When the Buccaneers selected E.J. Biggers late in the 2009 draft, it was generally an irrelevant pick. The Buccaneers did not have a large amount of draft picks that season, and the headline selection was Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman, taken in round number one. Large and in-charge defensive tackle Roy Miller was taken later on, as was a seemingly promising prospect in Kyle Moore from USC, and Xavier Fulton from Illinois, who was one of the best offensive lineman at the combine workouts. Obviously Freeman and Miller are still playing their roles for the Buccaneers, but it wasn’t until the seventh round that the Buccaneers got true value for their selection. The throw-away seventh round selection has turned into a key piece of the defensive back rotation for the Buccaneers, and while he has been given a plate with more than he can eat due to injuries in the defensive backfield, Biggers has been a key member of the Buccaneer defense since his arrival at One Buc Place.
As we look forward to the 2013 NFL Draft, fans in Tampa Bay will undoubtedly look at the top of the pile, and salivate at the thought of Bjoern Werner, Dee Milliner, or Damontre Moore. The Pewter Plank will certainly keep Bucs fans up to date with news and opinions about these players, but let us take a moment and consider who might be the next “E.J. Biggers” for the Buccaneers, and look at late round players who could make a big impact in the 2013 NFL draft.
The first player we’ll take a look at is Miguel Maysonet, of Stony Brook University in New York. Stony Brook is an FCS program, the division formerly known as I-AA in the NCAA. I start with Maysonet, because I have witnessed this player first-hand. Maysonet is a short, stocky, powerful runner who is capable of breaking a big play at any moment. Seeing him play against my alma mater, Liberty University, was as good of a litmus test as there can be in the Big South conference, as LU regularly features NFL sized defensive linemen. Maysonet never struggled to gash the Flames, or any other Big South opponents. The Hofstra transfer ended his collegiate career with a 6.6 yards per carry average, aided by an impressive 7.4 yards per carry mark in his final season. The New York native had 56 total touchdowns in his career as a member of SBU and Hofstra, including a performance of 21 carries for 158 yards and a touchdown against Syracuse this season. Maysonet also torched the Black Knights of Army in 2012, carrying the ball 32 times for 220 yards and 2 scores. The dynamic runner had runs of 84, 71, 66, and 64 yards over the course of the season, and was second in the Walter Payton Award vote, the FCS equivalent of the Heisman.
Bucs Potential: With LeGarrette Blount becoming a restricted free agent, and D.J. Ware being average at best, it might be worth it for the Buccaneers to spend a 7th round selection on Maysonet, and give him a chance to be Doug Martin’s backup. Maysonet has returned kicks, as well, and while he lacks true straight line speed, he is a strong and dynamic runner who would be able to do many of the same things Martin can do, and if he’s capable of performing at the NFL level, provides a true backup who is able to spell Martin from time to time to ensure the Dougernaut is not overworked.
Let’s stay on the FCS level for a look at another offensive player who should be available late in the draft. Ryan Spadola is a tall, reliable wideout who features surprising speed and playmaking ability. Spadola had a weak 2012, but his 2011 season was remarkable thanks to help from quarterback Chris Lum, who was a much more capable quarterback than Spadola’s 2012 signal caller, Michael Colvin. Spaolda averaged 15.6 yards per catch for his career, and finished with 24 touchdowns in 3 seasons worth of playing time. These numbers certainly don’t jump off the page, but Spadola has the size and athleticism to return to the form of his 2011 season, where he set a Patriot League record with 1614 receiving yards while hauling in 11 touchdowns.
Bucs Potential: Spadola could certainly compete to be a part of the Buccaneers wide receiver corps, and might be available in the 7th round, or as a post-draft free agent. With the lack of a backup receiver past Tiquan Underwood, the door is wide open for a late round draft pick to make the roster, especially if he can make an impact on special teams.
White is a player who could compete with Biggers to bring more depth to the Buccaneers secondary. The Ragin Cajun cornerback is 6 feet, 3 inches tall, and a vertical leap to match his impressive height for his position. He is a willing and somewhat able tackler, and is a former quarterback who has a good knowledge of the game. He is also a former track athlete, and while he may lack in the finer points of mobility needed for a defensive back, he has all the physical potential. NFL.com’s draft profile compares him to Richard Sherman of the Seahawks thanks to his formidable size and ability to use that size to his advantage.
Bucs Potential: White is the kind of player who could play on special teams immediately, and work his way into the rotation at defensive back. He is also a candidate to move to safety due to his size, strength, and ability to read the field. Either way, these are positions where the Bucs could use a diamond in the rough.
Joe Vellano is a defensive tackle and end from Maryland, and brings versatility and great instincts to the draft table. Vellano tallied a TON of tackles from the defensive line, and showed a high motor that most teams look for in defensive lineman. He is considered too small to be a full time defensive tackle, and too slow to be an end, but is the kind of player who will fight hard to compensate for what he may lack physically. The first team All-ACC player fought through injuries to register 14 tackles for loss this season for the Terps, and if he shows good quickness to compensate for a lack of pure speed, could be an interesting late round defensive end prospect.
Bucs Potential: He has the same size as Michael Bennett, and would be able to fill a similar role, as a strong pass rusher from the outside or inside, depending on the situation. Should the Buccaneers fail to bring Bennett back, Vellano could be just the guy to fight for the snaps Bennett played.
A linebacker brought to Rutgers by Coach Schiano, Beauharnais is a middle linebacker who is solid against the run and pass, and slides down draft boards because he lacks in “measurables.” The Scarlet Knight middle linebacker is over 6 feet tall, and weighs in around 230 pounds, and runs in the high 4’s in the 40 yard dash. However, he has the ability to compensate for any lack of athleticism, and has played well for Rutgers, totaling over 270 tackles, with 35 for loss, in his 4 years in Piscataway. He also hauled in 4 interceptions and broke up 8 other pass plays, and forced three fumbles. He has proven to be durable and dependable for Rutgers, and is the kind of player who could prove to play above his draft profile thanks to a solid work ethic and knowledge of the game.
Bucs Potential: I would look for Schiano to favor former Scarlet Knights in the later rounds of the draft, if possible, and Beauharnais is certainly a candidate. A player familiar with Schiano’s concepts on defense could certainly fight for snaps at linebacker, especially considering the health concerns of Quincy Black.
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