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Tampa Bay Buccaneers' needs start at defensive line, defensive back and receiver

TAMPA — You don't go 3-13 in the NFL unless there is a serious lack of talent on your football team.

While it's true Raheem Morris, the youngest coach in the NFL at 33, and first-time general manager Mark Dominik, 37, made enough mistakes to sabotage an opportunity for more victories, the fact remains the 2009 Bucs did not have enough impact players.

A big reason for that is the organizational mandate to rebuild with young players or unproven starters. The goal of making the playoffs gave way to simply showing progress.

With a promising young quarterback in Josh Freeman and a defense that showed improvement over the final six games, the Bucs are hopeful they have some pieces to build around.

That process begins at the Senior Bowl workouts Monday.

Tampa Bay owns five of the top 99 selections in the draft, including the No. 3 overall pick and two second-round picks.

Juniors will dominate the first round of the draft. Some project as many as two-thirds of the players selected in the first round in April will be underclassmen.

First things first.

The Bucs have numerous needs, starting at defensive line, defensive back and receiver.

Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, the projected No. 1 overall pick, is not participating in the Senior Bowl. Neither will Oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and Tennessee safety Eric Berry because both are juniors.

But there is plenty of talent to evaluate in Mobile, Ala.

Defensive line

Brandon Graham, Michigan: The end had 101/2 of the Wolverines' 22 sacks this season. ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay says he's an underrated player and one to watch at the Senior Bowl. With a good performance, he could even move up into the late first round.

Dan Williams, Tennessee: The 6-foot-3, 327-pound tackle is a space-eater who could play in either a 3-4 or 4-3 at nose tackle. Suh still is a possibility if the Bucs could entice the Rams to trade down and take a quarterback at No. 3. But it's a deep draft for defensive line talent, and Williams might be around in the second round.

Defensive back

Taylor Mays, USC: The Bucs have been linked to Berry in many mock drafts. That's pretty high to take a safety in any draft. Mays is a great athlete who played in a similar scheme, but his stock fell after a subpar defensive effort by the Trojans as a whole.

Patrick Robinson, Florida State: The Bucs eventually have to replace Ronde Barber at right cornerback, at least by the end of 2010. Aqib Talib is a Pro Bowl talent, but the Bucs aren't going to get by with Elbert Mack or Derrick Robison. They are high on E.J. Biggers, who spent his rookie season on injured reserve. Robinson is considered by many to be the second-best cornerback in the draft.

Receiver

Mardy Gilyard, Cincinnati: The 6-1, 187-pounder might be a little small by some NFL standards, but he is a playmaker. The Bucs need to upgrade the talent around Freeman and could use a home run hitter. Gilyard also is an outstanding kick returner.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers' needs start at defensive line, defensive back and receiver 01/23/10 [Last modified: Saturday, January 23, 2010 8:11pm]
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