Monday, November 20, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Between Claiborne and Richardson, Bucs have two solid options

RECOMMENDED READING


Trent. It has to be Trent Richardson. Doesn't it?

It has to be Richardson because the Bucs could use a complete back. It has to be Richardson because he has the highest grades for a running back since Minnesota's Adrian Peterson. It has to be Richardson because the favorite way of new head coach Greg Schiano to get the ball into the end zone is to run it there.

Yep, if he is there at the fifth pick, the Bucs should, without a doubt, hoist him onto their shoulders and carry him directly to the nearest third-and-goal.

Unless, of course, they decide to draft Morris Claiborne instead.

It has to be Claiborne because the pitiful Bucs defense can use all the help it can get. It needs Claiborne because great cornerbacks are harder to find than great running backs. It needs Claiborne because Schiano is at heart a defensive coach.

And so the local debate rages between Richardson, a guy who scores touchdowns, and Claiborne, a guy who keeps them from happening. This is the reward for suffering a season that is hardly worth talking about; fans get a draft that is worth yelling.

The Richardson vs. Claiborne chatter has gone on for weeks, and from the sound of it, it is likely to continue until the draft begins on April 26. Perhaps longer.

You start with a simple question: If both Claiborne and Richardson are available when it is time for the Bucs to pick, which one do you prefer? The ensuing discussion will take you through a winding discussion about players, about positions, about performances, about perceptions, about incumbents, about Wonderlic scores and about prom dates.

Me? Today, I would vote for Claiborne.

Tomorrow, I will probably change my mind.

"It's a great question,'' said Tim Ruskell, who has worked as director of player personnel for the Bucs, Falcons and Bears and who was once the general manager of the Seattle Seahawks. "Five years ago, you would take the running back. No doubt about it. They were franchise players, and you could ride their backs and be a great team. I don't think you can do that anymore with one guy.

"The question is: Has the shutdown corner eclipsed the running back when it comes to the value of the position? In some places, it has. If you can take away the other team's best receiver, you can do so much more on defense.''

Here's a hint: There isn't a wrong answer. The Bucs could find plenty of work for both players. As bad as they were over their final 10 games last season, maybe they deserve them both.

Alas, the Bucs get to pick just one, which means they have to hope the talk about the Vikings taking Claiborne at No. 3 and the Browns taking Richardson at No. 4 is just smoke. (No, USC tackle Matt Kalil should not be considered a write-in vote. Both Richardson and Claiborne are better.)

Let's start with the argument for Richardson. No, he isn't quite the home-run threat that Peterson is, but he breaks tackles, he moves the chains and he makes his quarterback better. True, it is possible to find good — sometimes very good — running backs later in the draft, but for the most part, the great ones go early.

For the Bucs, what you think of Richardson has to be tempered with what you think of LeGarrette Blount. If you think Blount can be an every down back, you probably don't burn for Richardson.

The argument for Claiborne is a solid one, too. I mean, did you see that (alleged) defense last year? Put it this way: If you heard the Bucs had a Bounty program, you would probably think it had to do with buying paper towels to clean up their mess.

Claiborne would help. The NFC South is filled with quarterbacks and receivers, and he could help reduce the number of big plays the Bucs give up. He could also reduce the worry about Aqib Talib's upcoming trial.

As far as Claiborne's widely reported score of four on the Wonderlic, it shouldn't worry anyone. As Ruskell said, Claiborne doesn't play dumb. Think about it like this: while Claiborne is trying to cover Roddy White downfield, no one is going to ask him what color a firetruck is.

So what happens if Claiborne and Richardson are gone? Do the Bucs change the conversation to Kalil vs. Justin Blackmon? Or do they signal "retreat'' as loudly as they can?

I love when general managers say they would consider trading down for the right price. Well, of course they would. It's just a little tricky to pull off the part about the right price.

For instance, it isn't a secret that the Dolphins, who pick eighth, like quarterback Ryan Tannehill. But what price should they throw in to move up three spots? According to the NFL trade value chart (again, a reminder: it's only a guide), their second-round pick is too much to give up, and their third isn't enough.

For the Bucs, moving backward makes sense. They need linebackers and safeties and any extra picks you can spare.

Ah, but if it is greatness you desire, most of it is found in the first few picks of the draft.

