Oct 9, 2010; Madison, WI, USA; Wisconsin Badgers offensive linemen Peter Konz (66) and Kevin Zeitler (70) sit on the bench during the game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE

Free Agency Will Shape the Draft

It’s no secret that the Bucs lack talent in a few different areas. They need playmakers on both offense and defense, which is both a cliché to say, yet absolutely true. A companion RB, a dangerous WR and a playmaking TE could all be added to the mix.

On the defensive side an active LB a CB or two and some S depth is needed. The defensive side is a bit more difficult to predict right now since we don’t know exactly what kind of defense Schiano and new DC Bill Sheridan will run. He has now confirmed that it will be a 4-3 hybrid of some kind given the personnel already here, as well as it being the defense Sheridan ran in NY. We’re also promised a ‘more aggressive’ scheme. This is exciting because if the defense becomes any more passive than it was last season, we’ll have players napping on the field.

Free agency will shape this draft in some way. If the Bucs attempt to snag Stephen Tulloch or Curtis Lofton they will be far less likely to use an early pick on a LB; instead a pickup like that will likely relegate LB to a mid round pick. In that same vein if the Bucs try for Carl Nicks or Jahri Evans they will be far less likely to use an early pick on an OL. Also keep your ears open for the names Vincent Jackson or perhaps more likely Marques Colston. A signing of this magnitude will telegraph to the fans that the Bucs are serious about improving this team.

In fact, the Bucs could telegraph their picks somewhat by their FA choices. A defensive emphasis in free agency might suggest that the Bucs are more willing to invest an early pick in a skill position player (Blackmon, Richardson, Sanu, etc). But the money pick is the #5 pick the Bucs have in the first round. To hear it discussed you’d think there was no other possible choice but Morris Claiborne or Trent Richardson.

As the Combine unfolds this week and workouts in the weeks after that players can solidify their draft position. Robert Griffin III is one of the variables at the top of the draft. Andrew Luck will go #1, likely to the Colts whether or not they retain Peyton Manning. RGIII however could go in the top 5 or drop to the middle of the 1st round. If someone trades up for him there’s a possibility that the Bucs will have some more options with the #5 pick. For example if Justin Blackmon is available at #5 along with Claiborne and Richardson this will make for a difficult decision. The Bucs, like most other teams likely already have much of their draft board configured. The Combine will not change the mind of a team picking #5 overall. It could however affect the rest of the draft which is why it remains an important cog in the pre draft process. For RGIII the most important thing will be how well he throws. Why? Because we know he’s athletic; he’s an amazing athlete. We know he’s smart; he already has his Bachelors and is on track for his Masters. The variable and the most important thing is how well he can pass the ball as a pure QB. This will determine where he ends up going in the draft. If he aces the passing drills at his pro day (he said he won’t throw at the Combine) he’ll go top 5 and maybe top 2 or 3 in a trade situation. If he throws ok or has accuracy or arm strength issues, he’ll drop, but not too far (he’ll go no farther than Miami at #8 and they might trade up for him if he tests well these next few weeks).

And once again, the Bucs have big decisions to make. 50% of pundits have them taking Morris Claiborne (CB/LSU) while the others have them taking Trent Richardson (RD/Bama). The smart money of course says don’t take a RB that high. Recent trends have bore that out as early CB’s have had more predictable success than early RB’s. The Bucs pick will largely depend on what they do in free agency leading up to the draft. Though their board is mostly set they will keep close watch on the workouts of Trent Richardson and Justin Blackmon.

Some names to watch for:

Trent Richardson. Mel Kiper has the Bucs taking him at #5. More likely the Bucs choose from among a list of other RB’s later in the draft including – LaMichael James, Knile Davis, and Chris Polk. An interesting wildcard at RB is Robert Turbin from Utah State. Turbin flew under the radar at Utah State but had a very impressive season. The Bucs have also had luck with players from Utah State as Donald Penn hails from there.

Justin Blackmon. If he runs well at the Combine that could potentially be a game changer in the top end of the draft. Alshon Jeffrey and Michael Floyd are also well regarded wideouts. Mohamed Sanu is another intriguing name here. Coach Schiano knows Sanu very well. If Sanu drops into the 2nd round the Bucs will look very hard at him.

Peter Konz. Konz is the most highly regarded center in the draft. New OL coach Bob Bostad knows something about Konz as he’s coached him for the last few years. The Bucs will likely re-sign Jeremy Zuttah. While Zuttah can play LG he’s a more natural fit at C. Jeff Faine has been injury prone and isn’t getting any younger. He also has no cred with the new administration outside of his relationship with Mark Dominik.

We’ll profile some more players in the next few weeks and offer some prognostication on how this first draft under Coach Schiano might ultimately play out.

-Steven Levy

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