2013 NFL Mock Draft: Tampa Bay Buccaneers Need Impact Players on Defense

J.J. RodriguezContributor IIDecember 17, 2012

2013 NFL Mock Draft: Tampa Bay Buccaneers Need Impact Players on Defense

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    With the NFL's 2012 regular season heading into its home stretch, fans in cities whose teams will not be playoff-bound have already started looking ahead to the 2013 season.

    Such is the case here in the Tampa Bay area, where the Buccaneers find themselves with a 6-8 record and in the middle of a four-game losing streak.

    While I won't get into a full seven-round mock draft (it's much too early for that), I have assembled a list of players who will likely be available within the first three rounds of next April's draft—those that could step in, fill an immediate need and make an instant impact.

    This season the Bucs have lost six games by seven or fewer points, with many of those shortcomings due to late defensive collapses and miscues. 

    Suffice it to say, Tampa Bay could use a few more playmakers—primarily on defense—to get the needle moving in the other direction and begin the process of returning to contention in 2013. 

First Round Talent Considerations

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    If the season were to end today, the Bucs would find themselves with either the 12th or 13th pick of the first round, which means a lot of the "elite" guys—Jarvis Jones, Manti Te'o, etc.—would be gone, but several of the second-tier prospects would remain.

    Among those prospects is Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro, who is listed at 6'1" and 210 pounds. ESPN has him ranked as the top safety and 16th-overall prospect.

    Vaccaro would provide the porous Bucs secondary with another bright, young safety to line up next to safety Mark Barron, whom the Bucs drafted with their first pick last season (seventh overall).

    Other prospects to keep an eye on include:

    CB Dee Milliner, Alabama—Top overall CB in draft, may not be around when Bucs select, but if he is, Tampa Bay should pounce.

    CB Johnthan Banks, Mississippi State—Great size (6'2") and quickness; would fill an obvious need and should be available in mid-first.

    T Taylor Lewan, Michigan—Would be an upgrade along shaky and injury-depleted O-line, which has largely hindered QB Josh Freeman of late.

    DT Sheldon Richardson, Missouri—Bucs have lacked consistent pass rush and could use further depth.

    QB Geno Smith, West Virginia—Big arm, athletic QB who put up video game-like numbers in 2012.

    QB Matt Barkley, USC—His stock has fallen, now with a late-first round grade, though he still possesses tons of leadership. Could questions about QB Freeman (not drafted by head coach Greg Schiano) lead the Bucs to trade down (or up from second-round) to take a QB?

Second Round Talent Considerations

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    With questions abound regarding their secondary, the Bucs could conceivably choose a defensive player with each of their draft selections and face the likelihood that everyone would nod in agreement.

    They could certainly help their cause by drafting CB David Amerson from NC State. Though only a junior, he could very easily forgo the draft to improve his stock for the 2014 draft, but his skills are highly touted by several draft scouting sites (ESPN has him ranked as fifth-best overall CB in draft class).

    Other prospects to keep an eye on include:

    S Matt Elam, Florida—Perhaps a little small (5'10", 205 pounds), but has shown a knack for consistently being near the ball and making "splash" plays with relative ease. 

    CB Desmond Trufant, Washington—Reliable and durable, with 45 career starts. Prototypical size (6'0", 186 pounds) and speed for a defensive back.

    S Shawn Williams, Georgia—Slightly bigger (6'0", 220 pounds) than teammate Bacarri Rambo, and is said to play with a nasty disposition. Equally able to defend run and pass, though he may be a little more reliable versus the run. 

    S Bacarri Rambo, Georgia—Instinctive and rock-steady playing in ultra-competitive SEC. Some character concerns (suspended four games this season for failing a drug test), but has good ball skills (11 INTs over last two seasons) and size (6'0", 207 pounds).

Third Round Talent Considerations

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    Though the Bucs have several defensive needs and should remain focused on improving their 32nd-ranked passing defense, UCLA tight end Joseph Fauria is an intriguing prospect for Bucs fans to keep an eye on in the weeks and months ahead.

    Fauria is a massive, highly-athletic, pass-catching machine. Standing nearly 6'8" tall and weighing 260 pounds, he has the frame to take on linebackers and the athletic ability to run past them altogether. Fauria has 17 touchdown receptions over the last two seasons, including 11 this season. 

    Though the Bucs have two fourth-round picks in next April's draft, don't put it past them to make a deal to move back into the third round should a "can't miss" prospect remain available, much like they did with LB Lavonte David last April, moving into the second round to take him. 

    Other prospects to keep an eye on include:

    CB Xavier Rhodes, Florida State—Great size (6'1", 218 pounds) for the position, though he has battled injury throughout his collegiate career. 

    S Shamarko Thomas, Syracuse—Lacks ideal size for the position (5'8", 206 pounds), but more than makes up for it with cornerback-like speed and agility. Not afraid to stick his nose into stopping the run, either.

    OLB Chase Thomas, Stanford—Prototypical size (6'2", 250 pounds) with incredible durability, having started in 47 consecutive games for the Cardinal. Oozing with leadership qualities and is known for his infectious work ethic. 

    OLB Khaseem Greene, Rutgers—Greene was recruited to play at Rutgers by Schiano, so it's probably safe to say Schiano knows a thing or two about not only what he is on the football field, but who he is off of it.