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Corner Store: Bucs Hit Key Position with Aqib Talib

The Bucs drafted a cornerback in the first day for the first time since 2001, taking the electrifying playmaker out of Kansas with the 20th pick of the first round


CB Aqib Talib had 13 picks in three seasons at Kansas

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers insisted they would take the "best player for the Buccaneers" when the 2008 NFL Draft rolled around to them in the first round. That's a strategy, obviously, that combines need with available talent, and it produced marvelous results when Kansas cornerback Aqib Talib was still on the board at pick #20.

The Buccaneers were thrilled to nab Talib at that spot, addressing a position that was undoubtedly in need of young talent. Talib (6-1, 202) offers an intriguing blend of size and athleticism at the cornerback position, where tall defenders are prized for their ability to match up with the many large receivers in the league. Talib is big but fluid and loose in the hips, and most draft analysts believe he has the chance to develop into a star on the NFL level. He may also get a chance to return punts or kickoffs.

Head Coach Jon Gruden said Talib has "a knack for making plays on both sides of the ball."

In three seasons at Kansas, Talib played in 34 games and started 32, amassing 162 tackles, 13 interceptions, 43 passes defensed, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. He finished his Jayhawk career ranked second in team history with 13 picks, and his run-after-the-catch abilities are evident in his 322 career interception return yards, far more than the previous Kansas record of 180.

Last season, Talib picked off five passes and returned two of them for touchdowns, helping lead the surprising Jayhawks to a 12-1 record. He was consensus first-team All-America choice, the first player at Kansas to earn that honor since 1983.

Talib was a second-team All-America choice in 2006 as well thanks to his six interceptions and 22 passes defensed in just 10 games (all starts).

He is just the second defensive back the Buccaneers have ever drafted in the first round. In 1986, Tampa Bay selected SMU's Rod Jones with the 25th overall pick after using the first overall selection on RB Bo Jackson. Talib is thus the highest-drafted cornerback in team history. Talib is the second straight Big 12 cornerback to go 20th overall, as the Giants selected Texas' Aaron Ross at that spot last year.

The Bucs now have three cornerbacks on the roster who were selected in the first round, joining Phillip Buchanon and Sammy Davis. Buchanon and three-time Pro Bowler Ronde Barber are expected to start for the Buccaneers in 2008, but former starter and 2007 nickel back Brian Kelly left as a free agent in March. Talib is the first cornerback the Bucs have taken in the first three rounds since Dwight Smith arrived as a third-round choice in 2001.

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