2018 NFL Draft

Projecting the draft: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Projecting the draft: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

By Jeff Reynolds | NFLDraftScout.com
The Buccaneers went from the doorstep of the playoffs in 2010 to a certifiable disaster last season.

The silver lining in the 2011 collapse -- the Bucs pushed the reset button.

Raheem Morris was fired after two season and nearly replaced by Oregon coach Chip Kelly before GM Mark Dominik picked Greg Schiano of Rutgers to bring more discipline and instill on-field leadership in one of the NFL's youngest teams.

The Buccaneers are bereft of talent. QB Josh Freeman, DT Gerald McCoy, both first-round picks, and Tampa's upcoming first-round pick -- the fifth overall choice in Thursday's draft -- are being counted on to carry the flag for Schiano's rebuild.

If the team buys into the much-discussed "culture" change, competing for the NFC South isn't implausible.

But the key ingredient will be a major boost from the incoming rookie class. To that end, Dominik can't miss at No. 5, and needs to find contributors with picks 36 and 68 overall.

Five players GM Mark Dominik should consider:

RB Trent Richardson, Alabama (NFLDraftScout.com overall ranking: 4)
It would be an easy decision for the Buccaneers--in one step, they'd become a complete offense. The Browns would have to pass on Richardson, and that seems doubtful at best as the draft nears. Richardson can wreck defensive backs once he breaks into the secondary and the Buccaneers, who added OG Carl Nicks in free agency, have a huge, underrated and physical front five. Schiano's teams have long been run-first philosophically, and the addition of No. 1 receiver Vincent Jackson dictates coverage schemes respect QB Josh Freeman's ability to scramble and get the ball downfield easily.

CB Morris Claiborne, LSU (NFLDraftScout.com overall ranking: 5)
A No. 1 cornerback isn't a pressing need, you could argue, but Aqib Talib faces a summertime trial for brandishing a handgun in an incident prior to last season and 37-year-old Ronde Barber is working out at free safety. That leaves free agent acquisition Eric Wright, who isn't an elite left cornerback. Is Claiborne? Perhaps not yet, but he plays bigger than his 190-pound frame with the long arms and lateral agility to blanket the top receivers in the division, with a solid history against Julio Jones (Atlanta via Alabama) from their days in the SEC. In the extremely off chance that Richardson and Claiborne are drafted in some order with the third and fourth picks, the Buccaneers would either draft USC offensive tackle Matt Kalil or listen to offers from teams who want the top-ranked blocker in the '12 class.

DT Jerel Worthy, Michigan State (NFLDraftScout.com overall ranking: 27)
Yes, the Buccaneers have spent and spent heavily to solve their DT concerns. McCoy has ended each of this first two seasons on injured reserve, playing just 19 games in his career. Sure, we buy Schiano's evaluation of McCoy -- he could be dominant if he's healthy -- but history says that's a bet the Buccaneers would be wise to hedge. Worthy was a preseason top-10 pick in the minds of some scouts and had a strong year. If he drops based on the combination of a deep DT class and the boost of pass rushers and offensive tackles with fringe first-round grades, Worthy is worth considering at No. 36.

LB Mychal Kendricks, California (NFLDraftScout.com overall ranking: 76)
Kendricks is explosive and plays far bigger than he measures -- 5-11, 240 -- with versatility to play inside or out and the headiness to lead a defense that needs more consistency in the front seven. He's very similar, in body type and style of play, to former Oklahoma and Atlanta Falcons linebacker Curtis Lofton, who signed with the Saints in free agency.

CB Chase Minnifield, Virginia (NFLDraftScout.com overall ranking: 99)
Minnifield might be best suited to be a free safety in the NFL. His college experience at cornerback and NFL lineage -- his father, Frank, was a Pro Bowl cover man for the Browns -- plus 13 career interceptions should outweigh mild medical concerns. Minnifield can also play over the slot receiver and isn't shy about stunning the receiver off the line with a jam to help the safety over the top.
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