No team has been busier than the Tampa Bay Bucs since the free agency period started on March 13th in the NFL. The Bucs went out and signed WR Vincent Jackson, OG Carl Nicks and CB Eric Wright the first week of free agency and most recently signed DT Amobi Okoye a couple of days ago.
Now the Bucs will concentrate on adding more talent to their roster via the 2012 NFL draft. I did a mock draft for the Bucs before free agency started almost two months ago. My thinking in this mock draft has not changed much. In fact, I still have the Bucs taking two players I mentioned in that particular mock draft.
Bottom line: I expect the Bucs to focus on adding defensive talent to their squad in the upcoming draft.
The draft is a little over two weeks away. GM Mark Dominik and his staff have been doing their homework. There have been plenty of things to study. Front-office types, scouts and coaches have gotten a good look at the 2012 prospects at the East-West Shrine game, the Senior Bowl, the NFL Scouting Combine and the recently concluded Pro Day workouts.
The time is getting near for the big test. The test being the 2012 NFL draft. It's a test the Bucs have to pass if the team expects to become a championship contender again.
Weight: 190 lbs
Combine 40-Time: 4.50
With the fifth pick of the draft, the Bucs will most likely have to choose between RB Trent Richardson and CB Morris Claiborne. We know that head coach Greg Schiano loves to run the football. A talent like Richardson would be appealing. Richardson is also a three-down back. However, the Cleveland Browns may not give the Bucs an opportunity to even consider Richardson.
In fact, I'm guessing that the Browns will draft Richardson. That would make the choice of Claiborne very simple. Even with the low score on his Wonderlic test. Chris Landry of FOX Sports Radio was on the Steve Duemig show last Thursday and he talked about this situation. Bottom line, the Wonderlic is not an intelligence test; it's a cognitive thinking test. Landry gives excellent insight about the whole Wonderlic test process.
The Bucs also have first-hand knowledge about what to expect from Claiborne if they indeed draft the talented CB. Why? The Bucs hired Ron Cooper as part of Schiano's coaching staff. Cooper was Claiborne's position coach at LSU.
There are other reasons why the Bucs should select Claiborne. For one, CB Ronde Barber is no spring chicken, even though he is coming back for the 2012 campaign. Secondly, the status of Aqib Talib is up in the air.
The Bucs and Talib may not even have a choice in the matter (whether he is wanted back or released), depending on what happens with his court case for charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, which has been postponed again until June. An NFL suspension is also a possibility.
Yes, the Bucs did sign Wright as a free agent as well, but Claiborne is a talent a team can't pass up. Teams in the NFL can never have too many quality CBs on their rosters. Not in this pass-happy league.
The bottom line is the Bucs need a CB of Claiborne's talent badly. Claiborne led LSU with six interceptions this season and returned one for a touchdown, and he also won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation's top defensive back.
As a kick returner, Claiborne averaged 25 yards per return and had one touchdown that went 99 yards.
Weight: 223 lbs
Combine 40-Time: 4.55
Greg Schiano coached RB Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens at Rutgers and Doug Martin has many of the attributes that Rice possesses. Rice and Martin have similar size, although Martin is a little taller and heavier.
Martin was named first-team All-Mountain West at RB for Boise State in 2012, as he rushed for 1,299 yards and had 16 TDs. In addition to that, Martin had 28 receptions for 255 yards and had two more TDs. Overall, Martin had 3,431 career rushing yards and had 43 career rushing TDs. He also caught 67 passes in his career at Boise.
Martin was named MVP of the Las Vegas Bowl when he had 301 all-purpose yards in the game against Arizona State. Martin also impressed at the Senior Bowl and looked good at the NFL Scouting Combine as well.
If that weren't enough, Martin also has excellent skills returning kicks, as he averaged 34 yards a return in 2011.
With his strength, quickness and great receiving skills, Martin has the ability to be a three-down RB in the NFL.
Weight: 236 lbs
Combine 40-Time: 4.69
The Bucs badly need a playmaker at LB. Carder can be that type of player. In 2011, Carder had 66 tackles with 4.5 tackles for a loss, plus two interceptions returned for scores.
For the second straight year, Carder was the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year. In 2010, he had 60 tackles with 9.5 tackles for a loss, 3.5 sacks, one interception and one fumble recovery.
Carder was also the 2011 Rose Bowl Defensive Most Valuable Player.
Carder can play either MLB or OLB and is very quick to the football. He's hard-nosed and intense, and the Bucs need that type of attitude at LB.
Weight: 208 lbs
Pro Day 40-Time: 4.54
A first-team All-Big Ten at safety, Aaron Henry had 66 total tackles, three tackles for a loss and four interceptions, including one in the 2012 Rose Bowl.
Henry is a solid run defender who also has shown nice instincts in tracking the football through the air. In 2010, Henry's first year as a starter, he had 58 tackles, broke up seven passes and had two picks, both of which were returned for TDs.
Henry played solidly for the Badgers in big games in 2011 and is developing nicely at the safety position, after starting off his career at Wisconsin as a cornerback.
He also impressed the coaches at the East-West Shrine game.
Weight: 297 lbs
Combine 40-Time: 5.34
John Cullen was named to the All-Pac-12 second team at LT in 2011. He has the ability to play both LT and RT in the NFL. Though he's quick and athletic, he does need to get stronger. The new offensive line coach of the Bucs, Bob Bostad, will make that happen. Bostad has an excellent track record of developing excellent offensive linemen at Wisconsin.
Cullen was a two-year starter at Utah and before that played two years at a junior college. With the proper development, Cullen could become a steady performer in the NFL.
Weight: 243 lbs
Pro Day 40-Time: 4.72
Korey Williams was on his way to having a monster senior campaign before a torn ACL shelved him for the year in the fourth week of the season. Up until that point, Williams had 35 tackles with 3.5 tackles for a loss, three interceptions and two pass breakups.
In the two previous years, Williams had over 200 tackles, including 22 for a loss and 10.5 sacks.
The later rounds of the NFL draft is where teams can find hidden gems. Williams can be a hidden gem type of player, as he has a lot of talent when healthy, but his ACL injury in 2011 has moved him down the draft board to the latter end of the draft.