The 2013 NFL draft is less than two weeks away, and with no consensus No. 1 on the board, this year’s festivities are likely to go down as one of the more unpredictable drafts in recent memory.
As for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who currently hold the 13th overall selection, they find themselves in somewhat of a precarious position—just out of reach of the “elite” talent, but not far enough down the board where they can truly afford to reach on a prospect.
Considering their laundry list of needs, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, the Bucs can ill afford to swing-and-miss on their first-round choice—especially given their reported reluctance to part ways with No. 13 as part of a deal to trade for New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis.
But that’s another topic, for another day, I suppose.
For their part, the Bucs, and general manager Mark Dominik to a larger extent, have played their collective hand close to the vest, leaving both fans and analysts wondering what their ultimate decision will be.
With that said, here are a few players likely to be available when the Bucs choose at No. 13.
LB Alec Ogletree, Georgia
Ogletree (6’2”, 242 lbs) would provide not only athleticism and sure tackling ability, but he would allow the Bucs to use him in both pass coverage and as an occasional pass-rusher.
Though he played Mike linebacker in college, he is more than athletic enough to make the transition outside at this level, using his plus-speed and quickness to stop ball-carriers in the backfield or chase them down from behind, if needed.
CB Xavier Rhodes, Florida State
Though 13 may be a bit early for Rhodes (6’1”, 210 lbs), the obvious need Tampa Bay has in its secondary may call for them to reach on the raw, but talented defensive back.
He ran a very respectable 4.43, 40-yard dash and had a combine-best 40.5-inch vertical leap, which gives a glimpse into the athletic ability he possesses. Known as a big-hitter, which is rare for cornerbacks, Rhodes also excels in press coverage, something the Bucs are surely intrigued with.
DT Sheldon Richardson, Missouri
With the recent loss of DT Roy Miller, who left as a free agent and signed with Jacksonville, the Bucs have a glaring need alongside Gerald McCoy. Though Richardson and McCoy both essentially play the same technique, you have to wonder if the need up front supersedes taking another Roy Miller-esque tackle in the later rounds.
If nothing else, the addition of Richardson would provide an insurance policy of sorts for the oft-injured McCoy, who enjoyed his first fully healthy season in 2012.
OT D.J. Fluker, Alabama
Despite the fact that Tampa Bay recently extended the contract of RT Demar Dotson, there is still a legitimate need along an offensive line that was decimated by injuries in 2012.
Though Dotson has made the most of his opportunity to start, Fluker (6’5”, 340 lbs) is much more of a bulldozing, run-blocker that the Bucs covet in their linemen. That’s not to say he can’t hold his own against pass-rushers, but anyone who watched ‘Bama’s title game saw firsthand how truly dominant Fluker can be when tasked with opening up a running lane.
TE Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame
Can you imagine this scenario? That even with an historically awful pass defense and a bevy of defensive upgrades available, they decide to give QB Josh Freeman yet another weapon.
The fact remains, however, that the Bucs could sorely use a playmaking tight end in their arsenal, especially with the inconsistent play of TE Luke Stocker. Eifert is big (6’6”, 250 lbs), has soft hands and is quick enough to stretch defenses vertically, potentially allowing WRs Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams to exploit coverages underneath.
So Bucs fans, we want to know: if you’re general manager Mark Dominik, what would you do with the 13th overall pick?
Address the secondary? Add depth to the defensive line? Or would you decide to go another route altogether?
You make the call—just don’t mess it up.