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Deep receiver class gives Bucs NFL draft options

NFL DRAFT FACTS

When: Thursday (Round 1), 8 p.m., ESPN, NFL Network; Friday (Rounds 2-3), 6:30 p.m., ESPN, ESPN2, NFLN; May 10 (Rounds 4-7), noon, ESPN, NFLN,

Where: Radio City Music Hall, New York City

Bucs picks (round/overall): 1/7, 2/38, 3/69, 5/143, 6/185, 7/221.

Bucs watch party: Thursday, Raymond James Stadium. Gates C & D open 6 p.m.

First-round draft order: 1. Texans, 2. Rams (from Redskins), 3. Jaguars, 4. Browns, 5. Raiders, 6. Falcons, 7. Bucs, 8. Vikings, 9. Bills, 10. Lions, 11. Titans, 12. Giants, 13. Rams, 14, Bears, 15. Steelers, 16. Cowboys, 17. Ravens, 18. Jets, 19. Dolphins, 20. Cardinals, 21. Packers, 22. Eagles, 23. Chiefs, 24. Bengals, 25. Chargers, 26. Browns (from Colts), 27. Saints, 28. Panthers, 29. Patriots, 30. 49ers, 31. Broncos, 32. Seahawks

WIDE RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS

WHO THE BUCS HAVE:

Vincent Jackson, WR (6-5, 230): Team's most proven receiver with more than 1,000 yards five of past six seasons. Needs strong No. 2 to avoid double coverage.

Louis Murphy, WR (6-2, 200): Lakewood grad is on his fourth team in four years, with only two TDs in past three years, but former Gator could step up as No. 3 WR.

Chris Owusu, WR (6-2, 200): Next best of returning WRs, with 13 catches filling in after injuries last year. Stanford grad still likely battling for roster spot.

Lavelle Hawkins, WR (5-11, 194): Played for Jeff Tedford at Cal, and that familiarity may help. More than seven catches just once in six NFL seasons.

Brandon Myers, TE (6-3, 256): Free agent signee had four TDs in each of past two seasons, with 79 catches with Raiders in 2012. Also will help run game as blocker.

Tim Wright, TE (6-4, 220): Shined as undrafted rookie last year with 54 catches, five touchdowns. Great pass-catcher, will work to improve himself as run blocker.

TOP FIVE PROSPECTS IN DRAFT

Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson (6-1, 211): The elite offensive weapon in the draft — dangerous as receiver and on returns. Top-five pick has 27 TDs in past three years.

Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M (6-5, 231): Big target often linked to Bucs at No. 7 — 12 TDs in 2013 after helping Johnny Manziel to a Heisman in 2012.

Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina (6-4, 250): Likely to go in middle of first round, but had just three TDs in 2013, eight in UNC career. Ahead of Texas Tech's Jace Amaro as top TE.

Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State (5-10, 189): Speedy Biletnikoff winner had crazy stats in 2013: 128 catches, 1,730 receiving yards and 16 touchdown grabs.

Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State (6-5, 240): Another huge target, had 15 TD catches last season, including the winner in national championship game.

UNDER THE RADAR

Martavis Bryant, WR, Clemson (6-4, 211): Receiver might be draft's deepest position, so teams can an get impact player in third round. Bryant could be a match for Bucs at No. 38 in second round if they don't address WR with the No. 7 pick. Averaged 19.7 yards per catch in 2013 with seven TDs.

FREE AGENCY

Bucs made two modest signings in Murphy and Hawkins, but neither is more than a No. 3 or 4 receiver. They traded Mike Williams to Buffalo for a sixth-round pick, so this might be the position most likely to draw two draft picks. They could also sign a veteran cut loose after the draft. Tampa Bay has yet to pursue ex-Bears WR Earl Bennett, who has familiarity with both Lovie Smith and Josh McCown.

BEST GUESS

Watkins won't be around when the Bucs pick at 7, but there's a good chance Evans will be, giving the Bucs a pair of tall receivers much like McCown had in Chicago with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. If the Bucs don't go WR with top pick, great options remain in second round, such as Vandy's Jordan Matthews.

