Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2011 NFL Draft: Analyzing Their First Round Options

Andrew NortonCorrespondent IIIApril 21, 2011

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2011 NFL Draft: Analyzing Their First Round Options

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    The Bucs will look to improve their defense in the first round of the 2011 NFL DraftLarry French/Getty Images

    With the 20th pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, the Buccaneers are left in an interesting position. It’s no secret that Tampa Bay needs help on defense. They gave up over 130 rushing yards per game, their safety play was less than stellar and, with offseason issues, the backfield might be hurting too. 

    At pick number 20, many of the best prospects in the positions Tampa needs to fill will be taken. So the question is, should the Buccaneers wait around and hope someone worthy falls to them, or should they trade up for a better chance to pick and choose their talent?

    Let’s take a look at some of the talent that could fall to pick 20 in the first round of the NFL Draft.

Option 1) A Little Luck: Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA or Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    In this scenario, Tampa Bay stays put at spot number twenty. They watch some of their favorites pass by between rounds 12 and 19, but chances are that one of the following players will drop to them.

    Akeem Ayers could very well land in Tampa Bay. The middle selections in the first round belong to defensive ends, which might leave the second highest ranked linebacker on the board. Ayers is extremely versatile and could work at any linebacker position or make a case as a speedy defensive end.

    Aldon Smith has been all over the board depending on which mock draft you look at. My own board has him going to Houston with the 11th pick, but there is a chance that he could be open if the Texans opt for a defensive tackle or cornerback. Smith is a quick defensive end who should help provide pressure and be able to make plays outside the box. His effectiveness against the run game might be a little questionable, though.

Option 2) Reaching: Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa or Justin Houston, DE/LB, Georgia

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    The second situation shows the bulk of talented defensive ends going before Tampa Bay. While both Clayborn and Houston are first round talent, they are in the lower tier compared to those taken in the first 19 picks.

    Clayborn, a right defensive end, will immediately step into a starting role for the Bucs. He will provide a much needed pass rush from the outside and has the ability to move around, allowing him to throw off blockers and disrupt the run game. He will be a solid addition to the Bucs, but there are better options earlier in the draft.

    Justin Houston is by all means a disruptive force and will help both the run and pass games. With the ability to line up at defensive end or linebacker, he should also see immediate playing time. His stock is slowly falling in the latest projections, which might make him a reach.

Option 3) Trading Up: Higher Spots Means Higher Quality

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    Sean Gardner/Getty Images

    Trading up in the draft will enable the Bucs to have their pick of defensive end. Moving up to pick 15 could afford them Ryan Kerrigan, Defensive End out of Purdue, or J.J. Watt, Defensive End, Wisconsin.

    By trading up to pick 10, they could have their pick of probably any defensive end on the board, including Robert Quinn (North Carolina), Cameron Jordan (Cal) and Da’Quan Bowers (Clemson).

    With so much defensive talent on the board, I don't see a trade as necessary.

Option 4) Piss off Your Fan Base: Avoiding the Front Seven

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    Doug Benc/Getty Images

    There is always the possibility that Tampa Bay will go a less favorable route and draft on the other side of the ball.

    While their defense does need improvement up front, there might be a scenario where the best player left at pick 20 is a running back or offensive guard. Both positions should be addressed in later rounds, but if the Buccaneers find a value pick falling into their laps at this position, I wouldn't be surprised for them to address it.

    Another pick that is turning up in mock draft discussion is selecting a cornerback in the first round. While there have been issues with Talib in the offseason, and Barber aging, this might be better addressed in round 3 or 4, when there are still decent options on the board. Brandon Harris and Jimmy Smith should both be available when Tampa Bay's slot rolls round.