After a stellar free agency period which yielded Pro Bowlers Carl Nicks and Vincent Jackson, Mark Dominik and first-time NFL head coach Greg Schiano struck gold with the first three picks of the 2012 NFL Draft. Schiano’s first draft with the Bucs was highlighted with the performances by Doug Martin and Lavonte David. Though the Bucs fell short of completely rehabbing their pathetic defense from 2011, the Bucs did earn a bright spot by becoming the league’s premier rushing defense. While some will argue that the Bucs disappointing pass defense skewed the rushing stats, the Bucs were near the top in the league in the tackles-for-a-loss category.
The Bucs were finally able to draft a franchise running back in Martin that fit the mold that Schiano was looking to duplicate from his Rutgers days, where he set records with Ravens running back Ray Rice. Martin was perfect for the Schiano and offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan’s power running game used to set up playaction passes down the field.
Getting three NFL-ready starters in a single draft is a remarkable feat. However, the latter half of the Bucs draft was less than memorable. We might find out in the coming years, that the Bucs drafted a few CFL players in 2012, amongst their newly-acquired playmakers.
1st Round (7th overall) – Mark Barron – S – Alabama
Originally slated to pick 5th in the 2012 draft, Mark Dominik executed a trade with Jacksonville that allowed the Jaguars to move up in order to draft the top wide receiving talent of the class in Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon, while the Bucs slid back to the seventh spot in exchange for an additional fourth-round pick. The Bucs, who many thought would select LSU cornerback Maurice Claiborne, decided to fill a hole at the safety position by drafting Mark Barron, a team captain from the then-recent national championship Alabama Crimson Tide.
It did not take long for Barron to show the Tampa fan base his raw hitting ability when he leveled the Panthers’ Steve Smith in week one. Down 13-0 the Panthers had stalled the Bucs offense at the start of the third quarter. With the ball at their own forty-six yard line, Smith ran a deep crossing route toward the Panthers’ bench. He turned the corner around Ronde Barber, who forced him to the sideline, when Barron cleaned his clock.
Barron finished the 2012 season with 88 tackles, 10 pass defences (2nd on team), an interception and a forced fumble. His addition to a porous defensive backfield did little to plug the hole for the Buccaneers, as they came within 38 yards of becoming the worst pass defense in NFL history. However, the 23-year-old safety is poised to take a huge step forward when he steps on the field in 2013 with Pro Bowlers Dashon “The Hawk” Goldson and Darrelle Revis. With Dominik’s efforts in free agency and one of the NFL’s most publicly negotiated trades, the Bucs have a legitimate chance to become one of the premier defensive backfields in the league.
1st Round (31st overall) – Doug Martin – RB – Boise State
There are three guarantees in life: death, taxes and Mark Dominik trading up the draft board. By packaging a second and the fourth round pick the Bucs received from Jacksonville, Tampa was able to jump ahead of the New York Giants and select Doug Martin from Boise State. New York, who had a glaring need for a running back with the often-injured Ahmad Bradshaw, settled for David Wilson from Virginia Tech with the last pick in the first round. Wilson had a tough start to the season by proving that his propensity to fumble translated to the pro level.
Doug Martin quickly assumed the starting role with Buccaneers during training camp. He registered 95 yards on 24 carries, while catching four balls for 23 yard in the home opener against the Panthers. Martin had less-than-stellar numbers through the first six games of the season with 308 yards and two touchdowns. It was not until a week eight matchup with the Vikings, did the pewter faithful witness the unleashing of the “Muscle Hamster,” a nickname his college teammates created maliciously. Martin busted out of his shell in Minnesota with 135 yards on the ground, 79 receiving yards and two touchdowns. His touchdown reception came on a season high 64-yard screen pass that Martin miraculously split two Vikings defenders on, before scampering to the house.
Martin finished his rookie season with 1,454 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground, while reeling 49 receptions for 472 yards and the aforementioned score. He was selected to the Pro Bowl as a roster replacement, joining teammates Gerald McCoy and Vincent Jackson. The 24-year-old halfback will be chomping at the bit to see Carl Nicks return from injury in 2013. Martin’s ground game started to click right as Nicks went down. The Muscle Hamster looks to provide the backbone for an offense led by Josh Freeman, who could use the support during the final year of his rookie contract.
2nd Round (58th overall) – Lavonte David – LB – Nebraska
After pulling off two trades on the first night of the draft, Dominik climbed up the draft board again to select tackling machine Lavonte David. Originally from Florida high school powerhouse Northwestern High School in Miami. David began his college career at Fort Scott Community College, before transferring to Nebraska, where he was named the first ever recipient of the Butkus-Fitzgerald Linebacker of the Year Award.
Joining his fellow draft cohorts, Barron and Martin, David started all 16 games in 2012 and took over defensive playcalling from Mason Foster. David’s skill set translated brilliantly to the NFL. He recorded 139 tackles, two sacks and an interception. The addition of David helped the Buccaneers rank at the top spot in the league for rushing yards. He amassed 20 tackles-for-a-loss, which put him at third in the NFL behind the Texans’ J.J. Watt and the Broncos’ Von Miller.
After the way David hit the field in training camp, there is no reason to believe that he could take a step back in the 2013 season. The Bucs will need to invest draft picks on the defensive line in order to open up rushing lanes for David. With an improved pass rush and defensive backfield, David could make us nostalgic for the days that Derrick Brooks roamed the weakside, if he hasn’t already to-date.
5th Round (140th overall) – Najee Goode – LB – West Virginia
As exciting as the trades that lit up the first two nights of the draft were, the final day of the Bucs 2012 draft was largely forgettable. Coach Schiano used his Big East Conference experience to select lineback Najee Goode from West Virginia. Goode was active for only three games in 2012, despite the team being forced to put starter Quincy Black on the disabled list with a disturbing nerve damage injury that limited his ability to move his arm. The 23-year-old linebacker recorded no stats during the 2012 season.
6th Round (174th overall) – Keith Tandy – CB – West Virginia
The Bucs went back to the “Mountaineer well” by selecting Keith Tandy, who coincidentally spent four years as Goode’s roommate. The cornerback out of West Virginia was active for nine games during the 2012 season. Tandy’s future with the Bucs could be in jeopardy, after recording only three tackles during his rookie year. The addition of Revis and the possibilities of drafting another cornerback and the return of Ronde Barber could squeeze Tandy into the free agency abyss.
7th Round (212th overall) – Michael Smith – RB – Utah State
With the 212th pick the Bucs selected running back Michael Smith from Utah State. Smith was heralded with remarkable speed and displayed it nicely in a preseason game against the Dolphins, where he had a few impressive kick returns. Unfortunately Smith was only active for the home opener against the Panthers, amassing a mere 55 yards on three kickoff returns. He landed on the practice squad for the rest of the year. Smith’s roster spot could also be in question, as Dominik added former Rutgers running back and Schiano disciple Brian Leonard from Cincinnati and have had meetings with Michigan State’s Le’Veon Bell and Texas A&M’s Christine Michael One Buc Place in preparation for the upcoming draft. Smith seems to have value though, as the Bucs were offered a trade, during the draft, by an unnamed NFL team shortly after Smith was selected by Tampa.
7th Round (233rd overall) – Drake Dunsmore – TE – Northwestern
Drake Dunsmore, a tight end from Northwestern, was the final pick of the Bucs 2012 draft. Dunsmore failed to make the active roster for a single game during his rookie year, spending the season on the practice squad. With the signing of Twitter-funny man, Tom Crabtree from the Packers and a strong 2013 tight end draft class, Dunsmore could find himself on the outside looking in at One Buc Place.