The Tampa Bay Buccaneers came into the 2013 NFL Draft looking to put a stamp on their team. They made the big move in acquiring Darrelle Revis from the Jets for their first round pick and a conditional pick, so they were not simply looking to build in this draft; rather they are ready to compete now and were looking for players that could help them do it. General Manager Mark Domenik and Head Coach Greg Schiano made the calculation that they were ready to make a big move in the NFC South and this draft combined with the move for Revis could help them beat the Atlanta Falcons and make a run in the playoffs. They are putting their faith in their quarterback, Josh Freeman to take that step and be the guy under center. After some early success, Freeman has scuffled a little bit. Coming into year two with Vincent Jackson and Doug Martin, the Bucs are hoping that chemistry starts to develop and they have the dynamic offense they were hoping to build for Freeman and he will take it and run with it. As a result, much of the focus was put on the defense and putting a unit together that could win the NFC South in particular but also one that could help them make a run to the Super Bowl.
In trading for Darrelle Revis, the Bucs were firing a salvo in the arms race with the Falcons with Julio Jones, Roddy White, and Tony Gonzalez catching passes from Matt Ryan and the New Orleans Saints and their arsenal of weapons with Drew Brees. When healthy, Revis is arguably the best corner in all of football and while it is a slight gamble to grab him coming off the knee injury, the talent is overwhelming and could be game changer in the division. Revis loves to hold out and demand more money and it would be anything but a surprise if he goes that route in Tampa at some point, but by the chance to win as well as an ongoing debate instigated by Seattle Seahawks Richard Sherman poking him about being the top corner, Revis is going to be fueled to prove he is the best. The move for Revis is a strong play by Domenik and one that will have to pay off, but he made a smart move in how he attacked the draft to try to insure it does.
With their first pick of the draft in the second round, the Bucs picked Johnthan Banks, cornerback from Mississippi State. Not being satisfied with just adding Revis, the Bucs really set out to put a stamp on this position. Ronde Barber retired, putting an end to his legendary career there, they had made the move to get rid of Aqib Talib, and they have an ongoing issue with Eric Wright, who is currently still on the roster, but may not be much longer. The Bucs cupboard at corner was not completely bare as Leonard Johnson, an undrafted free agent from the year before, proved to be a pleasant surprise and this move enables them to have him likely end up in the slot giving them a nice group of corners against three receiver sets; four if they end up keeping Wright or like what they have in Anthony Gaitor, as the dime back.
On tape, Banks was one of the top corners in the country and at certain points, various draftniks had him pushing Dee Milliner for the top spot. Less than stellar workouts hurt him a little bit and more than they really should have, but he does have some issues. He has a great frame to work with good size and length but he is still rail thin and needs to really work hard in the weight room to add bulk. Partly due to the length of strength and a lack of will on his part, Banks is a mediocre run defender and does not always give a great effort in that department. Occasionally, he will flash what he can do and give some hope but this is an area that needs to improve dramatically.
With all of that said, Banks may have had a better understanding of how to play in coverage as a corner than anyone else in this draft. Whether in man or zone coverage, Banks shows tremendous instincts for coverage, can play with most any receiver put up against him and shows range. His arm length and overall height make him able to poke the ball away but his ball skills are impressive and he really catches the ball well when given the catch. In addition, he has so much experience as a four year contributor for the Bulldogs that he makes interceptions look routine and never shies due to the spotlight. He is far more fluid than many seem to realize as he was a punt returner in college and shows the ability to make guys miss and is not afraid to take some risks and go for the big return with the ball in his hands and can take it to the house. Measurables matter and are a part of the process but there is something to be said for knowing how to play the position and understanding the game; Banks does both.
One of the most interesting camp battles in the league could be for the #2 corner spot in Tampa between Banks and Johnson. Although slightly undersized, Johnson showed to be a competitor and he will not go away quietly. Banks is going to have to earn the job, but part of the reason Banks was brought in was because of the Atlanta Falcons matching up with their wide receivers. Johnson is a great fit for competing against a team like the Saints, so this move gives them a tremendous amount of options with how they want to run coverages, but they drafted this guy to be a starter on the outside and be Revis’s counterpart with Johnson being the slot.
In the third round, the Bucs picked up quarterback Mike Glennon from N.C. State. Much has been made about the statement this pick is supposed to make in regards to Freeman, but it seemed to have far more to do with Dan Orlovsky and Adam Weber. Whether Freeman can be the quarterback the Bucs need him to be remains to be answered, but having a capable backup with upside is never a bad idea.
