2011 NFL Draft: A Look at the Bucs' First 3 Rounds and New-Found Pass Rush

Andrew NortonCorrespondent IIIApril 29, 2011

AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 18:  Da'Quan Bowers #93 of the Clemson Tigers against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on September 18, 2010 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Tampa Bay came into the 2011 NFL Draft knowing exactly what they needed. Three rounds in, and they are already 2011's most improved team.

The Carolina Panthers opened the draft with the first overall selection getting on of the most electric quarterbacks in recent memory. The New Orleans Saints stole the first round with a big trade and two tremendous picks solidifying their pass rush and run offense.

The Atlanta Falcons might have traded a way a good chunk of their future rookies, but they picked up a physical deep threat who can instantly blow their offense wide open.

But, if you were to ask me which team in the NFC South, hell, even which team in the NFC has had the best draft thus far, I wouldn't hesitate to say it was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Bucs came into the draft with some major holes. They needed a running back to relieve LeGarrette Blount, they needed a cornerback to support aging Ronde Barber and replace most-wanted Aqib Talib. But more than any of those, Tampa Bay had to address their front seven.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' were tied for second worst in the NFL in sacks. And fifth worst in the NFL in rushing yards per game. The holes were blatant: defensive end and linebacker. There was virtually no pass rush and no stopping power.

In the 2010 Draft, they spent the first two picks on the interior defensive line. They had a stand-out season, but didn't have the talent around them. But not any more.

Tampa Bay's first round pick, 20th overall went to defensive end, Adrian Clayborn. A pass rushing machine providing instant guaranteed pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

He has a quick first step and is explosive, using his size, quickness and strength to get by any lineman in front of him. He has the potential to put up 8+ sacks in his first year in a Buccaneer jersey.

Pick number 51 in the 2011 NFL Draft followed their 2010 strategy as they selected a second straight defensive end. And this one was a shocker, Da'Quan Bowers.

Bowers is a top-10 talent who managed to fall to the bottom of the second round. Tampa Bay snatched the absolute steal of the NFL Draft with this selection.

Like Clayborn, Bowers is an instant starter. He is the definition of a pure athletic talent. Bowers has all of the traits you look for in a defensive end. Speed, strength, size and pure athleticism have rocketed the Buccaneers to one of the most dangerous defensive fronts in the NFL.

While football fans were in shock over Da'Quan Bowers's historic fall, Tampa Bay's management, coaches, players and fans are ecstatic about having the steal of the 2011 NFL Draft.

As if their second-round selection wasn't enough, Tampa Bay found another great defensive talent in the third round, linebacker Mason Foster. Foster will be a starter in the future, but should make in impact coming off the bench and in special teams.

He has good range against the run and can handle playing in a handful of positions. In addition to his size and power, he adds killer instincts, leadership and toughness

The point of the NFL Draft is not just to add young talent. It is to analyze your team and find the weaknesses. No team in the NFL has done this better in the first two days than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

A season of 26 sacks in 2010 has the potential to jump to 45. A 131 rushing yards per game defense has the potential to lock down at 110.

With a young and strong offense already in place, Tampa Bay has shown that they will be taken seriously in the NFC South, giving the Saints and Falcons a run for their money.