Matthew Postins: What's your take on what DeSean Jackson can bring to the Buccaneers offense?
Chris Steuber: Obviously, Jackson provides the Bucs with a premier threat on special teams. He's a dynamic player, who can take it to the house any time he has the ball in his hands. Jackson isn't a finished product as a receiver, but he's still developing. He has a knack for the spectacular, but he tends to drop easy passes. With Joey Galloway in his mid-thirties, Jackson is a player with similar explosiveness who gives the Bucs a weapon they can build their offense around.
Matthew Postins: In terms of wide receivers in this mock draft, you have Oklahoma's Malcolm Kelly going at No. 11 to Buffalo, and then there's a nine-pick gap before Jackson. Is there that big a gap between Kelly and the rest of the field?
Chris Steuber: I wouldn't say that there is a gap between the receivers; I just feel that teams in the first round will value other positions over a wide receiver. Defense will play a huge factor in the first round and many teams are looking to upgrade different positions on their defensive unit. But I believe Malcolm Kelly is the best receiver in this draft.
Matthew Postins: By selecting Jackson at No. 20, that triggered a run on wide receivers in your mock draft. Indiana's James Hardy, Michigan's Mario Manningham and Texas' Limas Sweed are selected in the next few picks. That means all would be available to the Bucs in your mock. So, what separates Jackson from those three and, if for some reason Jackson is gone by No. 20, would one of those other receivers be a good fit for the Bucs?
Chris Steuber: I think Jackson's versatility and ability to be a game breaker separates him from the players you listed. As I previously stated, Jackson isn't a finished product as a receiver, and he also has to get bigger. But, he has tremendous athleticism and a unique ability to make defenders miss. If Jackson is off the board prior to the Bucs selection, I think Mario Manningham fits the Bucs offense just as well. Manningham is a vertical threat who has a knack for the acrobatic. He's naturally gifted, but he can also frustrate you as well. He makes the most unbelievable receptions, followed by a dropped pass on an easy slant route. The reason why I believe these two players fit well into the Bucs offense is because they're playmakers who can stretch the field and keep the defense honest. That's what Tampa needs.
Matthew Postins: Let's talk about a few players on the back end of the first round of your draft. First let's tackle Oregon RB Jonathan Stewart (5-foot-11, 230). The Bucs may be in the market for a running back this spring, depending on what they do in free agency and depending on how Carnell Williams' rehab progresses. Do you think Stewart would be a good fit for Tampa Bay's offense?
Chris Steuber: Sure, I think Stewart fits the Bucs offense extremely well, but I feel that adding a wide receiver, cornerback or an offensive tackle should be their No. 1 priority in the first round. This draft is deep at the running back position, and teams in need of a backfield answer can wait until the second or third round. If the Bucs wait until the second round, they may find a big back in Tulane's Matt Forte or a speedster in East Carolina's Chris Johnson. If they wait until the third round, they could select Central Florida's Kevin Smith or Rutgers' Ray Rice. There are options at the RB position. So, my advice is to be patient.
Matthew Postins: Defensive tackle is a position I believe the Bucs are targeting, but the top-shelf ones, like USC's Sedrick Ellis, are likely to be gone by No. 20. But you have North Carolina's Kentwan Balmer going to San Diego at No. 27. Could the 6-foot-4, 295-pounder be a good fit at either tackle position for the Bucs? More importantly, does he have the potential to be a dominant under tackle?
Chris Steuber: I don't think Balmer will be a dominant DT, but I think he will be effective as a run defender. He's not the biggest DT, but he has a great motor and uses his hands really well. That's why he's able to wedge between blocks and disrupt the action in the backfield. Balmer is a perfect DT for a 4-3 defense and he would fit well in the Bucs defensive scheme. He's versatile and could line up outside on occasion. But, I think wide receiver and offensive tackle should be the Bucs top priority.
Matthew Postins: Brian Kelly is talking about buying out the final year of his contract. If so, the Bucs may be forced to use that first-round pick on a cornerback. One guy we both saw at the Senior Bowl was Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (6-foot-1, 183) of Tennessee. You said he's rising up draft boards right now. What did he do for himself at the Senior Bowl, and could he be a good fit for the Bucs?
Chris Steuber: When you come from a school like Tennessee State, there are going to be a lot of questions regarding your game and what you can do against the big boys. But Cromartie showed excellent poise and confidence all week long in Mobile and outperformed everyone on the field. Not only did he shine in practice, but he was the star of the game. He displayed great athleticism in coverage and recorded an interception on a great read. Cromartie would be a nice fit for the Bucs because he's aggressive and instinctive. He doesn't take too many chances and is disciplined in coverage. Cromartie is rising up draft board and I currently have him projected at the end of the first round. With another stellar performance in Indianapolis, Cromartie will be a top-20 selection.
Matthew Postins: Looking at your mock draft overall, there are 15 juniors. Is that a normal ratio or are the declared juniors having a bigger impact on the draft that you expected them to?
Chris Steuber: I think this year's underclassmen class is very talented and unique. Without the infusion of underclassmen this year, the 2008 draft would be mediocre. I don't remember that many juniors being selected in the first round before, but their talent and potential warrant them to be first round picks.
Did you miss Steuber's most recent mock draft? Click here to check out his complete first-round selections.
A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber has provided his analysis of the NFL and NFL Draft prospects on the web and on the radio since 1999.
Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for BucsBlitz.com and the Charlotte Sun-Herald in Port Charlotte, Fla. An award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers Association, he appears frequently on Scot Brantley Show from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WHBO 1470-AM in Tampa-Clearwater.