Now that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have addressed key holes in the secondary — first with the signing of safety Dashon Goldson earlier this offseason, then restructuring cornerback Eric Wright, and finally trading for Darrelle Revis — the team no longer enters this Thursday’s NFL Draft confined to selecting based on need.
Sure, the Bucs could use another cornerback, and likely will draft one, or a pass-catching tight end who could work out of the slot as a receiver. But the pressure no longer rides on that 13th overall pick — one that has since been traded to the Jets in exchange for Revis — to produce not just a starting-caliber cornerback, but one that will help carry the league’s worst-ranked pass defense.
It’s an unusual draft class this year. There isn’t a consensus first-overall selection or even a clear-cut top ten group of players. In fact, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a consensus at just about any position.
For every team that thinks Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel leads the pack in an enormously-talented class of offensive tackles, another believes Eric Fisher out of Central Michigan is better. While some say Alabama’s Chance Warmack is the top offensive guard, there are others who believe it’s North Carolina’s Jonathan Cooper.
For those who have Utah’s Star Lotulelei as the top defensive tackle, even with medical concerns, others have pegged Florida’s Sharrif Floyd as the front runner, yet some will tell you to take a closer look at Sheldon Richardson or Sylvester Williams.
Then there are health concerns that may cause players like Jarvis Jones, Tank Carradine, and Dee Milliner to fall, and players such as Ezekiel Ansah, Margus Hunt, and Lawrence Okoye that have little to no football experience but enormous potential, prompting other teams to reach.
In other words, ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ more than ever this year, making it tough to predict how things will unfold as teams select early on. It also makes it tough to gauge a player’s true value, especially as it pertains to each individual team.
Because of the Revis trade, the Bucs won’t get to choose a player until day two in the second round, although Dominik may try to maneuver his way back into the first round, similar to what he did last year with Doug Martin, by trading some later picks. The Bucs have some options there with two fourth and two sixth-round picks, if the team can find a willing trade partner.
Dominik and head coach Greg Schiano can make the call to trade if either Tyler Eifert or Zach Ertz, tight ends who have both been projected to go anywhere from top ten to the bottom of the first round, are still available. The team could also use that pick on a guy like Kansas State linebacker Arthur Brown, who may not be there when the draft re-convenes Friday night, then select Gavin Escobar later on.
Or they can sit patiently and make the team’s first selection at 43. Even if cornerbacks peel off the board quickly, they’ll likely find several guys more than capable of starting in Darius Slay, Jamar Taylor, or Blidi Wreh-Wilson.
At linebacker, where the team has some question marks, they could go with Brown, or possibly grab Oregon’s Kiko Alonso, who plays both outside and inside, UConn’s Sio Moore, or even Moore’s teammate Trevardo Williams, who’s regarded as a tweener.
And with the nose tackle position being somewhat de-emphasized moving forward (I’ll touch on that a bit more later), the Bucs can still find a quality player there to compete or beat out Derek Landri and Gary Gibson, with LSU’s Bennie Logan (he can also play three-technique) and Alabama’s Jesse Williams.
So there are plenty of options and not a whole lot of restrictions, even if it means waiting until Friday to make that first pick.