The Bucs doubled down on defensive tackles in last year's draft, taking Oklahoma's Gerald McCoy, top left, third overall and UCLA's Brian Price, bottom left, in the second round. Both players had their rookie season cut short by injury and would benefit from better talent playing next to them. Tampa Bay has not had an elite pass rusher since Simeon Rice, the last Buc to reach double-digit sacks in a season with 14 in 2005. By comparison, Stylez G. White has led the Bucs in sacks three of the past four years and never had more than eight in one season. The draft sets up nicely for the Bucs because it's loaded with defensive end talent. As many as 12 defensive linemen could be taken in the first round, meaning GM Mark Dominik could get to take one at No. 20.
What they're looking for
The Bucs value productive players who were team captains. They want gym rats, self-starters who won't shrink from the pressure of being a first-round pick. Although he produced just three sacks before missing the last month with a torn biceps, McCoy handled the pressure well as a rookie. But with White and Tim Crowder set to become free agents, the Bucs probably need to come out of this draft with at least two defensive ends/pass rushers.
Fitting the bill
The player who could be within range of the Bucs and probably fits their criteria best is Purdue's Ryan Kerrigan, left, who started three seasons and was a Boilermakers team captain. In the later rounds, watch for Arizona's Ricky Elmore, an overachiever who led the Pac-10 with 11 sacks, one year after finishing second with 10.5.
Top 10 prospects
DT, Alabama, 6-3, 319
|Generally regarded as the best DL in the draft and certain top-five pick, maybe even No. 1 overall to Carolina.|
DT, Auburn, 6-3, 291
|Fairley dominated the national championship game vs. Oregon. He's equally good against the run or the pass and a disruptive force in the middle.|
DE, Wisconsin, 6-6, 290
|Watt has the versatility to play in a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme. High-energy player and an extremely safe pick in the top 10.|
DE-LB, North Carolina, 6-4, 265
|Quinn sat out the entire 2010 season after being ruled ineligible. A natural pass rusher and reminds scouts of DeMarcus Ware.|
DE, Clemson, 6-4, 280
|Stock dropped because of a torn meniscus, but he had 151/2 sacks last season and is a top-five talent. Explosive rusher but only one good season for the Tigers.|
DE, Missouri, 6-4, 263
|Raw talent with a big upside who could've improved his stock by returning for his senior year but still will go high in the first round.|
DE, California, 6-4, 287
|Jordan will offer a team immediate pass rushing help and can be versatile enough to drop in coverage in the 3-4 scheme.|
DE, Purdue, 6-4, 267
|Kerrigan was a three-year starter and was a captain for the Boilermakers. A highly productive player who led the nation in tackles for a loss and had 121/2 sacks.|
DE, Iowa, 6-3, 281
|Clayborn has overcome Erb's Palsey, an on-again, off-again condition that causes paralysis in the muscles of his upper arm. Had 19 career sacks.|
DE, Ohio State, 6-5, 294
|Son of former Saints RB Craig "Ironhead" Heyward who projects as a five technique end in a 3-4 scheme.|
There are bound to be a few pass rushers who fall to No. 20. They could be true 4-3 defensive ends or 3-4, hybrid linebackers who can come off the edge and sack the quarterback. Kerrigan makes the most sense but could be gone to Jacksonville or New England by the time the Bucs select. Because of questions about his torn meniscus, Da'Quan Bowers could fall to No. 20, and he would be a very good value there.
Rick Stroud, Times staff writer