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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Day Three Draft Blueprint

The Bucs have five picks to spend on the third day of the upcoming NFL Draft, and a look at draft history and the current field of prospects suggest some possible options for those picks

A countdown of the top 50 overall players in the 2015 NFL Draft as ranked by NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah.(Note: this list has been updated to reflect Jeremiah's most recent rankings.)

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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers hold eight picks going into the 2015 NFL Draft. That begins with the card that will kick the whole thing off on the evening of Thursday, April 30, and it also includes very high choices in the second and third rounds.

The final five picks will fall on Day Three, when the NFL grinds through Rounds 4-7, with five-minute time limits on each selection and most moves happening more quickly than that. The names will tumble by in rapid succession, and many of them will never gain a significantly higher profile than they have on draft day.

But these are not insignificant picks, as we all know. The ones who do succeed in the NFL help form the long-term (and, often, affordable) core of a team. For the Buccaneers, think Adam Hayward or Pete Pierson or Dexter Jackson (the safety, not the receiver). We're not talking Tom-Brady-in-the-sixth-round home runs; we're talking solid pros and roster depth. That's important.

But it isn't easy. Barring trades, the Buccaneers will be doing their best to make use of picks 109, 162, 168, 184 and 218. Using recent history for both Tampa Bay and the NFL as a whole, and matching that with this year's class of prospects, let's take a look at a possible blueprint for how those picks could be used to serve the team's future.

For each of the aforementioned five picks, we've looked at the Bucs' draft history within a 10-slot range of the assigned number, as well as what the NFL as a whole has done in that range since 2000, giving us 15 drafts to peruse. For pick 109, for instance, we looked at picks 100-109. Two of the five picks fell in the 160-169 range and will be considered together.

**1. Pick 109

Who are the best running backs in this year's draft class?

Buc History:** Tampa Bay's best success in this range has been with wide receivers, especially tall ones. Mike Williams, Horace Copeland and Bruce Hill were all found at this spot in the draft. The Bucs also hit the mark on center Tony Mayberry and safety Dexter Jackson. To a lesser extent, the Buccaneers got decent contributions here from guard Dan Buenning, cornerback Jerry Wilson and tight end Luke Stocker. The misses included running backs Dave Barrett and Michael Gunter, punter Monte Robbins and cornerback Larry Flowers.

2000-14 NFL Drafts: This is still high enough in the draft that there are dozens and dozens of success stories to draw from, and hits all over the depth chart. Some recent standouts include tight end Jordan Cameron, defensive end Everson Griffen and current Buccaneer cornerback Alterraun Verner (selected by Tennessee). This is also the same range that produced defensive tackles Paul Soliai, Isaac Sopoaga and Henry Melton, interior offensive linemen Jahri Evans, Clint Boling, Nick Kaczur and Kory Lichtensteiger and wide receivers Jerricho Cotchery, Mike Thomas and Brian Hartline.

Potential Buccaneer Plan: In this case, we're going to have to ignore the Bucs' own history with our recommendation. That's because, despite all the respectable names in the above paragraph, what really drew our eye was the number of big, power running backs who entered the league in the 100-109 range. Since 2000, that list includes Houston's Domanick Williams, Cincinnati's Rudi Johnson, the New York Giants' Brandon Jacobs, the Dallas Cowboys' Marion Barber, the Oakland Raiders' Michael Bush, the San Francisco's Michael Robinson and Kansas City Chiefs fullback Omar Easy. While the 2015 class of running backs is not considered especially top-heavy – and backs are increasingly being shut out of the earliest picks – it is considered deep, with a variety of types. Even with the capable runners the Buccaneers have onboard, they could be looking for a big, bruising type to complement what they already have. Remember that, only a few years ago, it was Buccaneers Head Coach Lovie Smith, then at the Bears' helm, who signed Bush away from Oakland to pair with prolific tailback Matt Forte.


Possible Target:** Northern Iowa running back David Johnson. Alabama's T.J. Yeldon could be a coveted player in this mold, but there's a good chance he's gone before Round Four despite an underwhelming showing at the Scouting Combine. Meanwhile, the 6-1, 224-pound Johnson has a chance to fall into the 100-109 range, although he was impressive at the same combine. Johnson is a powerful, one-cut runner who has been compared to Alfred Morris, who went to the Washington Redskins in the sixth round in 2012. Johnson is described as a hard worker and has also shown good hands out of the backfield. If the Bucs are indeed looking for a power runner to add to their stable in this year's draft, Johnson could be available at a spot that has traditionally produced that sort of player.

**2-3. Picks 162 and 168

Florida's Dante Fowler and Clemson's Vic Beasley lead a talented group of linebackers.

Buc History:** The Bucs have not historically drawn much of value from the 160-169 pick range. Their best pick in that neighborhood was cornerback Al Harris, who collected 21 interceptions and two Pro Bowl invites over 15 seasons. Unfortunately, none of those were in Tampa. Otherwise, defensive tackle Curt Jarvis, who started 36 games over four seasons, is the biggest Buc hit from 160-169. Quarterback Josh Johnson, defensive tackle Shawn Lee, running back Kerry Goode and guard Sean Mahan all saw some success in Tampa, but for relatively brief periods. The team missed on safety Kevin Walker, WR Elijah Marshall, linebacker Bernard Carter and tight end Jay Carroll.

