In tooling around the internet and tracking other mock drafts, one thing seems certain — everyone believes the Buccaneers will take Georgia Tech wide receiver Calvin Johnson, one way or another. I believe the smart thing to do is sit and wait to see if Johnson will drop to them at No. 4, thereby preserving their opportunity to help themselves on defense with their second- and third-round picks.
This is my mock draft, version 2.0. Scouting guru Gil Brandt told a paper today that he's not sure he's seen a draft where the Top 10 players were so certainly agreed upon, but there was so much uncertainty about where they would go. So these days it's smart to remain flexible when doing one of these things.
But one thing I'm inflexible about is Johnson. He'll be the Bucs' first pick, one way or another.
First round (No. 4 overall) — WR Calvin Johnson, Georgia Tech.
One mock draft I read was brave enough to have the Lions take Johnson at No. 2, even though I would have to believe that would go over in Detroit like a hybrid car on Gasoline Alley. The only reason the Bucs trade up to this spot is if they're worried about Cleveland taking Johnson at No. 3. But I think Browns owner Frank Lerner's attention is squarely focused on Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn.
Craziness alert: The mock draft at profootbaltalk.com — the same Web site that gave us the "Rice to Detroit" rumor — has the Bucs trading DOWN to No. 7 to select LSU safety LaRon Landry.
If Johnson is not here, I would take Clemson DE Gaines Adams. He's the best pass rusher in the draft and there's no reason not to take him if he's there and Johnson isn't.
Second round (35th overall) — Charles Johnson, DE, Georgia
I avoided this guy because of a lack of a long-term track record at Georgia (he only started one year). But most scouts are valuing him at the end of Round 1 or the beginning of Round 2. I think I'd take him here.
Johnson is a bit more thickly built than my first selection here, Texas' Tim Crowder. I like the fact that scouts consider him a player that chases all over the field (i.e., he doesn't give up on plays). He is also said to have a great burst and anticipation skills. He's probably built a bit more like Greg Spires than Simeon Rice, and some have compared him to Philadelphia's Jerome McDougle, which isn't terribly flattering considering McDougle's lack of production. Johnson's lack of a track record may work to his advantage. He doesn't have the mileage of Crowder (he started all four years at Texas) and may be more open to coaching for that reason. That also means there are fewer ways scouts can poke holes at him.
This pick must clearly be defense and a sampling of mocks agree. Crowder, Michigan DE LaMarr Woodley and Texas S Michael Griffin were popular picks here.
Free-fall alert: Johnson's counterpart at Georgia, Quentin Moses, appears to be a late second-round or early third-round selection now. His lackluster senior year has made him a polarizing player among scouts. He could be a bargain for someone late on Day 1.
I like this guy. I really do. I saw him at his pro day and was really impressed with how he went about his business and how he interacted with scouts, especially Tampa Bay's. They worked him out separately. He's also had a visit with the Bucs this month, so there's definitely interest.
He's 6-foot-3 1/2 , 276 pounds and most scouts say he can add about 10 pounds and still be pretty effective on the interior. What I like is that he's played effectively both inside and outside, which means he can stop the run and rush the passer. Those are skills that have been lacking in the Bucs' under tackle since the departure of Warren Sapp. That position is the entire key to the defense. McDonald is Scout.com's fourth-ranked tackle. Pro Football Weekly scouts say he's one of the best hand fighters to come out of college in some time. And those hands are fast, judging from that hand-slap drill the Bucs put him through.
He could immediately rotate with Ellis Wyms inside and give the Bucs some insurance in case Wyms is hurt again (he's finished two of the last three seasons on injured reserve). One other benefit is the Bucs won't have to move either Kevin Carter or Greg Spires inside, leaving their defensive end rotation intact.
Alternate theories: One mock draft had the Bucs taking Boston College OL Josh Beekman (has Jeremy Trueblood been sitting in on the draft meetings?) and Auburn RB Kenny Irons here. Cornerback Daymeion Hughes was also a selection here.
Alternate theory No. 2: I was set to espouse the theory that the Bucs could trade their second-round pick (No. 35), their third-round pick (No. 68) and a player or pick next year to New England for their first pick in the second round in an effort to pick Florida DE Jarvis Moss. But it appears as if Moss will be gone before that selection, most likely to Jacksonville.
