Time for our fourth effort to blindly wave the divining rod in the direction of the Bucs first round draft pick. Less than a week before the draft and we're still no closer to predicting whom the Bucs will select. Four months ago I figured the smart move would be to draft a corner in the first. Four weeks ago I thought they should go outside linebacker. Just a week ago I was willing to bet they would select an offensive tackle.
And now I'm back to predicting the Bucs will select a corner with their first pick. (Just remember my track record in the prediction business is less than perfect.)
Make no mistake the most compelling need for the Bucs is at the tackle position. The Bucs biggest problem at this position can be described in two words, Julius Peppers. Hell, I'll give you two more words to digest, John Abraham. If we want Chris Simms to last a whole season, Gruden and company have to find someone (or some people) to slow down Peppers and Abraham.
Marcus McNeill has already become a household name for Bucs fans. The mamooth tackle out of Auburn is the most popular mock draft selection for the Bucs. The only problem is that when not comparing Cadillac to a cheeseburger (or possibly french fries) McNeill has been sliding down draft boards quicker than Kenyatta gives up a sack. Which means that while McNeill is still a strong possibility for the Bucs first pick, other personalities have emerged as more likely canidates.
In the interest of honesty, I have to admit I am starting to develop a man crush on NC State defensive end Manny Lawson. Even ignoring the fact Lawson is the perfect replacement for Simeon Rice after next season, you have to love somebody who hates squirrels with such a passion. But sadly it looks like it would take a good bit of luck for Lawson to still be on the board at 23. Nobody has seen their stock climb higher in the past month than Lawson.
This year's cornerback class is incredibly deep and the Bucs need to add depth to their secondary. The following list of first round talent will most likely be available when the Bucs pick.
Jimmy Williams, Virginia Tech
Antonio Cromartie, FSU
Tye Hill, Clemson
Richard Marshall, Fresno St.
Jonathan Joseph, South Carolina
Kelly Jennings, Miami
Jason Allen, Tennessee
Out of all the guys, Williams, Cromartie, Joesph and Allen look like the best fit for the Bucs defense. It would take a stroke of luck for Williams, widely considered the #1 rated corner, to fall to the Bucs. Cromartie and Joseph are coming off serious injuries and have bigger question marks next to their names than anybody else on this list.
Jason Allen is somebody whom I believe would be a good addition to the Bucs but, much like Dwight Smith, may end up being moved to safety if he can't cut it at cornerback.
Actually the guy whom I think would be the best fit for the Bucs at cornerback, Cedric Griffin out of Texas, is not even listed as a first rounder. Overshadowed by Michael Huff at Texas, Griffin could be one of the most reliable picks of the draft. But, much like the Lawson pick, it would take a good bit of luck Griffin to still be available when the Bucs pick towards the end of the second round.
Which brings us right back to where we started, who will the Bucs draft in the first round?
The Bucs best option may be to start injury rumors about DeBrickshaw Ferguson or Winston Justice, and pray one of those guys drops to 23.
The Bucs second best option will be to draft the best non-runningback on the board. Except for offensive line whomever the Bucs draft will get in very little playing time this season, especially if that pick is a defensive player. Unlike the last two first round draft picks, this years first rounder will not have as many opportunities to make an impact as Michael Clayton and Cadillac Williams.