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1. First Round, Fifth Overall: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
When you think about some of the great running back prospects to come along in recent years, probably the only one better or as good as Richardson is Adrian Peterson. I know that’s beating a dead drum, but Richardson is a complete back with every attribute you look for in a player. He will add a ton to the Buccaneers’ offense, which has already seen a significant improvement with the addition of Vincent Jackson. Here is our report on him:
PROS: Extremely tough runner, balanced, hard worker, threat to score every time he touches the ball, great quickness, good speed, great vision. Really a complete running back. Not a lot of wear and tear with only 2011 as the full-time back,. Good size, runs low, hits hard, and near impossible to take down on first contact.
CONS: No glaring weaknesses to his game at this point. Blue-chip prospect in every sense…is showing that he can handle a full work load early this season.
Comparison: Rashard Mendenhall/LaDainian Tomlinson
Troy player comparison: Steven Jackson
Troy’s thoughts and player summary for Trent Richardon:
Trent Richardson displays elite speed and strength, is an excellent receiver out of the backfield and is as complete a running
back as you will find. Richardson has no major injuries in his career, no off the field issues, unrivaled work ethic and is a team first
player making him a must take player. Rarely do running backs go in the top ten of the draft these days but Richardson simply can not be
passed on if running back is a need. The thing that is most impressive about this running back is not the statistics alone but the fact he
has Heisman type numbers despite every opponent focusing on stopping him. When Alabama takes the field, especially in the second half,
everyone playing and watching knows he’s getting the ball and he still puts up impressive numbers.
Sayre’s initial scouting report:
Keep an eye on Richardson as a potential Heisman trophy candidate. After pairing with Mark Ingram the last two years, Richardson is ready for a full load and could be one of the nation’s most powerful and dominant running backs. In fact, I wouldn’t be shocked to see him finish a fully healthy season with more than 2,000 yards on the ground, and I would put him right behind Andrew Luck as the top Heisman candidate as of right now. This is a guy who is relentless, and not just on the field, but off. Richardson is an absolute beast in the weight room, and consistently puts in the time and effort. He averaged over six yards per carry last year, and really developed as a receiver as well. He is one of the best players in the country, and has the potential to be a top 10 pick in the 2012 draft if he declares. He might be the best RB prospect to come along since Adrian Peterson in the class of 2007.
2. Second Round: Zach Brown, LB, North Carolina
The Buccaneers need upgrades desperately at the linebacker positions, and I think in the early portion of the second round, they could get a real steal in the former North Carolina star. Brown is a speedy back with great size and athletic ability, and while he has some work to do I think he could be a really good fit for Tampa Bay. Here is our report:
PROS: Speed, speed, and more speed. Increased bulk in 2011 noticeably….good tackler…instinctive…versatile…effective as a blitzing LB…very good in coverage. Production in the run game is improving (1.5 tackles for loss in 2010, through October 2nd 2011, he already has 4 Tackles for loss, and 2.5 sacks)…makes plays, a lot, in the passing game…has been durable so far…
CONS: tends to over-run plays..may rely too much on athleticism…on the lighter side…doesn’t have terrific instincts, is not interviewing well and not receiving glowing recommendations from his coaches which is a concern
Lawrence Timmons, Pittsburgh Steelers
Timmons is slower than Brown, but Timmons is the best comparison I can think of a smaller linebacker who is as effective as a blitzer and who has the functional strength to be useful in the run game. The scary part is Brown is probably a better athlete than Timmons is. Timmons is listed at 6’1 234 pounds.
Zach Brown is top 20 on my own personal big board but I’m standing on an island on this one. He is not getting the respect he deserves as a guy who plays hard every game and can make plays all over the field. Brown has really long arms for his size and blazing speed. He’s terrific in coverage, he can blitz because of his speed. He isn’t an explosive tackler, but he’s good enough. He can be an impact defender and there aren’t many of those left in the class.
Sayre’s inital Bio
Not the biggest linebacker prospect, but his size is good enough, and his speed is more than enough. According to the official team site, Brown ran a 4.28 second 40 yard dash in the team’s offseason workouts back in 2009. He probably won’t hit that number at next year’s scouting combine, but he should be one of the fastest linebackers in next year’s draft, and is one of the top overall linebackers in next year’s crop of players. Brown will likely play the WILL linebacker position in the NFL. Last year, he had 72 tackles and three interceptions following up a sophomore campaign where he had 47 tackles, four for loss, and an interception. He is very much capable against both the run and the pass, and will be one of the top 25 players going into next year’s draft at the start of the season. If he has a big senior season, his speed and overall upside could put him in the top 15 overall. As much controversy as has surrounded the UNC program over the last couple of years, he has been a real bright spot and should continue to shine in 2011.
3. Third Round: Dwight Bentley, CB, Louisiana-Lafayette
Bentley is a guy who really has come on this year as a legitimate starting cornerback prospect and after showing excellent athleticism this offseason. First team all Sun Belt selection who would be a great fit in the Tampa Bay defense and could potentially develop in to a really good starter.
