Bucs Address Some, If Not All, Needs

Tampa Bay ignores offensive line to address possible hole at linebacker. They finally go after help on the offensive line in the late third round, a move many thought have happened earlier.

By Jeff Berlinicke

It's easy to argue with the selection of Cadillac Williams as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers first pick in the draft, and just as easy to complain about Barrett Ruud in the second, but all in all, the Buccaneers seemed to fill almost all of their offensive needs.

The offensive line should have been a bigger priority, but the pick of Ruud in the second round seems to be a clear indication that the Bucs may be looking to move the salaries of Derrick Brooks and/or Simeon Rice.

Ruud is the leading tackler in the history of the University of Nebraska, and is a finesse player; not necessarily most physical, but if a move is made, Ruud seems like a good fit.

Still, the Bucs needed offensive linemen in a year when they were sorely lacking in the draft. In the third round, the Bucs filled a tight end hole with Utah's Alex Smith, but Smith is more of a pass catching tight end rather than a blocker. Smith will be able to stretch the field, but he'll need to learn better blocking techniques if he wants to be a full-time player rather than a third-down only tight end.

The Bucs waited a long time to address the interior offensive line needs and got mammoth tackle Chris Colmer out of North Carolina State. Colmer has suffered injury problems during his college career, but appears healthy and should have a serious chance at starting immediately on a completely revamped Bucs O-line.

Tampa Bay followed by taking Dan Buenning in the fourth round, a guard from Wisconsin who started 40 consecutive games in his college career. After that, it was a typical best player available draft except for the sixth round when they traded their second pick to the Cleveland Browns for quarterback Luke McCown who carried a clipboard all of last season.

The most interesting choice overall was wide receiver J.R. Russell who slipped to the seventh round even though he had a productive college career. He's 6-3, 200 and was a main reason for the success at Louisville the last two years. He's a Tampa native.

It was a draft that didn't address the offensive line as much as it should have, but in the Bucs defense, there wasn't much available. The Bucs could have traded down, but Williams was too much to pass on with the No. 5 pick. Ruud's position won't be clear until June 1 when players can be released and the real salary cap moves start to take effect. With Colmer and Buenning, the Bucs probably did the best they could consider the talent available.

Also, it will be interesting to see if quarterback Chris Simms has fallen from grace, since the Bucs openly courted Utah quarterback Alex Smith if he fell to Miami at No. 2. McCown has tons of potential, but he became expendable when the Browns drafted Charley Frye on Day 1.

Obviously a lot can change between now and when camp starts in July, but it is entirely possible that the Bucs will have 11 starters on offense when the season opens than they did during last year's opener.

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