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Bucs pick cornerback Talib in NFL draft first round

Aqib Talib was named the Orange Bowl MVP after scoring on an interception, returning a punt 17 yards and making five tackles.

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Aqib Talib was named the Orange Bowl MVP after scoring on an interception, returning a punt 17 yards and making five tackles.

TAMPA

For Jon Gruden, it was the situation he had always dreamed of.

Late Saturday afternoon, every single receiver he had evaluated prior to the draft was still available when it came time for the Bucs to make their pick.

There were explosive ones such as Michigan State's Devin Thomas. Fast ones such as Cal's DeSean Jackson. And tall ones such as Indiana's 6-foot-5 James Hardy.

Better still, only two quarterbacks and two running backs had been chosen among the first 19 picks. All that was left was to go eeny, meeny, miny, moe and start counting touchdowns.

So naturally, the Bucs selected a defensive back, using the 20th overall choice on Kansas cornerback Aqib Talib.

"My guts are ripped out of my body right now. I'm no different than our fans," Gruden said. "I fall in love with some of these guys. You get relationships with them. You study their tape, their profiles. You follow their progress on a daily basis, and you drive home at night, wake up in the morning some days and envision what a great thrill it would be to coach some of these guys.

"That's why they have general managers to make the tough calls. I certainly support Bruce (Allen) all the way on this, and I know our staff is excited as a whole. We've got a guy with a lot of juice, a lot of energy."

With USF cornerback Mike Jenkins, a local favorite, still available, the Bucs took Talib despite reports he admitted to testing positive for marijuana three times while at Kansas. He also was suspended for two games in 2006 for undisclosed disciplinary reasons.

Talib dismissed his marijuana use as an immature phase of his life.

"It was a stage when I was a young man, moving out of the house, being on your own for the first time," Talib said. "All of that stuff happened 21/2 years ago, and I learned a lot from it. I'm a grown man now. I have moved forward from that."

"He came out and I believe was honest with what occurred," Gruden said. "I'm not going to live in the past. I'm going to live in the future. I trust this kid, and we're going to give him an opportunity to prove it."

The Bucs swapped second-round picks with the Jaguars, moving down six spots to 58th overall while picking up a fifth-rounder (158 overall) today and seventh-rounder in 2009.

Gruden later got his receiver, selecting Appalachian State's Dexter Jackson, who helped engineer the Division I-AA school's upset at Michigan last year with three catches for 92 yards and two touchdowns.

The 5-foot-9, 182-pound Jackson will provide immediate help in the kick return game and has exceptional 4.37 speed in the 40-yard dash. Jackson, who finished his career with 3,415 all-purpose yards, averaging nearly 14 yards every time he touched the ball, is a possible heir to 36-year-old Joey Galloway.

"Jon Gruden told me they were looking for a speed receiver to really give them a deep threat guy in the slot receiver because Joey Galloway was aging," Jackson said.

Nobody questions Talib's talent. The first-team All-American had 13 career interceptions, including five in 2007, two of which he returned for touchdowns. Talib also served as a receiver on occasion, catching eight passes for 182 yards and four touchdowns in 2007.

Gruden said Talib will immediately compete for the starting left cornerback job with Phillip Buchanon, who is entering the final year of his contract. Cornerback Ronde Barber is 33, and the Bucs also have signed Patriots safety Eugene Wilson and moved him to cornerback.

"He adds to a group that's pretty strong already," defensive backs coach Raheem Morris said.

"We lost a big player in Brian Kelly (to the Lions) and what he did for us over the last 10 years. We have to get another guy that has the ability and potential to do that."

It's the first time the Bucs used a first-round pick on a cornerback since SMU's Rod Jones in 1986.

But Gruden told Talib he reminded him of another first-round cornerback — former Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson, who was drafted by Gruden and Allen while with the Raiders.

"He said that if he had an opportunity to coach a player like Charles Woodson again," Talib said, "he didn't want to pass it up."

The newest Bucs

Aqib

Talib

Cornerback,

Kansas

The 20th overall pick was a three-year starter for the Jayhawks, even playing some offense during last season's BCS run.

Dexter Jackson

Receiver,

Appalachian State

The 27th pick of the second round (58th overall) had a breakout game in 2007's season-opening upset of Michigan.

Round 3

83rd overall

Round 4

120th overall

Round 5

153rd overall

158th overall

Today's Bucs picks



Meet Aqib Talib

Cornerback Kansas 6-1, 202

Highlights/stats

Ranks second in Kansas history with 13 interceptions. … Was All-Big 12 and first-team All-American in 2007 after finishing with five interceptions and 13 deflections. … Occasionally lined up at receiver, catching eight passes for 182 yards and four touchdowns in 2007.

THE VERDICT

Talib reportedly admitted testing positive for marijuana three times while at Kansas, which might have caused his stock to drop, and was suspended for two games in 2006 for undisclosed disciplinary reasons. But Talib has tremendous ball-hawking coverage skills, which will allow the Bucs to blitz more, and is a big cornerback who can replace the departed Brian Kelly. He is expected to compete with Phillip Buchanon for a starting job.

Bucs pick cornerback Talib in NFL draft first round 04/26/08 [Last modified: Monday, April 28, 2008 5:14pm]
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