Adrian Clayborn leads a great 2011 Bucs Class.

The Morning After: Draft Edition

There comes a time around 5:30 on Saturday afternoon when Herm Edwards and Ron Jaworski start demonstrating types of hugs players use on the commissioner after being picked in the first round, and you look outside and see it’s absolutely beautiful out and you wonder, why am I still sitting in front of the television? I have to be honest, rounds 6 and 7 of the NFL draft aren’t all that different from watching HGTV with your spouse. You like watching someone else pick out lamp-shades and throw pillows? That’s round six and seven.

Now before someone tosses out the inevitable, “the best teams win in the late rounds” spiel, I’m aware there’s value there. Everyone is. But two points, a.) the likelihood that you do find those kinds of players late is statistically still extremely low and b.) the players being picked are largely unknown due to lack of exposure. All I’m saying is that the average NFL fan can not even name a single player or coach ASSOCIATED with Idaho and FIU, let alone who the Bucs just drafted from them.

The other problem with NFL draft coverage is it’s obviously very ratings driven. They are going to go with the best story-lines and in lieu of those, revert back to the teams with the biggest fan-bases. That’s why the 6-10 Cowboys drafted a tackle and you saw Jason Garrett fifteen times over the next few days yet the Bucs had arguably the best first two rounds of anyone and the Bucs (though not in any way ignored) didn’t get face-time until Suzy Kolber talked to Raheem Morris on day three.

So with that in mind, let’s talk some Bucs draft…

I won’t be doing grades until later today, but for now I’ll just say this organization is developing a confidence in their ability to draft and scout that is really beginning to show in each class. The Bucs trusted their board and they let the draft fall to them in the first two days. They avoided the temptation on day two to sacrifice picks in order to jump at Da’Quan Bowers and assume a risk, instead he fell to them and having already discussed and decided upon what to do should the scenario arise the night before, they stuck to their guns and grabbed him.

Make no mistake about it, drafting Bowers IS a huge risk. But if the Bucs are right and he ends up healing well and being able to come back full strength, you get an elite NFL DE with a HUGE chip on his shoulder. And no team and no player will pay more than the Carolina Panthers and Cam Newton, whom Bowers probably sees as the biggest offenders having once, himself, been considered the consensus number one pick (after Andrew Luck didn’t declare) and then having fallen 50 spots below that.

Da'Quan Bowers is a risk/reward player.

But even with a risk at two (a risk I am very happy to take) the Bucs got solid, ready-to-contribute players in rounds one, three, four and five. Mason Foster and Adrian Clayborn both look to see plenty of action right out of the gate. Clayborn will likely be a starter, Foster may or may not have a starting spot on the field right away depending on how the Bucs proceed with Barrett Ruud and the rest of their configuration. Either way though, both will be on the field plenty in year one.

Luke Stocker and Ahmad Black, the two SEC guys, both look to develop into contributors by the end of year one. I have a few concerns about Stocker’s blocking and I’m not sure how much he’ll be a factor right away but he has the potential to be an extremely good second tight end as he develops throughout the year. It’s going to be difficult without OTA’s and possibly an abbreviated training camp though as the learning curve will extend further into the season now with most of these rookies.

Ahmad Black will be primarily a special teams player in year one unless he really explodes on to the scene in camp. I like Black a lot but his size alone (5’9) really makes me nervous about leaving him out there at safety. Still, he’s the kind of guy who’s going to find a way to contribute as much as he can as fast as he can. I think Black actually may be the biggest sleeper pick of the entire Buccaneers draft. I’ll be interested to see how he develops and I’m saying that as a Seminole alumnus who watched him torment my school.

Regardless, the Buccaneers had a solid draft and if you’re not happy as a fan right now someone needs to shake you. The Bucs addressed a need along the defensive line, added quality players at tight end and linebacker and found a few developmental guys that could come along very nicely.

The downside to this is there is no free agency for un-drafted rookies right now. Last year Mark Dominik was excellent on the waiver wire and picking up kids who didn’t get drafted, the Bucs saw huge contributions from several undrafted players and whereas a lot of teams don’t have a GM proficient enough to take advantage of UDFA’s, this is just one more way the lock-out hurts the Bucs.

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Tags: 2011 NFL Draft Adrian Clayborn Ahmad Black Bucs Cam Newton Da'Quan Bowers ESPN Luke Stocker Mark Dominik Mason Foster NFL Panthers Raheem Morris

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