TAMPA — Say this for the Bucs: They're not willing to be landlocked in the staid waters of two losing seasons over the past three years.
That became clear during the first two days of the draft, during which Tampa Bay rode a wave of three trades by general manager Mark Dominik to fill holes.
The Bucs made a deal Friday with the Texans to move into the second round, then took Nebraska linebacker Lavonte David with the 58th overall pick.
"I think we got better in the last 24 hours," coach Greg Schiano said. "We really got better."
The wheeling and dealing began Thursday, when the Bucs moved down from No. 5 overall to No. 7 with the Jaguars and selected Alabama safety Mark Barron. In the process, the Bucs picked up Jacksonville's fourth-round pick.
Then just when it appeared the Bucs might call it a night, they traded their second-round pick and swapped fourth-rounders with the Broncos to take Boise State running back Doug Martin 31st overall.
On Friday, Dominik, playing with what he called "house money," used the fourth-rounder he acquired from the Broncos and the Bucs' third-round pick to move up 10 spots and into the second round to take David, who will play outside linebacker.
"Although we started the draft with six selections, we've walked out now with Barron, Martin and now Lavonte David, and we still have four more selections: a five, a six and two sevens," Dominik said. "So I'm very excited about what's going on."
The 6-foot-1, 233-pound David had 285 tackles in 27 starts over two seasons at Nebraska. He had a school-record 152 in 2010, when he was the Big 12 defensive newcomer of the year. Last season, the senior had 133 tackles, 5½ sacks and 13 tackles for loss in being named a second-team Associated Press All-American. Overall for the Cornhuskers, he had 28 tackles for loss, 11½ sacks, 10 pass breakups and two interceptions.
David's background is similar to that of Giants defensive end and former USF standout Jason Pierre-Paul, who had 16½ sacks last season. Like Paul, David attended high school in South Florida (Northwestern) and played at Fort Scott Community College in Kansas.
"It was a really humbling experience, coming from a powerhouse high school where you have a lot of teams and stuff looking at you and then not being able to qualify to go into a big Division I-A school and having to go to junior college," David said.
"It's very humbling. I learned a lot at junior college. You can't take anything for granted. I thank the Lord every day for taking me on this path, and it's led me the right way."
In the first three rounds, the Bucs addressed, arguably, their three biggest needs: safety, running back and linebacker. David, who Dominik said was the best linebacker in coverage in the draft, will most likely play weakside linebacker. The Bucs have toyed with moving Mason Foster from the middle to the outside, but that seems less likely after drafting David.
Dominik said it was tough waiting for the right moment to pull the trigger on the deal that brought them David.
"There's a couple times you have to hold your breath and say, 'I want to hold my water here because I want to use that (fourth-round pick) to do it,' " Dominik said. "And then I pushed and pushed to make sure I got a pick back because you never know if that (seventh-round pick) could come back into play."
Schiano, who last was in the NFL as a defensive backs coach for the Bears in 1998, had never been invited into the war room until taking a big role in the Bucs' draft the past two days. He said he was impressed with Dominik's feel for when to make a deal.
"Mark is a pretty good poker player," Schiano said. "He waited and waited, and he was patient. Then when it was time, he went and did it. Yeah, I was anxious. We all wanted the player."
It's not as if Dominik hasn't made moves in the draft before. In 2009, the Bucs jumped up two spots to No. 17 for quarterback Josh Freeman.
"That's the greatness of the draft," Dominik said. "That's what makes it so adrenalizing and so much fun to be a part of it and to watch it unfold and to try to make sure we as an organization maneuver our team into maximizing it."
Rick Stroud can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Projected starting lineup as of today
QB: Josh Freeman
RB: Doug Martin *
FB: Erik Lorig
TE: Kellen Winslow
WR: Vincent Jackson #
LT: Donald Penn
LG: Carl Nicks #
C: Jeremy Zuttah
RG: Davin Joseph
RT: Jeremy Trueblood
WR: Mike Williams
LDE: Da'Quan Bowers
DT: Brian Price
DT: Gerald McCoy
RDE: Adrian Clayborn
OLB: Lavonte David *
MLB: Mason Foster
OLB: Quincy Black
LCB: Aqib Talib
SS: Mark Barron *
FS: Cody Grimm
RCB: Ronde Barber
P: Michael Koenen
K: Connor Barth
* Drafted this week
# Signed during the offseason