After moving quickly and aggressively to upgrade their roster in free agency with wide receiver Vincent Jackson, guard Carl Nicks and cornerback Eric Wright, the Bucs now turn their attention to the draft, where they have several more needs to address.
Cornerback: Tampa Bay would definitely like to upgrade at corner, but whether improving at the position is a luxury or an absolute necessity will depend in large part on the trial of Aqib Talib, who will go on trial on a felony assault with a deadly weapon charge on June 25. Depending on the trial and the NFL’s determination of whether Talib violated the league’s personal conduct policy, Talib could start the season in prison, or suspended, or cleared of wrongdoing and ready to play.
LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne is a strong possibility for the Bucs at No. 5 if they don’t feel confident about Talib’s status. Claiborne is the best cornerback in this draft and would be expected to start from Day One. If the Bucs don’t go with a cornerback in the first round, they might hope that North Alabama cornerback Janoris Jenkins slips into the second. However, Jenkins has plenty of off-field issues of his own, and the Bucs might not like the idea of adding another problem player at the cornerback position.
Running back: Bucs coach Greg Schiano has made clear that he’s not totally sold on LeGarrette Blount, whose nine fumbles in two seasons are a source of concern. Alabama running back Trent Richardson is more talented than Blount and won’t fumble as much as Blount, and although Blount wouldn’t like it, the arrival of Richardson would allow the Bucs to employ just the kind of run-first, ball-control offense that Schiano prefers.
Linebacker: Last year’s third-round pick, Mason Foster, started in the middle as a rookie. The Bucs would love it if they could find another starter at linebacker in this year’s draft.
Defensive line: It might sound crazy to say the Bucs need to bolster the defensive line in the draft, considering that last year their first two picks were defensive ends Adrian Clayborn and Da’Quan Bowers, and the year before their first two picks were defensive tackles Gerlad McCoy and Brian Price. But Tampa Bay still needs to upgrade the D-line after giving up a league-high 494 points last season. A first-round surprise in LSU’s Michael Brockers is a possibility, but the defensive line is more likely to be addressed in the second or third round.
Schiano will want his team to win with a good running game and a physical defense, and that’s where the Bucs are likely to focus in the draft. Tampa Bay will look more like a Greg Schiano team when the draft is over.