The critics have weighed in.
In the movie industry, studies have repeatedly shown that good reviews lead to stronger performances at the box office. This is thought to be especially true in the days of the internet. Repeated good reviews build up a buzz that is hard to resist.
If the same applies to the NFL, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers could be releasing a blockbuster in the fall of 2011.
NFL analysts have spoken, and the critical mass regarding the Buccaneers' 2011 draft efforts has come down strongly on the positive side. The feedback has been almost uniformly good: Tampa Bay nailed this one.
Understand, of course, that there is no grade, good or bad, that would outweigh what the team's internal opinions of its new class of rookies. And it's important to note, as always, how speculative these post-draft opinions are. It will take a few years before the true impact of the Buccaneers' 2011 draft class is clear enough to be judged.
Still, one can judge the perceived value of the players each team collected, and where in the draft they were selected. It's also possible to pass judgment on how well each team addressed the most pressing needs on their rosters.
And by those standards, the Buccaneers hit a home run in the 2011 draft in the eyes of virtually every analyst. Many of these same critics, noting that Tampa Bay also made very good use of the 2009 and 2010 drafts, also took the next logical step: The young and talented Buccaneers are poised to be very competitive in 2011 and beyond.
Here's a look at some of the analysis regarding the Buccaneers' 2011 draft class:
* CBS Sports:
Pete Prisco identifies just three teams to which he would give an "A" for their 2011 draft efforts: Tampa Bay, Houston and the New York Giants. Among the Buccaneer picks he particularly liked was fifth-round safety Ahmad Black, whom he calls a "heck of a football player."
"For the Bucs, it's their second consecutive year getting one of my top grades," said Prisco. "For the third straight year, the Bucs hit big in the draft. General manager Mark Dominik is building something special down there. The first two picks of ends Adrian Clayborn and [Da'Quan] Bowers means Tampa Bay has used four premium picks on the line in the past two years."
Dan Fouts, also of CBS Sports, believes the Buccaneers made the right move by focusing on the defensive front seven in the early rounds. During live coverage of the draft by CBS Sports, Fouts reacted to the selection of Bowers in the second round very favorably (watch the video here).
"The Buccaneers are a team that you have to keep your eye on after the 10-6 season they had last year and the development of the young quarterback, Josh Freeman, and now a dynamite pass rusher in Bowers," said Fouts. "Defensively the Bucs are going to be very good. Offensively with LeGarrette Blount, Freeman, [Kellen] Winslow at tight end, and [Mike] Williams at receiver, they have all the pieces to really be a very competitive team."
ESPN's draft experts were essentially unanimous in their praise of the Bucs' draft, with the duo of Mel Kiper and Todd McShay agreeing on the wisdom of the Clayborn and Bowers' selections.
"Da'Quan Bowers is a stud," said Kiper, who gave Tampa Bay the best grade out of the four NFC South teams, all of which made notable moves in this year's draft. "A big-time player off of the edge. A guy that gives you everything he has, every play, every time out… The kid could have been the number 1, number 2 or number 3 overall pick."
McShay didn't assign grades in his post-draft review but did like the Bucs' early defensive focus.
"The Bucs took the best player on their board for three consecutive picks with DE Adrian Clayborn, DE Da'Quan Bowers and ILB Mason Foster," he said. "They continued to upgrade their front seven after selecting DTs Gerald McCoy and Brian Price [in 2010]."
It was the Buccaneers' picks on Friday night, the middle day of the 2011 draft, that really sold ESPN analyst John Clayton on Tampa Bay's efforts. Clayton tabbed the Bucs as one of his three "Winners" after Day Two of the draft.
"You've got to be kidding me," he said. "Last year, the Bucs rebuilt their defensive line with the additions of defensive tackles Gerald McCoy and Brian Price, their top two draft choices in 2010. After getting a pass-rushing defensive end in Adrian Clayborn in the first round Thursday, the Bucs landed Da'Quan Bowers in the second round. Bowers has talent to become rookie of the year... Drafted with the 51st pick, Bowers will be eager to prove his worth. To make life even better, the Bucs added linebacker Mason Foster in the third round."
