Nov 9, 2013; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines offensive linesman Taylor Lewan (77) walks off the field after the game against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Michigan Stadium. Nebraska won 17-13. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Much like last year, the offensive tackle position has two studs slotted to go near the top of the draft. Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews and Michigan’s Taylor Lewan will be going at it through the entire draft process to become the first tackle, and perhaps first player taken in the 2014 Draft. While both play left tackle currently, and Donald Penn has been a solid player in his time with the Bucs, brass may view this as a key opportunity for the franchise to solidify the tackle position for the next decade.
Additionally, Penn is set to have a 2014 salary cap number of $7,733,333. Eric Fisher, last year’s first overall pick, made nearly half that in his rookie season.
Make no mistake, Lavonte David is on his way to becoming one of the best players in the NFL, let alone on the Buccaneers defense. Meanwhile, Mason Foster is a solid middle linebacker who is still in just his third year. Jonathan Casillas and Dekota Watson, meanwhile, are nothing to write home about. This need for improvement is amplified by the available talent at the position.
For me, both UCLA’s Anthony Barr and Buffalo’s Khalil Mack are worthy of a top-five pick. While both play the linebacker position exceptionally, they also add the ability to rush the passer. A department where, as mentioned earlier, the Buccaneers need a lot of help in. Surely a lot of people will say I am crazy for mentioning linebackers as an option, but consider how few linebackers are even considered in the top-five. These two players are special!
As of today, there are 10 tight ends who are within the top-50 in the NFL in receptions. The league is changing, and tight ends are becoming more and more of a weapon. Players like Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski, Tony Gonzalez, Jordan Cameron, and so many more, are matchup nightmares. The Buccaneers had that kind of player before Greg Schiano sent Kellen Winslow on his way after three straight 60-catch seasons in Tampa Bay. To be fair Winslow was not a “Buccaneer Man” (whatever that means) and had lingering knee problems. Unfortunately, since then, the team has relied on the development of Luke Stocker and run of the mill players the likes of Nate Byham and Tom Crabtree.
I will be the first to say Tim Wright shows potential as a receiver, but he is a long way away from being a dominant NFL tight end. I will also jump up and say Luke Stocker (regardless of injury) does not show any potential, and is a bit of a lost cause. The position is one that could truly use an upgrade and the 2014 Draft has the players who could provide that. UNC’s Eric Ebron is a wide receiver in a 6’4″ 245 lb. frame, and Washington’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins is the size of some offensive tackles (6’6″ 276 lb.), yet athletic enough to be a power forward on the basketball team. Keep in mind, Julius Thomas, Antonio Gates, Cameron, Graham, and Gonzalez are all former college basketball players. The biggest question is whether the team could justify drafting a tight end so high. But the need and the available first round talent is undeniable.