The Buccaneers have already completed a majority of the moves they will make in preparation for the 2013 NFL regular season, with free agents, draftees, and undrafted rookies already being evaluated and signed. There may still be slight changes here and there, especially as training camp cuts begin closer to the start of the regular season, but for the next couple of months we’re unlikely to see major changes to the Buccaneers’ roster.
So with that knowledge in hand, let’s evaluate the Bucs’ roster and determine what aspects of the depth chart are the best, and which are in need of improvement, by giving the roster the power ranking treatment.
I’ve broken down the team into 12 sections, and I will rank the sections in order of talent for 2013. Obviously some positions have more potential than others, and some have players with expiring contracts. But for 2013, here is how the Buccaneers’ roster breaks down, section by section:
This was tough, because I believe the most talented player on the roster is a cornerback. But the top three safeties for the Buccaneers are all above average for their role (Dashon Goldson is a top 3 free safety, Mark Barron is a top 15 strong safety without the pressure of playing deep as often, and Ahmad Black is one of the better backup safeties in the league.), and that means this position as a whole is the best on the team. The Bucs are heavily invested in their safeties, so they’ll be called upon to deliver this season.
As previously mentioned, the best player on the team is a cornerback, as a (hopefully) healthy Darrelle Revis will be the best player in Tampa Bay, and probably the best defensive player in the NFC if he returns to his true form. But after him, there’s a lot of guys who I feel comfortable with as a third corner, but none that are definitively a second corner. A healthy, focused Eric Wright would make this cornerback group the best in the NFL, but we’ve yet to see that Eric Wright in Tampa Bay. Johnthan Banks will be a solid NFL player, but he’s a rookie who may lack top-end speed needed to make up for any rookie mistakes.
3. Interior Offensive Line
Carl Nicks, Davin Joseph, and Jeremy Zuttah are probably the best Guard-Center-Guard combo in the NFL, which speaks highly to the Buccaneers’ secondary that they’re the third best unit on the team. Nicks and Joseph must prove they’re back to 100% health, but if they are, they’ll be steamrollers paving the way for Doug Martin all season long, and keeping pressure off of Josh Freeman.
4. Wide Receiver
Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams may not be the best wide receiver duo in the NFC South, but they’re still among the top 10 in the NFL, and they both provide the big play threat needed in the Bucs’ current offense. The slot receiver position drags the ranking down a bit, but there’s potential for a breakout season from any of the players competing for the third receiver job.
5. Running Back
Doug Martin carries this position on his own, as there is still a lack of proven talent behind him. The Dougernaut is primed for another big year, but Brian Leonard is the only other guy on the roster with much NFL experience at the position. Erik Lorig will play fullback, and that’s just fine, but not spectacular.
6. Special Teams
Michael Koenen is among the best at kickoffs, and Connor Barth is a solid kicker, but the Buccaneers lack dynamic return men and Michael isn’t the best punter (he’s not bad, but not amazing). There is room for improvement here.
7. Interior Defensive Line
It’s strange that a position featuring a Pro Bowler is so low, but Gerald McCoy has been prone to injury, and the rest of the defensive tackles need to prove themselves. Akeem Spence’s performance will dictate how this position turns out.
8. Offensive Tackles
Donald Penn is solid but not great, and Demar Dotson is average at best, but that’s fine considering the solid interior offensive line. The 8th place ranking is more a sign that the rest of the team is pretty solid, rather than a negative directed to Penn and Dotson.
Josh Freeman could shoot up this list, or wind up at the bottom. He’s got to prove himself, or he’ll be gone. I believe he’ll be alright in 2013, but he’s not one of the most talented players on the team.
10. Defensive End
Talk about a position that needs to prove itself. Adrian Clayborn and Da’Quan Bowers have potential, and were high draft choices. The depth is mostly made up of young players, as well, which means there is potential for breakout seasons or inexperienced disappointed.
Lavonte David is one of the better players on the roster, but Mason Foster is average at best at middle linebacker, and the strongside linebacker position has yet to be decided upon. Mason must improve to improve the linerbackers’ standing.
12. Tight End