Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
As football fans from around the nation gather around tonight to watch the SEC win yet another national title game, I wanted to provide some players to watch for the future. Buccaneers fans might be rooting against the Crimson Tide, rivals of most central Floridian’s beloved Gators. Some Buccaneers fans, myself included, may be rooting for SEC dominance to reign once again on the biggest stage in college football. But after the game is over, draft season will officially begin for college athletes. So let’s take a look at a few players who the Buccaneers will be keeping an eye on this evening:
Dee Milliner, Cornerback, Alabama
In most mock drafts, this is the no-brainer pick for the Buccaneers. The logic amongst draft experts is that if Milliner is available when the Buccaneers pick, he’s headed to One Buc Place. He certainly fits the bill of a player Coach Schiano would like; he’s physical, willing and able to tackle, and has great instincts. Over six feet tall and weighing in around 200 pounds, he’s of good size for a cornerback, and could combine with former teammate Mark Barron to be the backbone of what could be a very good defensive backfield once both players get acclimated to Schiano’s defensive system.
Jordan Cowart, Long Snapper, Notre Dame
This may seem like a silly position to watch, but Cowart is a well-rated long snapper, and should the Buccaneers, for whatever reason, fail to bring back Andrew Economos, this will be a position of need. Cowart would provide a young, affordable option at the position.
Jan 5, 2013; Miami FL, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish linebacker Manti Te
Manti Te’o, Inside Linebacker, Notre Dame
While it is certainly unlikely he’ll be on the board when the Buccaneers select in the first round, he would be the best player available should he slide to number 13. Te’o is highly intelligent, hard working, and an extremely reliable tackler. He has been incredibly productive from the middle linebacker position, and despite the Buccaneers apparent depth at linebacker, it is never a bad idea to select the best player on the board. As we saw with the injury to Quincy Black, depth is an injury away from turning into an area of need. Te’o would be an amazing selection for the Buccaneers, who could groom him into the perfect captain for a growing defensive unit.
Tyler Eifert, Tight End, Notre Dame
The 6’6, 250 pound tight end is arguably the best option at the position in this year’s draft, and might be available in the second round for the Buccaneers. He has the size and athleticism to make it in the NFL as a pass catcher. He’s not amazing against man-to-man defense, as he lacks the moves or burst to gain separation. He does lack in blocking skills, but if he’s called upon to replace Dallas Clark, his role will include less blocking, anyways. I would prefer Zach Ertz from Stanford, but if Eifert is around for the Buccaneers second pick, he would be good value.
Here are a few 2014 draft prospects to keep in mind, as well:
AJ McCarron, Quarterback, Alabama
McCarron is never going to set the world on fire as a quarterback, but he’s certainly proven he can manage an offense and make some big plays. Most of all, he’s proven he can win football games, and this is something no NFL GM will take for granted.
Ed Stinson, Defensive End, Alabama
Stinson will be going into his last year with the Crimson Tide in 2013, and looking to prove himself as an NFL talent. He has been working his way into the rotation, and had a career high in tackles this season as a junior. Keep an eye out to see if he starts his audition for next season on the big stage tonight.
Zach Martin, Offensive Tackle, Notre Dame
The Buccaneers will certainly look to address offensive line needs in the future, as the tackle positions could still be improved upon. Martin looks the part of a solid tackle, and will be returning for his senior season in 2013. We’ll see how he holds up against the Alabama defensive line tonight, as it will go a long way for determining if he’s a franchise tackle or not.
Bennett Jackson, Cornerback, Notre Dame
If the Buccaneers don’t get all the help they need this year at cornerback, look for them to target a player like Jackson in 2014. He’s a converted wide receiver with plenty of athletic ability. He’s a special teams impact player who is learning how to play defense, but as he grows and develops, could turn into a dynamic playmaker on the defensive side of the ball.
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