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Tampa Bay Buccaneers get to evaluate talent at this week's scouting combine

USF defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, sacking Western Kentucky’s Brandon Smith, is moving up on draft boards to the point he could be considered by the Bucs at No. 3 overall.

Associated Press (2009)

USF defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, sacking Western Kentucky’s Brandon Smith, is moving up on draft boards to the point he could be considered by the Bucs at No. 3 overall.

INDIANAPOLIS — Each year, the NFL scouting combine affords teams a chance to watch, touch and, sometimes, sample the best college football talent available.

But unless it owns a high draft pick, there are some players a team can only browse, not buy.

That's not the case this week for the Bucs, who own the No. 3 overall pick and five of the top 99 in April's draft. They can imagine even the most elite players in red and pewter.

It's as if Lucas Oil Stadium becomes Neiman Marcus and the Bucs have a platinum card (financial reports about the Glazers to the contrary).

Quarterback is the only position the Bucs won't consider with the five picks, having drafted Josh Freeman at No. 17 overall a year ago.

Defensive line is the biggest area of need, and the consensus top players are defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh of Nebraska and Gerald McCoy of Oklahoma.

Both could be gone by No. 3, and many analysts have the Bucs selecting Tennessee safety Eric Berry. But coach Raheem Morris and company have plenty of others to examine this week.

Round 1

Jason Pierre-Paul, Defensive end, USF

If Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy are off the board (to the Rams and Lions), the Bucs might not want to discount the hometown talent. Pierre-Paul burst onto the scene in his first season with the Bulls and made folks forget about teammate and fellow defensive end George Selvie.

Pierre-Paul is making the fastest rise on draft boards because of his pass-rush skills off the edge and ability to hold up against the run at 6 feet 6, 265 pounds.

"(The Bucs) had trouble getting to the quarterback last year," NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said. "So would they take a look at Jason Pierre-Paul that early? I think he warrants it from a talent perspective, and I like his motor."

Dez Bryant, Receiver, Oklahoma State

The Bucs want to surround Josh Freeman with weapons, and receiver is a need as Antonio Bryant is an unrestricted free agent.

Bryant looks the part at 6-4, 215. His film is impressive despite being suspended for all but three games last season for lying to the NCAA about his relationship with Deion Sanders.

The Bucs want to see how much rust is on Bryant.

"He's my third-rated player in the country," Mayock said . "And you've got a young quarterback there you're trying to develop. The best thing you can do for him is get him an Andre Johnson-type wide receiver."

C.J. Spiller, Running back, Clemson

Cadillac Williams is entering the final year of his contract. Derrick Ward flopped. Why not take a flier, especially if the Bucs can move down a few spots, on Spiller? An explosive play-maker with 32 career touchdowns would aid Freeman. He also is a game-breaking return man.

Rounds 2-4

Dexter McCluster, Running back, Ole Miss

The former Largo High star had an outstanding week of workouts at the Senior Bowl and interviewed with the Bucs. He's a matchup problem as a receiver out of the backfield and explosive enough to go the distance with every touch. He might have elevated himself to the late second round.

Sean Weatherspoon, Linebacker, Missouri

Barrett Ruud is a restricted free agent and might skip offseason workouts again. The Bucs would like a middle linebacker with more of a mean streak and who can come downhill and meet running backs in the hole. Weather­spoon's leadership qualities are touted. He had a so-so junior season after putting on weight but rebounded as a senior.

Toby Gerhart, Running back, Stanford

Need a big-effort back with great hands who can truck tacklers and has a nose for the end zone? Mike Alstott is retired, but Gerhart has many of the same qualities. The 6-foot, 237-pounder is expected to run 40 yards in about 4.6 seconds. The Bucs lack a proven short-yardage back.

Rick Stroud can be reached at stroud@sptimes.com.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers get to evaluate talent at this week's scouting combine 02/24/10 [Last modified: Thursday, February 25, 2010 12:16am]

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