Glennon is a classic pocket passer with little if any mobility. He has a strong arm and can make jaw-dropping throws at times that coaches and evaluators can fall in love with, but there are issues with consistency among other things that make Glennon a developmental player. The biggest problem with Glennon is how he struggles when he is crowded in the pocket. When pressure comes up the middle and gets around Glennon’s legs, he not only tends to look at it, which is a problem, but it affects him because he has a long stride when he throws. The result is when he shortens up his motion and cannot step into his throws, his accuracy declines. If a team can consistently pressure up the middle, Glennon tends to crumble and this is something he will need to improve. It puts a lot of pressure on the interior of the line to really do a good job of giving him a pocket to operate. Teams will be inclined to blitz in the A gap right up the middle and if the protection overcompensates, it opens up lanes on the outside to get to Glennon. Fortunately, the Bucs have excellent interior linemen with a healthy Carl Nicks and Davin Joseph at the guard spots at Jeremy Zuttah as the team’s center. The other nagging issue is that Glennon needs to add strength and do a better job of holding onto the ball; he gives up the ball way too often, particularly with fumbles which is one more reason teams are going to want to want to put pressure on him.
The news with Glennon is not all bad because he can operate in a clean pocket, make good, strong throws with zip, and has played in a pro-style offense, so he has experience both under center and in the shot gun throwing to a pro route tree and getting his timing down with his footwork. If he can improve his pocket presence, get stronger, and be more consistent, Glennon offers a ton of upside, but this move did not scream that Freeman needs to be worried. Whatever pressure he feels should have been there anyway as this is the last year of his contract and they need him to step up so they can get into the playoffs and be a Super Bowl contender.
The Bucs traded their sixth round pick to the Raiders to move up twelve spots in the fourth round to pick Akeem Spence, defensive tackle from Illinois. This is an intriguing move because he can conceivably operate as a depth tackle for either the nose or coming in as a 3-tech in a rotation. His focus will likely be on the nose spot as that is the bigger concern for the Bucs, but he has good athleticism and potential to be a hybrid player.
Coming into the draft, the Bucs were a team that was projected to take a nose guard in the first or second round, so while it was a slight surprise they waited until round four, the move was expected. Spence is one of the last of the Ron Zook recruits that seemed to be supremely talented athletes but guys who did not put it all together as a unit on the field. Spence has been a monster in the weight room and brings an impressive physique but he needs to do a better job utilizing it on the field. He needs to be coached up and making the most of his physical gifts and showing more functional strength to play as well as he works out. The fact that he will need to compete for playing time is probably a good situation for him to really light a fire under him as he probably will have a chance to start early if he can develop into the player he was expected to be in college. Gary Gibson is the projected starter at the nose guard spot and probably the focus of who Spence will be going after, but he could also be competing with Derek Landri for time to come in on passing situations and rush the passer next to Gerald McCoy. The biggest aspect of Spence’s game that he can improve and make an early jump in play is with his leverage. If he can fire out lower and stay low, his power should flash far more often and he is a guy who can play a ton of snaps.
The Bucs continued addressing their defensive line in the fourth round with the pick they had received from the Patriots for Talib by adding William Gholston, the defensive end for Michigan State. The physical ability and potential with Gholston is immense. He has a tremendous combination of size, strength and speed and could develop into a starter and be a steal if he can improve his technique. This works as an insurance policy for Da’Quan Bowers, who has dealt with injuries, as well as simply improving their rotation and giving them options.
Gholston demonstrated an impressive first step and when he was able to get an angle on offensive tackles in college and work half the man, he could find his way to the quarterback. The problem is when tackles were able to stay in front of him, he struggled to shed blocks and would often times end up stuck and ultimately shut down. He has remarkable strength and athleticism but he needs to make better use of it. If he can develop better use of his hands and learn how to defeat blocks, he can be a stud.
His skill set gives the Bucs options because he has the size and strength to play inside with the athleticism to play on the edge. As a result, he can be a good power end option on running downs and rush from the edge or kick inside as a rush tackle. As a result, the Bucs could end up with a situation where they have Bowers, Gholston, McCoy, and Adrian Clayborn, effectively having four guys with the ability to get to the quarterback. Everything depends on his buying in and improving his technique and not simply trying to outrun opponents to attack up the field. There is a world of talent there if the Bucs can harness and aim it.
The Bucs used their fifth round pick to add more defensive help, selecting Buffalo defensive end Steven Means. It is possible he will stay at end and continue to develop there, but the Bucs have a loaded depth chart there, so he might be a player they give a look at linebacker, presumably on the strong side. Perhaps, he will work at both spots and be a utility player that can come in and rush the quarterback from either spot as well as contributing on special teams.
Means is a guy who is going to have to compete to make this roster and could be someone picked specifically with the idea of putting him on the practice squad but that could be a little pricey since he is a fifth round pick, so they may have a specific role for him in mind. He could be competing with Daniel Te’o-Nashaim, Markus White, and Aaron Morgan to make the team as a defensive end as well as Dekoda Watson and Jacob Cutrera at strong side linebacker. One thing working in Means’ favor is the fact he started 43 games during his career in the MAC, so he may end up on the practice squad, but he may not go easily.
