Here's my take on the Bucs' 2013 draft
The draft is in the books, and after taking a day to decompress after several busy weeks on the beat, I’ve got some observations to share. Some are criticisms/questions, others are just random impressions or thoughts.
Without further ado, here’s what I think about the Bucs draft:
** I think the Bucs have a lot of confidence in Luke Stocker, more than most fans, in fact. This is evident based on the Bucs’ decision to not draft a tight end despite the free-agent status of Dallas Clark (who isn’t expected to return) and Stocker’s skinny resume’.
Stocker caught just 16 passes for 165 yards last season, but here’s something you probably didn’t realize: He was targeted just 27 times.
That’s not enough at-bats to make much of a judgment. With more opportunities, we’ll get a better feel for whether Stocker can tap into the upside the Bucs think he has. His final game of 2012 was, by far, his best in a victory over the Falcons. Can he build on that? We’ll see.
But I’ll leave you with one caveat: Clark wasn’t signed until after the 2012 draft, so we cannot rule out the addition of another tight end.
** I think the Bucs like their linebackers. They drafted a lot of defensive help, but not a single linebacker. That’s not shocking. Lavonte David, the weak-side starter, is one of the best players on the team. Middle linebacker Mason Foster is solid, but not spectacular.
And the Bucs should have a spirited competition for the strong-side job, with Jonathan Casillas, Adam Hayward, Dekoda Watson and, perhaps, Najee Goode all considered candidates to replace Quincy Black.
** I think the offensive line depth should make the Bucs nervous. It’s nice that they were able to work miracles with last year’s group, which lost Davin Joseph and Carl Nicks, but who wants to go through that again?
The Bucs found themselves in a constant state of flux as they tried to shuffle players around, some of whom were playing completely out of position. Jamon Meredith ended up as the starting right guard after never having actually played the position in an NFL game.
Considering all their other needs, I can understand why the Bucs didn’t draft a lineman. They have what is, on paper, one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. That’s not hyperbole, either. But if they have an injury calamity or two, like last year, they’re going to be in a tough spot – again.
** I think I’m looking forward to watching some of the young running backs in the preseason. Michael Smith will be joined by sixth-round pick Mike James and – depending on what happens with his track-and-field exploits – Jeff Demps.
With LeGarrette Blount traded to the Patriots, the role of backup to Doug Martin is vacant. Free-agent signing Brian Leonard is on the roster, but he’s not an ideal candidate to be an every-down back. He’s best-suited to catch balls out of the backfield and perform third-down pass-protection duties. I suppose he could be a bell-cow back in a pinch, but that’s not something the Bucs are counting on.
Smith and James would be the primary candidates to back up Martin, as Demps is tiny and more suited for spot duty. But that doesn’t mean he can’t have an important role if he and the Bucs can figure things out.
** I think all three of the Bucs’ early-round defensive picks should see extensive playing time. Obviously, second-rounder Johnthan Banks should be no less than the third cornerback unless he’s a disappointment. But fourth-rounders Akeem Spence and William Gholston have a chance to have impact at defensive tackle and defensive end, respectively.
The Bucs don’t have a dynamic player at nose tackle right now, thought Derek Landri and Gary Gibson are serviceable. Spence, if he can take advantage, has a chance to provide some splash at the position. We’ll see if he’s up to the task.
Gholston joins a thin defensive end rotation, with the top reserve currently Daniel Te’o-Nesheim. There are times Adrian Clayborn or Da’Quan Bowers will need a rest and others when the Bucs will deploy a third defensive end in cases where, perhaps, Bowers is an interior nickel rusher.
As for the knock on Gholston – that he’s inconsistent and takes plays off – the Bucs think defensive assistants like Bryan Cox can get through to him and motivate him. And I think the fact that he’ll be a rotational player and not one playing every down will help him maximize opportunities.