NFL Draft 2012: 5 Players Tampa Bay Buccaneers Must Have on Their Radar
There is a lot of talent coming out of this draft class, and the Buccaneers have many holes that need to be filled. Tampa Bay could use some help both offensively and defensively, but more specifically in the secondary, offensive backfield and receiving corps. The Bucs could also use some young, talented linebackers and tight ends to join the team.
There will more than likely be more than a little shake up of the 2011 roster by Greg Schiano and the new Buccaneers coaching staff. They will want to draft some players that fit their schemes and fill the roles they need filled.
The draft will surely help Tampa Bay this year, and who they draft with the fifth pick should be a day one starter in 2012.
However, the Buccaneers will need to have a solid draft with great picks in every round in order to compete this year. There will be some hidden talent late in the draft, and it is up to the Buccaneers front office to make sure they dig up those late-round gems.
However, there are five guys that the Buccaneers absolutely have to consider taking with their picks in the first and second rounds of the draft.
Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
Just about everyone in the country knows who Trent Richardson is, and just about everyone in Tampa Bay hopes he becomes a Buccaneer in April.
Richardson is easily the best running back of this draft class and has shown he can play the game of football at an extremely high level.
During three years with Alabama, Richardson ran the ball for 3,130 yards and averaged 5.8 yards per carry in doing so. He also accumulated 35 rushing touchdowns in those three years.
There is no doubt the Buccaneers would love to have Richardson join them in Tampa Bay.
The current running backs on the Buccaneers roster includes LaGarrette Blount, Earnest Graham, Kregg Lumpkin and Mossis Madu. Richardson would come in and immediately be the best running back on the roster.
Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman proved in 2011 that he cannot win in Tampa by himself and he needs a solid running game to succeed in this league.
A corps that consists of Richardson, Blount and Graham would do Freeman and the Bucs just fine.
Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
Morris Claiborne is undoubtedly the best corner coming out of the 2012 NFL draft class, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers can use some help there.
In a little more than two seasons at LSU, Claiborne had 11 interceptions, including four against Mississippi State in just two games.
He is the best-ranked cornerback in this class and is a sure-fire starter in the NFL. The factor that makes Claiborne so good is his ball skills. Claiborne is a former wide receiver and can adjust to the ball as if it was intended for him to catch it. He also possesses all of the intangibles needed to succeed in the NFL.
Possibly the best part about Claiborne is that he has no off-the-field issues and has shown great maturity during his time with LSU. That is something the Buccaneers need desperately.
The current corners on Tampa Bay's roster include an aging Rhonde Barber, troublesome Aqib Talib and three underperformers in E.J. Biggers, Elbert Mack and Myron Lewis.
Claiborne has the potential to come in and start immediately, but at the very least play a great nickel spot.
He has also shown he has the ability to be a dangerous return man in the NFL, and with the success of former LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson, the Bucs may decide to draft Claiborne.
Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers could definitely use some help at the outside linebacker position in the 2012 NFL draft.
Tampa Bay has a solid middle linebacker in Mason Foster, but it could use some more talent around him. The current outside 'backers are Quincy Black, Adam Hayward, Geno Hayes and Dekoda Watson.
Black and Hayes both underperformed in 2011, and Hayes even lost his starting job at one point. Hayward was not much better throughout the season, but played respectably in Hayes' place. Watson was a bright spot in the outside linebacker position as he showed a good amount of potential at times during the season.
Despite some of the promise shown by current linebackers, Courtney Upshaw is a guy that the Buccaneers must at least ponder about when drawing up their draft board.
If the Bucs get to the fifth pick and somehow Richardson and Claiborne are both gone, they may decide to trade down and pick up Upshaw.
Upshaw would be a solid addition to a very weak defense and he would likely start from day one in 2012.
This young outside linebacker has amazing instincts and simply reacts to most plays. The game of football comes like second nature to Upshaw, and that is not something seen in a ton of rookie linebackers.
The Buccaneers could have a very solid front seven if they decide to invest in Upshaw in the 2012 NFL draft.
Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina
Wide receiver is a bit of a tricky situation for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They have talent at the position, but those players have failed to show up at times.
Mike Williams has led the team in receiving the past two years, but he showed a serious a regression in 2011 and will need to step up next year to prove that he is a viable No. 1 option for Tampa Bay.
The Bucs also have Michael Spurlock, Dezmon Briscoe, Arrelious Benn and Preston Parker on their roster, but none of these players is the physical threat that Jeffery is.
In recent weeks, Jeffery has seen his stock drop a little and he may fall into the second round come draft time, which would be perfect for the Buccaneers.
The Buccaneers would be helping Josh Freeman tremendously if they gave him a huge target like Jeffery, not to mention they would be taking a lot of weight off the shoulders of Williams.
Ladarius Green, TE, University of Louisiana-Lafayette
Let's face it, Kellen Winslow has either lost a step in the NFL, or he has decided that he is not going to play anymore.
It would be a wise decision for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to replace Winslow in the 2012 NFL draft. The perfect candidate has to be Ladarius Green.
I do not believe he tight end position is a spot that the Buccaneers would address in the first or second round, but Green could be there for the taking in the third round of the draft.
Green stands at 6'5" and weighs 230 pounds, which means he is a tall, athletic tight end. This seems to be the mold recently and was portrayed greatly by tight ends Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski in the 2011 season.
While Green would benefit from gaining a little more weight, he would do just fine in the league as he is. Green can get deep down the field quickly and has shown the ability to catch the ball well in traffic.
We have already discussed how quarterback Josh Freeman would benefit from a big target added to this team, and Green is just another guy that could help Freeman become an elite passer in the NFL.
Green does have some questions to answer as far as his durability and blocking go, but many tight ends deal with these things when they first come into the league.
Green's durability issues stem from multiple minor injuries that he received throughout his collegiate career.
Despite the two minor problems with this prospect, Green is a guy the Buccaneers should definitely consider in Round 3 of the 2012 NFL draft.