Former NFL Head Coach and current ESPN analyst Herm Edwards identified the Buccaneers as his "winner" of this year's draft. And ESPN's Adam Schefter, who has more than half a million followers on Twitter, broke it down rather directly in this tweet once the draft was complete:
"My day-after sense of the teams that had the top 5 drafts. 1. Buccaneers; 2. Cardinals; 3. Broncos; 4. Lions; 5. Texans."
* Fox Sports
On Foxsports.com, Adam Schein and Peter Schrager evaluated each team's draft efforts in separate video segments. Schein gave the Buccaneers and A- and Schrager might have been even stronger in his praise during the segment on Tampa Bay.
"I thought Tampa did a really nice job," said Schein. "Mark Dominik and Raheem Morris have proven that they absolutely know what they are doing… Raheem Morris is a big-time character guy. He put the big emphasis on practice, they drafted five captains on the collegiate level. Excellent job by the Buccaneers… Mark Dominik has done a great job the last few years, running the Buccaneers."
Added Schrager: "I am ready to put Mark Dominik in the NFL Hall of Fame, that is how excited I am. They started 11 rookies last year, they had the youngest team in the league, they almost went to the playoffs and this year they pick up fantastic players in Clayborn, Bowers, Luke Stocker, the tight end out of Tennessee, Ahmad Black and then I love Mason Foster the linebacker out of Washington. 162 tackles last season, that's not a career that is a season. He is going to play right away. They really loaded up and Tampa Bay, this team just keeps on getting better. They are the team to watch next year in the NFC South."
* NFL Network
The Network was effusive in its praise of the Bucs' drafting as well.
For Mike Mayock, the good work went well beyond the first two rounds, as he considered many of the Bucs' third-day picks to be intriguing as well.
"They get two defensive ends in the first and second round, both of whom were top 15 rated coming into this season…" said Mayock. "After that, Mason Foster a really solid linebacker; Luke Stocker, an inline tight end that will block and can catch the football down the field; One of my favorite players Ahmad Black, who I think is just an underrated tough, tough safety from the University of Florida; Allen Bradford a 245-pound guy, push-the-pile tough guy and Anthony Gaitor."
"I think you got two first round picks with Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers. There is no doubt about it… Mason Foster in the third round is really good, Luke Stocker at Tight End in the fourth round and Ahmad Black in the fifth round is also really good… I think they did a really good job."
In another video segment focusing on the NFC South, fellow NFL Network analyst Solomon Wilcots handed down a quartet of very good grades to the Bucs and their three division foes.
"I think you got two first round picks with Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers," said Wilcots. "There is no doubt about it… Mason Foster in the third round is really good, Luke Stocker at Tight End in the fourth round and Ahmad Black in the fifth round is also really good… I think they did a really good job."
* Sports Illustrated
On SI.com, analyst Kerry Byrne gave out only four "A" grades, one of which went to the Buccaneers. Byrne, in particular, believed the Bucs aggressively and directly addressed their number one need heading into 2011.
"The big needs-based draft, highlighted by potential game-breaker Da'Quan Bowers with a second-round selection," said Byrne. "Look out, folks, Tampa is quietly building a very nice little team: Solid offensive line, good running game and a highly efficient rising-star quarterback. Expect an immediate upgrade on defense and expect Tampa to contend for the NFC South title."
* Other Feedback (some links not to specific stories):
Rob Rang of NFLDraftScout.com:"The 2011 class proved that Mark Dominik (and his staff) is indeed one of the true rising stars in the talent evaluation business."
Dennis Dillon ofThesportingnews.com:"Tampa's youth movement continues to look promising. To complement their young playmakers on offense, the Bucs added pass rushers in DEs Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers, and a productive MLB in Mason Foster."
Wes Buntin ofNational Football Post:"Adding a pair of defensive ends with their first two picks – Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers – on paper gives them one of the best young defensive lines in the NFL. LB Mason Foster and TE Luke Stocker are both very solid football players who should mature into starter in the league and I like the potential depth they also added later in the draft as well."
Jarrett Bell of USA Today, who made the Bucs *one of four teams to which he gave an "A" grade: "*Bowers, if 100%, could thrive immediately on a young, talent-laden defensive line … and the Bucs are big winners for landing him."