Is Cal's Jackson Gruden's guy for Bucs' first pick?

DeSean Jackson, catching a 39-yard touchdown for Cal against UCLA, was the fastest receiver at the NFL combine.

Associated Press (2007)

DeSean Jackson, catching a 39-yard touchdown for Cal against UCLA, was the fastest receiver at the NFL combine.

TAMPA — A few weeks ago, University of California receiver DeSean Jackson went one-on-one with Jon Gruden.

As they sat together at One Buc Place, Texas receiver Limas Sweed was visiting other team officials at another part of the facility.

The Bucs coach leaned close to Jackson, narrowed his eyes and tried to peer into his soul.

"You see who I'm spending all my time with today?" Jackson recalled Gruden saying. "I have (Joey) Galloway getting a little older, and he runs a lot of deep routes. What I need is a Steve Smith (of Carolina). I need a guy who can catch slants and go across the middle. Are you my guy?"

Jackson met Gruden's gaze.

"I'm sitting right here," Jackson said. "And I'm your guy."

Today, Jackson will find out if he is indeed the player the Bucs covet with the No. 20 pick in the draft.

Jackson is likely to be available if the Bucs remain where they are in the first round, but there is talk about trading down and trying to add picks. The Bucs have only five, having traded their sixth-rounder for running back Michael Bennett and seventh-rounder for quarterback Jake Plummer last year.

There also is talk about giving up picks. The Bucs have talked with the Eagles about cornerback Lito Sheppard and the Dolphins about defensive end Jason Taylor. The Dolphins reportedly are willing to accept a second-round pick for the 33-year-old Taylor, who has averaged 121/2 sacks since 2000.

Because Galloway accounted for all but two touchdown receptions by receivers last season, it's no surprise the Bucs spent a lot of time interviewing receivers such as Jackson, Sweed, Michigan State's Devin Thomas, Indiana's James Hardy, Houston's Donnie Avery and Florida's Andre Caldwell.

Running back also is a position to watch. Cadillac Williams isn't expected to recover from a torn patellar tendon until midseason (at the earliest), and the Bucs could use an infusion of youth and speed.

Earnest Graham, who rushed for 898 yards and 10 touchdowns last season, is entering the final year of his contract. The Bucs re-signed the seldom-used Bennett and 33-year-old Warrick Dunn.

Oregon running back Jonathan Stewart was among the first prospects to visit the Bucs, and there might be good value in the second round such as Rutgers' Ray Rice.

The Bucs also could see one of the top cornerbacks, USF's Mike Jenkins, fall to them. He also would provide immediate help in the kick return game. Another option at that position could be Aqib Talib of Kansas, although he has some off-field issues.

That said, it's considered a deep draft for cornerbacks, and there is no urgency. Even though Brian Kelly signed with the Lions, Phillip Buchanon is entering the last year of his contract and Ronde Barber is 33, the Bucs believe Patriots safety Eugene Wilson, whom they signed as a free agent, can move to cornerback to provide depth.

Another defensive possibility is Florida end Derrick Harvey, who is not expected to be available at No. 20. The Bucs would love to play him opposite last year's No. 1 pick, Gaines Adams.

And yes, they could draft another quarterback before the weekend is over.

But everything points to adding weapons for quarterback Jeff Garcia.

Receiver Michael Clayton has just one touchdown catch since his rookie year of 2004 and had a career-low 22 catches in '07. At 6 feet 5, Maurice Stovall is a big target but has not been able to get separation.

Maybe a speed demon such as Jackson, who ran the fastest 40-yard dash of any receiver at this year's NFL combine (4.39 seconds), makes sense. The negatives are he's not big (6 feet, 178 pounds) and hasn't been known as a hard worker between the hash marks.

Still, Jackson said he has a good feeling about Tampa Bay.

"Out of all my trips, I feel the best about Tampa Bay," Jackson said. "Doug Williams, Jon Gruden and (general manager) Bruce Allen gave me a good feeling about how much they like me and the good things they've been hearing about me.

"Coach Gruden wasn't worried about my size. He just wanted to know, 'Do you have heart?' Well, I've got lots of heart, and I love football. I'm capable of taking it the distance and scoring on any play."

Who is Gruden's guy? We'll find out today.

NFL draft

When: Today (Rounds 1-2) and Sunday (Rounds 3-7)

TV: 3 p.m. today, ESPN; 8 tonight, ESPN2; 10 a.m. Sunday, ESPN

Bucs picks (round-overall):

1-20, 2-52, 3-83, 4-120, 5-154.

Follow the

draft online

Want to know the Bucs' draft moves without sitting in front of the TV all day? Sign up to have text alerts sent to your computer or mobile phone at bucs.tampabay.com. You'll also find a draft board, prospect videos, mock drafts, stories and more. Check back after the Bucs' first pick for an audio report from columnist Gary Shelton.

Is Cal's Jackson Gruden's guy for Bucs' first pick? 04/25/08 [Last modified: Sunday, April 27, 2008 11:41am]

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