Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 2011 NFL Draft: Who to Pick In The First Five Rounds

Eli Marger@Eli_MargerCorrespondent IFebruary 15, 2011

Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 2011 NFL Draft: Who to Pick In The First Five Rounds

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    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had an incredibly surprising and promising 2010 season.

    Picked by many experts to have no more than four wins, the Bucs tallied 10 for the season. Had they beaten the Detroit Lions in Week 15, they would have made the playoffs.

    Despite their success, there are still holes to fill on this team. The pass rush, especially from the edges, was lacking. The linebacking corps was soft and missed too many tackles. They need a replacement for the aging Ronde Barber at cornerback and the offensive line could use some depth and potential starters.

    The Bucs have one pick in each of the first five rounds. Here's who they should target.

Round 1: An Elite-Level Defensive End

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    The Bucs have a very solid interior defensive line. Between 2010 draft picks Gerald McCoy and Brian Price and former Longhorn Roy Miller, this part of the defense seems to be set.

    But the only reliable edge rusher the Bucs have is Stylez G. White, who is talented but could use some help. The commonality between all the best defenses is a defensive line that constantly pressures the quarterback. Having great edge rushers to collapse the pocket is vital.

    For this, the Bucs will look to use their first-round pick on a DE. The top prospects—Da'Quan Bowers of Clemson, Robert Quinn of North Carolina and Aldon Smith of Missouri—will all be off the board.

    The next tier of DE prospects includes Cal's Cameron Jordan (pictured), Wisconsin's J.J. Watt and Iowa's Adrian Clayborn. All three of these players are big, powerful and have great "motors."

    It is likely that Jordan, given his tremendous week at the Senior Bowl, won't make it to the Bucs.


    Other Options: Inside/Outside Linebacker

Round 2: An Athletic Outside Linebacker

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    One of the Bucs' biggest weaknesses in 2010 was run defense.

    The blame for this must be placed not on the defensive line, but the linebacking corps. Simply put, the Bucs linebackers this year were soft. Barrett Ruud, Geno Hayes and Quincy Black did not tackle well at all.

    With Black going to free agency, the Bucs may have a hole to fill. Even if he returns, drafting a talented linebacker will give the Bucs flexibility at the position, as well as a new potential starter.

    By this point in the draft, the top talents will obviously be gone. But two prospects still stick out: Washington's Mason Foster and North Carolina's Bruce Carter (pictured).

    Foster is somewhat undersized at 6'1'', 240 pounds. Carter is an extremely athletic 6'3'', 235 pounds. He will fit extremely well in Raheem Morris' hybrid defense.


    Other Options: Offensive Tackle, Inside Linebacker

Round 3: A Cornerback Of The Future

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    As much as Bucs fans would like to believe the contrary, Ronde Barber will eventually retire from the game of football. He is still an effective cornerback, but his production will decline. With one side of the field already secured by Aqib Talib, the Bucs could use another cornerback.

    Their current group that includes E.J. Biggers, Elbert Mack and Myron Lewis is decent but inconsistent. This will be too late to draft a prototypical "shut-down" corner, but the Bucs can still land a very good player.

    At this stage in the draft, their targets should be Ohio State's Chimdi Chekwa, Southern Cal's Shareece Wright (pictured) and Virginia Tech's Rashad Carmichael.

    With Chekwa bothered by injuries and Wright having an unimpressive 4.50 40-yard dash time, the small but tenacious Carmichael is the pick.


    Other Options: Wide Receiver, Offensive Guard

Round 4: An Offensive Guard

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    The Bucs offensive line played great in 2010, especially given the circumstances. An injury to Davin Joseph left a gaping hole in the offensive line. With Joseph back, the Bucs cannot rely on the likes of Ted Larsen, Derek Hardman and Brandon Carter to play the other guard..

    This year's draft is relatively deep in terms of guard talent. Obviously, the more touted offensive linemen are tackles, but the Bucs are set there.

    By the fourth round, there still should be some of the top ten or twelve guard prospects left. This group includes Georgia's Clint Boling (pictured), Auburn's Lee Ziemba (technically a tackle but could play guard) and Wisconsin's John Moffitt.

    Boling appears to be the favorite here. He was originally thought to be a first- or second-round talent, but he has not played enough guard to be considered "NFL-ready." However, he still could be a steal.


    Other Options: Inside Linebacker, Wide Receiver

Round 5: An Inside LInebacker

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    As mentioned before, the Bucs linebacking corps underperformed this past season. Barrett Ruud is a solid inside linebacker, but he is not enough of the tenacious, ballhawking player that you would like out of your defensive leader.

    This year's ILB draft crop is very weak. There are lots of players who had great college careers but are undersized or too slow to be a great NFL prospect. Nevertheless, many of these players are big-time competitors with leadership experience and high upside.

    These players include Nate Irving of NC State, Josh Bynes of Auburn (pictured) and Casey Matthews of Oregon. These guys are almost identical physically: all 6'1" and between 232 and 242 pounds. The best athlete of the group is Irving, but because of his role in college, Josh Bynes is the favorite.


    Other Options: Cornerback, Wide Receiver, Offensive Guard