“With the thirteenth pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers select…” will be the words with which a beaming Roger Goodell will likely welcome the next member of the Buccaneers into the glare of Radio City Music Hall. The player will have to start in year one for the Bucs to improve, but who will that player be? There are a lot of opinions on what the Bucs should do, including trading their pick for CB Darrelle Revis, a move that makes a lot of sense and one that I advocate. Unlike an unknown rookie, and despite his injury, Revis is a proven difference-maker. But if the Revis trade falls through and the Bucs decide to hold onto the pick, what can we expect?
Mark Dominik has a mixed draft record, something that can be said of almost every GM in the league. There was a time when personnel men like Scott Pioli and A.J. Smith were lauded as being the next generation of the best and brightest of talent evaluators and draft-day masters, but both are out of jobs, partly because their picks did not develop into quality starters. Every draft has misses, some more than hits. In 2008 the Bucs drafted seven players and only one, starting C Jeremy Zuttah is still on the team. Five other selections, players who should be in their prime and contributing either as quality backups or starters, are out of the league.
Since Mark Dominik’s first draft in 2009, Tampa Bay has been decent, hauling in ten starters, if you include DaQuan Bowers in that category. Among these picks is starting QB in Josh Freeman, quality players DT Gerald McCoy, DE Adrian Clayborn, and rising stars RB Doug Martin and Lavonte David. Dominik, who displays philosophical influence from Tony Dungy, has worked hard to fix the defense. Since 2009, seventeen of thirty picks have been on defense. The top picks have been overwhelmingly on defense – six of nine selections. So does Dominik think the defense is solid enough to spend a first-round pick on offense? It seems unlikely, since the organization is reportedly willing to give up their top pick for Revis. Again, assuming no Revis trade, should the Bucs draft Xavier Rhodes from FSU or Washington’s Desmond Trufant? The smart money says no, and here’s why: always take the big guys who can run. Defensive linemen are involved in every play and they have a higher draft value than corners and safeties. Because of how many reps they get, linemen are easier to grade on tape and generally pose lower risks than defensive backs who may be targeted three times in a game and defense a pass if they are lucky. Quarterback sacks and pressures change the game in a way that few CB’s can – almost no team has a true, lock down corner like Revis who can change the opponent’s game plan, but almost every team has to game plan for a top pass rusher.
Dominik has never drafted a CB higher than round 3, where in 2010 he grabbed Myron Lewis from Vanderbilt, who has failed to crack the starting lineup in three seasons. Last year the Bucs broke with their history under Dominik and selected a player at the backend of the defense for the first time (safety Mark Barron), his building efforts had gone front of the unit to the back. Does the organization still think the front of the defense is stout enough? Probably not, since they were clearly not happy enough with either DE Michael Bennett or DT Roy Miller (a Dominik pick) to re-sign them. For the Bucs to compete in the division against two of the NFL’s top QBs, Drew Brees and Matt Ryan, defensive pressure is the key. With an improved pass rush from the inside or outside, coverage will matter a whole lot less. Don’t be surprised to see the Bucs once again target a big bodied defender in the first round, then address offensive skill positions and the secondary on the second and third days of the draft.
What defensive linemen do you think will have the biggest impact in the NFL, and which ones do you want to see in Tampa Bay? Leave your thoughts in the comment section at the bottom of the page.