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Seven for Schiano: 2012 Draft Brings New Day to Bucs

Posted Apr 28, 2012

The Bucs' first draft class under Head Coach Greg Schiano was heavy on defensive difference-makers and new talent for the power running game Schiano intends to build his offense around


The Tampa Bay Buccaneers moved aggressively to get their targeted players during the first two nights of the 2012 NFL Draft, then sat back and let four more promising prospects come to them on the final day of selections.

 

The result was a seven-man draft class that fulfilled the Bucs' primary objectives heading into the three days of critical team-building activity.

 

"Consistently, we were looking for tough, smart, good-character football players, guys who when you watch the tape, you feel them," said General Manager Mark Dominik.  "They were able to either make plays with their speed and precision, or they're physical football players.  We wanted to become a much more physical football team with this draft, and I think we did that.  That was the main concern.  We wanted to become a smarter football team with this draft, and I think we did that.  And we wanted to create a lot of competition.

 

"We were aggressive throughout the draft, moving around early on and then settling down in the [third] day and having the patience to just wait and let the draft come to us."

 

The Buccaneers are attempting to produce a quick turnaround after a 4-12 season in 2011 that led to the arrival of new Head Coach Greg Schiano.  The team targeted premier talent and difference-makers on both sides of the ball, of course, but also had its sights set on a certain type of young man, players who both love and live the game of football and will help Schiano establish "The Buccaneer Way."  Mission accomplished, according to the very satisfied head coach.

 

"I'm very excited about the type of player we were able to bring in, the whole class, the whole draft class," said Schiano.  "There's a common thread – there are tough guys, there are leaders, guys who love the game of football.

 

The Bucs began the draft on Thursday night with a small move down in the first round, setting off a flurry of trades that put the team in the right position to grab the most coveted players on its board.  That first deal was a swap of picks #5 and #7 with Jacksonville, as the Bucs used the Jaguars' interest in Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon to maximize their own draft value before tabbing their initial target, Alabama safety Mark Barron.

 

The fourth-round pick acquired in that deal filled a void that the Buccaneers created in that round a year ago as part of a 2011 draft-day trade up to get Tennessee tight end Luke Stocker.  Suddenly owning a pick in the fourth round would prove to be very important over the next 24 hours.

 

The selection of Barron seemed to end the Bucs' involvement in the draft's first night, but Dominik and Schiano had different plans.  When Boise State running back Doug Martin was still available in the closing minutes of the opening round, Dominik employed that new fourth-round pick to move up from the fifth pick of the second round (#36 overall) to the penultimate choice in Round One.  Even better, the Bucs held on to a fourth-round selection in that second deal with the Denver Broncos, merely moving down from #101 overall to #126.

 

Again, that proved important on Friday when, during the second evening of the draft, the Bucs found themselves in range of a player they originally thought was out of their reach.  Nebraska linebacker Lavonte David, who would have been a serious consideration at #36 had the Bucs not made their previous deal, slid into the latter part of the second frame and eventually Dominik pulled the trigger on another deal.  He set that revised fourth-round pick, #126, to Houston in order to move up 10 spots and grab David before he became permanently unavailable.  The Buccaneers also got a seventh-round pick back in the deal, which eventually turned into Northwestern tight end Drake Dunsmore.

 

When it was all said and done, Dominik had pulled off a Houdini trick that should remind Bucs fans of some of the draft-day wheeling and dealing the team pulled off several times in the mid-1990s, at the cusp of the franchise's renaissance.  The 1995 and 1997 drafts come to mind, when a series of deals positioned the team to take such cornerstone players as Derrick Brooks, Warrick Dunn and Warren Sapp.

 

In this case, Dominik started with six overall picks distributed in these rounds: 1, 2, 3, 5, 6 and 7.  After his trio of trades, the Bucs ended up picking in these rounds: 1, 1, 2, 5, 6, 7 and 7.  The Bucs originally had three of the first 68 picks and ended up making three of the first 58 picks, somehow adding an extra seventh-rounder in the process.  This was not unprecedented territory, of course, but it was a good example of maximizing one's draft assets.

 

"DOMINIK QUOTE"

 

Here’s a look at the Buccaneers’ final seven-man 2012 draft class:

 

Pick*

Pos.

Player

College

Notes

1-7-7

S

Mark Barron

Alabama

First safety ever for Bucs in Round One

1-31-31

RB

Doug Martin

Boise St.

Bucs trade up for productive 3-down back

2-26-58

LB

Lavonte David

Nebraska

Speedy tackle machine another trade-up acq.

