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Looking at the Draft So Far...

Yesterday at this time I was warming up to Adrian Clayborn. The Bucs went the safe route in the first round and grabbed a guy with a proven track record and the make-up to stop the run and get after the passer. My issue stemmed from his high-end potential with regard to pass-rushing, which I didn’t feel was as high as others still available.

After getting Da’Quan Bowers at 51 though, the two picks looks extraordinary now. Bowers lines up at Left Defensive End and Adrian Clayborn continues to play on the right. If you had said to a GM two months ago you wanted to team up Bowers and Clayborn he’d have snickered and told you it wouldn’t be possible without two first round picks or mortgaging the rest of your draft for them. The Bucs managed to grab them by sitting pat. Right now Tampa is having one of the best drafts in the NFL. You could tell last night too, just by the wry little smiles that came across coach and GM’s face at the press conference. They know they’re killing it right now.

Now it is worth mentioning that Bowers comes with more than a few concerns about his knee. The term “bone-on-bone” gets tossed out a lot and while I don’t know how accurate that actually is, I’m sure Dr. McKenna will have something to add as soon as more information about the injury becomes available to the Bucs. Whether or not Bowers is a “one-contract-player” or has “degenerative” knee issues I do not know. Clearly he fell from the top 5 out of the top 50, but he also brings the kind of elite potential few players can claim to have.

Bowers could be an elite rush-end, and with Clayborn pressuring from the other side and Gerald McCoy and Brian Price collapsing the pocket from the middle, all four should be poised for big things in the future. Bowers may need to be nursed along before he’s ready. Last night Mark Dominik admitted as much, but his take was that nothing irreversible had taken place. According to Dominik the issue stems from the knee healing poorly, but with rest and rehab it would ultimately be fine. That may be overly optimistic on the Bucs’ part but at this point it’s all there is to go on.

The draft isn’t about what is though, there’s plenty of time for that in the regular season and training camp. No, the draft is all about what could be and based on potential the Bucs first two picks may form one of the most of dynamic tandem of pass-rushers in recent memory. They could both bomb too, but I like the odds for their success (especially under Raheem Morris) and I certainly like being able to grab two elite defensive ends in the first 51 picks of the draft and addressing the need in a major way.

The Bucs also added Mason Foster in the 3rd round and I think he’s going to make in impact in Tampa as well. I don’t know what the selection says about Barrett Ruud, some think Foster is headed inside and that he will succeed the controversial MLB from Nebraska. The Bucs could still be in the market for another linebacker too though. One thing is for sure, Foster is the type of player who can succeed with big maulers in front of him. If Foster can just make plays and not worry about getting off blockers, the Bucs may have just gotten the best tackler in the draft, which is something more than a few fans have criticized Ruud for.

Of course, in fairness Ruud would be a lot more effective if the line didn’t let blockers get to the second level with startling regularity. I just love the idea of sending four, thick, strong linemen every play and letting Mason Foster and Geno Hayes clean up the rest.

The Bucs have gotten a lot better the last two days, now on to day three…

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Tags: 2011 NFL Draft Adrian Clayborn Bucs Da'Quan Bowers Mark Dominik Mason Foster NFL Raheem Morris

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