The best photos from the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
Tampa Bay Buccaneer decision-makers Lovie Smith and Jason Licht were a popular duo at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine, which wrapped up on Monday with defensive back drills. That was particularly true when the quarterbacks had their time in the spotlight on Saturday; NFL Network commonly cut between shots of the stadium turf and Licht and Smith peering through binoculars whenever Marcus Mariota ran a 40-yard dash or Jameis Winston heaved a deep pass.
There's no doubt that Saturday's workouts were of critical importance to the Buccaneers, who own the first pick in the upcoming draft. But if the quarterbacks were all that mattered to the team, then Smith and Licht could have flown in and out in a day. Instead, they spent most of a week in frigid Indianapolis.
As much attention as the first-overall pick is rightfully drawing, the Buccaneers also have seven other picks at their disposal in the 2015 draft, including the second selection in the second round, or #34 overall. At that spot, the team certainly expects to nab a starting-caliber player, and hopefully one that will be a part of the team's foundation for years to come.
The Bucs can grab any player they want at #1; the same isn't true at #34, but they can certainly make an educated guess at some of the prospects that might be available at the top of the second round. And that's exactly what we're going to do here. Now that the Combine is over and several hundred players have moved their way up or down NFL draft boards, here are five players that could make sense for Tampa Bay at pick #34. These options take into account how well the players did in Indy, but are not meant to reflect the opinions of Licht or Smith. We won't know how the Bucs' decision-makers really feel about any of these players until after the draft.
1. T T.J. Clemmings, Pittsburgh
While the combine helped, the prospects in a deep but not especially top-heavy class of offensive linemen are probably going to need a couple more months to sort themselves out. It's possible that Clemmings, who has been showing up on some first-round mock drafts but not all of them, will be a more solid first-rounder by April.
If not, he could be a serious target for the Buccaneers at #34. There's little doubt that the Buccaneers need some help on the front line, both on the edges and inside. It's usually easier to find a highly-rated guard than a long-term tackle in the second round because such a premium is put on the latter position. This year, however, the Buccaneers could benefit from a lack of consensus – at least for now – on the tackle rankings.
On the other hand, Clemmings may have priced himself out of the 30-40 pick range with a good showing at the Combine on Sunday. He ran a 5.14 40-yard dash, which might usher a linebacker right out of the league but is perfectly fine for a 310-pound human being. He also did well in the 20-yard shuttle, putting up a 4.54-second time, and that's probably more important for a tackle than the 40-yard dash.
The hope for a team that wants to see Clemmings fall just out of the first round is that he will be considered something of a raw prospect. He's a former basketball player and a relatively late convert to the offensive line, and that means his work in pass-protection is still in development. That could scare some teams away, but the upside is a potential long-term stalwart at either tackle position, and that would probably be worth a small gamble at #34.
2. ILB Stephone Anthony, Clemson
Mason Foster, the Buccaneers' starting middle linebacker for the past three seasons, is due to become a free agent in March, though the team does have exclusive negotiating rights with him until the free agency period begins. If Foster does not return to Tampa, the team would be looking for help in the middle of their defense.
Fortunately, the top of the second round could be a very good spot to land a MIKE replacement. Similar to the draft picking order on the offensive line, with top tackles generally going before top guards, the coveted outside linebackers are generally prioritized over the inside 'backers. There's actually a pretty decent group of intriguing inside linebackers in this year's draft class, but there's also a good chance that several of them will fall just out of the first round and into Buccaneer territory at #34.
Clemson's Anthony shows up in some mock drafts near the end of Round One, but he's usually slotted below UCLA's Eric Kendricks and Miami's Denzel Perryman. Perryman's stock seems to be on the rise and he's a load in the middle, but there have been questions about his coverage skills and those might have been exacerbated by an underwhelming 40-yard dash in Indy. That's not the case with Anthony, who is thought to have good coverage skills and was the third-fastest linebacker at the Combine with a 4.56-yard 40.
Buccaneer fans know that the Tampa Two defense favored by Smith and his staff sometimes requires the middle linebacker to cover deep down the middle, and his speed will be an asset in that regard. He will also have to shadow tight ends on shorter routes and react quickly in different directions on running plays. For those assignments, his short-area quickness will be more important, and that's why it was encouraging to see Anthony stand out in the 20-yard shuttle on Sunday. Anthony's shuttle time of 4.03 seconds was second-best among all linebackers and significantly better than the other inside 'backers expected to go in the first couple rounds. In fact, that shuttle time was tied for 12th among all players at all positions at this year's Combine, placing him more in the company of receivers like Sammie Coates (4.06) and Amari Cooper (3.98).
