Here it is — Draft Day. And here's my Mock Draft 3.0. So let's just get to it, shall we. A note: I made my picks based on values assigned by several different scouting services, then looked at several mock drafts and tweaked as needed.
First round (No. 4 overall) — WR Calvin Johnson, Georgia Tech.
I looked at 13 different mock drafts after I was done and the most prevalent pecking order was JaMarcus Russell (Oakland), Gaines Adams (Detroit) and Brady Quinn (Cleveland). I'm sold on Russell at No. 1 and Quinn at No. 3 (I think that's going to be a classic owner's pick, as Browns owner Frank Lerner loves the guy). The wild card will be Detroit.
It's absolutely impossible to get a read on what Lions GM Matt Millen will do, but I've got it narrowed down to Johnson, Joe Thomas and Adams. All three players would fit a need for the Lions, with Adams being the biggest need player. I think the Lions will do everything they can to trade this pick and try to acquire more picks, because the draft is deep at defensive end and at wide receiver. Should the Lions start a bidding war, the Bucs, Vikings, Falcons and maybe even the Texans will get involved. I've been on record countless times saying the Bucs SHOULD NOT trade No. 4 and a package of first-day picks to get to No. 2 to take Johnson. But that doesn't mean they won't.
The Bucs should do everything they can to force Millen to make a pick. Millen is so hated in Detroit that Johnson being available might work against him. He may feel so compelled to avoid the embarrassment of taking a fourth wide receiver in five years (though that kind of logic is foolish) that he would take either Thomas (a great pick to pair with veteran Jeff Backus) or Adams (a solid pass rusher that can make an impact immediately). Or the two teams could do a Rivers-Manning type deal, with the Lions taking Johnson at No. 2 and the Bucs take Thomas at No. 4 and then swap the players, along with a pick or two.
Craziness alert: The top of the draft seems to have settled down. It now appears that the Top 5 of the draft will be Johnson, Thomas, Adams, Russell and Quinn, though the order is in doubt.
If Johnson is not here, I would take I might take Thomas here instead of Adams. The defensive end depth is tremendous in this draft, and the talent gap after Thomas and Penn State's Levi Brown is pretty wide.
Second round (35th overall) — DeMarcus Tyler, DT, N.C. State
I've avoided this guy in my first two mocks because I really felt he wasn't going to be there. But after looking at several mock drafts, plus looking at Tyler's value grade going into the draft, I'm going to insert him because I now feel strongly that he'll be there.
Most scouts say he can excel in any scheme, and in the Tampa 2 Tyler would be the under tackle, the run/pass combo that makes the defense hum. He dropped about 20 pounds during the scouting process, but he was already quick enough to shed blocks and chase down running backs headed for the outside. He also appears to be an adept pass rusher, so he has the skills to be a good fit.
The good thing about Tyler is that he's talented enough to play right now, but he may not need to. The Bucs still have Ellis Wyms at under tackle, and Kevin Carter has already seen some time there during organized team activities. I think a Tyler-Wyms competition during training camp would be a wonderful thing for this defense, because Wyms has finished on injured reserve two of the last three years. It could end up being a rotation between the two.
Other possibilities: Hampton LB Justin Durant will be available, and he would fill a need after Shelton Quarles' release. But this might be too early for him. Take him at 64? I would, but I think he'll be gone by then. This could also be an end, maybe Tim Crowder, Charles Thomas or Ikaika Alama-Francis. Plenty of directions to go here, but the pick must be defense. One mock had the Bucs getting Michigan LB David Harris, but I don't think that's likely. He now has a first-round grade.
Second round (64th overall, from Indianapolis) — LaMarr Woodley, DE, Michigan
The defensive end depth is tremendous, and this is the last guy on the board that I think can eventually grow into an elite, or at least, above average end. Yes, his size makes him a tweener (he's just 6-1 ½, 265 pounds), but he's considered a great fundamental player who can make tackles in pursuit. This player wouldn't be Simeon Rice's replacement. He would likely be Greg Spires' replacement. He'll need to add some bulk, but most scouts agree he can.