Greg Auman, Times staff writer

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Wide receivers/tight ends

Draft facts

When: Thursday (Round 1), 8 p.m., ESPN, NFL Network; Friday (Rounds 2-3), 6:30 p.m., ESPN, ESPN2, NFLN; Saturday (Rounds 4-7), noon, ESPN, NFLN

Where: Radio City Music Hall, New York

Bucs picks (round/overall): 1/7, 2/38, 3/69, 5/143, 6/185, 7/221.

Bucs watch party: Thursday, Raymond James Stadium. Gates C & D open 6 p.m.

First-round: 1. Texans, 2. Rams (from Redskins), 3. Jaguars, 4. Browns, 5. Raiders, 6. Falcons, 7. Bucs, 8. Vikings, 9. Bills, 10. Lions, 11. Titans, 12. Giants, 13. Rams, 14, Bears, 15. Steelers, 16. Cowboys, 17. Ravens, 18. Jets, 19. Dolphins, 20. Cardinals, 21. Packers, 22. Eagles, 23. Chiefs, 24. Bengals, 25. Chargers, 26. Browns (from Colts), 27. Saints, 28. Panthers, 29. Patriots, 30. 49ers, 31. Broncos, 32. Seahawks

Who the Bucs have

Vincent Jackson, WR (6-5, 230): Team's most proven receiver with more than 1,000 yards five of past six seasons. Needs strong No. 2 to avoid double coverage.

Louis Murphy, WR (6-2, 200): Lakewood High grad is on his fourth team in four years, with only two TDs in past three years, but former Gator could step up as No. 3 WR.

Chris Owusu, WR (6-2, 200): Next best of returning receivers, with 13 catches filling in after injuries last year. Stanford grad still likely battling for roster spot.

Lavelle Hawkins, WR (5-11, 194): Played for Jeff Tedford at Cal, and that familiarity might help. More than seven catches just once in six NFL seasons.

Brandon Myers, TE (6-3, 256): Free agent signee had four TDs in each of past two seasons, with 79 catches with Raiders in 2012. Also will help run game as blocker.

Tim Wright, TE (6-4, 220): Shined as undrafted rookie last year with 54 catches, five touchdowns. Great pass-catcher, will work to improve himself as run blocker.

Top five prospects in draft

Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson (6-1, 211): The elite offensive weapon in the draft — dangerous as receiver and on returns. Top-five pick has 27 TDs in past three years.

Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M (6-5, 231): Big target often linked to Bucs at No. 7 — 12 TDs in 2013 after helping Johnny Manziel to a Heisman in 2012.

Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina (6-4, 250): Likely to go in middle of first round, but had just three TDs in 2013, eight in UNC career. Ahead of Texas Tech's Jace Amaro as top TE.

Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State (5-10, 189): Speedy Biletnikoff winner had crazy stats in 2013: 128 catches, 1,730 receiving yards and 16 touchdown grabs.

Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State (6-5, 240): Another huge target, at right, had 15 TD catches last season, including the winner in national championship game.

Under the radar

Martavis Bryant, WR, Clemson (6-4, 211): Receiver might be draft's deepest position, so teams can likely get an impact player in third round. Bryant could be a match for Bucs at No. 38 overall in second round if they don't address WR with the No. 7 overall pick. Averaged 19.7 yards per catch in 2013 with seven TDs.

Free agency

Bucs made two modest signings in Murphy and Hawkins, but neither is more than a No. 3 or 4 receiver. They traded Mike Williams to Buffalo for a sixth-round pick, so this might be the position most likely to draw two draft picks. They could also sign a veteran cut loose after the draft. Tampa Bay has yet to pursue former Bears WR Earl Bennett, who has familiarity with both Lovie Smith and Josh McCown.

Best guess

Sammy Watkins won't be around when the Bucs pick at 7, but there's a good chance Mike Evans will be, giving the Bucs a pair of tall receivers much like Josh McCown had in Chicago with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. If the Bucs don't go WR with their top pick, great options remain in the second round, such as Vandy's Jordan Matthews.

