By Steven Levy
As I was preparing to write this post draft observation I had the idea of incorporating parts of a recent email conversation I had with a friend regarding the post draft evaluation. This friend of mine used to live in the Tampa Bay area and is still a Bucs fan though his primary teams are the Bears and Patriots.
After considering how I would incorporate our dialogue into the article I thought instead that it would be best if I just replicated the undiluted conversation we had, limiting it to the Bucs of course. This can give an idea of how the Bucs are perceived from a fan as opposed to a pundit, outside the constraints of the immediate Tampa Bay Area where we typically get blind fanaticism or endless pessimism. For the purposes of this article I’m going to refer to the two players as HIM and ME.
This is how it began:
Tampa is getting beaten up nationally for missing on Claiborne and going with Barron, with the thinking being that the safety position isn’t valuable enough to take with a top 10 pick. The good news is that now at least one of the Bucs current starting safeties can go back to busing tables at Shula’s No offense but, Tampa’s safeties sucked last season and at least the Pats had Chung leading their dreadful core. So net gain, the Bucs improved.
Nice draft so far. I’ll address your Bucs comment first. I’m not sure who you’re listening to but I’ve heard nothing but praise from the national televised media (ESPN/NFL Network). First off, obviously the Bucs could have had Claiborne had they wanted him simply by not moving from #5. The reason they moved from 5 was twofold: first, they recoup their 4th round pick; second, they get the player they actually coveted (according to our GM), Mark Barron. I think it’s very telling that the Bucs have as DB position coach Ron Cooper, who was Claiborne’s position coach at LSU yet they opted not to draft him. I think whatever intel they got from Cooper was impactful. Not to mention the fact that even though relatively insignificant football wise, Claiborne has now changed his story regarding the Wonderlic. First he had a learning disability. Now he tells the national media that he intentionally flubbed it. But here’s the likely reason the Bucs passed on Claiborne – he’s not a very physical corner. He has great movement skills, good hands, very fluid, but he misses tackles or gets run over. That’s not a Schiano corner. In fact if you were watching ESPN Jon Gruden had a nice segment exposing these flaws. On the other hand this is what Mike Mayock had to say about Barron: “I love this kid. His ceiling is to be a Pro Bowl safety. His floor is to be a Pro Bowl safety. That’s how good this young man is. This is going to be a good football team next year.” Former Buc safety John Lynch said “he’s a flat out stud; he doesn’t have any holes. He does everything well.” That sounds pretty good to me. Add into all of this that safety is actually a greater need for the Bucs than corner (especially if Talib is on the team) and you have all the reasons for trading back, recouping a pick and getting the best safety on the board.
The negative reports I saw on the Bucs 1st round pick were from espn.com. I can’t remember the writer. But, he is one of the guys they have covering the NFL for their online service. His point wasn’t that Barron wasn’t the top safety. But, that the safety position in generally is overvalued as a top 10 pick. I had not heard about Claiborne changing his story about his Wonderlic. Makes me think that he is that stupid. Regardless, the Bucs significantly upgraded a position that was one of their weakest last season.
I’ve heard that argument a million times and it always sounds like a load of crap to me. If it’s a passing league how can a pass defender not be a premium pick? Safety – last line of defense and all that. And especially with all of the stud TE’s now you’d think safety would be more valuable than ever. Who generally covers Jimmy Graham, and Rob Gronkowski, and Tony Gonzalez, etc? – it’s the SS. Cover them with a LB and you’re toast. Cover them with a crappy S and you’re toast. And the fact that they’re generally more involved in the running game than CB’s. It just seems like a silly argument made by unwise football writers. Finally, who will say that Polamalu or Ed Reed aren’t more valuable on their own team than the respective CB’s? We saw here in Tampa what having subpar safety’s can do to a team. There’s a reason we were toying with putting our best pass defender (Barber) out at safety before drafting Barron.
And that was the end of that, at least from the perspective of defending our first pick. As we’ve had some time now to let the dust settle and evaluate not only the draft but the post draft FA signings we can see very clearly where this team is headed. Leaders, character players, etc. Every position will be competitive. Don’t underestimate the other, less notable moves either. With Amobi Okoye and now Gary Gibson signed we have real, NFL caliber depth on the defensive line. With the recent injuries to Brian Price and Gerald McCoy, and the resulting Red Sea opposing offenses had to run through last year, this cannot be overstated.
As rookie camp ends and a solid month or so to go before the pre, pre season begins in earnest, this team is shaping up to be very solid all around. The Talib situation will be nice to resolve one way or another and will obviously help shape the secondary in some way. I also think we need to withhold judgment regarding players such as E.J. Biggers and Myron Lewis. There is a complete regime change now and their value is yet to be determined. It will be fun watching it all unfold.