The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a surprisingly quick turnaround from the 2009 season to the 2010 season, where they went from three wins to 10 wins. They failed to make the playoffs, but they were in the race through the last week of the season. The Bucs have a lot of good young talent, so their team’s future is looking very bright.
Josh Freeman really came on in 2010 and established himself as one of the most talented young quarterbacks in the game. His skill set has really started to develop and he looks like he will become a very good team leader. LeGarrette Blount went from undrafted rookie to one of the top rookie running backs in 2010. He looks like he’ll be a starter for a long time, but the depth behind him is questionable.
Mike Williams is another Buccaneers rookie who looked like a budding young star, by hauling in 65 receptions and 11 touchdowns. Arrelious Benn and Dezmon Briscoe are two other young receivers who look to have bright futures in Tampa Bay. Kellen Winslow is a reliable target at tight end, and one of Freeman’s favorite receivers.
The offensive line has some question marks heading into the draft. Davin Joseph and Jeremy Zuttah are very solid at the offensive guard positions, but Joseph is a free agent and it’s still up in the air on whether or not he’ll be back. Donald Penn has some Pro Bowl talent, and he looks like the longtime blindside protector for Freeman. Jeremy Trueblood and James Lee both got starts at tackle and they could be replaced. Jeff Faine has good talent, but he has been plagued by injuries in recent years.
The defensive end position needs some upgrades, as they struggled to get consistent pressure on the quarterback. Both Stylez White and Kyle Moore could be replaced next season. The Bucs have a lot of young talent on the defensive line, but they didn’t play to their potential in 2010-11.
Gerald McCoy, Brian Price and Al Woods should be solid contributors for years to come. Barrett Ruud and Quincy Black are both solid starters at linebacker, but both of them are free agents. Geno Hayes didn’t play well last season and he could be replaced, possibly by 2010 rookie Dekoda Watson.
Ronde Barber will be back for at least one more season at one of the corner positions. He and Aqib Talib form a very good starting cornerback tandem for the Bucs. Tanard Jackson was suspended indefinitely and his future is up in the air. Cody Grimm played well as a rookie before getting injured, but he should be back in the starting safety spot in 2011. Sean Jones can fill in well for Jackson if Jackson can’t play, but he provides good depth as well.
1. (3) DT Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma
He wasn’t overly impressive early on in the season, but he really started to flash some of his potential before his injury.
13 GP, 13 GS
2. (35) DT Brian Price, UCLA
Price was injured early on in the season, but he should form a solid starting defensive tackle tandem with McCoy for years to come.
5 GP, 0 GS
2. (39) WR Arrelious Benn, Illinois
He got progressively better as the season went on, but his torn ACL in Week 16 could set him back a bit.
15 GP, 9 GS
3. (67) CB Myron Lewis, Vanderbilt
Lewis provides solid depth for now, but he looks to be the eventual successor to Ronde Barber.
10 GP, 1 GS
4. (101) WR Mike Williams, Syracuse
Williams proved to be a steal in the fourth round, while leading all rookies with 65 catches for 963 yards and 11 touchdowns.
16 GP, 16 GS
6. (172) P Brent Bowden, Virginia Tech
Bowden struggled in the preseason and he failed to make the team out of training camp.
0 GP, 0 GS
7. (210) S Cody Grimm, Virginia Tech
Grimm became a starter and he played pretty well before suffering a season-ending injury.
11 GP, 9 GS
7. (217) OLB Dekoda Watson, Florida State
He showed good pass-rush ability and he will most likely get a chance to start in 2011.
15 GP, 1 GS
7. (253) FB Erik Lorig, Stanford
He was drafted as a defensive end, but he was moved to fullback where he played pretty well.
9 GP, 1 GS
This turned out to be not only one of the best draft classes of the 2010 draft, but it is one of the best drafts in Tampa Bay history. Throw in the contributions from undrafted rookie LeGarrette Blount, and other teams' training camp casualties Ted Larsen and Al Woods, and you’ve got an excellent class from Mark Dominik.
The most glaring weakness of the 2010 Bucs was their inability to put consistent pressure on the quarterback. Starting defensive ends Kyle Moore and Stylez White are more suited to be backups or rotational players. Neither of them should be locks to be starting in the 2011 season, and I fully expect them to be upgraded. The depth is weak right now, but it should be improved next year if Moore and White are back on the team as rotational players.
The Bucs solidified the future of the defensive tackle position by taking two players with their first two picks at the position. It’s entirely possible that the Bucs do the same in 2011, but with the defensive end position.
Round 1: Aldon Smith, Robert Quinn, Adrian Clayborn, Ryan Kerrigan
Round 2: Jabaal Sheard, Allen Bailey, Brooks Reed
Round 3: Sam Acho, Jeremy Beal
Round 4: Greg Romeus, Cliff Matthews
I fully expect the Bucs to take two defensive ends within the first four rounds of this year’s draft. Smith and Quinn will most likely be gone by this point, but the Bucs would jump all over them if they’re available. Adrian Clayborn and Ryan Kerrigan are the two most likely first-round picks for the Bucs.
