Next up, in our team-by-team mock of the 2012 NFL Draft, is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who will look to build themselves back into a playoff contender starting with the fifth pick in the draft.
By the time Tampa got on the clock in our mock draft, the player they’ve coveted the most throughout the draft process, Alabama running back Trent Richardson, is gone.
So where will the Bucs turn, if this scenario plays out Thursday night in New York. The next player in the pecking order would seem to be LSU corner Morris Claiborne, who is a perfect fit for the five spot, considering both the need and value of the selection.
There is a strong consensus around the league that Claiborne is the top cover corner in the draft. At LSU, he did not play much as a freshmen for the Bayou Bengals, but he transformed himself into a different player and began starting as a sophomore.
Over his final two seasons in college, Claiborne became a dominant defender, intercepting 11 passes and breaking up 23. He has good size and speed, and in addition to being an elite cover guy, he is tough defender, whose more than willing to tackle, registering 37 tackles as a sophomore and 51 as a junior.
The Bucs are pretty thin at cornerback, as free agent signee Eric Wright is expected to start at one cornerback spot, while Aquib Talib, is expected to start at the other. Long-time Buccaneer veteran Ronder Barder, who led the team with three interceptions last season, should play quite a bit as the nickel corner this season.
Talib is easily the most talented player on the team’s current depth chart , yet he’s had constant off the field issues and seems like a suspension waiting to happen.
The plain truth is the Bucs were flat out awful on defense last season, finishing 32nd and 30th in the league, in points and yards allowed, respectively.
They were equally bad against both the run and the pass, ranking 32nd in rushing yards and touchdowns allowed, as well as 21st in passing yards and 29th in passing touchdowns surrendered.
Essentially, the Bucs defense was so bad that it ranked outside the top 20 in nearly every major statistical category. Only in turnovers and penalties against did Tampa ranked inside the top 20, meaning the Bucs are in desperate need of an upgrade defensively.
Therefore, this pick is a no brainer, it brings a talented defender to Tampa Bay, while at the same time filling a need. The Bucs really wanted Richardson, but shouldn’t complain if Claiborne ends up being their consolation prize.