I think that grading a draft at this stage is a little bit premature, obviously just as everything has been to this point these grades are largely speculative based on perception and projection. The real grades can only be slapped on three or four years down the road when these players have had time to develop and come into their own (or go the other way). If you haven’t figured out, this is the obligatory disclaimer almost everyone seems to add to their day-after draft grades.
At any rate, the Bucs had a very solid draft over the weekend. Starting with the selection of Adrian Clayborn on Thursday and continuing with the additions of Da’Quan Bowers and Mason Foster on Friday. The first two days of the draft were devoted to the defensive front seven exclusively. Though probably not by design that’s how it ended up working out. Then on Saturday, they started by going after a player they had rated highly on their board in Luke Stocker, added Ahmad Black out of Florida and then grabbed some solid players they were high on the rest of the way through.
Raheem Morris should have some fun new toys to play with whenever the lockout finally lifts and the NFL gets back to business. The law-firm of Bowers, Clayborn, Price and McCoy should be pretty big-time. What linebacker wouldn’t want to clean up behind a group of maulers like that?
Let’s grade some picks…
Round 1, Pick 20- Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa- Clayborn will line up as the right defensive end and should be a load for any NFL tackle to handle. Clayborn is among the more well-rounded of the 2011 class of DE’s, he’s stout against the run and above-average getting after the passer. The Bucs will look to develop his pass-rushing and strength a bit more, but he should be a starter from day one. Clayborn is also a high-effort, high intensity kind of player who was voted a team captain and fits what the Bucs were looking for in terms of personal character. I did feel Tampa could have gone a couple of other directions with the pick at 20 but Clayborn represented the safest, and arguably best option and he should have an extremely long and productive career in Tampa.
Round 2, Pick 19 (51)- Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson- Bowers was once considered the defensive gem of the draft, perhaps a better, stronger version of former teammate (and Buccaneer) Gaines Adams. Unfortunately concerns over Bowers’ knee injury caused his draft stock to plummet, dropping him about 50 places to Tampa in the 2nd. The Bucs couldn’t have gotten luckier either, after opting to wait at 51 Bowers still fell and the Bucs quickly had the pick in. Bowers, if he is able to get completely healthy, could be the steal of the 2011 NFL Draft. He has the elite potential (and now the external motivation) to become one of the premiere left ends in the entire NFL and with Adrian Clayborn on the other side at right end, he’s going to get plenty of one-on-one’s with overwhelmed right tackles. Bowers is top-ten value at a mid-second round price.
Round 3, Pick 20 (84)- Mason Foster, LB, Washington- Just like Bowers and Clayborn Foster is a high-effort guy who had huge production in college and was a team captain. Not many people in the entire NCAA made more tackles than Foster did over the last few years, especially last season when he tallied 163, second in the country and 58 more than the next closest player in the Pac 10. Foster may have dropped a little bit because he’s not a paper champion, his workout numbers weren’t what other linebackers put up and the NFL is obsessed with measurables. But Foster is a guy who passes the eye test, makes tackles when his team needs them and has the kind of instincts to play in the NFL. He should fit in beautifully in Tampa, potentially even in the middle. If Foster doesn’t have to shake off too many bigger blockers he’ll make every tackle you ask him to, and behind the nasty big four Tampa has been building he should have free reign. Were there other linebackers still on the board there? Yes, but the Bucs got the guy they felt best fit their organization.
Round 4, Pick 7 (104-From Redskins)- Luke Stocker, TE, Tennessee- Mark Dominik must have had a very high mark on Stocker and feared a run on tight ends because he sent a couple late round picks to the Eagles for the chance to move up about 13 spots and grab him. Stocker is a true tight end who has big soft hands and should be an upgrade over the myriad of back-up tight end Tampa has utilized the past couple of seasons. But he’s also not NFL-ready quite yet in terms of his blocking and his route-running and frankly won’t necessarily be an upgrade as a blocker right of the bat. I don’t know if the Bucs needed to move up to make this selection or if there wouldn’t have been a comparable tight end available at their spot. I do trust Mark Dominik though and a good GM trusts his convictions to go up and get a player, which Dominik did.
Round 5, Pick 20 (187)- Ahmad Black, S, Florida- I actually thought Ahmad Black could come off the board a little higher but the Bucs got a good value in him with 187th pick. Black is a very talented, very instinctual safety who played at a high level for one of the best teams in football the last few years. That can’t be discounted. The knocks on him are his size and speed, at 5’9 with a rather pedestrian 40-time many teams didn’t regard him as a legitimate prospect for safety. Black will contribute in Tampa though. He probably won’t compete for too much time out of the gate but will be a core special teams player and will eventually challenge for playing time as the season wears on. He’s also another high-motor, high-production, former team captain as seems to be a theme in this year’s Buccaneers draft class. Good value in round five.
Round 6, Pick 22 (187 from Chiefs)- Allen Bradford, RB, USC- I didn’t really understand why the Buccaneers made this selection when Bradford is so similar to LeGarrette Blount. While he may have a better 4o-time, that’s about all Bradford has over LeGarrette, and it’s important to remember Blount was once an impressive starter and consensus first-round prospect, Bradford was one of the pack at USC. I don’t dislike Bradford, he could be come a good short-yardage back. His skill-set is just too close to Blount’s for my liking and he has the same issue with trying to do too much and breaking runs outside that limit Blount in short-yardage situations. I like a stable of backs who do different things well. Noel Devine or a similar speed back would have made a lot of sense here. Bradford I didn’t understand though.
Round 7, Pick 19 (222)- Anthony Gaitor, CB, Florida International- Anthony Gaitor comes from FIU where he was a solid player despite being fairly undersized. Gaitor represents a developmental project for the Bucs, he needs help with adding some bulk and some strength or he will never be able to handle NFL receivers. He does have good technique and hands though and and above-average instincts and he could develop into a good inside player in specific sub packages if given the time. My question is just, if you’re going to develop a corner why not get one that’s a little more prototypical? Gaitor at just 5’10, 177 with average speed and doesn’t have a high ceiling. But clearly Mark Dominik and crew saw something they liked in him with the pick.
Round 7, Pick 35 (238- Compensatory)- Daniel Hardy, TE, Idaho- I have a feeling this pick was made on Hardy because he was one of the guys Tampa was interested in bringing in as a UDFA, but because of his geographic location it was easier to just spend a pick to get his rights. I mention this because Mark Dominik mentioned doing the same thing with Erik Lorig last year, knowing Erik was a west-coast guy and would be less-inclined to come to Tampa as a free agent. Obviously with the lockout, there will be no UDFA signings for a while which would make it even less likely Hardy would want to sign cross-country when league business does pick up. Hardy is an unremarkable tight end coming off of an injury but I like his potential as a pass-catcher if he can improve his consistency. He’s probably a practice squad player his first year though.
Final Thoughts: You have to just trust in what Mark Dominik was doing on the last day of the draft because the information on most of the players picked in the last few rounds is either sparse, inconsistent or just non-existent entirely. Dominik and staff have worked tirelessly though to prepare for the draft and given the previous track record deserve the benefit of the doubt right now. That’s why I don’t really weight selections as much after round five when trying to figure out the over all Bucs draft grade.
Tampa entered the weekend with major needs in the front seven and at corner and they left having addressed the front seven, but there’s still a few questions about that secondary. If Tampa had gotten a solid corner in one of the first four rounds this grade would probably be an A. But right now if the Bucs cut ties with Aqib Talib there will be some serious issues facing the back-half off the defense.
While the Bucs more than addressed the front seven, not much has been resolved with the DB’s.
Final 2011 Draft Grade: B+