Quincy Black and Geno Hayes were the starters going into last season, but that might not be the case in 2011. Black is a pretty good pass rusher, but he is a free agent and it remains to be seen whether or not he is back next year. Hayes had a down year, but he most likely will get another chance to be a starter in 2011. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bucs brought in some competition for him.
Dekoda Watson has some potential and he could get a long look in training camp for the starting position. I expect the Bucs will take at least one outside linebacker at some point in this draft, even if he is not expected to become a starter in his rookie season.
Round 1: Akeem Ayers
Round 2: Bruce Carter, Mason Foster
Round 3: Mark Herzlich, Chris Carter, Colin McCarthy
Round 4: Nate Irving, K.J. Wright, Lawrence Wilson
I don’t really expect that the Bucs will target an outside linebacker much before Round 3. A guy like Mark Herzlich would be a perfect pick in the third round, as he could contend for the starting job, while also providing depth. This position won’t be a huge concern if Quincy Black returns.
Ronde Barber decided to return to the Buccaneers for one more season, but his career is almost at an end. The Bucs will most likely groom Myron Lewis to take over for him in 2012, so look for Lewis to get a lot more playing time in 2011. Aqib Talib has the other starting spot locked down for the distant future. Hopefully his 2010 season-ending injury doesn’t have a long-term effect on his performance.
E.J. Biggers provides some depth for now, but there is going to be a hole at this position once Barber retires. I think the Bucs will try to address this future need in this draft so that there isn’t a big drop-off in the quality of depth for the 2012 season.
Round 1: Brandon Harris, Aaron Williams
Round 2: Curtis Brown, Brandon Burton, Ras-I Dowling
Round 3: Kendric Burney, Curtis Marsh, Rashad Carmichael, Davon House, Jalil Brown
Round 4: Chimdi Chekwa, Marcus Gilchrist, Shareece Wright
Round 5: Chykie Brown, Buster Skrine, DeMarcus Van Dyke
This is another position that I don’t expect to see addressed in Round 1 or Round 2, unless a top player falls to them. Guys like Chekwa and Wright would be good picks in Round 4 who could develop into solid players and will have bigger roles in 2012.
The left tackle position is locked down for the foreseeable future, with Donald Penn. He had an excellent season in 2010, and it looks like he may have a few Pro Bowl berths in his future. The right tackle position is far from locked down, as neither Jeremy Trueblood nor James Lee look to be long-term options. The Bucs should really look to find a long-term replacement for this position in this offseason.
This is a pretty big need, as they need to provide Freeman with all the protection he can get moving forward. This is the obvious weak spot on the offensive line that must be addressed.
Round 1: Gabe Carimi, Anthony Castonzo, Nate Solder, Derek Sherrod
Round 2: James Brewer, Ben Ijalana
Round 3: Lee Ziemba, Marcus Gilbert, Orlando Franklin
Round 4: Joe Barksdale, DeMarcus Love, Jason Pinkston
This is a position that the Bucs could strongly consider in Round 3 or Round 4. They may not need to spend a first-rounder on a right tackle, but someone like Lee Ziemba or Joe Barksdale would be a very good fit on the right side of the Buccaneers line.
LeGarrette Blount was a revelation as a rookie running back, and he had an incredible season considering that he was an undrafted free agent. He looks like he will be the long-term answer at the running back spot that the Bucs haven’t really had in a while. Cadillac Williams was thought to be that guy, but injuries have really taken a toll on his career. I think that he will be back in 2011 because of his value as a backup and pass catcher.
The Bucs need to find a reliable complement for Blount moving forward. This might not be a high priority, but the Bucs may use a higher pick on this position if Williams doesn’t return.
Round 2: Ryan Williams, Daniel Thomas
Round 3: DeMarco Murray, Kendall Hunter, Dion Lewis, Shane Vereen
Round 4: Jordan Todman, Jacquizz Rodgers, Delone Carter, Bilal Powell
Round 5: Roy Helu Jr., Stevan Ridley, Taiwan Jones
I didn’t list any Round 1 options because I don’t think the Bucs will consider a running back that early in the draft. They will have many mid-round options who could really help to improve the overall depth of the position.
Jeremy Zuttah is pretty solid at one guard spot. Davin Joseph is also solid, but he is a free agent who may not be back next season.
Barrett Ruud regressed a bit in 2010, but I’m sure the Bucs would still like to re-sign him. I don’t think that they will overpay for him though, so this could become a need.
Josh Johnson played well in the Wildcat offense role, but I don’t know if the Bucs would be comfortable having him start multiple games if Freeman goes down with an injury.
This team very much exceeded expectations in 2010, and I expect that they will continue to improve in 2011. It’s amazing how much one good draft can improve the fortunes of a franchise, as the 2010 draft has improved the future of the team. Raheem Morris and Mark Dominick have built a very young, talented team that has the ability to challenge New Orleans and Atlanta for the division title. Josh Freeman is one of the brighter young stars in the NFL, and he is only going to get better in the coming years.
The Bucs only have a few key needs that they need to address in this year’s draft. The biggest need is the defensive end position, as I expect to see two defensive ends drafted by the Bucs. This should be a draft that will be defense heavy, as I think it is the weaker of the team’s two units.