3. G Cam Erving, Florida State
As alluded to earlier, the top of the second round is often a prime spot to land a very good interior linemen. Sometimes these are men who played tackle at the collegiate level but project as a better fit at guard in the NFL, as was the case last year with Nevada's Joel Bitonio. Bitonio went 35th in the 2014 draft, to the Cleveland Browns, and turned in a marvelous rookie season. UCLA's Xavier Su'a-Filo did not have a particularly strong rookie season but it's worth noting that he was considered the top pure guard heading into the 2014 draft and he was selected 33rd overall.
Erving could be another Bitonio. He moved from tackle to center during the 2014 season at Florida State and thrived on the interior line, and that's where he's now expected to slot in as an NFL player, though some believe he could also play right tackle. He actually put up combine numbers quite similar to those of Clemmings, running well (5.14 in the 40) and putting up an excellent 9'4" broad jump. Erving will need to be a powerful run-blocker if he's going to play guard in the NFL, and his long arms plus a good showing in the bench press (30 reps; tied for fifth among all offensive linemen) are good signs he could do that.
As was mentioned above in regards to Clemmings, the rankings of the offensive linemen are likely to shift around in the next two months, so it might be a little early to project that Erving will still be available at #34. However, if he is considered primarily a guard, he has a better chance of staying put than a fast-riser at the tackle position.
4. DE Owa Odighizuwa, UCLA
If the Buccaneers had interest in this somewhat raw edge-rushing prospect heading into the Combine, the problem might be that Odighizuwa did too well on the Lucas Oil Stadium turf.
There are lots and lots of mock drafts out there to which one could refer, but to avoid click fatigue, here are four listed side by side on NFL.com. In terms of when they were last updated, they range from last month to last Wednesday. The point in checking out these four mocks from Charles Davis, Daniel Jeremiah, Lance Zierlein and Bucky Brooks is that none of them put Odighizuwa in the first round.
There are plenty of edge rushers in those four mocks, of course, as that is always a big draw on draft weekend. In this case, however, the mock drafters mostly foresaw a run on them early and then little action towards the bottom of the round. That's where it gets tricky for the Buccaneers and any team looking for pass-rush help near the top of the second round; it only takes a little bit of upward stock mobility to pull those players up into the second half of the opening stanza.
Odighizuwa was seen as a player who could help his cause in Indianapolis, as he had relatively underwhelming numbers during his college career but is bursting with athleticism. He didn't disappoint on Sunday, running a 4.62-second 40-yard dash to rank second among the linemen to LSU's Danielle Hunter. Odighizuwa also topped all the linemen with a 39.0-inch vertical leap as well as a 10'7" standing broad jump.
5. WR Phillip Dorsett, Miami
This is a bit of a wild-card pick, as wide receiver doesn't appear to be one of the Buccaneers' most pressing needs. In addition, Lovie Smith's first draft as Tampa Bay's head coach produced six offensive players and nobody for the defense, and that streak could run to eight picks if the #1 overall selection is used on a quarterback. At some point, you've got to believe that Smith and company are going to use first or second-day picks on some help for the defense.
There is a place for a player like Dorsett in the Bucs' offense, however, especially if he can convince NFL scouts that he's more than just a track star. Dorsett was a blur at the Combine, running a 4.33-second 40-yard dash that was bested by only one other receiver, Alabama-Birmingham's J.J. Nelson. That speed allowed him to average 24 yards per catch last year for the Hurricanes, who centered their offense around Duke Johnson and the running game. He had 58 catches as a sophomore.
If Dorsett had that kind of speed and enough production to demonstrate that he was more than just a straight-line blazer AND he was 6-3, he'd be a sure-first first-round pick. However, he's 5-9 and about 185 pounds, and that's why he could be available to the Buccaneers or other interested teams on the second day of this year's draft. Tampa Bay could be interested if they are looking specifically for a slot receiver, because Dorsett can get deep but also has the type of short-area quickness teams covet in that role. The Bucs drafted Robert Herron in the sixth round with that role in mind last year, and while Herron is still around and could still grab that job, Dorsett might be a more intriguing talent.
Dorsett has a similar size-speed profile to DeSean Jackson, who played at Cal and was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in the second round in 2008. Jackson actually had considerably more production during his collegiate days than Dorsett did, and yet he still lasted until the 18th pick of the second round, #49 overall. If the Bucs believe that Dorsett has similar potential and that a dynamic slot receiver is one of their most significant needs, they might opt for the former Hurricane at #34.