S Tanard Jackson, Syracuse
He's a Cover-2 corner through and through. He excels in a zone scheme. He runs a 4.5 40-yard dash and has good height (6-foot) for a corner, though his lean frame and hitting ability may allow him to transition to free safety. In fact, that's where the Bucs hope to play him.
He also has a reputation for playing well in run support, another safety attribute. He is said to play the ball and anticipate well, though he doesn't have the interceptions (just five in his career) to back that up. His deficiencies — a lack of catch-up speed and a cautious approach to playing the ball in the air — might be well-masked in the Bucs' overall defensive scheme.
The Bucs worked Jackson as a safety and as a cornerback at the Senior Bowl, and defensive backs coach Raheem Morris came away from that experience impressed with Jackson's versatility.
"He's another kid with position flexibility," Morris said. "He can play corner, he can play some backup nickel for us. He's real smart so he picked things up fast at the Senior Bowl. Hopefully he'll continue that."
Morris said that regional scouts graded Jackson as a safety prospect, and when they brought that to Morris' attention at the Senior Bowl, he approached Jackson immediately about the possibility.
"I tried to put him over there a little bit to see if we saw some of the things that we like in that position, and we did," Morris said. "They you put him over at corner and he plays like he practiced there all week."
Jackson make the safety position pretty crowded, if that's where he ends up. Starters Jermaine Phillips on the strong side and Will Allen on the free side are back, but Morris made it clear that second-round pick Sabby Piscitelli and Jackson would challenge the two for playing time.
Jackson's skills fit the scheme and his versatility is a real asset and could lead to some immediate playing time in nickel schemes.
DE Greg Peterson, N.C. Central
If this guy ever plays for the Bucs — and I'm not convinced he ever will — it will be as a defensive tackle. Coach Jon Gruden confirmed that the Bucs see him as an under tackle prospect.
Peterson said that he played mostly at tackle at N.C. Central. I don't think this is what Monte Kiffin had in mind when he said the Bucs had to address the under tackle position. N.C. Central is a Division II school. He played junior college football before that at Hinds Community College, which is one of the better juco programs in the country.
This is a classic potential pick. The Bucs are taking this guy hoping he'll give them something three years down the road. The positives are he's tall and big (6-5, listed at 271) who appears to be able to put on enough weight to play the under tackle (close to 300 pounds) and still be effective. But he's going to need a lot of grooming, and even he admits that.
"I think they want to see me improve my technique and my effort on every play," Peterson said.
Bucs defensive line coach Larry Coyer said there's potential for him to work at both tackle and end, but said that tackle is where he's more naturally gifted.
I don't see this guy being anything more than a practice squad guy after training camp, which to me is a tremendous waste of a fifth-round pick. History has shown that players drafted in the fifth round can be productive pros (Zach Thomas, Rodney Harrison among them). He may be productive one day, but it won't be in 2007.
LB Adam Hayward, Portland State
This guy was a stud at the Division I-AA level. He was a consensus first-team all-American, Big Sky Conference defensive player of the year and a Buck Buchanan award finalist. Plus, he's fast, judging by his sub-4.5 speed in the 40.
But I'm not sure where he fits. His versatility — he played six positions in college, including running back and flanker — might work against him.
His speed is his most tremendous asset at this point. Gruden made it clear the team wanted improvement in that area. This guy is big enough to play linebacker on the weak side (no chance there with Derrick Brooks), but also quick enough to maybe help out at safety or in nickel situations.
At the least specials teams coach Richard Bisaccia is happy. His kick coverage units were among the best in the NFL last year and with the selections of Sabby Piscitelli, Quincy Black and now Hayward, they've added plenty of speed for Bisaccia to play with. But a contributor at linebacker? The position was pretty crowded even before the Bucs released Shelton Quarles last week. I think this guy may be relegated to special teams, or even the practice squad, in 2007.
OT Chris Denman, Fresno State
In the seventh round you're probably not going to get an immediate game-breaker. But you have to find coachable prospects with potential, too.
That is at least what Denman appears to be. Scouts liked his big frame and his athleticism with that frame, plus his durability (didn't miss a start in three years). He walked on at Fresno State and became the starting right tackle, so he has the right attitude, too.
But scouts want him to add more weight, and he tried that by adding about 20 pounds before his senior year, taking him to 305 pounds. But those same scouts said he lost some of that fleet-footedness he had as a junior right tackle. Most of his other perceived negatives — consistency and blocking for the pass — can be improved, scouts say. Gruden said that Denman will work at right tackle and right guard to begin with, two positions where the Bucs are looking for depth, not a starter.
If he's not quick enough with the added weight (and tackles need to be at least 300 pounds in the NFL) then a move inside would benefit Denman and give him a better chance of making the team. He'd be awful tall for a guard. He would probably benefit from a year on the practice squad, because scouts do see a potential starter in Denman down the road.
By the way, the interior offensive line is getting pretty crowded.
CB Marcus Hamilton, Virginia
The first thing that sticks out is that scouts say he can be a very good cornerback in a few years — if he becomes a more aggressive player.
Playing with a lack of aggressiveness in Tampa Bay's Cover 2 scheme is an easy path to the unemployment line.
The good news is he projects as a zone cornerback, has quickness and can read quarterbacks and schemes well, all assets that translate well to Tampa Bay's defense. But he has limited range and top-end speed, and there's a good chance he'll be nothing more than a nickel-and-dime corner and special teams contributor, even if he progresses.
He's certainly in a good spot to learn the Cover 2, but he'll have to find a way to stick around in order to benefit from the years of experience of Ronde Barber and Brian Kelly. This guy is probably a cut-and-sign player for the practice squad when September comes around.
RB Kenneth Darby, Alabama
Darby had two 1,000-yard seasons before last season, when his production slipped. Some considered him a Day 1 prospect before that. But entering this draft there were questions about his initial burst, his size and ability to hit the hole. Plus, he's been clocked at 4.75 in the 40. That's not ideal speed for a back the size of Darby (5-10 ½, 211 pounds).
I'm not sure where Darby fits. He doesn't really have the speed to contribute on special teams, and he doesn't have the size to be a lead blocker for Cadillac Williams. I think the only person on the roster that should be worried is third-string back Earnest Graham, whose job seems to be on the line every year. But, given Graham's obvious worth on special teams, unless Darby shows that he can be valuable there he probably won't make the roster.