2012 NFL Draft: Tampa Bay Buccaneers and 5 Scenarios at No. 5
The 2012 NFL Draft is less than a month away, which means NFL coaches and scouts are working nearly round the clock to take in and digest every conceivable ounce of information regarding potential draft picks for their respective franchises.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers hold the fifth overall selection in next month's draft and for all intents and purposes, find themselves held captive to the four teams directly in front of them.
After all, it can be a difficult proposition to hone in on a player or position without knowing what player or position the team or teams in front of you are zeroing in on.
Some have suggested that the Browns at number four will dictate which direction the Bucs go, but conventional wisdom would suggest Minnesota at number three is actually the bigger wild card.
Earlier reports linked the Vikings to Southern California tackle Matt Kalil, although of late there have been a growing number of those who believe Louisiana State cornerback Morris Claiborne could very easily wind up in the Twin Cities instead.
Short of going into full mock draft mode, here are five scenarios the Buccaneers are likely to encounter with their 2012 first-round pick.
Draft Cornerback Morris Claiborne
This scenario suggests that the Vikings have drafted Kalil third, while the Cleveland Browns selected Alabama running back Trent Richardson fourth overall.
Claiborne is a physical specimen who excelled in the ultra-competitive SEC and would immediately step in as a starter for the NFL's 32nd ranked scoring defense from a year ago. Claiborne is this closest thing this year's draft class has to a "shut down" corner, meaning his availability likely won't last past No. 5 one way or another.
Of course, there is the mounting uncertainty surrounding Bucs' cornerback Aqib Talib and his pending criminal trial over the summer. Any subsequent discipline that could follow would only further complicate matters, so if Claiborne is available at No. 5, it would be incumbent upon the Buccaneers to draft him.
After all, you can never have too many high quality cover corners in the NFL.
Draft Running Back Trent Richardson
This scenario suggests that the Vikings have drafted Kalil third and the Browns have selected Claiborne fourth instead.
The prevailing theory by most analysts is that running backs don't warrant such a high pick because of the physical toll that their bodies endure—something Tampa Bay fans can surely attest to in the oft-injured Cadillac Williams, who coincidentally enough, was selected by the Bucs fifth overall in the 2005 draft.
Further stoking the flames of cynicism, Richardson is recovering from a "minor" knee procedure in February and has held out of both the Scouting Combine and Alabama's Pro Day as a precaution.
In any event, if healthy and if Claiborne is gone, the Bucs should draft Richardson as an added weapon to improve the NFL's 27th ranked scoring offense from a year ago.
Richardson has the "home run" capability that the Buccaneers have seemingly always lacked and his skill set is something teams covet on offense.
How well he performs at his rescheduled Pro Day will ultimately decide whether he's a top five pick or this year's version of Da'Quan Bowers.
Draft Tackle Matt Kalil
This scenario suggests the Vikings have drafted Claiborne third and the Browns have selected Richardson fourth.
The Buccaneers have already overhauled their offensive line this offseason by signing free agent guard Carl Nicks, releasing center Jeff Faine and replacing him with guard Jeremy Zuttah.
Drafting Kalil and moving him to right tackle would complete the transformation and could potentially give the Buccaneers one of the most talented (although unproven) offensive lines in the NFL.
The consensus top lineman of this year's draft class in Kalil is listed at 6'6" and weighs in at 306 lbs.
Trade Down and Draft Linebacker Luke Kuechly
This scenario suggests that the Buccaneers have traded their fifth overall selection to another team for their first round pick, ideally somewhere between eighth and 13th overall.
The hardest part about pulling off a draft day trade is finding a suitable partner.
That's where the teams drafting from eighth to 13th come in, because all of them have needs at positions that would be available with the Bucs' pick, such as the Dolphins (eighth) that sorely need a quarterback and may try to head off Kansas City (11th) in order to select Texas A&M signal caller Ryan Tannehill.
Or Buffalo (10th) who may try to jump ahead of St. Louis (sixth) so that they can procure the services of wide receiver Justin Blackmon.
Trading down and drafting Kuechly would not only improve their lackluster linebacker corps, but would also provide the Bucs with additional picks that could be used to add other high-caliber players in the draft.
Trade Down Again and Draft Linebacker Courtney Upshaw
This scenario suggests that the Buccaneers have traded down from their original slot (fifth overall), and then traded down again to accumulate even more draft choices.
Considering how poorly the Buccaneers performed last season on their way to a 4-12 mark, it's no wonder they have multiple needs to fill this offseason.
With that said, the easiest way to address multiple needs is to stockpile picks, especially if and when the opportunity presents itself. Most Bucs fans would agree that adding, hypothetically, two extra second-round picks this year would go a long way towards correcting the ailments in Tampa Bay.
It's worth noting that Upshaw thrived under Alabama coach Nick Saban, who many consider one of the top defensive minds in college football.
Saban runs what essentially amounts to an NFL-style system, which would give Upshaw the advantage of quickly adapting to the intricacies of a professional defense, thus allowing him to step in and make an immediate impact alongside second year linebacker Mason Foster.