As written in my previous article, the Buccaneers needed to address the cornerback and wide receiver positions in this years draft. On the first day, they did exactly that. But do not be so fast as to jump to the conclusion that it was a successful Day One at the 2008 NFL New Player Selection Meeting for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They did indeed get what they needed, but there were questions about who they selected and how they went about it.
With the 20th pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected cornerback Aqib Talib from Kansas. This was without question the best available cornerback at the time of the Bucs' pick. Two small-school corners were taken earlier in the draft. Troy's Leodlis McKelvin and Tennessee State's Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie went to the Bills at 11 overall, and the Cardinals at 16, respectively. These were predictably the first two corners to go, as they drew the most pre-draft hype from NFL teams and media outlets. Mike Jenkins from USF, as reported by the St. Petersburg Times yesterday, was told by Buccaneers' management that if he was indeed available at the 20th spot, he would be the Bucs' selection. Smoke screen? You bet. Talib was the pick.
Aqib Talib was a very solid selection for the Buccaneers at the 20th spot. At 6'1'', 202 lbs., he has good size. At Kansas, he was forced to go against an array of talented Big 12 Conference receivers including two first-day draft picks in former Texas WR Limas Sweed, and former Kansas State WR Jordy Nelson. He is a very physical corner and although the definition differs from the collegiate ranks to the NFL ranks, he is your prototypical shutdown corner. He is very decorated statistically coming out of Kansas, ranking second in KU history with 13 interceptions, and first with 322 return yards. Talib is also very versatile, which Jon Gruden could use in his wide variety of schemes. Talib had nine career offensive receptions at Kansas, five of which went for touchdowns.
With all the good, of course comes a down side. Talib's work ethic habits have been questioned multiple times over the past handful of years. He was suspended for his work habits or lack-there-of by Kansas for two games in 2006. He also has admitted to smoking marijuana, which draws character concerns from NFL personnel. Talib is also a huge trash-talker on the field. Which if your game can back up, is no big deal. However, jumping from the collegiate level to the NFL, Talib better adjust the volume a little bit, otherwise his confidence will get burned as well as himself on 9-routes by smarter NFL receivers.
Overall, Talib was an outstanding selection for the Buccaneers. They drafted what they needed in a talented cornerback, and he was probably the best available at that position at that time in the draft for the Buccaneers.
The Bucs second pick on day one, which was scheduled to be number 52 overall, was traded out of. The Bucs dropped back to the 58th overall selection (Jacksonville Jaguars) and received a pair of later round draft picks (one this year, one next), in return for the 52nd selection. The Jags in-turn drafted Quentin Groves, DE from Auburn. The Steelers, who had the 53rd overall selection, drafted Sweed (WR, Texas), who the Buccaneers could have used as a possession-type receiver in their West Coast offense (6'4'', 215 lbs). However there was an array of questions surrounding Sweed, even though he was a playmaker at Texas. He had wrist surgery in 2007, forcing him to miss some time, and miss some potential statistical earnings. In 2006, Sweed had 46 catches for 801 yards and 12 TDs. Those totals took a monumental plummet in 2007 as he totalled just 19 catches for 301 yards and 3 TDs.
So instead of staying put and drafting a question mark like Sweed, the Bucs' went with a sure-thing wide receiver in Dexter Jackson out of Appalachian State. Jackson, however, is not so much a sure thing at the WR position. He is more of a kick returner/Joey Galloway-type wide out. Jackson is blazing fast, running a 4.30 40 yard dash at the combine. However, he is anything but a possession wide receiver with his lack of size (5'9'', 182 lbs.). He, like Talib, is a very versatile player. Jackson returned kicks and punts while in college, caught passes (ranks 4th in school history with 17 TD receptions and 7th player n school history with 100+ receptions), and even lined up out of the backfield. The most impressive tell-tale stat about Jackson is that he averaged a robust 13.7 yards per touch while at App. State. Jackson is a good selection for the Bucs' as he pertains to their needs coming into this weekends' draft. However, taking the versatile wide out this early may have been some what of a reach.
Between the two selections made on day one by the Buccaneers, they did indeed address needs that the team had. And at the time of their drafting, they probably were two of the more sure-thing players available. Overall, it was a fair first day for the Bucs, but many fans will wonder why they traded away from the 52nd overall pick, and the possibility of having former Texas WR Limas Sweed.
First Pick Draft Grade: A-
Second Pick Draft Grade: C
First Day Draft Grade: B