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Bucs draft: defensive backs

Thumbs up

Dominique
Rodgers-Cromartie,
Cornerback,
Tennessee St., 6-2, 182

Has rare size and athletic ability at cornerback; improved his ability to understand defenses; a very interesting developmental prospect for a team with time to invest.

Thumbs down

Aqib Talib,
Cornerback,
Kansas, 6-1, 202

During the combine, reportedly admitted to failing three separate drug tests while at Kansas; with other attractive cornerbacks, he could slide.

Under the radar

Craig Steltz, Safety,

LSU, 6-1, 210

His size might compensate for a perceived lack of speed; finished his career with 11 interceptions, and his special teams experience will at least earn him extra consideration from teams.

For bucs draft news and updates, go to bucs.tampabay.com

Bucs Draft 2008, When: Saturday (Rounds 1-2) and Sunday (Rounds 3-7)

Bucs picks (round-overall): 1-20, 2-52, 3-83, 4-120, 5-154, 6-none (Michael Bennett trade), 7-none (Jake Plummer trade)

Top 10 defensive backs

1, Leodis McKelvin, Cornerback, 5-11, 190, Troy

It's a close call, but McKelvin's pure cover skills and potential to be an elite returnman push him to the top.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie,
Cornerback, 6-2, 182, Tennessee State

He might have the longest name in the draft, but that's not all that separates Rodgers-Cromartie from many of his contemporaries. What sets him apart is his unique height and rare athletic ability that will leave few surprised that he is a cousin of another standout cornerback, San Diego Pro Bowl player and ex-Seminole Antonio Cromartie.

A native of nearby Bradenton, Rodgers-Cromartie's performances at the Senior Bowl and in workouts have put to rest the inevitable concerns that arise from having played at a Division I-AA program.

"Coming from a small school, I was a guy that was going under the radar, " he said. "I feel like I've got to go out and put up incredible numbers just to get an opportunity."

He's right. The hardest part about scouting players from smaller schools is judging them on film. They generally play against significantly inferior competition, so it's difficult to get a read for how they might fare against better talent.

That's why the Senior Bowl process was helpful for Rodgers-Cromartie, allowing him to shine against the best college football had to offer. Oh, and his last name didn't hurt, either.

"(Antonio) leading the NFL in interceptions and going to the Pro Bowl and doing well and my last name being Cromartie, that kind of helped me, too, " Rodgers-Cromartie said.

3, Mike Jenkins, Cornerback, 6-0, 200, USF

Possesses rare speed, airtight man-to-man skills and can help in the return game.

4, Aqib Talib, Cornerback, 6-1, 202, Kansas

Has excellent size; versatility should allow him to contribute on offense and special teams.

5, Antoine Cason, Cornerback, 6-0, 190, Arizona

Not the most physical player but has instincts and makes numerous plays on the ball.

6, Kenny Phillips, Safety, 6-2, 208, Miami

Good size will allow him to be formidable against NFL running games.

7, Tyrell Johnson, Safety, 6-0, 207, Arkansas State

Big hitter and solid tackler had the best NFL combine bench press among defensive backs.

8, Brandon Flowers, Cornerback, 5-10, 189, Virginia Tech

Lack of size will be a disadvantage against the run; a solid open-field tackler.

9, Justin King, Cornerback, 5-11, 192, Penn State

One of the fastest players in the draft — 4.31 seconds in the 40 yards — but lacking in other areas.

10, DaJuan Morgan, Safety, 6-0, 205, N.C. State

Lacks elite speed but racked up 225 career tackles despite just one full season as a starter.

GM Bruce Allen'S scorecaRD

The Bucs haven't invested heavily at cornerback because of the presence of Ronde Barber and Brian Kelly over the years. The one time a pick of relative value was spent on the position was the fourth-round choice of Penn State's Alan Zemaitis in 2006. He was a nonfactor for one season and cut a year later.

Safety has produced better results for Allen. Will Allen (fourth round in 2004) was a serviceable starter at one point before being replaced last season by 2007 fourth-rounder Tanard Jackson. Sabby Piscitelli, a second-round pick last year, looks to get back on the field this season after an injury wiped out most of his rookie year.

IMPACT ON THE BUCS

If the Bucs haven't begun to think about life after Ronde Barber, they better start. Expect them to address cornerback in this draft, in part, because the 33-year-old is nearing the end of his career. The situation is compounded by the loss of Brian Kelly, who bought out his contract, became a free agent and joined the Lions. The Bucs are likely to rely heavily on free agent acquisition Eugene Wilson as a third cornerback, but he is making the transition from safety and signed only a one-year contract.

Stephen F. Holder, Times staff writer

Bucs draft: defensive backs 04/23/08 [Last modified: Thursday, May 28, 2009 1:08pm]

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