2000-14 NFL Drafts: Though there are far fewer notable success from 160-169 than we saw from 100-109, the hits here include safety George Iloka, defensive end Pernell McPhee, cornerback Corey Graham, linebacker Michael Boley, tight end Brent Celek and even a kicker, Randy Bullock. The highest concentration of successful picks here, however, were found on the interior offensive line. That group includes Carl Nicks, Chris Kuper and Dan Koppen, as well as David Diehl, who started as a guard but then played quite a bit at tackle. Just last year, the Packers found a new starting center, Corey Linsley, in this range.

Potential Buccaneer Plan: This could work well for the Buccaneers. While it seems quite possible that the team will use a high second or third-round pick on an offensive lineman, that pick could be a tackle, particularly if the depth at that position pushes a top prospect to pick #34. If an early pick is used on an edge blocker, the team's need on the inside could move to the top of the wish list on Day Three. And since the team has two picks in the 160-169 range and there are a lot of quality O-Line prospect this year, perhaps it could double down on the plan and increase its chances of hitting on at least one.


A countdown of the top 50 overall players in the 2015 NFL Draft as ranked by NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah.(Note: this list has been updated to reflect Jeremiah's most recent rankings.)

Possible Targets:* Louisville guard John Miller and Missouri guard/tackle Mitch Morse. You've got two different types here, but both with NFL promise. Miller is a powerful blocker who could be a road-grader at right guard but would probably need to improve his footwork on the next level. Morse is less of a mauler and more of a versatile athlete who played all over the line at Mizzou. The two are also on different ends of the spectrum when it comes to the likelihood of their availability at 162 or 168. Miller is seen as a Day Three pick by some while others believe he could go as high as the second round. Morse raised his stock considerably with a very good showing at the Combine, which may have actually jumped him *up into the fifth round.

**4. Pick 184

Who are the best tight ends in this year's draft class?

Buc History:** The Bucs have made four decent picks in this range, which isn't bad. The two best were linebacker Adam Hayward and defensive tackle Ellis Wyms. Hayward turned into a long-time captain on special teams and a versatile backup for all three linebacker spots, while Wyms became a strong element in an interior-line rotation for the Bucs during a good portion of the 2000s, contributing a good pass-rush up the middle. Jim Leonard was a solid O-line reserve in the 1980s and running back Mike James has helped the Bucs on special teams and in the backfield the past two years. Among the team's misses at the position include three safeties – Shevin Smith, Ken Swilling and Tom Morris – as well as running backs Allen Bradford and Weldon Ledbetter.

2000-14 NFL Drafts: Though there have been some really big hits in this range along the lines of defensive end Adalius Thomas, running back Mike Anderson and punter Andy Lee, this group is not particularly impressive as a whole. You could start a decent offensive line with John Sullivan, Jeromy Clarey and Jeremy Bridges but there's not much more to work with. There has been some success, however, at the safety position, as Marquand Manuel, Chris Harris and C.C. Brown all came from this range of picks.

Potential Buccaneer Plan: Once again, the Bucs may need to try to buck their own history here. While they haven't had luck trying to find safeties from 180-189, other teams have. The Bucs have traded both of their 2014 opening-day starters, and while they have replacements standing by, it would probably be a good idea to plan for the future and add depth at the back of the secondary. And, of course, defensive backs at this stage of the draft can often become key special teams players very quickly.


Some of the most productive players in Buccaneer history have come to the team via the ranks of the undrafted. Check out photos of the top 10 free agent finds in Bucs history.

Possible Target:** Eastern Washington safety Tevin McDonald. The son of former NFL standout Tim McDonald (and the brother of current Rams safety T.J. McDonald), Tevin certainly has an NFL pedigree. He accumulated some off-the-field red flags at UCLA before transferring, and his measurables don't scream early pick. However, he unsurprisingly has good instincts for the game and employs an all-out style that may bode well on special teams.

**5. Pick 218

Buc History:** This has been a surprisingly productive pick range for the Buccaneers. Guard Gene Sanders, cornerback E.J. Biggers and linebacker Dekoda Watson all produced far more value than is typical from this spot in the draft. In addition, safety Cody Grimm made a brief but noticeable impact. That's four of the 11 players Tampa Bay has taken in the 210-219 range; the others were the quickly-forgotten likes of linebacker Kelvin Atkins, running back Michael Smith, defensive end Chance McCarty, linebacker John Samuelson, safety Derrick Goddard, tackle Chris Denman and tackle Steve Ingram.

2000-14 NFL Drafts: A couple of useful quarterbacks surprisingly came from this range in Derek Anderson and Tim Rattay. Others of note who were taken 210-219 include tackles Zach Strief and Derek Newton and safety Yeremiah Bell. Of greater interest is the fact that Biggers wasn't the only recent hit at cornerback in this range, nor the biggest. That title would certainly belong to Cortland Finnegan, with Captain Munnerlyn behind him. One could also include Reynaldo Hill, Shaunard Harts and Travis Carrie.

Potential Buccaneer Plan: Isn't it obvious? Cornerback! As with our sixth-round pick, this one has the added bonus of possibly producing an instant contributor on special teams. Competent cornerbacks are very valuable but difficult to find. Since it's not unusual to see third and fourth-round cornerback picks miss, there is no guarantee that anyone taken near the end of the draft is going to fare any better. But it's worth a try, as secondary depth is so important.


Possible Target:** Central Florida cornerback Jacoby Glenn. Glenn doesn't have top-notch speed, which is exactly why he'll be available on the third day of the draft. However, his skill set seems to match up with the Tampa Two defense, which should make him more of an intriguing prospect for the Buccaneers. Glenn also plays with an attitude and is a good tackler, which should help on special teams.

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