Great minds think alike alert: After finishing my mock, I realized that my first three picks and the Sporting News' first three picks matched up perfectly. Weird.
Third round (68th overall) — Quincy Black, ILB, New Mexico
The Bucs like him and he's recently acquired a third-round grade. Plus, with the release of Shelton Quarles, the Bucs may be in need of more depth at the position.
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 at ILB, consider Brown LB Zac DeOssie and Pitt's H.B. Blades, both third-round considerations. Or there's South Florida LB Stephen Nicholas. He's going as early as the fourth round in some mocks and the Bucs worked him out last week.
Fourth round (102nd overall) — Usama Young, CB, Kent State
Remember when I had this guy in the seventh round a few weeks ago? He wowed scouts at his campus workout, so he's not an unknown anymore. 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. I think there's a chance that Young could help them in nickel packages and at safety. The Bucs are getting older at corner, though, and I wouldn't mind seeing a competition between Young and Alan Zemaitis to become Brian Kelly or Ronde Barber's replacement.
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.
Fifth round (141st overall) — Gerald Alexander, S, Boise State
Alexander moved to strong safety his senior year and showed an ability to play both the run and the pass. Scouts consider him smart and able to recognize routes, and he's capable of jumping them. Scouts also say he takes the game seriously, something the Bucs love. His coverage skills make him capable of helping at corner and at safety. He'll need to add some weight to play safety in the NFL (he's only 203 pounds), but scouts believe he's a good fit for the Cover 2.
Seventh round (214th overall) — Brian Smith, DE, Missouri
I admit it — this is a totally sentimental pick on my part. I covered him for part of his senior year at Denton Ryan High School in Denton, Texas. But hear me out before you scoff.
Before he became the victim of a horrible string of injuries, Smith was enormously productive for the Tigers. A speed end in every sense of the word (he's listed at 6-foot-4, but just 235 pounds), he finished as Missouri's career sack leader with 31.5, and had 7.5 sacks last season before his latest injury.
So is he fragile? Yes. Is he probably a better fit in a 3-4 scheme? Probably. But teams are beginning to take notice of the fact that Smith is getting healthier by the day and gaining some weight. Certainly, his former high school teammate, Jarvis Moss of Florida, is whispering in some teams' ears about Smith (Jacksonville is said to be interested in Smith late).
He won't be available as an undrafted free agent, in my opinion, so if you're interested, you take him here. Smith will not help you this year. You let him go through camp, release him, put him on the practice squad and then send him to NFL Europa in 2008 and then evaluate him. My hope would be that he would get his weight up to about 270 or 275, retain his speed and show some of the form he showed at Missouri. If he does, this could end up being a great pick three years down the road.
Seventh round (245th overall, compensatory pick) — Justin Warren, ILB, Texas A&M
Oddly enough, another guy I covered in high school (Robert E. Lee in Tyler, Texas). Call me a state of Texas homer if you like, but Warren wouldn't be a bad pick here. He's 6-foot-2, 258 pounds, and he can play inside, where the Bucs now have a need. With his size, speed, above-average cover skills and durability, he's quite reminiscent of Quarles.
Gator alert: It appears another ILB, Florida's Brandon Siler, might be available in the seventh round. If so, there could be a big debate between Warren and Siler in the Bucs' Draft Room.
Seventh round (246th overall, compensatory pick) — Jeremy Burnett, S, South Florida
The Bucs take a flier on a productive Big East safety from the hometown college team. I saw him play a few times last year and the guy flat out flies to the ball and delivers the kind of bone-crushing hits Bucs fans were used to with John Lynch. At this point, who else do you take? He could be an immediate special teams contributor in the Steve Tasker or Bill Bates mold.
I didn't realize until just now that I picked eight defense and one offense. That stilt is probably unrealistic, but the Bucs need plenty of help on the defensive side, and this seems to be a good draft to load up. There's plenty of good depth on the defensive line, at inside linebacker and at safety.
Well, that's it. In just a few hours it will all unfold. Check BucsBlitz.com throughout the weekend for coverage of the draft including my blog from inside One Buc Place.