After dealing running back LaGaroute Blount to the Patriots for part time running back, part time track athlete Jeff Demps and a seventh round pick, they used that pick to move up a handful of spots in the sixth round to pick another back, Mike James from Miami(FL). Although listed as the third string running back, James is probably closer to the next man up to rotate with Doug Martin. Brian Leonard can line up at halfback in short yardage situations, a fullback that can catch the ball out of the backfield, and do a number of utility options that enable him to make plays, but in terms of a natural running rotation, James is a more natural fit to replace Blount.
James brings a nice combination of size and strength as a meat and potatoes type runner who gives consistent yardage but is not someone who makes huge runs. He demonstrates good technique for the most part getting behind his pads and letting his blocks develop, James does not see all that well and can dance too much in the backfield. When he trusts the play, hits the hole quickly and puts his shoulder down, he is effective and with Martin in the fold as the feature guy, that is really all the Bucs need from James. Anything else is a bonus. Plus, with Demps there, he is a pure speed threat as a guy who can come in for the potential home run type play. Considering where this pick was made, James may never be a great player, but he could certainly be a nice role player and contributor with the chance to be more, especially as a guy who comes in and punishes tired opponents in the fourth quarter with power.
My Thoughts: It is certainly not quite going all in with this draft but it is a statement to say they are competing now and opening up the window to potentially win a championship. In a win now mode, they could not have replaced Barber and Talib any better than with Revis. The rest of the draft was an attempt to continue bolster the defensive line and secondary to get it to a championship level and the picks they made could go a long way in doing it.
I was much higher on Banks than many and ranked him as my #2 corner in this draft. I think his run defense is borderline embarrassing but he really understands the game and how to play in coverage. He has a ton of experience and is not afraid of anyone. Banks’ ball skills make him a threat to punish opposing quarterbacks for throwing at him and his length is a huge asset. And while people will look at his 40 time at the Scouting Combine and criticize, on tape, he played faster and with more fluidity than Xavier Rhodes, who ran well at the combine. The tape tells a completely different story and ultimately, the game is played on the field. He needs to get stronger and put in the effort on run defense but as a cover corner being put in position to be the second corner in Tampa with Johnson coming in to cover the slot, the Bucs corner situation went from ugly and concerning to good and getting better.
I do not love Mike Glennon and think quarterbacks like him, who give an obvious blueprint on how to beat them, can be problematic. To the Bucs credit, they have the offensive line to make him successful if he needs to come in and play, but I do not view this as a message to Freeman. The message that he needs to step up and be the man needs no further elaboration than the fact his contract runs out after this year. Step up, be the man and get paid or be a mediocre quarterback and get paid like one. Glennon does nothing to change that situation. Having a reliable backup that can develop into a starter is a useful tool in case of injury, trading for assets in the future, or to eventually be the starting quarterback. The situation is a good one for Glennon but he has a lot of work and developing to do.
I really like the two guys they grabbed in the fourth round. It might have been a better play to grab a more ready to start nose to take pressure off of McCoy and their ends, but Spence has the potential to start and is a nice rotational player now. And with Gholston, they get a fantastic athlete with substantial potential that needs to develop his hand use and ability to shed blocks. Both Gholston and Spence have a lot of upside, provide depth now, and give them versatility if they want to use it, both showing the ability to play in multiple spots and give them options with their rotation to create favorable matchups.
I am a little surprised by the pick of Steven Means given their depth chart, so I am curious to see what their plan is with utilizing him. Both from his fit to some of the other places the Bucs could have used help, this is a wait and see pick for me. On the other hand, I like the pick of Mike James given the role he is likely going to play. He’s a big strong back that can move the pile and take some pressure off of Martiin. If they can build leads, James could really come in handy in the fourth quarters of games as a closer. The defense is tired and they need to make a stop; let a fresh James come in and be a bull to bring down allowing them to eat the clock.
I like the approach Domenik took with most of his picks, but I am a little surprised they did not draft a tight end somewhere. Given the offense that Schiano likes to run and their lack of production from that position, not taking one was a little surprising. I really like their secondary though and they have a lot of ability there with the corners and Mark Barron and free agent signee Dashon Goldson holding up the back end. They have a great nickel set up for the Falcons and Saints in particular and they will have to prove they were worth the investments to obtain them. It is not quite all in time for the Bucs but this was certainly a big move and a statement to the rest of the division and the league; they expect to make the playoffs and compete for a championship and failing to make the playoffs would be extremely disappointing.
Topics: 2013 Nfl Draft, Akeem Spence, Buffalo Bulls Football, Darrelle REvis, Illinois Fighting Illini Football, Johnthan Bankins, Miami Hurricanes Football, Michigan State Spartans Football, Mike Glennon, Mike James, Mississippi State Bulldogs, N.C. State Wolfpack Football, Steven Means, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, William Gholston