2011 NFL Draft | Tampa Bay Buccaneers Team Needs
Was there a bigger surprise in the NFL in 2010 than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?
The young Bucs entered the year with extremely limited expectations, but finished 10-6 and close to nabbing the final playoff spot in the NFC. Had they not the misfortune of playing in the same division as the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints, they may well have been able to get into the postseason.
While they blew away all preseason prognostications with their performance, there’s still lots of work to be done for Raheem Morris and company.
The young, offensive trio of Josh Freeman, LeGarrette Blount and Mike Williams emerged as a very solid core, and has the Bucs’ future outlook looking rosy.
So, how can they improve with the draft?
Biggest Needs: RB, WR, G
Offense in today’s NFL is geared towards having an effective tw0-back system. While Blount ran for over 1,000 yards on just 201 carries as a rookie, the team could stand to get a more capable backup. Sadly, injuries have taken a toll on the career of Cadillac Williams, and, while he’s a nice pass-catching option out of the backfield, Tampa needs a guy to step in behind Blount and help carry more of the load.
Obviously, a No. 2 running back is not the most pressing need, so the Bucs can stand to wait until a bit later in the draft to try and find a guy. Some players to look for are Virginia Tech’s Ryan Williams, Wisconsin’s John Clay and Kentucky’s Derrick Locke.
Tampa also boasts a talented crop of youthful receivers, but this is a position at which you can never have too much depth. Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn enjoyed successful rookie seasons, but why not get deeper? Names like Austin Pettis, Greg Little and Ronald Johnson may pop up.
Tampa is solid on the outside of the offensive line, but could use some help on the interior. Davin Joseph was a Pro Bowler at left guard in 2008, but right guard is a bit shaky.
Biggest Needs: DE, OLB, CB, ILB, CB, SS
The offense is fairly solid, but the defense has several question marks.
The Bucs used their first two picks in last year’s draft on defensive tackles (Gerald McCoy, Brian Price), but could use some help on the end. The team tied with the Jacksonville Jaguars for 30th in the league last season with sacks, with just 26 as a team. They seem likely to use their first-round pick this year (20th overall) on an end like Ryan Kerrigan, Cameron Heyward, Robert Quinn or J.J. Watt.
Barrett Ruud and Geno Hayes are productive, but, again, depth in the NFL is an absolute necessity. A few later-round outside linebacker prospects to watch are Lawrence Wilson, K.J. Wright and Malcolm Smith.
Tampa drafted the volatile corner Aqib Talib a few years back in the first round, but on the other side, Ronde Barber is getting up there in age. He’s still a solid player, but he doesn’t have many years left. Miami’s DeMarcus Van Dyke, North Carolina’s Kendric Burney and Texas’ Curtis Brown are some lower level prospects.
The Bucs also lack a real play-making safety. This draft isn’t loaded with big-time safety prospects, but North Carolina’s Deunta Williams, Clemson’s DeAndre McDaniel and Florida’s Will Hill may all go somewhere between rounds two and four.