ESPN NFL Draft guru Mel Kiper has released his latest mock draft. And while no one should ever read too deeply into mock drafts, Kiper’s current projection has the Tampa Bay Buccaneers getting somebody not too many people would be at 13.
That man is Utah’s Star Lotulelei. Once considered a the top prospect in this class, health concerns arose at the combine and his status has slipped. Lotulelei was discovered to have an “abnormally low ejection fraction”. In other words, his heart doesn’t pump blood as fast as it should.
Most consider Lotulelei to be a difference maker along the defensive line. And add him into the mix with a healthy McCoy, Clayborn, and Bowers and you might have something really special. But if the Bucs decide to take Lotulelei with the 13th overall pick, it would be the 5th defensive lineman selected with their past 7 first or second round picks. One has to ask how many times you have to try to draw water from the same well. That’s an awfully large investment in one facet of the team, and arguably not the biggest need along the Buccaneer defense this offseason.
There is no argument that getting to the quarterback is one of, if not the most, important aspect in defensive success in today’s NFL. Tampa Bay struggled to get to opposing passers in 2012, finishing near the bottom of the entire league. But at what point is enough, enough? Is it possible to draft too many prospects at one position? Or is it possible to be like the Detroit Lions, and finally find your Calvin Johnson after many failed attempts?
I also worry about what the Bucs would actually be getting if Lotulelei does indeed slip to 13. 12 other teams will have decided that either he’s not talented enough or his health problems make him too risky to draft. Health is not something the Bucs want to be gambling with along the defensive line. McCoy, Bowers, and Clayborn have all missed significant time due to injury, and adding Lotulelei just raises the probability that one or more of them are out at any given time.
Lotulelei appears to be an elite talent, and could add another layer of depth to the Bucs defensive line, but the simple fact that he can go from a top 3 prospect to 13 has to be a major red flag. And while I love the idea of the Bucs getting possibly the most talented guy in the draft, I think the risk might just outweigh the reward.