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In NFL draft, Tampa Bay Buccaneers pick three old-school tough guys

TAMPA

One of them is serious beyond his years. As it turns out, so are the other two.

One of them is as complete as a new toolbox. Just so happens, so are the others.

One of them is as tough as an old scar. And what do you know, so are his new teammates.

In some ways, it seems as if the Tampa Bay Bucs have selected the same guy three times during this NFL draft. Even at hello, you cannot help but notice the similarities to Mark Barron, Doug Martin and Lavonte David. Their eyes are focused, and their voices are soft, and the character reviews are glowing.

Together, they are the new Bucs.

Schiano's guys.

As it turns out, this is what he likes: physical players, mature players, versatile players. Driven players, productive players, follow-me players. Players who attack the game like balled fists.

You can tell a lot about the direction of a franchise from the first players picked during the first draft of a new NFL coach. The offensive gurus tend to lean toward speed. The defensive guys seem to like brawn.

The old-school tough guys like new Bucs coach Greg Schiano? They seem to like old-school tough guys.

As much as anything else, this is the common trait shared by Barron, the safety, and Martin, the running back and David, the linebacker. Whatever doubts there may be, whatever proving there is to do, no one doubts the fierceness of any of them. On a team that hasn't been particularly tough for a while now, that isn't a bad place to start.

Face it. When it came to being physical last year, the Bucs were all teddy bears and stuffed unicorns. For the most part, they were soft men playing a hard game, and it showed whenever it was time for a team to push back. Think about it: The toughest guy on the field may have been Ronde Barber, who just turned 37. You can quibble over whether this player or that was hard enough, but as a team, no one accused the Bucs of bullying anyone.

Maybe, just maybe, Barron, Martin and David — the linebacker the Bucs traded up to get in the second round Friday — were three steps toward changing that perception. If Schiano is going to bring back the conservative approach to a game plan of the Tony Dungy years, they had better be.

I know, I know. Not everyone was as thrilled with this draft as the Bucs front office, and seeing how long it has been since the Bucs drafted greatness, that's easy to understand.

On the other hand, everyone knows the Bucs needed a safety, and they got the best one in the draft. Everyone knows they needed a running back, and they got the second-best one in the draft. They needed a linebacker, and they moved up to grab one they liked.

The problem, of course, is that there is so much malarkey available, and so many fans who treat it like gospel. A lot of mock drafts, and a lot of mock drafts that merely photocopy Mel Kiper's, projected Barron to be drafted midway through the first round, and so some fans believe that's what his value is.

For instance, there is a feeling that if the Bucs hadn't taken Barron, he would have been available 10 picks later. That's hooey. If you talk to scouts across the league, the consensus is that Barron wouldn't have slipped past Buffalo at No. 10. Former NFL general manager Charlie Casserly said he rated Barron "sixth or seventh" on his board.

Then there seems to be the perception that Martin is a third-down back. Double-hooey. Martin isn't a third-down back; he's a three-down back. As of now, you should consider him to be the favorite to be the Bucs starting back. Yes, there is still room for LeGarrette Blount, but Martin does more things, especially in pass protection. Also, how can you beat a nickname like "Muscle Hamster"?

In other words, there is a lot to like with these players. It's odd. At one point, Barron was a running back at Alabama before being moved to defensive back. At one point, Martin was a defensive back at Boise State before an injury prompted coaches to move him to running back. Both were captains on successful teams (that part isn't new; general manager Mark Dominik has always liked to draft team captains).

Together, they will help to strengthen the middle of the field for the Bucs. You know how baseball teams believe in being strong up the middle? Football coaches do, too. David, on the other hand, will add strength to the weak side.

Are the Bucs cured? Of course not. There are still too many holes to fill. And despite the promise, the NFL is a prove-it profession.

Today, however, the Bucs are better. They are more serious. They are more dedicated. They are tougher.

Put it this way: When it comes to the draft, the Bucs have had worse weekends.

In NFL draft, Tampa Bay Buccaneers pick three old-school tough guys 04/27/12 [Last modified: Saturday, April 28, 2012 12:31am]
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