5-5-140

LB

Najee Goode

W. Virginia

Middle LB who penetrates backfield

6-4-174

CB

Keith Tandy

W. Virginia

Strong tackler, 13 INTs over last 3 years

7-5-212

RB

Michael Smith

Utah State

Set USU record with career 7.1 ypc

7-26-233

TE

Drake Dunsmore

Northwestern

Big 10 Tight End of the year in 2011

 

* Round/Pick in Round/Overall Pick in Draft

 

Dominik and Schiano discussed their eventful first round of drafting in a series of press conferences on Thursday night regarding Mark Barron and Doug Martin, and then broke down the successful pursuit of Lavonte David on Friday evening.  In each case, the Buccaneers felt as if they got not only a productive player from a very successful college program, but also a primary leader from each of those teams.  They also got their top target on each occasion, though it took some last-minute deal-making to secure the final two.

 

The third day began with an empty fourth round for the Buccaneers, but of course that was also true when the draft began.  The eventual trade down and then out of the fourth round on Thursday and Friday was what Dominik called "playing with house money," a price the team was more than willing to pay to secure Martin and David.  Still, there were four picks to be made on Saturday, and the Buccaneers feel they got the most out of them.  That's an opinion worth considering given that the seventh-round has successfully yielded the team some very valuable players in recent years, from Cody Grimm to E.J. Biggers to Dekoda Watson to Sammie Stroughter.

 

The first acquisition for the Bucs on Saturday was West Virginia linebacker Najee Goode.  Goode, a team captain, played all over the field for the Mountaineers in a complex defense, and Dominik thinks he could fit in a variety of places for the Buccaneers, as well.  Most likely, he'll play in the middle or perhaps on the strong side.

 

"This is a guy we watched a lot throughout this whole process and a guy that we felt could play all three positions," said Dominik.  "He's physical, fast, I think he has one of the best use of hands of all the linebackers in this draft.  He's going to have an opportunity to play all three [linebacker positions] and really compete, whether we put him at Mike, Will or Sam.  He's at two-time captain at West Virginia, just the things we're looking for on this football team."

 

Coincidentally, the Buccaneers selected Goode's college roommate with their next pick, taking Mountaineers cornerback Keith Tandy in Round Six.  Schiano was obviously very familiar with both defenders from his time in the Big East and respectively referred to them as "royal pains in the butt" during his Saturday evening wrap-up press conference.  Tandy is versatile like his teammate and could eventually see some playing time at safety, but the Bucs are going to let him do what he feels comfortable doing early on.

 

"As I talked to Coach about this selection, we're going to give him a shot at corner and see how he does, because that's what he did at West Virginia," said Dominik.  "He has really good ball skills, a tough, physical tackler as well, so he's an exciting element to our team."

 

Having used four of their first five picks on defensive players, the Buccaneers switched gears in the final round and focused on adding speed and explosiveness to the offense.  Pick #212 brought big-play running back Michael Smith from Utah State and #233 reeled in the Big Ten's tight end of the year, Northwestern's Drake Dunsmore.

 

The addition of Smith is particularly intriguing, especially after Dominik revealed that another team's general manager called with a trade offer right after the Bucs made their pick.  Dominik was offered a sixth-round pick in the 2013 draft to give Smith up, but he declined.  Not surprising, considering how much he and Schiano enjoyed their Utah State film-watching sessions.

 

"I think every time Mark and I watched tape he would jump off the tape at you, just a different kind of speed than everybody else on the field," said Schiano.  "How we utilize that is going to be our job.  We've got to make sure we find a way to utilize that speed and there are several different ways you can do it, but speed wins.  This guy brings quite a bit of that as well as being a very athletic guy."

 

Added Dominik: "He's a very fast, explosive guy that can play some fullback, with the leverage and toughness he has, but can also be that back that can catch the ball out of the backfield.  He's really a productive football player when given the opportunity.  He gives us more speed on offense, which I was looking for."

 

Meanwhile, Northwestern's Dunsmore is a productive pass-catcher who can gain extra yards after the catch due to his speed.  Schiano said that his addition will allow the team to create some mismatches in the middle of the field.  Dominik said the decision to draft Dunsmore was based partly on the evolution of the game and how well some teams have been able to utilize a pass-catching tight end.

 

"He's very smart, catches the ball well, runs excellent routes," said the Bucs' G.M.  "He's a guy we really think can help us at that position.  We thought we wanted to get another pass-catching tight end because of the way the league has evolved and how important that position is.  We felt like he was the perfect addition to wrap up the whole draft."

 

As always, the true effectiveness of a weekend of drafting won't be obvious until several years down the road, when the newcomers have either fulfilled the team's expectations of them or not.  Dominik himself pointed out that every general manager in the league is happy and optimistic at the end of a draft.  Still, the Buccaneers' brain trust feels particularly good about this year's class because it believes all seven men drafted have a very real opportunity to contribute significantly in 2012.

 

"This feels like a really good because of the character of the men we took, the production they had, how they're going to fit into this football team," said Dominik.  "We didn't draft guys that were just going to be special-teamers.  We drafted guys that are going to have roles.  I think the guys all the way one through seven have a role on this football team, an opportunity on this football team to really contribute, not just on fourth down but hopefully third, second and first.  I think that's what makes this draft feel so much more powerful."

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