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Draft preview: Wide receivers

The situation

The Bucs are committed to surrounding quarterback Josh Freeman, top, with more weapons, and they proved it by signing Chargers free agent Vincent Jackson, bottom, to a five-year, $55.55 million contract. Jackson is a No. 1 wideout who can get vertical and force the defense to rotate in his direction, opening up other areas of the passing game. There's a pretty good chance that the best receiver in the draft, Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon, could be available with the No. 5 overall pick. The Vikings at No. 3 and the Browns at No. 4 will have to consider him. After signing Jackson, it seems less likely the Bucs will address wide receiver in the first round. Coach Greg Schiano has a run-first philosophy and adding Blackmon would make either him or Mike Williams the No. 3 receiver.

What they're looking for

Since we're combining the receivers and tight ends for this exercise, let's consider the latter position. Tight end Kellen Winslow will be 29 in July but has been very consistent, averaging 72 catches for 792 yards in three seasons in Tampa Bay. Luke Stocker, a fourth-round pick from Tennessee, struggled with injuries as a rookie and caught only 12 passes. Chase Coffman, Colin Franklin and Zack Pianalto are largely unproven. It's a deep draft for wide receivers, but quality tight ends are a little harder to find. In fact, only Stanford's Coby Fleener is expected to crack the first round.

Fitting the bill

Schiano has an eye out for Mohamed Sanu, his former Rutgers receiver who could add to the mix of young talent at that position for the Bucs. Schiano raved about Sanu's work ethic and he could be had in the later rounds. Despite serious off-field baggage, Georgia's Orson Charles, from Plant High, would have to be a candidate for a homecoming of sorts.

The top 10

1. Justin Blackmon, WR, 6-1, 207, Oklahoma State Blackmon would be an even cleaner pick if he was a burner, but his ability to make yards after the catch is his strong suit.
2. Michael Floyd, WR, 6-3, 220, Notre Dame Some off-field troubles to sort through but Floyd makes some acrobatic receptions.
3. Kendall Wright, WR, 5-10, 196, Baylor Set school records with 108 receptions for 1,663 yards and 14 receiving TDs as the favorite target for Robert Griffin III. Lost luster with a combine 40-yard dash time of 4.61 seconds.
4. Stephen Hill, WR, 6-4, 215, Georgia Tech Tremendous physically gifted with size in the Calvin Johnson mold. But Hill was cursed to play in the Yellow Jackets' option attack.
5. Brian Quick, WR, 6-3, 220, Appalachian St. Impressed at the Senior Bowl as favorite target for Boise State's Kellen Moore. Good top end speed but level of competition is a concern.
6. Coby Fleener, TE, 6-6, 247, Stanford Best athlete among tight ends, he can use his speed to blow the top off the defense. A good route runner but needs to improve upper-body strength.
7. Dwayne Allen, TE, 6-3, 255, Clemson Allen might be a throwback as a tight end as a blocker. He still caught 50 passes last season, but is used to doing the dirty work in the run game.
8. Orson Charles, TE, 6-2, 251, Georgia Former Plant High star knocked over Florida's crystal national championship trophy during a recruiting visit. Caught 94 passes for 1,370 yards and 13 touchdowns in three seasons.
9. Mohamed Sanu, WR, 6-2, 211, Rutgers One of Schiano's favorite players who knows how to get open. Has a great work ethic but could struggle to get separation.
10. Rueben Randle, WR, 6-3, 210, LSU Ran a 4.42 40-yard dash and has a lot of measurables. But Randall did not have great production playing with quarterbacks who were limited in the passing game.

Best guess

Because the Bucs lack depth at tight end, look for them to address that in the middle to late rounds. Sanu might bring a comfort level for Schiano as someone he has background with as a leader.

Rick Stroud, Times staff writer

8 p.m. Thursday, ESPN, NFL Network. Bucs pick: No. 5 overall 7 p.m. Friday, ESPN, NFL Network Bucs: Round 2, 4/36th overall; Round 3, 5/68 Noon Saturday, ESPN, NFL Network Bucs: Round 5, 5/140; Round 6, 4/174; Round 7, 5/212



Draft preview: Wide receivers 04/23/12 [Last modified: Monday, April 23, 2012 9:41pm]
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