Matthew Postins: As I look at this team right now, a few needs stick out. They need a more dominant defensive tackle, one that can create a consistent pass rush; a defensive end they could pair with Gaines Adams down the line; a cornerback who can be the eventual replacement for either Brian Kelly or Ronde Barber; and a wide receiver. Let's start at defensive tackle. This may be a position the Bucs tackle in free agency, but they certainly won't ignore it in the draft. It's not a first round priority, so give the names of a few defensive tackles that could be had in round 2 or round 3 that could have a big impact.
Chris Steuber: The 2008 draft isn't very deep at the defensive tackle position, and there are very few impact DT's outside the first round. A player who has a chance to be special, if he can stay healthy, is Texas A&M big man Joseph "Red" Bryant. At 6-foot-5, 324-pounds, Bryant is a big, physical interior lineman who gets penetration inside. He's the kind of player the Bucs could use inside and plays a similar game to former Tampa tackle Anthony McFarland.
Matthew Postins: Do you see the Bucs taking another defensive end in the first round? There's a rationale for it, since both Greg Spires and Kevin Carter are in their mid-30s. If so, give me the name of a couple of mid-first round picks that would go well with Gaines Adams.
Chris Steuber: I don't see the Bucs drafting another defensive end in the first round; I really think they will look to upgrade their offense. They may even look at a running back, especially with Cadillac Williams' future uncertain. But if they were looking to draft a defensive end in the first round, they'd have to find a player who can defend the run. There are two players that are potentially worthy of mid-first round consideration: USC's Lawrence Jackson and LSU's Tyson Jackson.
Matthew Postins: Barber is the standard at the corner position in the Bucs' Cover 2. The corner has to be able to play the run well, the pass well, and even play as a nickel corner. Some believe Tanard Jackson is Barber's eventual replacement. But he's played so well at safety, I'm not sure the Bucs will want to move him. The Bucs' M.O. in recent drafts is to take a corner in the second or third round. Is there a selection of corners that can play the Cover 2 that would fit the bill at that selection?
Chris Steuber: The perfect fit for the Buccaneers defense resides in the Tampa area, South Florida's Trae Williams. Williams is a very good cover corner who positions himself well against the run. Through nine games this season, Williams has 41 tackles (33 solo) and four interceptions. If the Bucs are looking for a corner who can eventually replace Barber, Williams is their man.
Matthew Postins: If the Bucs don't go after a wide receiver in the first round, as you believe they will, who might be some good receivers for the Bucs to take a look at in rounds two or three?
Chris Steuber: Well, I think the Bucs will go for a wide receiver at this point, but we're only in November. We still have a long way to go. There will be a lot of good receivers available in the second and third rounds, but a lot will depend on which underclassmen declare for the draft. Juniors like Indiana's James Hardy, Oklahoma's Malcolm Kelly, and Oregon's Jaison Williams are solid second round selections, as are seniors Harry Douglas (Louisville) and Limas Sweed (Texas).
Matthew Postins: I don't see Tampa Bay going after a quarterback in this draft, because all Jon Gruden's intense style will do is turn the kid into a head case. But the Bucs may draft one anyway. If they do, it will have to be a quarterback with West Coast passing skills, some mobility, and a real strong mental makeup. Regardless of position in the draft, give me two or three quarterbacks that fit that profile.
Chris Steuber: I could see the Buccaneers going after a quarterback, but it won't be a high pick. I think Tampa is comfortable with Jeff Garcia for at least one more year, and they have to make a decision with Chris Simms. I think Hawaii's Colt Brennan, Tulsa's Paul Smith, and Nebraska's Sam Keller are three quarterbacks the Bucs may look at. Brennan will be a second round selection, while Smith and Keller are fourth – fifth round selections.
Matthew Postins: I know it's November, but are there a few players — diamonds in the rough, if you will — that are going to surprise the NFL next year, in relation to where they're selected and how they'll play their rookie seasons?
Chris Steuber: Diamonds in the rough in November? Well, look out for Bethune-Cookman linebacker Ronnie McCullough, UAB free safety Will Dunbar, and San Diego quarterback Josh Johnson. All three of these players can be had on Day Two of the draft.
Matthew Postins: What do you think of the Buccaneers' draft in April? It's produced two starters in Arron Sears and Tanard Jackson. Gaines Adams just made his first start. Quincy Black has been a steady special teams performer. Do you think that was a successful draft for the Bucs?
Chris Steuber: I thought it was a very good draft. I was really high on Tanard Jackson while he was at Syracuse. He was a physical corner who defended the run very well. I'm not surprised by the success he's having at the safety position, because he has great ball skills and always looks to make the knock out blow. You have to give Gaines Adams some time. He's going to be a very good pass rusher. He has to adjust to the pro game and once he does, he's going to be a special player.
Matthew Postins: Finally, talk about draft strategy for the Bucs. They've dealt at least three of their 2008 picks (we believe their fifth, sixth and seventh round picks) in trades this year. Not counting compensatory draft picks that may come their way, the Bucs are likely to start the offseason with no more than four picks. If you're the GM and you have to plan their draft, given their needs, what do you attack in each round, knowing you have to maximize the impact of each pick?
Chris Steuber: I don't know exactly what rounds they're selecting in, but if they have four picks in next year's draft, I'd select these positions in this order: 1. WR 2. CB 3. DT 4. QB.
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Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for Bucsblitz.com and the Charlotte (Fla.) Sun-Herald. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association, and his coverage of the Buccaneers has won numerous state and national awards.