Last season as a rookie, the defensive tackle was under tremendous pressure to spice up the Bucs' pass rush but often didn't meet the sky-high expectations. Still, those who watched the Bucs closely know the impact he had. And the Bucs' struggles in stopping the run after McCoy's season-ending biceps tear give you a sense of his importance.
The selections of defensive ends Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers will only help McCoy. If either player lives up to the Bucs' hopes, that will take attention away from McCoy in the middle and cause offenses to shift their protection schemes. With more one-on-one matchups, McCoy can only build on what he began to show last season.
Stephen F. Holder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The NFL draft is in the books, and despite what anyone says about the Bucs' selections, no one will know anything concrete about this class for quite some time. But it's not too early to determine the impact — positive or negative — on players now on the roster. The Bucs' roster moves during the rest of the offseason — whenever the lockout finally ends — will be directly influenced by the choices they made. With this in mind, let's take a look at some of the Bucs' winners and losers of the draft.
E.J. Biggers/Myron Lewis
These guys benefited not because of what the Bucs did but rather what they did not do.
Given the likely absence of Aqib Talib because of his latest arrest — with at least a significant NFL suspension expected if not his release — cornerback appeared to be a position of concern. But the Bucs did not address it until the seventh round, when they selected Florida International's Anthony Gaitor.
Why so little urgency? The Bucs believe Biggers and Lewis (along with veteran Ronde Barber) can hold things down in the secondary even without their best defensive back (Talib). That's quite a vote of confidence for the young duo.
It's far from certain that Williams, a free agent, will wear pewter and red again, but the odds do not appear worse after the draft.
Yes, the Bucs drafted USC's Allen Bradford, but he doesn't seem to be the change-of-pace, third-down back Williams became late last season behind LeGarrette Blount.
Williams' pass protection and savvy catching balls in open space for big gains were critical. The trust offensive coordinator Greg Olson has in him won't hurt his bargaining position, either.
Williams could walk if an offer presents itself elsewhere. But the Bucs still have reason to keep him.
With the starting right guard being the Bucs' highest priority in free agency, no effort was made to address the offensive line. It's still unclear if Joseph will be an unrestricted free agent because of the labor mess. (It's possible he could become a restricted free agent.) But if Joseph makes it to the open market, the Bucs will make every effort to retain him.
The Bucs plan to have Mason Foster begin his career at middle linebacker, which is of great significance to Ruud. The four-year starter in the middle is a free agent and looking for a long-awaited payday after having his unrestricted free agency postponed last year because of changes in the collective bargaining agreement.
There have been some ill feelings on Ruud's part because he wasn't offered a contract extension like left tackle Donald Penn, who also was a restricted free agent at the time.
The addition of Foster doesn't automatically mean the Bucs are moving on. But it does mean Tampa Bay, at a minimum, has a Plan B and will use it to its advantage in negotiations.
Stylez White/Kyle Moore
With the Bucs drafting two defensive ends, this pair of starters has become vulnerable.
The Bucs, in their opinion, drafted White's replacement in right end Adrian Clayborn. And the team says Da'Quan Bowers is going to play left end, a position that was basically handed to Moore entering last season. Moore, for the second straight season, was unproductive and injured. So it's not out of the question to suggest he will have his work cut out for him to make the final roster.
When the Bucs drafted Florida's Ahmad Black, it didn't necessarily mean Jackson is no longer in the plans.
But it does indicate the Bucs remain realistic about Jackson's situation. When the safety is eligible to return from his yearlong league suspension for substance abuse in September, there are no guarantees commissioner Roger Goodell will reinstate him or the Bucs will take him back. And here's another consideration: What kind of football shape will he be in at that point, anyway?
This veteran tight end saw the Bucs draft his likely replacement in Luke Stocker from Tennessee. Stocker is a big tight end like Gilmore but might be considered by the team to be more versatile. The Bucs have talked about pairing Stocker in two-tight end sets with Kellen Winslow. So all signs point to Gilmore, a free agent, moving on.
Bucs' draft picks
First: DE Adrian Clayborn
Second: DE Da'Quan Bowers
Third: LB Mason Foster
Fourth: TE Luke Stocker
Fifth: S Ahmad Black
Sixth: RB Allen Bradford
Seventh: CB Anthony Gaitor
Seventh: TE Daniel Hardy