Buccaneers Mock Draft 1.0

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be on the clock in less than two months and the anticipation is already in the air. This is Bucsblitz.com's first Mock Draft of the offseason. Our expert, Matthew Postins, has taken his first stab at drafting for the Buccaneers. See who he selected and why inside this exclusive feature.

Want to sound off about this mock draft? Have an opinion? Express it at the Bucsblitz.com message board. Just click here and look for the "Bucs Mock Draft 1.0 unveiled" post.

In the first edition of Bucsblitz.com's "Buccaneers Mock Draft," I'll attempt to work as GM for a day and navigate the Buccaneers through the talent available this April.

Remember it's not an exact science, and the Bucs are without their sixth- and seventh-round picks. And the Buccaneers could trade more of these picks away to acquire veteran talent before the draft.

But for right now, it's one pick in each of the first five rounds, beginning with the No. 20 overall selection.

For the purposes of our Mock Draft, I'll make my selection, tell you why I've made it and then give you some alternatives, based on what could happen.

My research? Well, I've been to both the Senior Bowl and the Scouting Combine, so I have a good idea of which players the Buccaneers are interested in. I've also looked at several Web-based mock drafts, including Scout.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com, CBSSports.com and NFLdraftscout.com to get an idea of how other experts perceive the stock of certain players.

And please remember — this is a fluid situation the next two months. My last mock draft in April will likely look much different than the one you're reading now. But feel free to share your thoughts on the Bucsblitz.com message board.

Ready? Here we go.

First round — No. 20 overall

WR DeSean Jackson, California (6-foot, 178 pounds)

Why?: The Bucs need talented wide receivers. They also need a young player that can take the place of Joey Galloway eventually. They also need an explosive punt or kickoff returner. In theory, Jackson would give the Buccaneers all three.

He caught 29 touchdown passes in 36 games at Cal and emerged as one of the nation's top deep threats. What you might not know is that last season he battled thumb issues and still earned first-team All-America honors with 762 yards and six touchdowns on 65 receptions (11.7-yard average). He showed off his return prowess his sophomore year by winning the Randy Moss award for the nation's top punt returner, leading the NCAA with 18.2 yards per punt return, as he ranked second in the Pac-10 with nine receiving touchdowns.

He timed out at 4.35 in the 40-yard dash at the combine. The only real question is his size. He actually measured a quarter-inch shy of six feet at the combine. But the talent and versatility is undeniable. He could make an immediate impact as a receiver and as a returner for the Bucs, and the value — a mid-first round pick — is much better than the value the Dolphins placed on Ted Ginn Jr. last year.

Alternate theory: Two things strike me. First, there's a wealth of talent at receiver this year and the Bucs could easily acquire similar talent in later rounds. Second, the Bucs also need a young cornerback and if either Kansas' Aqib Talib or South Florida's Mike Jenkins were to drop to No. 20, I would seriously consider taking either player. But most of the mocks I've seen have both gone before No. 20. Wide receiver and cornerback are Tampa Bay's two biggest needs this offsesaon and the Bucs should spend the first day trying to fill those needs.

One other thing. I would have no qualms about trading this pick if it would net the Bucs an extra pick or two in the draft. Like I said, wide receiver and cornerback are deep positions in this draft and you don't have to spend a first-round pick to get a first-round talent. But for now, I'll stick with Jackson.

Second round — No. 52 overall

CB Patrick Lee, Auburn (6-foot, 194 pounds)

Why?: NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock dropped this guy's name as a player the Bucs might like with this pick. Why?

Auburn cornerback Patrick Lee may be a potential answer to the question of who will eventually succeed veteran Ronde Barber at cornerback. (InsideAU.com photo)
Well, he's the right size for what the Bucs eventually must find — the successor to Ronde Barber. Lee is an inch taller and about the same weight. Scouts say the size allows him to match up with taller receivers, plus his quickness allows him to excel in man coverage on the sideline or in zone coverage, perfect for the Cover 2. He can create turnovers, he's a solid tackler and — yes — he can add value in the return game. He averaged 25.8 yards on 11 kickoff returns in 2007.

Perhaps the biggest downside is that Lee wasn't a full-time starter until last season, so he doesn't have the track record of a Jenkins or Talib. Scouts also question whether he has the strength to jam receivers at the line of scrimmage. But the Bucs don't play a lot of bump-and-run coverage. Scouts also believe he must refine his backpedal and change of direction skills. Handing Lee over to Bucs defensive backs coach Raheem Morris should take care of that. He helped turn Tanard Jackson into a full-time starter as a rookie last season.

Alternate theory: Lee might be a reach with this pick, though I believe with his speed (4.4 in the 40) and quickness all he'll need is a solid pro day to earn second-round credibility. If he doesn't, though, the Bucs would have plenty of options at cornerback. the Bucs could turn their attention to Oklahoma's Reggie Smith (6-foot-1, 199 pounds), who is as talented but not nearly as fast; Southern Cal's Terrell Thomas (6-foot-1, 202 pounds), whose speed matches favorably with Lee; or Indiana's Tracy Porter (5-foot-11, 188 pounds), who has blazing speed. All are corners that NFL Network college analyst Charles Davis told me could be good fits in Tampa Bay.

One other thing. If Virginia Tech linebacker Xavier Adibi were to drop to this spot, I could see the Bucs selecting him and bypassing cornerback until the third round. The Bucs see Adibi as a "Derrick Brooks clone" and would likely jump at the chance to take Adibi if he fell. The 6-foot-2, 232-pound linebacker is, at the moment, a high second round value.

