One aspect of the NFL Draft we aren’t hearing discussed too often, is something near and dear to Mark Dominik’s heart: The strength of the 2013 NFL Draft. When considering who the Bucs will target in the 2012 NFL Draft, it’s important understand the strength of the 2013 Draft. Why? Because if the 2013 class is loaded at the Safety or Middle Linebacker positions (which they are), then it is important not to reach on a player simply because it fills a need.
In the 2010 NFL draft, Mark Dominik chose to pass over Carlos Dunlap in the 2nd round because he knew the defensive ends position was a strength of the 2011 class, while defensive tackle was a strength of the 2010 class. He chose to get as much “value” as possible by selecting Gerald McCoy and Brian Price in the top two rounds. So what does this mean? Of importance to the Bucs, in 2013, the Safety, MLB, Running Back, and Wide Receiver positions are exceptionally deep. Contrast that with the 2012 draft class, which is strong at Outside Linebacker, Cornerback, Wide Receiver, Offensive Guard, and Defensive Tackle.
What are the biggest positional needs for the Buccaneers heading into the 2012 draft? The four weakest positions are Outside Linebacker, Middle Linebacker, Cornerback, and Safety. Based on Mark Dominik’s track record, I believe he will wait until 2013 to target a MLB or Safety in the top two rounds. Not only are those positions strong in 2013, but they are considered weak in this draft. This leads me to believe that the primary focus in the top three rounds will revolve around Cornerback and Outside Linebacker. Having said that, here are my projected picks for the Buccaneers in the top three rounds of the 2012 NFL Draft:
1)Morris Claiborne- He is a legit, shutdown corner that is desperately needed in a division that has the likes of Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, and Cam Newton throwing to some talented wideouts. Claiborne, Aqib Talib, and Eric Wright would present a formidable challenge to most passing games.
Alternative- Trent Richardson is an obvious potential option. I would not be disappointed with this pick if the Bucs believe they have the next Adrian Peterson on their hands. If Matt Kalil falls to the Bucs, don’t be surprised if they trade out of this position.
2)Lavonte David- This guy is all about production, and the Bucs desperately need an Outside Linebacker that can step in and immediately make an impact. If David had slightly better size, he’d be a sure-fire 1st round pick. It’s a position of need, and Mason Foster gets one more season to prove whether or not he can handle the MLB position. If not, he replaces Quincy Black in 2013, and the Bucs can target an elite MLB in a draft that will be loaded with them.
Alternative- Doug Martin is an underrated all purpose back. The Bucs want to improve their running game, and he certainly helps. In my opinion, the Bucs need to pick up a veteran back, like Joseph Addai, to be their 3rd down back. If Blount can’t handle pass protections, they can’t leave it up to a rookie to protect Josh Freeman from getting injured. Another linebacker the Bucs could consider in this spot is Bobby Wagner from Utah State. The Bucs brought him in for a visit, and he splashed at the Senior Bowl.
3)LaMichael James- Bucs desperately need a change of pace running back that is explosive and can pick up large chunks of yardage. James is excellent receiving the ball, and can be utilized in multiple sets. He is a weapon in the open field and can help in the return game.
Alternative- The Bucs need some depth in many spots, but the offensive tackle position is weak behind the starters. Don’t be surprised if the Bucs go best O-lineman available in this spot.
The rest of the draft, the Buccaneers need to target players that can help on special teams, as well as provide depth. One player I liked, up until several hours ago, was cornerback Alfonzo Dennard. He was arrested earlier today for assault, which will plummet his draft stock. He was seen as a 2-3 round guy, and I wouldn’t mind the Bucs targeting him in the 7th round. The Bucs have the makings of an extremely potent offense. The key will be whether Josh Freeman can turn things around, and if he can, look out. On the flip side, people can talk about Greg Schiano bringing discipline all they want, but the Bucs need an infusion of talent at linebacker and the secondary. That’s why my top two picks targeted exceptional football players that, also, fit an area of need. In 2013, the Bucs can go get their stud MLB if Foster doesn’t pan out.