If you paid attention to the Bucs in 2011 there were a few hints of this team potentially becoming a contender in the near future. If you have been paying attention to the Bucs and their free agency moves the past couple of months, there is even more reason to believe they could in fact be a postseason contending team, as early as the 2012 NFL season—especially if they have a solid 2012 NFL draft.
The Bucs have already acquired WR Vincent Jackson, OG Carl Nicks and CB Eric Wright and they just recently added to that list DT Amobi Okoye who played with the Chicago Bears last year; needless to say the team had a pretty solid off-season, but that doesn't mean this team is devoid of a few other needs.
Let's take a look at what the Bucs could wind up doing in this year's 2012 NFL draft and why, shall we?
Round 1: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
5' 11", 188 pounds
There is a lot of consensus—now—that the Bucs COULD turn their attention to a corner back such as Morris Claiborne (LSU) with the fifth overall pick. Now, while I agree that would be a great selection, it may not be the right move for this team.
I think a lot of people are "playing it safe" with that mock pick because of the issues surrounding CB Aqib Talib, but the the thing is, I believe this team can survive with Eric Wright and E. J. Biggers, should Talib not be available for the bevy of reasons that COULD come about.
With that said, the Bucs absolutely need a quality RB more than a star CB from the draft if they are to get this offense into position—early—to make a statement.
Brining in Vincent Jackson was huge, yes, but without a sustainable ground assault to compliment a downfield threat, the downfield threat (Jackson) can easily be more contained on the field.
Not to mention, without a sustainable ground attack, the quarterback suffers the most—I'll let ya'll put 2 and 2 together.
The bottom line is Richardson offers more than just a bruising back who is young and fresh, he offers a bruising back who is also an excellent pass-catcher and pass-BLOCKER.
I think for each player's potential worth in gold, Richardson holds more long-term value than Claiborne, making him the slightly better selection.
Round 2: Lavonte David, LB, Nebraska
6' 1", 233 pounds
One of the more deceptive areas of concern for Tampa Bay is the linebackers position, and out of all the potentially available players at this point, David would simply be the best selection in my opinion.
The Bucs need to sure up their ground defense specifically up the middle if they are to compete in the division, and Mason Foster (the guy who is believed to be a shoe-in at MLB) may not be the long-term answer.
Look, the Bucs were already trying to land FA Curtis Lofton for that very need and missed their chance so I don't believe they are g0ing to miss an opportunity to land a LB who can play the run as well as he can the pass.
There's a lot of snubbing going around about David's size, but keep in mind that this was a guy who played primarily in the box as a run specialist, while also displaying above average skills against the pass.
He's the ideal choice for the Bucs at this point in the draft.
Round 3: Brandon Boykin, CB, Georgia
5' 11", 182 pounds
OK, I admit this may be a slight pipe-dream sequence to land Richardson, David and Boykin with the first three selections, but then again, perhaps not.
Yes, the Bucs DO have to consider targeting a corner early in the draft for both future and immediate reasons alone, but they could very much get very lucky with the possible availability of Boykin in the third.
Boykin is a "injury liability", that's why. Look, we see this year in and year out where a kid gets injured prior to the draft, and regardless of whether or not he heals, his draft stock simply plummets out of fear alone from the suitors. This is another example of that very scenario that could potentially still be alive come time draft day, but this is no reason to underestimate one of the better corners in the draft.
Boykin is a highly aggressive corner who isn't afraid to take on bigger receivers—perfect for a team that could blitz more if they sure up their linebacker corp.
Boykin is also the sort of mold that can play in multiple formations with various assignments making him a nice steal if the Bucs do find him in the third.....IF they find him in the third.
Round 5: Rhett Ellison, TE, Southern California
6' 5", 251
The Bucs did not target a TE via free agency but there is certainly a need for one right now—the type of TE is a different story.
The Bucs are more than likely going to keep Kellen Winslow for another year at the most (sorry fantasy fans, his days are numbered as a viable fantasy option in 2012), and the reason may be to keep in possession a veteran TE to help cultivate a potential suitor to take over.
Luke Stocker is still with the team, but I don't see the Bucs putting all their eggs in one basket.
Ellison isn't a guy who is going to "wow" anyone with speed or athleticism, but his size is a great explorable option for TB as a possible short-zone pass option, and his experience at FB could help the team possibly add another dimension to the ground game down the road.
It's sort of a gamble pick, I admit, but I believe it has more boom than bust written all over it.
The Bucs like big, opposing tackles. The Bucs new offensive line coach, Bob Bostad, has a track record for developing tackles with promise into perennial starters.
The Bucs already have Donald Penn and Jeremy Trueblood locked up, but they could use a little depth.
Adams is an opposing tackle who is quite adept at holding his ground at the point of attack, and could be a solid candidate for future development. He'll need to work on his overall strength if he is to utilize his size at the pro level, but that is certainly workable.
Round 7: Eric Page, WR, Toledo
5' 9 ", 186 pounds
The Bucs may think about another WR prospect with the seventh pick, and they may simply make their decision on finding an elusive receiver who can also handle kick return duties—enter in Eric Wright.
He doesn't have the greatest speed in the world, but he was a standout WR at Toledo, making him a slightly underrated player at this position.
More of a project-type pick, Wright also possesses enough ability to one day surprise.