North Carolina Central DT Greg Peterson, the Bucs' fifth-round pick, is tall for an under tackle, but that height could come in handy
With the 2007 NFL Draft in the books, Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans finally know what the team's rookie class will look like for the upcoming season. But with the exception of the more notable first-day picks, such as defensive standout Gaines Adams, how much do us laymen actually know about the Bucs' rookie class, particularly the six second-day picks who are now proud members of the Buccaneers?
The answer is probably not a lot, if you're the average fan. However, for coaches who have access to game film, interviews and eyewitness accounts from regional scouts, these second-day picks are hardly anonymous.
That said, Buccaneers.com turned to the man himself, Head Coach Jon Gruden, for insight into the decision-making behind each second-day pick as well as how he sees his newest acquisitions fitting in with the team.
S Tanard Jackson, fourth round (106th overall)
Jackson, who played both cornerback and safety while at Syracuse, will begin his Buccaneers career lending support at the safety position. At 6-0, 192 pounds, Jackson has the size to be a physical presence in the secondary, but he also possesses the speed to run with receivers. That potent combination wasn't lost on Gruden and the Buccaneers, who were ecstatic to land Jackson in the fourth round.
"We started this morning and drafted Tanard Jackson, who was a three-year starter at corner at Syracuse," Gruden said. "We project him as a safety. We coached him at the Senior Bowl. We're excited to get him at the top of the fourth round."
DT Greg Peterson, fifth round (141st overall)
In Peterson, the Buccaneers believe they have a player capable of being a disruptive force at the three-technique position. Although the 6-5, 271-pound Peterson may seem large for the under tackle spot on the defensive line, Gruden believes Peterson's size will be a major advantage, especially with regard to batting down passes from quarterbacks looking to negate the blitz by quickly delivering the ball.
"For teams that are throwing the ball quick against the blitz and creating five step drops, tipped passes are a real problem," Gruden explained. "You can ask me all about that. We've seen a lot of those ourselves. Sometimes the best pass defense is a deflection, and guys that are 6-5. Kevin Carter has had a history and a knack for batting balls down. You can ask Sam Madison, some of the former Dolphin cornerbacks that were recipients of interceptions on deflections. We would like to create more pass disruption from our front as well as our coverage.
"We took Greg Peterson, a young man from North Carolina Central, who will be slated to play the under tackle position. He's a big guy that we liked a lot. We realize he's from a small college, but he does have a lot of traits that fit our scheme. He's big, athletic, he's got a real big upside, he's got good energy. He's healthy, and he's a guy we like."
LB Adam Hayward, sixth round (182nd overall)
Acknowledging that Hayward was one of the guys who really got him "fired up," Gruden believes the versatile and speedy linebacker allows the Buccaneers several options on defense.
"We'll start him at linebacker," Gruden said. "I think there will be some situations where he might be standing up as a defensive end, rushing the passer, much like some of the third-down specialists do. The Pittsburgh Steelers' nickel rushers have been outside linebackers for the last five or six years. You don't have to bring in a defensive end to rush the passer. We might go to a smaller lineup, double the lineup just like the Major League Baseball managers do. Create different size-speed matchups for the opponent."
T Chris Denman, seventh round (214th overall)
The 6-7, 315-pound Denman provides depth on a young Buccaneers offensive line that was hit hard last year by injuries. Capable of playing both guard and tackle, Denman will – at least for now – begin his NFL career competing at the right tackle position with second-year man Jeremy Trueblood.
"Chris Denman [is] a big tackle who played at Fresno State," said Gruden. "I think Pat Hill is one of the best coaches in football, in college or any level, particularly in the offensive line. Denman is a big guy who will go over to the right side and has some versatility to go inside, and he has a physical presence that we like.
"[Luke] Petitgout is going to be the left tackle. Anthony Davis is going to compete at left tackle and left guard. [Arron] Sears is going to compete on the left side. I think Denman's natural position is going to be right tackle. We project him to be also a right guard candidate."
CB Marcus Hamilton, seventh round (245th overall)
Finishing the draft strong, the Buccaneers continued to add what they believe to be quality depth on defense with Hamilton, whose athleticism provides the foundation for a potentially big upside. An impressive workout by Hamilton, among other things, stood out in the mind of Gruden.
"Marcus Hamilton – one of the only two-time captains, I believe, in Virginia Cavalier history," Gruden noted. "He worked out at his school tremendously, running under 4.5 with a 36-inch vertical. He's a guy that makes plays. I think that he had 12 picks in the last two seasons. He's a great kid, and he's a good football player."
RB Kenneth Darby, seventh round (246th overall)
Darby, the final selection by the Buccaneers in this year's draft, was the only offensive skill-position player taken by Gruden, who was more than happy to nab the playmaking running back off the board. His addition should provide the Buccaneers with another set of viable legs in the offensive backfield.
"Ken Darby is the number-three rusher in Alabama history," Gruden said. "He took a step backwards in his senior year for a lot of reasons: the death of his father, he had some nagging injuries. But as a junior, he was brilliant at times as a runner. To get a guy with that kind of production at the end of the seventh round is something we are excited about."
While the Bucs' second-day picks needed some of the descriptive introductions above for us less-informed college scouts, Tampa Bay's first-day picks filled some rather obvious needs. There was the explosive pass-rusher, Adams, for a Buccaneer defense that sunk to 25 sacks last year. There was the road-grading guard, Sears, who could fight for a starting job on the left side as a rookie. There was the aggressive playmaking safety, Sabby Piscitelli, who will try to reenergize the deep end of the Bucs' secondary. And there was the roadrunner of a linebacker, Quincy Black, who provides an instant dose of youth to a proud but veteran linebacking squad.
In the end, there was a heavy influx of defensive talent, from top to bottom of the Bucs' class, most of it tied together by one operative word: Speed.
"Speed was a priority, it's always a priority," said Gruden. "You can't coach it. You can't find a strength coach or a speed coach who can improve speed with these guys who are 22 or 23 years old. Some will say they can, and some might do it - those guys I'm sure will send me their resumes tonight. We wanted to get faster. We were looking for instinct, speed, certainly."
The team drafted 10 players this weekend, holding on to all nine of its original choices and making one small move down in the fourth round in order to pick up a sixth-rounder. Those picks became these 10 players:
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 2007 Draft Class
|1||4||DE||Gaines Adams||Clemson||First defensive player in the draft|
|2||35||G||Arron Sears||Tennessee||Named SEC's best blocker in '06|
|2||64||S||Sabby Piscitelli||Oregon State||Hard-hitter, fast, versatile, great makeup|
|3||68||LB||Quincy Black||New Mexico||Blazing speed for a LB, good fit for Bucs' D|
|4||106||S||Tanard Jackson||Syracuse||Will convert from CB under Bucs' direction|
|5||141||DT||Greg Peterson||North Carolina Central||Outstanding burst, projected as under tackle|
|6||182||LB||Adam Hayward||Portland State||More speed at LB; 9.5 sacks in '06|
|7a||214||T||Chris Denman||Fresno State||Stands 6-7; first-team All-WAC in '06|
|7b||245||CB||Marcus Hamilton||Virginia||Finished with 15 career INTs, including 5 last year|
|7c||246||RB||Kenneth Darby||Alabama||3rd Alabama back ever with 3,000 rushing yards|