Third round — No. 83 overall

RB Kevin Smith, University of Central Florida (6-foot-1, 217 pounds)

Why?: Did you miss what he did last year at Central Florida? He rushed for more than 2,600 yards for the Knights as he fell 61 yards short of Barry Sanders' single-season Division I record. Scouts praise his ability to hit the hole, his vision and his patience with developing blocking. One scout even told me he has "sneaky football speed."

There are knocks on Smith, beginning with the level of competition in Conference USA and his top-end speed. He didn't necessarily answer those critics at the Scouting Combine, where he didn't crack 4.5 in the 40-yard dash. But some backs don't have breakaway speed and become successful in the NFL. Witness Emmitt Smith.

Production doesn't lie, even against less than heralded competition. Kevin Smith produced because he has talent. It's up to scouts to project how that production might play in the NFL. To me, I could see him being highly productive in the right offense. With the road-grading guards the Bucs have assembled, plus new acquisition Jeff Faine at center, Kevin Smith could be a good fit.

Alternate theory: If the Bucs choose not to address running back here, there are a couple of positions they could seek help. Since the draft is heavy in wide receivers, a selection like Eddie Royal of Virginia Tech, who can catch passes and return kicks, would be suitable. The Buccaneers may seek a young tight end if they're unable to bolster the position in free agency, and a player like Michigan State's Kellen Davis would be a great value in this round.

Defensively the Buccaneers will still need to address their inside tackle position. Now that it appears Jovan Haye will be around for at least 2008, the Bucs can address depth behind Haye and Chris Hovan. Dre Moore (6-foot-4, 305 pounds) of Maryland makes sense because he can play both positions and he's a good value in this round. The Bucs could also use a young end to develop opposite Gaines Adams. In that case, watch for Hampton's Kendall Langford (6-foot-6, 287 pounds), a player Mayock pointed out at the combine is a sleeper selection in this round. Langford performed well at the Senior Bowl and the Combine and could well overcome his small-school status to emerge as a second-round pick. But right now he's a third-round value and that's just about right.

Fourth round — No. 116 overall

DT DeMario Pressley, North Carolina State (6-foot-3, 301 pounds)

Why?: I had the chance to talk to Pressley at the combine and I was pretty impressed with his intelligence. His on-field ability isn't bad, either.

N.C. State DeMario Pressley talks to a Seahawks scout at the Senior Bowl. Most scouts see Pressley as an interior defensive lineman that could play on either side of the center. (Ed Thompson/Scout.com Photo)
Lately N.C. State has cranked out some solid linemen, including Mario Williams, John McCargo and Tank Tyler. Pressley told me he learned a little something from each of them during their college days.

Pressley is talented enough to assume their mantle. Scouts like the fact that he's tough to move and that he's willing to take on double teams. But there are questions, most notably his burst off the snap and his inconsistency. But once you get to the fourth round you're going to encounter players that have question marks. Pressley seems coachable and versatile enough to serve as a backup at both under tackle and nose tackle while line coach Larry Coyer tutors him to take over for either Jovan Haye or Chris Hovan — eventually.

Alternate theory: Another tackle I like here is Texas' Frank Okam, who is the complete opposite of Pressley. At 345 pounds. Okam is a mountain of a man. Plus, he can play both tackle positions, though he's really more suited to be the nose tackle in a 3-4. But imagine sticking Okam at under tackle 20 or 25 plays a game, specifically against the run, where the Bucs were ranked No. 17? It's a bit tantalizing.

At this point teams are looking at the best players available. Missouri TE Martin Rucker has a fourth-round value attached to him, and all he did was catch more than 80 passes last year. If the Bucs wanted to improve their depth at tackle Rutgers' Jeremy Zuttah may be there, and he's a sub-5.0 in the 40. Defensively, Florida State LB Geno Hayes could be a good value here, as could Boston College CB DeJuan Tribble, who is trying to answer questions about his speed.

Fifth round — No. 147 overall

FB Owen Schmitt, West Virginia (6-foot-2, 247 pounds)

Why?: Looking for the next Mike Alstott? It could be Schmitt, who shared time — and opened holes for — Steve Slaton at West Virginia.

He is considered more of a throwback fullback — in other words, he's more apt to block than to run or catch — but he's tremendously physical at the point of attack and did a great job of opening holes for Slaton when needed. In a more traditional offense, Schmitt would be a perfect lead blocker. With Jon Gruden's offense more of a run-based West Coast offense, Schmitt's skills would fit right in.

He is capable of catching the ball out of the backfield and taking the occasional carry, but his value would be in opening up holes for Carnell Williams — or whoever is behind him.

Alternate theory: This would be Tampa Bay's last draft choice so they might be apt to reach on a player that won't be available to them as an undrafted free agent. This might include rolling the dice on a player at a key position. I could see them spending another pick on a wide receiver like Dorien Bryant of Purdue or Houston's Anthony Alridge, who is really a running back but adds value as an exceptional returner. The Buccaneers could also do the same thing at cornerback, where Jonathan Zenon of LSU or Darnell Terrell of Missouri should be available.

Want to sound off about this mock draft? Have an opinion? Express it at the Bucsblitz.com message board. Just click here and look for the "Bucs Mock Draft 1.0 unveiled" post.

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.

Bucs Blitz Top Stories