So go on. Argue. It's cheap. It's interesting. It's fun.

When you get down to it, don't the Bucs owe you a little of that?

Comments
Rick and Tom podcast: As Jameis Winston faces another accusation, Bucs win with Ryan Fitzpatrick

Rick and Tom podcast: As Jameis Winston faces another accusation, Bucs win with Ryan Fitzpatrick

The Bucs win again behind backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and a defense that creates five turnovers against the Dolphins. In their latest podcast, Rick Stroud and Tom Jones break down the game, including the calm that Fitzpatrick has brought and ...
Updated: 9 minutes ago
Bucs-Dolphins report card: Grading Tampa Bay’s 30-20 victory

Bucs-Dolphins report card: Grading Tampa Bay’s 30-20 victory

MIAMI GARDENS — That was one ugly football game.The Bucs had a bad game. The Dolphins had a really bad game. And who had the worst game of all? The officials.In fact, the best part of Sunday’s game was before the game even started, thanks to a stirri...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Jones: Even in victory, dread hangs over the Bucs

Jones: Even in victory, dread hangs over the Bucs

MIAMI GARDENS — A dark cloud is hanging over this football team.It’s a heaviness. A dread. A dread for what might have happened in the past and what might happen in the future.And that makes it hard for fans to truly enjoy what happened Sunday.The Bu...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Bucs-Dolphins: How Ryan Fitzpatrick steadied Tampa Bay

Bucs-Dolphins: How Ryan Fitzpatrick steadied Tampa Bay

MIAMI GARDENS — For chaos, there was Jameis Winston missing his second game with a shoulder injury and an NFL investigation swirling around him.For calamity, there was the Bucs forcing four of their five turnovers in the first half and building a two...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Bucs-Dolphins:  How rookies like O.J. Howard carried the day

Bucs-Dolphins: How rookies like O.J. Howard carried the day

MIAMI GARDENS — From start to finish, the Bucs’ wobbly 30-20 win over the Dolphins on Sunday was made possible by game-changing plays made by rookies.The Bucs’ top three picks in this year’s draft — tight end O.J. Howard, safety Justin Evans and rece...
Updated: 3 hours ago
NFL Week 11: What we learned

NFL Week 11: What we learned

Is Jerry Jones the next Al Davis? Is he really going to let his anger for commissioner Roger Goodell ruin his relationship with the other owners? Should we have seen this coming? I think the answers are: Yes, probably and yes. Jones is the modern-day...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Figures from FSU case enter latest allegation against Jameis Winston

Figures from FSU case enter latest allegation against Jameis Winston

MIAMI GARDENS — The case of Jameis Winston and a female Uber driver in Arizona took more twists Sunday, with Winston getting some level of corroboration, and his unnamed accuser retaining a familiar, high-profile attorney.Eagles cornerback Ronald Dar...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Bucs-Dolphins journal: Patrick Murray on winning kick: ‘I knew I was going to make it’

Bucs-Dolphins journal: Patrick Murray on winning kick: ‘I knew I was going to make it’

MIAMI GARDENS — Patrick Murray has been so consistent since taking over as the Bucs’ kicker that he had no doubt when called upon to make a go-ahead field goal with four seconds left in Sunday’s win.Ryan Fitzpatrick completed three passes for 55 yard...
Published: 11/19/17
Bucs-Dolphins: Social media reactions to Tampa Bay’s 30-20 victory

Bucs-Dolphins: Social media reactions to Tampa Bay’s 30-20 victory

The Bucs won their second straight and snapped a six-game road losing streak Sunday. And they did it after blowing a 13-point lead.Here’s a sampling of reactions on social media to Tampa Bay’s 30-20 win over the Dolphins in Miami Gardens:...
Published: 11/19/17
Buccaneers-Dolphins: A by-the-numbers look at Tampa Bay’s 30-20 win

Buccaneers-Dolphins: A by-the-numbers look at Tampa Bay’s 30-20 win

Here’s a by-the-numbers look at the Bucs’ 30-20 win over the Dolphins on Sunday:5Bucs takeaways, four of which occurred in the first half. Tampa Bay last recorded four takeaways in the first half against Chicago in Week 2.6Turnovers quarterback Jay C...
Published: 11/19/17