornerback – Virginia Tech
I believe Mark Dominik will opt until the second day (or maybe even later) to address the need at cornerback. If he looks towards the second round, Hosley could be his top target. The Virginia Tech product is considered a clutch playmaker with developmental skills. He is capable of succeeding in man and zone coverage. Hosley displays great ball skills and elite top end speed. Scouts think that he has great hip flexibility and good instincts to break on the ball. He even excelled as a punt returner. A few concerns are that he plays a little soft against the run and needs to add some bulk and strength to his small frame.
Hosley backed up his ball-hawking reputation in his final two seasons. In 2010 he blew up onto the scene with 9 picks and followed that up with three more in 2011. He added 32 passes defensed over that span. Hosley averaged 12.9 yards on 64 career punt returns while scoring two touchdowns.
He impressed with a 4.47 second forty-yard dash at the NFL combine but performed poorly on the bench press with just 11 reps. This could be attributed to Hosley’s small size. He measures in at 5’10” and 178 pounds. For the time being, Hosley could excel as a nickel corner and hopefully develop into a starter.
NFL Comparison: Brandon Flowers
Here’s Hosley with an impressive three-interception performance in 2010:
Isaiah Pead – Runningback – Cincinnati
Given the needs on defense, I feel like the third round is where the Bucs are most likely to address their need in the backfield. Pead could be exactly what this offense needs. He is a dangerous receiving target and excels at blocking and blitz pickup at a level that is rare for college prospects. When I watch him I see really quick feet, good vision, and subtle but dangerous change of direction skills. Pead has a few areas to improve upon. Scouts think he needs to protect the ball better and lower his pad level. He doesn’t have blazing speed, and he isn’t a power back, but he is simply a playmaker and finds room to run where others wouldn’t.
The former Bearcat has decent size at 5’10” and 197 pounds. At the combine he placed 5th amongst running backs in the 40-yard dash with a time of 4.47 seconds. He was also 4th at his position in the three-cone drill. Pead was highly productive in his final three seasons, racking up 3,094 yards on 515 carries (6ypc). He contributed in the passing game with 85 catches for 710 yards (8.4ypc). Pead got in the endzone 33 times over those three seasons.
New Head Coach Greg Schiano knows Pead very well. Schiano’s Scarlet Knights attempted to contain him on a yearly basis. The Rutgers defense stifled him in 2011, but in 2010 Pead had the best game of his career. He scored 5 touchdowns and racked up 249 total yards. You can bet Schiano remembers that game and knows just what Pead is capable of.
NFL Comparison: LeSean McCoy
Here’s Pead displaying his skills against West Virginia:
Tank Carder – Linebacker – TCU
If the Bucs still haven’t drafted a linebacker by the time the 3rd round rolls around, Tank Carder, the two-time Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year, could be the man asked to fill the need. Carder recently visited One Buc on a pre-draft visit, so we can assume the interest is there. He is a high-motor, hard-working, instinctive player. He could play in the middle or on the outside in our scheme but I think he would probably fit best on the weak side. Carder is a little undersized and lacks elite athleticism, but there is no denying his propensity to make big plays.
At the combine Carder measure in at 6’2” and 236 pounds. He ran a modest 4.69 second forty-yard dash, but he excelled in agility drills. Carder finished in the top 4 among linebackers in the three-cone drill, the 20 yard shuttle, and the 60 yard shuttle.
Carder wasn’t the tackling machine that Kuechly and David were during their college careers. In his final three seasons he managed 220 tackles and added 5.5 sacks. He seems to have a nose for the endzone, returning three of his four career interceptions for touchdowns. Carder was named the 2011 Rose Bowl Defensive Player of the Game after the Horned Frogs upset victory over Wisconsin.
