Due to the emergence of Josh Freeman and several other young players on offense, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ future is looking bright. Rookies LeGarrette Blount and Mike Williams give the team a pair of triplets on offense that they are optimistic can be assets going forward in the tough NFC South division.
On the defensive side of the ball, their key pieces include defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and cornerback Aqib Talib.
This means that the Bucs can approach the top of this year’s draft thinking they can continue to supplement the pieces around Freeman on offense, or try to bolster their young defense with more pieces with their twentieth overall selection. It’s hard to argue with either path, especially on offense where offensive line seems to be the more pressing area. But their needs on defense seem a bit more pressing and thus why I think they will go on that side of the ball and take Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan with this pick.
The Bucs pass rush was one of the worst in the league a year ago. Stylez G. White, previously their top pass rusher had a fairly mediocre season with 4.5 sacks. Rookies Gerald McCoy and Brian Price didn’t provide a ton of pressure themselves, but on the interior they feel comfortable with their young trio when you add in Roy Miller as well. It’s their edge pressure that needs to be helped. And going after a guy like Ryan Kerrigan makes a lot of sense. But they will likely also have their choice to also select Justin Houston. Houston is the more explosive of the pair, but Kerrigan seems a little more polished.
Also on the defensive side of the ball, the Bucs could use some help in their secondary. Ronde Barber is expected back for another year, but he’s at the end of the road. The team drafted Myron Lewis a year ago to be groomed as his replacement, so they have an option. But they will certainly look at other cornerbacks like Jimmy Smith and Aaron Williams, who should fit well in their Cover-2 scheme. Smith has character concerns, but so did Aqib Talib coming out of Kansas a few years back, and he’s worked out fairly well. Which means that the Bucs probably won’t be as scared off Smith as other teams might be.
Offensively, since the team has Freeman, Blount, Williams, Arrelious Benn, and Kellen Winslow at their skill positions, their obvious need appears to be up front. Jeff Faine is coming off an injury, which almost always seems to be the case. So the center position might be a concern. But the team also has Jeremy Zuttah and Ted Larsen on the roster that can potentially fill in.
The right side of their line seems to be the biggest concern. Davin Joseph is a prospective free agent, and while they want him back, it’s not a guarantee he will return. Because of that, if available Florida’s Mike Pouncey would make sense because of his potential to slide in immediately as a right guard, and also add some depth at center as well.
Right tackle Jeremy Trueblood is also a free agent, but not one they are overly interested in keeping. Upgrading that spot is a definite need, and one they could easily address with their top pick. Gabe Carimi is the most natural right tackle prospect available, but Anthony Castonzo might be up their alley as well. The versatility of Castonzo or Nate Solder to also potentially play left tackle gives them some insurance in case Donald Penn goes back into the doghouse, where he was prior to this past year. Trueblood hails from Boston College like Castonzo with similar measurables, so it remains to be seen if that will make him more or less likely to be a target by the Bucs.
But in the end, the Bucs cannot pass up on a pass rusher like Kerrigan at this point in the draft as their most glaring weakness.