Ranking the Top 5 Players on the Buccaneers' 2013 Draft Board
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers need help. Then again, when you've lost 21 of the past 32 games and have the league's worst pass defense, there are obviously needs that have to be addressed.
At the forefront of those needs is adding an extra body or two for a secondary that allowed more than 297 yards per game and 30 touchdowns through the air in 2012. Oh, and opposing quarterbacks enjoyed a healthy average rating of 93.5 against them.
Complicating matters even more were the back-to-back midseason suspensions of cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Eric Wright, both of whom tested positive for PEDs. Their absences only further highlighted the deficiencies of Tampa Bay's young and inexperienced secondary.
With the Bucs more than $30 million under the salary cap, they're in a position to address one or both of their starting CB positions, as well as potentially add to their linebacking corps or along the defensive line should they see fit.
And while any activity between now and April could certainly alter draft plans, until we know just how big of a player the Bucs will be in free agency, their needs remain unchanged.
As such, here are the top five players the Bucs should target with their top draft choice.
5. DT Shariff Floyd
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A recent report by the Tampa Bay Times claims the Bucs have, to this point, shown little interest in re-signing DT Roy Miller, who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent March 12.
If this report holds true and the Bucs allow Miller to walk, it would leave a large gap along the defensive line—literally and figuratively. The Bucs have almost no depth at DT and would need to address Miller's absence as a result.
That is where Sharrif Floyd comes into the picture.
A native of Philadelphia, Floyd (6'3", 299 lbs) was constantly moved along the Gators defensive line under head coach Will Muschamp, which explains the lack of any single jaw-dropping statistic such as sacks or tackles for loss, for example.
In his defense, it does speak volumes to his versatility that the Gators loved his athleticism enough to move him around as much as they did. That said, it also largely prevented him from "mastering" a single position or technique.
So, if in fact the Bucs lose Miller to free agency, Floyd would be a nice addition along an already young defensive front.
4. LB Alec Ogletree
Alec Ogletree (No. 9) would instantly upgrade the Bucs on defense.
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The Bucs excelled at stopping the run, holding opponents to a league-best 82.5 yards per game on the ground in 2012. However, their linebackers were susceptible to the pass and opposing teams knew it.
With the health status of veteran starting LB Quincy Black unknown, the Bucs could stand to upgrade and would certainly do so if they landed Ogletree.
Freakishly athletic and equally as instinctive, Ogletree (6'3", 235 lbs) can cover sideline-to-sideline and does not miss many tackles once he arrives at the ball-carrier.
Better yet, he possesses enough speed to track down much smaller, quicker backs and has shown a tendency to efficiently rush the passer, as well.
All told, Ogletree is a big hitter who would not only sustain Tampa Bay's recent success against the run, but has shown himself fully capable of holding his own against the pass as well.
3. CB Johnthan Banks
Banks won the Thorpe Award in 2012, given to the nation's top defensive back.
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Banks recorded 16 career interceptions and three punt returns for touchdowns at Mississippi State.
Winner of the 2012 Thorpe Award, Banks (6'2", 185 lbs) has shown good versatility by not only contributing in pass defense, but also being willing to throw his body around in run defense too.
As previously mentioned, the Bucs are in a dire position defensively, needing at least two corners and possibly a safety to help their overmatched secondary.
The addition of Banks would provide the Bucs with an athletic upgrade on the outside who is a solid tackler, shows above-average instincts and is more than capable of providing a spark on special teams as well.
His height would allow him to better match up against NFC South receivers Marques Colston, Julio Jones and Roddy White, among others.
2. Safety Kenny Vaccaro
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The soon-to-be 38-year-old Ronde Barber has yet to announce, at least publicly anyhow, whether or not he'll return for the 2013 season.
That said, even if Barber were to decide to return, it would behoove the Bucs to at least consider drafting the super-athletic Vaccaro as his (eventual) replacement.
By adding the Texas standout, the Bucs would have the option to move Barber back to where he spent the first 14 years of his career, cornerback, albeit likely in the nickel position.
Further, the pairing of Vaccaro with fellow safety and last year's top pick, Mark Barron, would give the Bucs defense two young, high-potential playmakers to not only develop their secondary around, but their defense as a whole.
Listed at 6'1" and nearly 220 pounds, Vaccaro is widely considered the top safety of this draft class.
1. CB Xavier Rhodes
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Alabama's Dee Milliner is likely to be the first cornerback taken in the draft, with some suggesting Florida State's Xavier Rhodes will be a close second off the board.
Blessed with great size (6'2", 215 lbs), athleticism and toughness, Rhodes possesses a lot of the same traits as Milliner and would immediately improve the NFL's worst pass defense.
The Florida State star is a solid, wrap-up tackler who, thanks to his size and instinct, is more than capable of contributing to run defense (see 36-second mark of provided highlight) and would provide the physicality needed to compete against many of the NFL's top wideouts.
So, even if the Bucs were to add a veteran CB (or two) via free agency, when the time comes to hand in their pick at No. 13, they would be wise to choose Xavier Rhodes with the selection.