From a near playoff team, to a four win season.
That is not a direction the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would like to continue in.
This young team regressed in 2011, which led to the firing of head coach Raheem Morris, among others. To replace him, the front office chose Rutgers HC Greg Schiano.
Slowly, He builds a first rate coaching staff, ready to take this team back into contention.
But first, the Bucs will need to make some draft picks.
Welcome to the future.
The fantastic counterpart to the infamous Honey Badger, Morris Claiborne seems a shoe-in to join Tampa Bay for the 2012 season. This past year alone, he caught six interceptions and picked up the Jim Thorpe Award—given to the best college defensive back in the nation.
Coming out of the extremely proficient LSU defense, Claiborne will be more than ready to begin a long and productive NFL career. Many say he is the best defender in the entire NFL Draft.
The Bucs need a great cornerback now more than ever. Aqib Talib may never see playing time again, due to his legal troubles. Also, Ronde Barber is 37 years old and retirement seems like a big possibility.
At pick No.5, it is hard to see where else Tampa Bay could go. Perhaps Trent Richardson, the Alabama RB would be worth drafting, as he would form an amazing tandem with LeGarrette Blount.
Still, this is a running back heavy draft, and other great rushers can be found elsewhere, mostly in the second and third rounds. Besides, Cleveland has to be eying Richardson as well, given their Peyton Hillis troubles.
Last year, the Bucs managed a massive steal, by taking Mason Foster in the third round. That pick may have been their best in the entire draft, as Foster had the second-highest tackle total on the team, an interception, and two sacks.
As much as we can laud Foster for his achievements, one man is not a linebacker squad. The veterans, Geno Hayes and Quincy Black, aren't getting any younger. Some fresh talent would be much appreciated.
Enter Zach Brown, a very competent outside linebacker. The popularity of LBs Luke Kuechly, Vontaze Burfict, and Dont'a Hightower will push Brown from the first round to the second. This is just where the Bucs want him.
Two picks, two playmakers.
What a way to start.
What better way to build for the future than with a clone himself?
Ray Rice—I mean Doug Martin—would be a very appreciated member of the Tampa Bay family. No knocks against LeGarrette Blount, but the Bucs need some serious rushing help. Josh Freeman is their second best runner, though he totaled just 238 yards rushing. That is 500+ yards below Blount.
Even the worst rushing team in the league, the New York Giants, had two running backs with over 500 yards.
Many say that in this pass-happy NFL, RBs are simply not worth high draft picks. This way of thinking is very singular, and does not account for the ever-shifting playbook trends and fads.
A good rushing game is a major boon to any playoff hopeful.
And I'm sure the Bucs are dying to be back in contention.
Fact: The Buccaneers need a big, tall receiver.
Josh Freeman has to have a man to throw to deep and in the clutch, somebody with a serious vertical game. Statistically, 2011 was his worst full year as a starter.
Freeman ended up with barely 6.5 yards per attempt, a pathetically low number. Don't forget the 22 interceptions.
Stephen Hill is a 6'5'' slot receiver, who has as much upside as anybody. His soft hands will aid Freeman immensely, and his ability to pick up yards after the catch won't hurt either.
Just what the doctor ordered.
To help with the run game, look no further the mammoth Levy Adcock.
The Oklahoma State product is 6'6'' and weighs over 300 pounds.
That's a lot of mass.
One can never have enough help on the offensive line, so Adcock would make a great support player and a possible developmental prospect.
Tampa Bay has not drafted any O-linemen since 2009, so Freeman will certainly be grateful for the added protection.
By no means is Josh Freeman going away anytime soon—but Josh Johnson might.
Johnson is set to become an unrestricted free agent, and with the current quarterback drought, may be a popular commodity. A team like San Francisco would love to have an athlete as a signal caller. Especially because Jim Harbaugh coached Johnson at San Diego.
To replace one athlete, Tampa Bay should draft another. Chandler Harnish is a fantastic scrambler, and a competitor. The offense would not have to change to suit his playing style if Freeman were ever injured.
And hey—it's just a seventh round pick.