At this point, what Tampa Bay Buccaneers GM Mark Dominik needs is a really, really good rumor.
What Dominik needs, and what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers need, is for some reckless Internet site to report that Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry eats kittens. Or that Baylor offensive tackle Jason Smith was the man on the grassy knoll. Or that Texas Tech receiver Michael Crabtree may miss next year's playoffs because he believes his home planet is sending a spaceship to pick him up.
These things are not true, of course, but that's the beauty of the plan. They don't have to be. They simply have to be delicious. They simply have to be nasty. Most of all, they have to cause the designated player to plummet in Saturday's NFL draft.
With any luck, he might fall all the way to, oh, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 19th pick.
If you read the reports — the most recent one about Florida wide receiver Percy Harvin, the wrong one about Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji or the rescinded ones about USC linebackers Brian Cushing and Clay Matthews — perhaps it strikes you that this has all happened before.
Back in '95, the stories were about Miami defensive tackle Warren Sapp, who reportedly had tested positive for marijuana and cocaine while in college. Sapp always admitted he had smoked marijuana, but he vehemently denied the cocaine part. Both the Bucs and the Hurricanes said the same.
Regardless, Sapp fell to the Bucs at No. 12. Shortly after, opposing quarterbacks started falling, too.
Could it happen again? Alas, it's doubtful. These days, a player could smoke dried-up newspaper clippings, dress like Beyonce and draw pentagrams on the floor and it would only cost him a couple of slots in the draft.
What, then, are the Bucs likely to do?
That's the problem with drafting in no man's land, the middle third of the first round. Everyone in front of you is going to get help, and everyone behind you doesn't need it. As for the Bucs, they can see the impact players from there but can't quite reach them.
Do you take Josh Freeman, the quarterback from Kansas State? That's hard to imagine. Unless the Bucs think Freeman is a future star — and if other teams think he is, he won't be around at No. 19 — it's a luxury to take a guy who might not play at all this year.
Do you take Peria Jerry, the defensive tackle from Ole Miss? Perhaps. And if the Bucs were still running their old defense, that might be a no-brainer. But the more you hear about how defensive coordinator Jim Bates likes wide bodies, the less it seems like a fit. Unless, of course, the Bucs think Jerry is special enough to tweak the scheme. (If Bates wants a wide body, he might wait until a later round and draft, say, a sports columnist.)
Do you take Cushing or Matthews? Could be. The Bucs have a lot of bodies at outside linebacker, but are they the right bodies?
Do you take Harvin? Frankly, the marijuana reports don't bother me, and judging by the drafting of Aqib Talib last year, they don't bother the Bucs. Harvin could change his name to Percy Doggy Dogg for all I care (or to Michael Phelps, for that matter). What does concern me is Harvin's ability to translate into the wide receiver position in the NFL.
Or, perhaps, do the Bucs look around the neighborhood at No. 19 and decide to move?
I know, I know. Most of the time, we all prefer to see a team move forward. It seems bold and decisive. After all, isn't the point of the draft so teams can move up in the standings?
This year, however, moving back may make a lot of sense. Look at the popular "NFL value chart'' that seems to have turned into Moses' stone tablets. By and large, I'm not a fan of the value chart because it doesn't take into account that players are different, positions are different and the commitment a team can have to a pick is different.
According to the chart, it would take the Bucs' first and third picks to move up only four slots. That's too high a price. And forget about trading next year's No. 1 unless the Bucs are going to be better than most people suspect.
Moving down? Say the Bucs stepped back to Arizona's No. 31 spot in the first round. According to the chart, they would be entitled to the Cardinals' second-round pick as well, which would enable them to recoup one of the picks they traded for tight end Kellen Winslow.
On a team that needs to fill holes, that's an intriguing notion. Provided, of course, the other team is willing to move, too.
In the meantime, call your favorite blogger. Suggest that Raji has been hanging out with Madonna or that he thinks Hannibal Lecter had a point or that he often videotapes games without the express written consent of the NFL. That'll cost him.
Spread the word.
Then sit back and wait. Who knows what might fall into your lap?
Gary Shelton can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8805.
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