Third round — No. 83 overall
RB Kevin Smith, Central Florida
Mock Draft 1.0 selection: RB Kevin Smith, UCF
Mock Draft 3.0 selection: DT DeMario Pressley, N.C. State
Why?: I was all set to address issues at defensive end here, and I had a few players in mind that I'll clue you into later. But most believe that in a different year Smith would be a second-round pick, and that if he had waited a year, he might be a first-round pick. But you can't blame a guy for striking while the iron is hot, right? If I haven't traded this pick for extra selections later in the draft, I'll take Smith here.
Some scouts say his stock is down. That's fine as far as I'm concerned. I know some teams that were set to use a second-round pick on him just a month ago. Now he's a solid third-round value. He was extremely productive in college as he became the second player in NCAA history to rush for 2,500 yards in a season in 2007. If you're worried about his track record, he rushed for 1,178 yards as a freshman and 934 yards his sophomore year, despite missing three games.
Scout.com analyst Tom Marino, a man with 35 years of scouting experience, likes Smith's vision, balance and lower body surge. He also likes the fact that he can break tackles. No, he's not fast in the classic sense (he did manage a sub 4.5 40 at his pro day) but Marino said Smith has enough to break away from second- and third-level defenders. Marino also liked his low center of gravity. Other scouts have said he's a patient runner who will excel behind a formidable offensive line, and the Bucs are building one. His stock is dropping because he doesn't have the speed of some of the other top backs in the draft.
This is one player where I don't buy into the measureables, though. Smith is 6-foot, 217 pounds and proved to be pretty durable at UCF. He can probably add another 10 pounds and retain his speed. If you recall, one of the knocks on Carnell Williams coming out of college was his top-end speed, and he did just fine his rookie year. Running the football isn't just about top-end speed. And the Bucs have Warrick Dunn and Michael Bennett to stretch defenses.
With the speculation around Williams' knee injury and the fact that Earnest Graham — considered the starter at this moment — is only signed through 2008, taking Smith here would be a wise investment.
Alternate theory: The defensive ends I had my eye on here were Eastern Michigan's Jason Jones, Hampton's Kendall Langford and Wake Forest's Jeremy Thompson. All three are under-the-radar picks at the position that showed productivity in the area of quarterback sacks and tackles for loss in college. Since the Bucs have only met with one defensive end at their facility — USC's Lawrence Jackson — I'm taking a shot that these are three of the players they could target at this position. NFL Network's Mike Mayock likes Langford, and Thompson's stock is rising after strong showings at the combine and his pro day.
Also defensively two players to watch are Iowa CB Charles Godfrey and Virginia Tech LB Xavier Adibi. The Bucs like Adibi and have privately called him a "Derrick Brooks clone." He's now weighing in the low 230s, so durability as a weak side linebacker won't be an issue. If the Bucs have not addressed cornerback by this selection and Godfrey is available, I think he's the guy. Godfrey comes from a Cover 2 system and has met with the Bucs at their facility, which is a good sign.
The Bucs might decide to go to the well again at wide receiver here and take someone like Virginia Tech WR Eddie Royal or Appalachian State WR Dexter Jackson. The Bucs are desperate to upgrade their return game and they don't want to go into training camp with unproven Micheal Spurlock as their only option. Both players would help them in that regard.
Did you miss his previous selections? Access rounds 4 and 5 right here:
And don't forget to stop by on Thursday for his second-round selection
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.