**Fourth Round pick traded to Philadelphia**
4. Fifth Round: Travis Lewis, LB, Oklahoma
This would be an excellent value pick for the Buccaneers, who like I said are in dire need of help at the linebacker position. I think Lewis is the type of player who will eventually be a starter, but since he didn’t test well in terms of his athletic ability, he could take a fall on draft weekend. He is a sure-tackler with great instincts, and while he’s undersized, he is a potential impact player. Here is our report:
Very productive….reportedly a good leader and has a great work ethic…instinctive, especially in the run game…has pass rushing potential…Gets off blocks much better than giving credit for, though he does lack ideal size for a SAM…Plus in coverage
Lacks scheme versatility, ideally suited for a 43 defense…potential as a pass rusher, but needs work…not going to make Sportscenters top 10 with bone crushing hits…his tackles for loss have gone down each year…isn’t a great tackler…prima donna? (seen it reported)…Injury concerns (played through a broken big toe on his foot this year) has missed games because of injures…slower than expected at combine
Round projection: Round 3-4. A down year for Lewis while he battled injuries is likely going to keep him out of the first round and possibly even the second round. He could be a very early round 3 pick.
NFLmocks preseason bio
Lewis could be the best WILL linebacker prospect in the entire draft. He has been a projected first round pick since 2010, and likely will be a first round pick in 2012. He combines phenomenal speed to go along with his ideal size for the position. His tackles for loss have gone down every year, but he has still been very productive with 362 tackles, 26.5 for loss, 8 interceptions, and 10 passes broken up. He is a complete prospect who will likely only benefit from another year of seasoning. Started all 41 games he has played in over three year span. Has been named All-Big 12 three years in a row, and in 2008 was the Big 12 defensive newcomer of the year as a freshman. Broke Brian Bosworth’s freshman tackles record with 144. All Big 12 Academic performer who will break the all-time record at Oklahoma of interceptions by a linebacker if he picks off just one pass in 2011. Six career sacks and likely will be a plug-and-play in the NFL. Immediate starter at WILL in a 4-3 defensive scheme.
5. Sixth Round: Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State
I realize that the Bucs have other needs than linebacker, but I think you’re getting huge value with these last two picks that just can’t be passed up on. Mason Foster looks like a keeper at the inside linebacker position, but the depth could be upgraded. Along with some maturity concerns and obvious athletic concerns, Burfict has seen his stock plummet in recent weeks. I would not be surprised to see his name still on the board in the sixth round, though some team could very well take a risk before this. Here is our report:
Pros–Terrific blitzer….good pass rusher out of the inside linebacker spot…nasty player…plays sideline to sideline…aggressive…hard worker…tackling machine…play maker…instinctual…bone crushing hits….good depth in zone coverage…tackles well in space…versatile…disengages from blocks
Cons--Sometimes over-aggressive…some scouts not sure if he has instincts for a first round LB …will be fooled by play action at times…gets good depth in zone coverage, but doesn’t make a ton of plays on the ball only (first career interception is this year)…was shorter and slower at combine than anyone expects, can he keep up with N.F.L. tight ends…immature on the field and off
Player comparison–Patrick Willis, LB, San Francisco 49ers (at his absolute best, but that’s not what he has shown consistently)
Vontaze Burfict is a terrific linebacker prospect that has an excellent blend of height, bulk, and athleticism. Burfict can be a good pass rusher from the middle and also is plus in coverage (though he doesn’t make a ton of balls). He’s a good tackler, but above all Burfict has unlimited passion for football and is just a nasty man on the football field. And that’s what you want from your MLB. Burfict is a little crazy, but so were all the best linebackers. Burfict is as good a prospect as Patrick Willis and has actually been more productive in college than (8 career sacks and a 160 career tackles-numbers Burfict has about now with the rest of this season to go).
That’s what I wrote early in the season
Here’s what I’d say about Burfict now. Perhaps no prospect as had such a tumultuous pre-draft process. He got benched at the end of the college football season (and then had some stupid penalties in his final game). He came off as immature in the interviewing process blaming other people for his issues. Then he looked much less athletic than people thought he was on film which brought up the question is he less athletic than we thought or is he very out of shape? Either is a red-flag. He was listed at 6’3 in college, but was only 6’1 at the combine. He now looks like a fourth round pick with upside, but a lot of risk too.
6. Seventh Round: Charles Brown, CB, North Carolina
Really solid zone cover corner and a good tackler. Has some injury concerns but in the later portion of the draft, you are looking for kids who can upgrade your special teams immediately, and Brown has the ability to be a special teams ace early on in his career. I think if the Bucs come away from this draft with Bentley and Brown, they will have upgraded their defensive backfield significantly, though it would be tough if they missed out on Morris Claiborne in the first round, which might be ideal. I think this would be a solid 7th round choice.