Third round (68th overall) — Aaron Rouse, S, Virginia
Rouse is Scout.com's fifth-ranked safety, and this draft is teeming with quality safeties. For Rouse to drop down this far — which is plausible — the Bucs might take him.
But he's a bit of a contradiction. First, he has all the "triangle" numbers scouts like. He's 6-4, 218 pounds and can run a 4.5 40. He's highly competitive, has good ball skills and can defend the run. Then scouts tell us that he can be indecisive, inconsistent and suffers from "brain freezes" at times. Which player will the Bucs get if they take him? That's a good question.
But he's a good risk here because he has all the physical skills to be an above-average safety, especially with Raheem Morris running the defensive backs now. The Mike Tomlin disciple won't be afraid to be too hard on the guy, yet get him in the right frame of mind.
I had Utah's Eric Weddle on my mind for this pick, but I'm beginning to believe he won't drop out of the second round, and line selections in Round 2 are more important to this defense. They might even make the current safeties — Jermaine Phillips and Will Allen — better. But it wouldn't hurt to get a player like Rouse to give those safeties a push.
Fourth round (102nd overall) — Quincy Black, LB, New Mexico
I had Oklahoma LB Rufus Alexander here, but Black is looking like an early second-day pick, and I think he's on the Bucs' mind as well. He's toured One Buc Place and even sat in on a meeting and interacted with Derrick Brooks. When a future Hall of Famer is willing to interact with a potential second-day pick, that tells me something.
The 6-1 ½, 226-pound outside backer is swift (4.6 40 and has a great vertical leap). He can move well laterally and make plays sideline to sideline, two great traits to have in the Cover 2. Scouts have criticized his inconsistency in college and are worried about his work habits. Valid concerns. They also say he needs work on his tackling. But at this point in the draft, all players come with some deficiencies. In the Cover 2 scheme, where linebackers are usually free to attack the football, Black might just be a productive pick.
Alternate theory: If you don't like Black, consider Brown LB Zac DeOssie, whose tremendous size (6-4) makes him a perfect strong side candidate. Or there's South Florida's Stephen Nicholas, a player I've apparently greatly undervalued. He's going as early as the fourth round in some mocks and the Bucs worked him out last week.
Fifth round (141st overall) — Usama Young, CB, Kent State.
Young is moving up draft boards since I planted him in the seventh round of my draft. Scouts say he has natural cover skills, doesn't miss open field tackles and has the speed and athleticism to break down and adjust to routes. He can make special teams contributions, but his stock is growing as more teams find out that he's more talented than his school's pedigree.
Alternate theory?: Offensive line could still be a selection here. Based on need and what's being valued in this draft, an interior lineman would likely be the selection. Consider Oregon State OT Adam Koets, Ohio State C Doug Datish (my fifth-round pick in 1.0), Alabama-Birmingham OT Julius Wilson and Wyoming OT Chase Johnson as possible picks here, if the Bucs go that way.
Seventh round (214th overall) — David Ball, WR, New Hampshire
Top-end speed, incredible size, strength — that's all well and good. But receiving is about one thing — receiving. And this guy has some of the best hands in the draft. The Bucs will like him. Gruden will love him. And then Gruden will probably cut him. And three years later he'll be the next Kevin Curtis, the perfect No. 3 in the next "Greatest Show on Turf" and we'll be writing columns about how he slipped through Tampa Bay's fingers.
Seventh round (245th overall, compensatory pick) — Tim Duckworth, G, Auburn
This guys has some potential at 6-3 ½, 304 pounds. Scouts said he played well when he wasn't hurt last year and can be a swing backup in the NFL. He's also been labeled an "overachiever" by some scouts. Most "overachievers" I know work their butts off.
Seventh round (246th overall, compensatory pick) — Jordan Palmer QB, UT-El Paso
It'll be late on Sunday and Gruden will no longer be able to resist the urge to select a quarterback. He could do worse than Palmer this late.
This mock is more to my liking. I still get the draft's No.1 talent, and because I don't trade up I still am able to address my defensive needs on Day 1. By sun up on Sunday, I have a new end, tackle and safety. Plus I go linebacker and cornerback before taking some fliers in the seventh. It addresses just about every need the Bucs have this offseason.
The next mock will be April 27, the day before the draft. If you have comments, let me know.