Greg Auman, Times staff writer

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

WIDE RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS

NFL draft

When: Thursday (Round 1), 8 p.m., ESPN, NFL Network; May 9 (Rounds 2-3), 6:30 p.m., ESPN, ESPN2, NFLN; May 10 (Rounds 4-7), noon, ESPN, NFLN

Where: Radio City Music Hall, New York

Bucs picks (round/overall): 1/7, 2/38, 3/69, 5/143, 6/185, 7/221.

Bucs watch party: Thursday, Raymond James Stadium. Gates C and D open 6 p.m.

First-round order: 1. Texans, 2. Rams (from Redskins), 3. Jaguars, 4. Browns, 5. Raiders, 6. Falcons, 7. Bucs, 8. Vikings, 9. Bills, 10. Lions, 11. Titans, 12. Giants, 13. Rams, 14. Bears, 15. Steelers, 16. Cowboys, 17. Ravens, 18. Jets, 19. Dolphins, 20. Cardinals, 21. Packers, 22. Eagles, 23. Chiefs, 24. Bengals, 25. Chargers, 26. Browns (from Colts), 27. Saints, 28. Panthers, 29. Patriots, 30. 49ers, 31. Broncos, 32. Seahawks

Who the Bucs have

Anthony Collins, LT: Top free agent grab steps in as a full-time starter for first time, but he has excelled behind Pro Bowl players in his time with Bengals.

Carl Nicks, LG: Played only two games in 2013 with toe injury and MRSA infection, so his health is a major concern. Team says it is pleased with his progress.

Evan Dietrich-Smith, C: Another free agent addition, stepped in as Aaron Rodgers' center for all 16 games in Green Bay in 2013. Just nine career starts before last season.

Jamon Meredith, RG: Twenty starts in past two years with Bucs, re-signed in free agency, but he's not paid enough to presume he's a starter.

Demar Dotson, RT: Quietly had best season of any Bucs lineman in 2013, and he's inexpensive, signed through 2016 with three-year, $4.5 million extension last year.

Top five prospects in draft

Greg Robinson, T, Auburn (6-5, 332): Played only two years but has established himself as best lineman in the draft, a potential franchise left tackle and a top-five pick.

Jake Matthews, T, Texas A&M (6-5, 308): Son of Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews and with two cousins in the NFL, this Matthews is one of three potential top-10 picks from A&M's offense.

Taylor Lewan, T, Michigan (6-7, 309): Four-year starter, fastest 40 of any lineman at combine. Allegations of assault don't appear to have impacted draft status.

Zack Martin, T/G, Notre Dame (6-4, 308): Three-year starter at left tackle likely moves inside to guard in NFL. Pristine record with intangibles, leadership.

David Yankey, G, Stanford (6-6, 312): Has started at guard and left tackle but projects inside as a pro. Could be there when Bucs pick at No. 38.

Under the radar

Billy Turner, OT, 6-5, 315; North Dakota State: Small-school prospect has visited with Bucs — helped program to three straight I-AA national titles. Father Maurice Turner was NFL running back in 1980s.

Free agency

The Bucs were active in overhauling the offensive line in free agency — T Donald Penn and G Davin Joseph were released and C Jeremy Zuttah was traded to the Ravens. LT Anthony Collins didn't allow a single quarterback hit in seven starts for Cincinnati last year, and Evan Dietrich-Smith started every game for Green Bay in 2013. If the Bucs were to sign anyone else, it'd be at guard should the draft not line up for them and someone comes available to provide insurance against Nicks' health.

Best guess

Amazingly, the Bucs haven't drafted an offensive lineman since 2009, but expect that streak to end, likely in the first three rounds. Several top guard prospects match up well for Tampa Bay's second-round selection (No. 38 overall) — offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford, fresh from his Cal days, should know Stanford's David Yankey and UCLA's Xavier Su'a-Filo well. Su'a-Filo could sneak in at the end of Round 1, so let's go with Yankey, who could step in as a starter from Week 1.

Greg Auman, Times staff writer

Deep receiver class gives Bucs NFL draft options 05/02/14 [Last modified: Friday, May 2, 2014 10:58pm]

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