NFL Comparison: David Hawthorne
Here’s one of Carder’s better games against Colorado State:
Ladarius Green – Tight End – Louisiana Lafayette
I’m not sure the Bucs would target a tight end this early, but they have expressed interest in Green and I don’t think he will last beyond the 3rd round. Green possesses superb athleticism and size. In a league being dominated by big, athletic tight ends, Mark Dominik may want to find his own Jimmy Graham and take a step towards moving on from Kellen Winslow. Green does a good job of using his frame (6’6”, 238lbs) to box out defenders and put himself in position to make plays. He has good body control and a knack for making big plays but he will need to add some bulk in the pros in order to become an effective blocker.
Green impressed at the combine, running a 4.53 second forty-yard dash which was second best among tight ends. He also placed second in the broad jump and 5th in the three cone drill at his position. He contributed for all four seasons of his college career and progressed every year. He caught 149 passes, gaining 2,201 yards and scored 22 touchdowns in four productive years. Green displayed his big play ability by catching passes of 30 yards or more in 11 games over his final two seasons. He seems to be a project at the position, but he could take a year or two to learn behind Winslow while competing with Luke Stocker to be his eventual replacement.
NFL Comparison: Kellen Winslow (pre-injury problems)
Here’s Green displaying some of his promise in his final game:
Casey Hayward – Cornerback – Vanderbilt
This is a very deep draft at the cornerback position. Casey Hayward is a 3rd round prospect who could make an immediate impact and doesn’t seem far from being a starting-caliber player at the next level. Hayward was highly productive against top talent in the SEC. He is a consistent playmaker, who plays confident and physical. Scouts suggest that Hayward is a reliable tackler and plays with a streak of confidence. He believes that he can cover anybody in man coverage.
Hayward has decent size at 5’11” and 185 pounds. He didn’t blow anybody away at the combine, running a 4.57 second forty-yard dash. It is worth mentioning that he excelled in agility and acceleration drills. Hayward bested every player at the combine in the 20-yard shuttle and placed 4th in the 60-yard shuttle. Although he doesn’t possess elite top-end speed, his success in the shuttle drills suggests that he has great acceleration.
Not only did Hayward showcase shutdown capabilities at Vandy, he was also a ball hawk, tying the school record with 15 career interceptions. Thirteen of those interceptions came in his final two seasons. He also tallied an impressive 31 passes defensed, including a six deflection game against Arkansas in his senior season. He scored once and managed 198 tackles in his career. I think Hayward is a sleeper in this draft and has big time upside. He could step in immediately as a starter depending on the circumstances at the position this year.
NFL Comparison: Joe Haden
Here’s Hayward coming up big in the Liberty Bowl, his final game at Vanderbilt:
Brandon Taylor – Strong Safety – LSU
Ron Cooper left LSU to become the Buccaneers Defensive Backs coach this season. Three of his former players; Morris Claiborne, Brandon Taylor, and Ron Brooks have been linked to his new team. Taylor is a physical talent who excelled against top competition. He has good work ethic and is a force against the run. He is a consistent, violent tackler who possesses quality instincts and anticipation. One knock against Taylor is that he struggled in man coverage at LSU, but that likely wouldn’t be a large part of his game in Tampa.
Taylor doesn’t have elite athletic skills and didn’t excel in any area at the combine. He ran a solid 4.58 second forty-yard dash. He had his best season as a senior this year, tallying 71 tackles, including 7.5 for a loss. He also snagged two interceptions and got a sack. Taylor was limited by a few minor injuries in his sophomore and junior seasons but still performed admirably. In 2009 and 2010 combine he managed 85 tackles and two interceptions. He isn’t a flashy player, but he could provide good value in the third round and bring a physical in-the-box presence that this defense could use.
NFL Comparison: Ryan Clark
Here’s some footage of Taylor against the Gators in 2011:
As you can see, I have a strong belief that the Bucs will focus on a few major needs in the early part of this draft. The draft is deep at running back, cornerback, and linebacker so we should be able to welcome some promising young contributors to the Buccaneer family.