The class of corners in this year’s draft is a bit thin, there’s a few very good ones and then things drop off considerably. If the Bucs are looking for someone that can play their rookie year and swim instead of sink, the pickings are thin. That’s why I’m skeptical of Rick Stroud‘s report the Bucs plan to cut Aqib Talib. Without free agency, with Ronde Barber aging and with a thin class of NFL-ready corners, whose going to replace him?
The Bucs aren’t going to have a shot at Patrick Peterson, the price is just too high to move into the top 3-5 picks and grab him. If he fell to the bottom half of the top ten the conversation would probably come up in the Bucs’ war room but that’s still a pretty high price. We can talk about that later. Going on the understanding Peterson is out of the picture though, there are two options, we looked at Jimmy Smith over the weekend, the other is Prince Amukamara.
Now, the Buccaneers aren’t going to have a shot at Amukamara at 20 unless the stars align. They won’t. But if Prince falls to 15, which still isn’t likely (though Pat Kirwan has the Dolphins selecting Amukamara at 15, trust me they won’t), things could get interesting. If Prince makes it to Miami at 15 the Dolphins are a team desperately looking to move down. The Brandon Marshall trade cost the Dolphins two second round picks, they pick 15th and then not again until round three. If the Bucs really are serious about moving on from Aqib Talib, Amukamara is a the kind of high-character, Ronde Barber-like replacement they would dream about. If that’s the Bucs’ plan they’d jump at the chance for an alpha corner like Prince Amukamara.
The trade would probably go down like this. Tampa would send their first round pick, the 20th overall in the draft and their second rounder (51) to the Dolphins for Miami’s first, the 15th overall, and Miami’s third rounder (78). Based on the NFL Draft Value Chart, the equivalency of the picks would be 1250-1240, so it’s possible the Bucs may have to part with a 7th rounder or a future 6th as well, but the meat of the deal would be moving up and picking up a third in exchange for a second.
Now, before we get into why Prince Amukamara would be the kind of player you would jump up to get, let’s just get a few things down first. This draft class is deep along the lines, if you need help on either side of the line there are a lot of guys who will be available through the middle rounds that are highly graded and ready to contribute. That is not the case at defensive back, not at corner or safety.
The Bucs clearly need to address their lack of a pass rush, that’s obvious from last year. But they could still do it effectively if they doubled down in the third round of the draft and then brought in a veteran once the lockout lifts and some mutant form of free agency kick-starts. The Bucs have been scouting tirelessly since the draft season began, Mark Dominik is already a draft-day stud and he’s had nothing to distract him for the last month and a half. If he has identified a few sleepers, found a few guys he feels are talented but off-the-radar, he may feel confident enough in his ability to grab them in the middle rounds that he’d toss a second in exchange for moving up and getting another pick back in the third.
That’s the hitch, Miami would jump at the trade for the chance to recoup their lost 2 from the Marshall trade, Tampa would be hesitant because of how good the second round will be. But if Dominik thinks it will still be good in the middle of the third and he can get a couple guys he’s high on, it’s a deal that can definitely be made, with a team that will definitely be open to it.
Now, here’s why Prince Amukamara is worth jumping up for. I’ve already said you won’t get a shot at Peterson. If this were a normal year though, Amukamara would be the same way. Normally Amukamara would be the consensus top corner in any draft class and a top ten lock, but Peterson is an athletic marvel, the sort that comes along about once a generation. While Peterson is a freak of nature athletically, Amukamara is just an elite athlete who is polished and NFL-ready at corner. He gets knocked down a slot. But not being Patrick Peterson is about the only thing you can take away from Prince.
Beyond that he’s a stud corner that got a practical education playing in the pass-happy Big 12. Prince Amukamara is actually more of a fit as a press-cover corner in a man scheme, he’s phenomenally geared towards locking up with a team’s ace receiver, being physical at the line and shutting them down for the afternoon. He’s got the speed, vertical, ball skills and instincts to do that the moment he steps into the NFL. But he also is perfectly at home in a zone.
What I like about Amukamara the most though is he plays the game like Ronde Barber, he’s intelligent and high-effort all the time. Watch him put his nose in the pile, watch him blitz or play the run. Prince prides himself on getting the little things done well too. He’s a complete player. He puts in the work off the field. And he’s extremely high-character, he’s highly involved in charity around his hometown and in Lincoln, Nebraska. His approach and play remind me of Ronde Barber in a lot of ways only he’s more athletic than Barber ever was. And that’s not a slight on Barber, it’s just a statement about how remarkably gifted Amukamara is.
Amukamara may actually have an even higher ceiling than Aqib Talib does. Talib has developed into an elite corner, Amukamara possesses all of Talib’s ability, his size (save an inch), better speed (4.38-4.48), same vertical and Amukamara is a student of the game. That’s not to take away from Talib’s preparation but I can almost promise you Amukamara’s is going to be better.
If the Bucs have the opportunity to get Prince Amukamara, it gives them a chance to grab an extremely talented, high-potential cover-corner. You get a guy you don’t have to worry about getting into trouble when the season ends. And you get a legitimate exit strategy for Aqib Talib, provided Rick Stroud is right and that’s what the Bucs intend to do. But there’s no guarantee Stroud is right, and there’s a good chance Prince doesn’t make it anywhere near 15. He’s that good.
On the other hand, could you imagine a tandem of corners like Aqib Talib and Prince Amukamara. The Bucs could let fans come out of the stands to rush the passer and still hold down the fort. What do you think?