Thursday, May 14, 2009

2009 NFL Draft Grades: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay was neck and neck with the Panthers entering Week 14 of the 2008 regular season, when they met for the division lead. Each team had a 9-3 record and were tied for first in the NFC South. The Panthers emerged victorious, sending the Buccaneers into a four game slide - one that cost them not just the division title but a wild card as well. With the way the NFC South works, I'd expect the Bucs to fall to last in 2009 - but win the division in 2010.

A normally strong defense stayed the course in 2008, ranking 4th in passing yards, 9th in total yards, and 10th in points allowed per game. However their rushing defense took another hit, falling from 17th in '06 and '07 to 19th in '08. The last time the Bucs had a good rush 'D' was 2005 (6th). Finding some run stuffers - both at d-line and LB - is a must for this unit to become elite once again. The team was pretty average on offense and was good enough to win at least eight games (they won nine). However to get that extra win needed for the playoffs the offense must improve in the scoring department, which is, in the end, the most important stat. Who cares how well you move the ball if you can't score? Tampa Bay ranked 19th in The League with 22.6 points per game. Just another field goal per game would have catapulted the team to 9th overall - and may have won them the division.

Unfortunately for Buccaneers fans the team was basically gutted. Gone are head coach Jon Gruden, defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, LBs Derrick Brooks and Cato June, and QB Jeff Garcia. The team is undergoing a massive overhaul both schematically and in personnel. Plenty of new parts are needed and its gonna get worse before it gets better in Tampa Bay. The Bucs will most likely be facing a season comparable to 2004 (five wins) or 2006 (four wins). Unless they had a dynamic draft...

1/17/17 - Josh Freeman, QB, Kansas State
3/17/81 - Roy Miller, DT, Texas
4/17/117 - Kyle Moore, DE, USC
5/19/155 - Xavier Fulton, OT, Illinois
7/8/217 - E.J. Biggers, CB, Western Michigan
7/24/233 - Sammie Stroughter, WR, Oregon State

  • DL - Check!
  • QB - Check!
  • RB - Try again.
  • LB - Try again.
Tampa Bay had six picks in the 2009 draft and four areas of need. They somehow managed to only address two of those needs. However I would have also listed WR and CB as needs and they filled those as well as getting depth at OL. While a LB should have been picked, RB would have been a luxury. So they did better than 2/4. Not getting any LBs is the biggest negative.

GRADE: 75/100

Pick 1 - I don't know who they though wanted him at 17 or 18, but I truly believed the Buccaneers were playing against themselves when they felt the need to trade up from 19 to grab Freeman. However, to me, taking Freeman at 19 would have been just as big a mistake. Freeman is not ready for the NFL. Many scouts said he'd need at least two seasons to learn before showing ability. He's a lot like JaMarcus Russell and so far that hasn't panned out. The Bucs have no foundation after they gutted the team and they waste a high pick on a developmental QB. If they're OK with not being competitive until 2011 at the earliest then fine, this is a good pick. But if they honestly want to win this year and next they should have gone for a DE to pair with Gaines Adams or a DT to help stuff the run. Heck, Clay Matthews or Chris Wells would have been better picks, in my opinion. Grade: 4

Pick 2 - When this pick was announced I thought it was a huge reach. Looking back on how the draft played out, this pick looks better. Miller probably was drafted a little high but the draft dictated that. This fills a huge need and while Miller may not be an every down player immediately, he can certainly rotate in a few plays each game. Grade: 7

Pick 3 - While Moore is a better pick than the Bears selecting Melton, it still wasn't as good a pick as it could have been. Yes Tampa Bay needed a DE. But look who else was available: Brandon WIlliams and, more importantly, Lawrence Sidbury. Perhaps the Bucs felt Moore could make a bigger impact immediately. But based on raw talent and potential, Moore and Sidbury have higher ceilings. Grade: 6

Pick 4 - A nice depth pick here in Fulton, who went precisely where many though he would. OL depth is necessary in every draft and the Bucs got arguably the second best tackle left on the board. The only player that would have made this pick better would have been OT Jamon Meredith. Grade: 8

Pick 5 - This was a huge reach. Biggers was definitely not expected to be drafted. While it's hard to rip on a seventh round pick, there were plenty of perceived better players left. Mike Mickens at CB or a few safeties such as Curtis Taylor and Courtney Greene, all would have been better picks. Or they don't reach for a DB and go for a LB - Zach Follett was available - or a RB such as Rashad Jennings. Grade: 2

Pick 6 - Stroughter was certainly the best WR left and, had he not had some issues during the 2007 season, he definitely could have been gone in round three or four - maybe even earlier. Basically, getting him in the seventh is as close to a low risk-high reward scenario you can get to. He helps at a position of need and could make an immediate impact on special teams and the return game. The only better selections would have been Greene, Follett, Jennings and maybe DT Ricky Jean-Francois or TE Cameron Morrah. Grade: 8

GRADE: 35/60


Really was hit or miss for Tampa Bay. Not an amazing first draft for the new staff, spearheaded by Raheem Morris. Morris may only have two seasons to right the ship and I;m afraid Freeman won't be ready. The rest of the rookies need development just like Freeman. Only Miller and Moore may see significant playing time and that will be as role players in a rotation, not as starters.


WHY: This class will be better if Freeman develops. With the lack of players ready to contribute from day one this class just doesn't stack up to a few others. It is great depth for sure but Tampa Bay needed starters and I'm just not sure they got many.

NOTE: My "final grade" is weighted and is not a simple combination of "needs" and "talent".

Best Pick: Moore
Worst Pick: Freeman
Sleeper: Miller
Instant Impact: Stroughter
Developmental: Biggers

OTHER DRAFT GRADES - Tampa Bay Buccaneers
CBS Sports (Prisco): C-
CBS Sports (Rang): C
ESPN (Kiper): B (Brooks): B- (Fan's): B
Walter: A+



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