Greg Schiano thinks Mark Dominik would make a pretty good poker player.
On Friday night, Schiano watched Dominik play his cards to perfection during the second day of the 2012 NFL Draft. As the Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach and general manager, respectively, revealed later in the night, the team spent much of the second round eye-balling linebacker Lavonte David. The speedy Nebraska defender seemed out of reach when the day began, as Tampa Bay wasn't due to be on the clock until five spots into the third round. But as David remained available well into the second round, hopes grew in the draft room at One Buccaneer Place.
Dominik was waiting for the right moment to reveal his hand, and he finally made his move with the Denver Broncos on the clock, 25 picks into the second round. Holding the fifth pick in the third round (#68 overall), Dominik worked a trade with the Houston Texans to move up 10 spots to the 26th pick in the second round (#58 overall). The cost was a fourth-round pick acquired through a pair of trades on Thursday, and the Bucs also got a seventh-rounder back in the bargain.
The key for Dominik was to wait until just the right moment, when David would still be available but the move up wouldn't cost his team too much of their remaining draft assets. Essentially, Dominik felt like he was playing with "house money" and wanted to keep it that way. In other words, the extra fourth-round pick the team had acquired on Thursday was all he really wanted to spend to move up on Friday.
"I was excited he was there, and that's why we went and got him," said Dominik. "I was really trying to hold that fourth to use that fourth. I didn't want to give up a lot more because I wanted to take that fourth and maximize the use of that fourth. So we had to hold our water and wait a little bit longer than maybe we wanted to, but we did that in the hopes that he would be there and it worked out for us. I did not [think he would last to the Bucs' pick].
"That's why you've got to play it and use your gut, use the resources that we have around us, try to figure out the board around us. Again, we were playing a little bit with house money today and it felt like it was a good opportunity for us to make sure we got a guy that we coveted in this draft. We've been moving the board, trading, moving around a lot this draft to be able to maximize what we felt like was a good draft class."
Fortunately, the Buccaneers' timing was right, because David was a player the team coveted dearly. After transferring from Fort Scott Community College in 2010, the Miami native proved immediately that he could handle the next level of football, stepping right in as a starter and an extremely productive player.
"The thing that sticks out to me when you look at Lavonte David – he is another guy who's a captain of his football team, loves the game," said Schiano. "As a junior college player, he went into Nebraska and not only started but was an All-Big 10 performer, an All-American. The production is out the roof. When you study the tape, production can be a little bit misleading sometimes. His production is not misleading."
Added Dominik: "The tape, the production, speaks volumes. Here's a guy that I think was one of the best coverage linebackers in the draft, and that's important too. He's got great movement skills, athletic ability, speed, can run and is a good tackler. So it's really exciting to bring him in."
The fact that the Bucs went all-in for David is only going to help as he moves up to another level of competition. He was impressed that Tampa Bay management was so intent on bringing him in and wants to make sure their bet pays off big.
"It means a lot, it mean a lot," said David of the Bucs' trade up to get him. "Obviously they think very highly of [me] and I appreciate them so much for that. I guarantee I'll give them my hard work [and] dedication. I'm going to prove myself to the organization."
As is often the case with a player whose height or weight doesn't match up to the perceived industry standard, there are some that think David is a gamble because he weighed in at "only" 233 pounds at the NFL Scouting Combine. There is no doubt that David is a linebacker in the smaller, quicker mold that has so often been connected to the Buccaneers' old "Tampa Two" defense, but Dominik said his newest defender plays plenty big.
"Sometimes you can get hung up a little bit on the weight," said the Bucs' G.M. "I mean, 233…it depends on how they play with the weight and how they move around. Whether you're 250 or 230, it's a big difference, but I like to just watch the tape and decide how does he carry the weight and how does he move around. And at 233, he plays physical. On the tape you can watch him tackle, wrap up and make a lot of plays."
That may be a matter of motivation. Schiano conceded that most NFL players love the game of football, but his ideal player is one that lives the game of football. He puts David – as well as first-round picks Mark Barron and Doug Martin – in that category. For his part, David insists that football is what makes his world go around.
"Growing up, I started playing football when I was six years old," he said. "I haven't missed a beat; I haven't missed a year ever since. I've been playing football my whole life, I'm very passionate about it, I just love the game. I give it my all, all the time; and I just want to play as long as I can."
There's another trait David exhibits, along with his 2012 classmates, that Schiano covets in his players. Coincidentally, it is a trait akin to the one that Dominik displayed in making sure the Nebraska linebacker became the newest Buccaneer on Friday. Dominik showed an ability to make his best move at the right moment, and that's something he has in common with the three players he has drafted so far.
"The thing I love about our draft class right now is, these guys are clutch players," said Schiano. "You go and watch some of the games – in the clutch, when a play needs to be made, these are the guys that are making the plays. It's really a good selection, one that I'm thrilled with. We got better. In the last 24 hours, we really got better."