TAMPA — General manager Mark Dominik knows the Bucs are in an arms race in the NFC South with quarterback Josh Freeman, the Saints' Drew Brees, the Falcons' Matt Ryan and the Panthers' newest long-range weapon, first overall pick Cam Newton.
He believes the team that puts the most pressure on those passers will win the division.
That's why on Thursday, the Bucs selected Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn with the 20th overall pick in the draft.
Dominik said Clayborn will play right end for a defense that finished tied for 30th in the NFL in sacks with 26.
The 6-foot-3, 287-pound senior will line up alongside tackle Gerald McCoy, last year's No. 3 overall pick who had three sacks before missing the final month of the season with a torn left biceps.
"He's going to continue to generate the push and the pressure we want to attack and apply to quarterbacks in our division now that we have Cam Newton as well," Dominik said.
Clayborn was the fifth defensive end selected, behind Missouri's Aldon Smith (No. 7 to the 49ers), Wisconsin's J.J. Watt (No. 11 to the Texans), North Carolina's Robert Quinn (No. 14 to the Rams) and Purdue's Ryan Kerrigan (No. 16 to the Redskins).
Last year, the Bucs used their first two picks on McCoy and UCLA defensive tackle Brian Price, who was limited to five games by a pelvic fracture.
Clayborn finished his Iowa career with 30 consecutive starts, 192 tackles, 37 tackles for loss and 19 sacks. But after recording 111/2 as a junior, his sacks fell to 31/2 last season.
"Teams knew my play was still there, but my numbers were down because of double-teams and things like that," Clayborn said. "It wasn't a concern. My motor was still going, and my skills were still there. It's not like I lost a step."
Clayborn overcame long odds to become a football player, let alone a first-round pick. Doctors did not want Clayborn to play contact sports in high school because of nerve damage suffered in his neck and right arm while being born, a condition called Erb's or brachial palsy.
But he endured to become the emotional leader of the Hawkeyes defense and a two-time team captain.
"I was told I couldn't play football, and that kind of started me behind the eight ball," Clayborn said. "But I've been building up strength in my shoulder since then. It's there. Nothing is wrong with it. There's not much to say about it."
Clayborn had some off-field trouble. He was charged with assaulting an Iowa City taxi driver in January 2009. He reportedly confronted the driver for honking his horn during a traffic jam. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct in March 2010 but was not suspended by Iowa coaches because they believed the situation required only minor internal penalties.
"The bottom line is nothing happened in terms of altercations with the football team," Dominik said. "He was voted a two-time captain after that incident."
The Bucs had downplayed their desperation for a pass-rusher and didn't want to be pigeonholed at that position in the first round. But coach Raheem Morris wanted to add another defensive lineman to help take some pressure off McCoy and others.
"You bring a Rambo-type mentality to your football team," Morris said. "A boy dog, so to speak. A guy that's going to go out there and hunt not only the quarterback, but anybody who has the football."
Shortly after he was drafted, Clayborn got a phone call from McCoy welcoming him to the team.
"He said that he was excited. He thought they were going to get a good pick and they got a great pick," Clayborn said. "He's excited, and I'm excited to work with him and everybody else.
"(He told me) that he's going to guide me the right way through this whole process, and I'm excited to have a guy like that who's going to help me it."
McCoy later tweeted, "Just talked to the newest Buc @AjaClay and welcomed him to the team. He told me he is overjoyed to be Buc! He's ready y'all. HERE WE GO."