NFL Draft 2011: Tampa Bay Buccaneers Looking for More Pieces Around Josh Freeman
The main reason for his success might have been his greatly improved maturity and decision-making. He also was surrounded by more talent with the additions of rookies LeGarrette Blount and Mike Williams.
Even with the newcomers of last season, Tampa Bay is still looking to put more talent around Freeman, and this year's draft is a great time to do so.
The three main positions the Bucs could add to are guard, running back and wide receiver. Even with Davin Joseph at guard, Blount in the backfield and Williams at wideout, the Bucs still could use a decent amount of depth at the positions. Here are some potential draftees that could provide just that.
The Bucs chose Williams and Arrelious Benn in last year's draft, Benn in the second round and Williams in the fourth. But just because they took a pair of wideouts in 2010 doesn't mean they won't add another in 2011.
Besides the two picks, the Bucs have Sammie Stroughter and Michael Spurlock on the depth chart. But those two only combined for 41 receptions last year, so the production wasn't anywhere close to tremendous.
It's also unclear if last-season wonders like Dezmon Briscoe and Preston Parker and special teams star Maurice Stovall will have a bigger impact next season.
If the Bucs are looking to once again take another first-round talent (Williams) at wideout without giving up their first pick to do so, Jonathan Baldwin, the 6'5", 225-pound tower, could be the answer.
Though they won't get him in the fourth round like they did with Williams, Baldwin could be a huge threat in the NFL as a second-rounder. He's as prototypical as it gets. He has hands of glue and isn't afraid to go up in the air or up the middle. Baldwin is even a good run blocker who is fearless and focused.
So why is he not going higher? Because he has attitude problems. He didn't like the scheme Pitt ran and didn't have a good relationship with his quarterback. But in Tampa Bay, things could be much different with Raheem Morris and Josh Freeman.
If the Bucs are concerned with Baldwin's attitude, Miami's Leonard Hankerson would be an excellent pick to me if he was still available in the third round. Hankerson has worked out for the Bucs already and would be a big addition in Tampa.
Hankerson can go up and get the ball with his size (6'3", 215 lbs.) and physicality, plus can get yards after the catch. His attitude is not a problem, to say the least, but his route running needs some work. He still would be a strong selection in the third round.
Moving on to a possible fourth-round selection of a receiver, the Bucs could choose former Boise State Bronco Austin Pettis, who, like Hankerson, seems a bit underrated to me. He has great hands and works well in press coverage.
Pettis has size and smarts, but not so much speed. Overall though, Pettis is more than just a quality pick in the fourth round.
Later picks could include Darvin Adams from Auburn as a possible fifth-round pick, one that lacks strength but runs effective routes and snatches the high throws.
Terrence Toliver, Adams' rival back in the SEC, could make a productive pick in the fifth or sixth round if the Bucs want to pick a wideout that late.
With Davin Joseph hurt and Jeremy Zuttah switching positions for much of last year, the Bucs were forced to rely on rookies Derek Hardman and Ted Larson at the guard positions.
Even though the two newbies protected Josh Freeman well and created a fair number of holes for the run game, there's still concern that the position needs a bit more depth.
A few different potential draftees could do the trick for Tampa Bay. John Moffitt, a former Wisconsin Badger, would be a good pick in the third round with his size (6'4", 320 lbs.) and versatility (can also play center).
He's a very good run blocker, and though he's not a solid downfield blocker, he's tough as nails at the line with a bit of a mean streak when he steps onto the field.
If the Bucs are still trying to address a linebacker or corner issue, then they could wait till the next round and take a swipe at Andrew Jackson out of Fresno State.
Jackson has great balance and quick feet with the ability to get set quickly while protecting the passer. Though he's smaller than most guards weight-wise, his speed helps him be a strong blocker if needing to run downfield.
Garrett Chisolm could be a potential target a couple of rounds later. With a motor always on high, Chisolm plays his heart out. He's not a premier athlete, but Chisolm continues to improve and is easy to coach.
He's also extremely strong and never gives up on a play. In my mind, he would be a steal in the sixth round of the draft.
Who would think one punch could turn into a blessing in disguise? That's what happened when LeGarrette Blount, then a running back for Oregon, decked Boise State's Byron Hout after the opener of the 2009 season.
Blount then went undrafted and was released after another fist-throwing incident at Titans camp. This led him to the Bucs, where he ran for over a thousand yards as a rookie last year, best among first-year players.
Even with such a season, the Bucs need to make sure they have enough production behind him. Cadillac Williams, who wasn't much of a runner but blocked well for Freeman last year, may leave as a free agent.
With that said, Kareem Huggins isn't my ideal backup for Blount. I think drafting a RB would help the Bucs in a big way, whether Williams is in Tampa Bay or not.
The Bucs could take one as early as the second round and as late as the last one. Kendall Hunter would be a nice pickup in the second round if he's still available. Hunter is a short but bulkier runner that has a great burst out of holes. He's smart, tough and patient when waiting for an opening. Hunter also has great all-around intangibles.
In the third or fourth round, I think DeMarco Murray is a fine choice for the Bucs. In the fourth round, Murray would be an amazing steal, but the Bucs would likely have to take him in the third to get him at all.
Murray ran just above a 4.4-second 40-yard dash and has good size, being over six feet and 210 pounds. He also has good versatility with being both a good runner and receiver.
Murray could have fumble problems in the NFL with his lack of tucking the ball away, but his biggest problem to teams is his injury concerns. Still, with his supreme athleticism, it would be like getting away with a robbery if the Bucs could get him in the fourth round.
A name that's popped up a lot lately when talking about adding an extra runner is Bilal Powell from Louisville. Powell has great vision and patience in finding a hole and setting up his blocks.
Powell exploded for nearly 1,500 yards last year after three years of mediocrity at Louisville. This is a man that came from a rough upbringing to turn his life around and put himself in this position. He will continue to be named a Bucs target on draft day.
Somebody that I've praised time and time again already this spring is Derrick Locke, the former Kentucky Wildcat. If the Bucs could wait till the fifth round, this would be a complete steal.
Locke could not only help the Bucs in the run game, but his versatility makes him a good kick and punt returner as well. With his fair share of injuries, Locke won't be an every-down back for the Bucs, but they don't need him to be. He cuts and turns well and has better than adequate speed.
Evan Royster from Penn State and Phillip Tanner from Middle Tennessee State both may get a look from the Bucs in the seventh round or in free agency.
Another outside possibility is drafting a potential hidden gem in the third round by the name of Taiwan Jones, the back with lightning speed that the Bucs could use to add to Blount's thunder.
He's a bit of an unknown, coming out of FCS Eastern Washington (the team with the red field), but if he learns more technique-wise, he could be a less-used Chris Johnson.