The case for and against drafting Trent Richardson
By Steven Levy
As the offseason marches on to its early climax, the NFL Draft, and the Bucs have made their mark in free agency, the burning question now remains, what will the Bucs do with their first pick?
Due to last season’s heinous 4-12 record the Bucs own the fifth overall selection. In most years this ensures that the team picking fifth will get one of the elite prospects. There is even more assurance of that this year as the first two picks are almost certain to be QB’s, not a position of need for the Bucs, thus concentrating the talent pool even more.
After the QB’s the players most pundits deem elite after that are, in no particular order, Matt Kalil (OL), Justin Blackmon (WR), Trent Richardson (RB) and Morris Claiborne (CB). The Bucs could honestly use any of those players, though FA spending on two of the best at their position, an offensive lineman and wide receiver respectively, makes it less likely that they’ll target Kalil or Blackmon. And likely Kalil will be gone to the Vikings at #3 at any rate. This scenario would leave Blackmon, Richardson and Claiborne. The Browns, who pick 4th are rumored to be infatuated with Justin Blackmon, receiver being a position of great need for them. If the Browns take Blackmon the Bucs would be left with choosing between Richardson and Claiborne, two positions of great need.
The other variable here is that the Browns are thought to be willing trade partners for a team interested in trading up; however, most likely a team would trade up to draft the 3rd first round QB possibility, Ryan Tanneyhill.
The current RB situation for the Bucs does not inspire confidence. Blount has had his ups and downs. He’s fairly one dimensional. He’s a fair to poor receiver out of the backfield and his pass pro leaves a lot to be desired at this point. And he has the annoying proclivity to want to dance when he gets to the line of scrimmage instead of hitting the hole and following his blocks. Finally there is the fumbling issue, which has been getting a lot of press of late. Moises Madu got some reps late last season but is a 3rd down, change of pace back at best at this point. We don’t know what the current administration is going to do with Earnest Graham. Whether or not the Bucs draft Richardson it is almost certain that they’ll draft at least one RB and likely at least one more FA RB right after the draft.
The current secondary situation only looks slightly better. Veteran Ronde Barber returns but he will start showing his age one day. Eric Wright was picked up as a free agent. This was a solid pickup but he has had his ups and downs and we’re not sure what we’re getting just yet. We all know about the Aqib Talib situation. With his trial now moved out beyond the draft it won’t be known for a while whether or not he’ll be back. If he is and the new administration welcomes him back under the promise of a ‘clean slate’, the secondary will actually have some semblance of depth. Likewise the change of schemes could work to the advantage of guys like Myron Lewis and E.J. Biggers.
This leaves us with –
The case for drafting Trent Richardson:
• Clearly the best back in the draft and the best RB prospect in years
• Richardson would force defenses to pay close attention to the threat of the run, therefore theoretically opening the passing game up
• He has good hand, a definite weakness of Blount’s, and will give the Bucs the first legitimate screen pass threat since Cadillac Williams was here, or Earnest Graham was completely healthy
• There’s a large drop off in talent at the RB position after Richardson. There’s less of a drop off with the CB’s in this draft
• Plugs right into a position of need
The case for drafting Morris Claiborne:
• With Claiborne’s success this past season it’s now thought that Patrick Peterson was riding his coattails the previous year and not the other way around
• Claiborne is the consensus best CB in this draft
• Has good hands but is also known for his tackling, a rather large problem in the Bucs secondary
• Claiborne’s position is potentially more impactful due to the number of plays he’s on the field. For example see these metrics:
Last year Lagarette Blount was on the field for approximately 250 plays. In contrast Ronde Barber was on the field for 900+ plays. One does not need to do the math here.
Beyond the bullets
Aside from bullet points it can be argued that by keeping the Bucs offense on the field, and by proxy keeping the opposing team’s defense on the field, this is as valuable as the Bucs defense making plays. But if the new offensive scheme isn’t immediately successful the Bucs defense will be on the field plenty.
New coach Greg Schiano has been talking Richardson up of late. Is this an obvious new coach attempting a pre draft smokescreen scenario? I don’t think so, though I also don’t think it’s tipping his hand one way or another.
The Bucs already have their draft board largely set. They’ll make a tweak here or there. Richardson and Claiborne are both on their board. They will obviously have one rated over the other overall. When it comes time to pick I don’t think they’ll hesitate as they’ve had this conversation many times already and will have it many more before draft day. But is there a wildcard? Will a team want to trade up? Will an unlikely player like Kalil drop and present the Bucs with another legitimate option at 5? We don’t know yet. But as of now I think the Bucs stay where they are and pick fifth.
And with the fifth pick in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft the Tampa Bay Buccaneers select…