The other choices at No. 3
So what happens if the Bucs' turn to draft comes but Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy are off the board? If they don't trade down, some options:
Eric Berry Safety, Tennessee
Coach Raheem Morris was blown away at the scouting combine by how much Berry had majored in the Tampa 2 defense under the tutelage of Monte Kiffin, the Bucs' mad professor for 12 seasons who left in 2009 to be the Vols' defensive coordinator.
Chalk talk is cheap, but Berry's actions spoke volumes for why the Bucs would consider taking him. He not only had 14 interceptions in three seasons at Tennessee, he blew up running backs when he came down into the box.
"He made me so much of a better player just from the mental part of the game," Berry said of Kiffin. "He told us exactly why he was calling plays. He just didn't call plays and make us run (them). He would say, 'Okay, it's third and short, and this is why we're calling this play against this team,' or, 'This is what you can expect from them.' So you kind of got into the mind of a defensive coordinator and kind of understood his philosophy of what he was doing."
Rick Stroud, Times staff writer
Russell Okung Tackle, Oklahoma St.
Next to quarterback and pass-rushing defensive lineman, the highest value position in the draft is left tackle, because it's a quarterback league and you can't win unless they stay upright. Bucs tackles Donald Penn and Jeremy Trueblood will be unrestricted free agents after next season, and the Bucs want to protect franchise quarterback Josh Freeman for the next 10 years. The 6-foot-5, 305-pound Okung is the draft's best tackle.
Joe Haden Cornerback, Florida
Ronde Barber is 35 and did not have an interception last season for the first time since his rookie year. And the cupboard is bare behind the guy who plays opposite Aqib Talib.
A big part of the Bucs' success on defense has been the play of the secondary. Haden is probably not worth a top-three pick.
But in terms of need, cornerback is high on Tampa Bay's list and carries a big value.