No team has better addressed its glaring needs in the first two days of the NFL draft quite like the Buccaneers. Coming into the Draft, Tampa knew it had to increase its pressure on the quarterback while solidifying the outside of its defense against the run. Adrian Clayborn and absolute steal Da'Quan Bowers will both be first-game starters with the potential to eclipse a combined 18 sacks in their rookie season.
With this issue out of the way, there are some other concerns that Tampa Bay must now turn their attention to. This is how I see Rounds 4 through 7 playing out for the Buccaneers.
Round 4, Pick 19 (116)
Because the Buccaneers opted to go with two defensive ends and a linebacker in the first two days, they might have to settle for some players who will need to be primped to see the starting lineup for the 2011 season. By not addressing their cornerback issues in Round 3, this becomes their high priority with the No. 1 pick on day three. (The following cornerback options are in play only assuming that Tampa Bay couldn't possibly find another steal in Quan Sturdivant falling this far.)
Four or five strong options remain at cornerback, and with the 19th pick this afternoon, Tampa Bay should be able to snag one of them. Brandon Burton from Utah is a great disruptive cornerback, putting up a fight in the first five yards, potentially breaking up big plays before they happen. He would be a valuable asset in a zone defense but can be burned by the nation's elite receivers. With a little work, however, he has the potential to be a Tampa Bay starter by season's end.
Like Burton, Oklahoma's Quinton Carter has a great press on the line and will be a valuable asset against the run. Best when lined up against slot receivers, Carter has quick hips and great movement. His speed might present an issue though in the next level.
Chimdi Chekwa is the fastest cornerback of the three, throwing down a 4.4 in the 40 at the combine. He will not be a huge threat lining up against any NFL team's No. 1 receiver, but he can develop into a skilled player in certain packages or against the slot. He shows promise in both man and zone coverage but isn't a ballhawk when it comes to defending the run.
Expect the best remaining cornerback of these three to don a Tampa Bay jersey in 2011.
Round 5, Pick 20 (151)
Only eight running backs have been taken so far in the 2011 NFL Draft, which could play into the hands of the Tampa Bay War Room. Tampa needs to find a counterpart for last year's standout, LaGarrette Blount.
Blount is a physical back, so without some form of relief, his body could wear down by the end of the season. He also didn't show much promise as a third down back. The Buccaneers will have to find a rookie with great receiving ability out of the backfield but also one that is not afraid to step up and make a key block to protect quarterback Josh Freeman. In Round 5, if the right man for the job is available, I don't anticipate any hesitation from Mark Dominik in pulling the trigger at running back.
My favorite running back option for the Buccaneers since my first mock draft is still on the board and just might fall to Tampa Bay in Round 5. Derrick Locke of Kentucky would solidify an "A" rating for the Bucs' 2011 NFL Draft if he manages to make it to them here.
Locke is a small package who doesn't have the power to be a feature back, but that is not what Tampa is asking of him. What Locke does possess is great quickness, awareness and—most importantly—hands. Locke will prove to be a third down threat for the Buccaneers with his receiving abilities and toughness. He may struggle against a straight bull rush, but he is not afraid to get in there and mix it up with any size rusher.
If Locke is off the board, the best running back option would be Delone Carter who can stand in for pass protection but doesn't have the hands Tampa is looking for. If Locke is off the board, expect Tampa Bay to pursue on offensive lineman like DeMarcus Love, Jason Pinkston or Chris Hairston. Linebacker could be another selection here if an impressive enough interior guy falls to them.
Round 6, Pick 22 (187); Round 7, Pick 19 (222); Round 7, Pick 35 (238)
GM Mark Dominik really shows his power when it comes to the final three selections of the draft. His ability to find gems in these lower positions is remarkable and in both of his two years, he has seen very impressive numbers from his rookie class.
Coming into day three, the largest concerns were cornerback, running back and offensive line. Expect The Buccaneers' Round 6 pick to belong to whichever of these positions were missed in Rounds 4 and 5. Likely the best bet would be at offensive line, as there are still some potential starters on the board at right tackle, an area of concern for the Bucs.
Following this, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Buccaneers pick up a strong, raw linebacker. With talks of Barrett Ruud falling out of the system, Tampa Bay will need to find someone they can primp to take over that starting job in the years to come. Bryan Rolle is worth keeping an eye on.
A third position here might be nice as a backup and project wide receiver. It's not a pressing issue by any means, but giving Josh Freeman another option could turn into a good idea. Ideally, a small slot receiver with some special teams experience would be available here. Even a tight end who shows some intelligence and heart would be beneficial for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.