By: Justin Pawlowski

As we near the beginning of April, there will be a major shift from free agency to the NFL Draft.

There have already been a lot of smokescreens stories involving who the Vikings might take with the 3rd pick and whom the Browns might take with the 4th selection.  The Buccaneers hold the 5th pick and will have to wait for that mess to work itself out before even determining who might even be available.

The good news for the Buccaneers is that the math tends to workout in their favor.  Other than the top two quarterbacks, the draft possesses four prospects who are highly regarded as elite in this draft.  Those prospects include: Trent Richardson (RB), Justin Blackmon (WR), Matt Kalil (OT), and Morris Claiborne (CB).  By sitting with the 5th overall selection, and with the top two picks being quarterbacks, the Buccaneers will have at least two of these names available when they are on the clock.

Bucs General Manager Mark Dominik has already said several times in public that the Buccaneers are open for business and open to trading down.  The only way this should occurr is if the Buccaneers get a return equal to what the Browns received a year ago when they traded back with the Atlanta Falcons.  For the Buccaneers to move back only a few slots and only receive an extra 3rd round pick, while possibly missing out on one of the “elite” prospects would be a very risky proposition.

There are arguments for and against all of the four names being mentioned as elite positional prospects in this draft.

Morris Claiborne is the only defender on this list, but with the Buccaneers lacking in defense in 2011, Claiborne would be a welcomed addition to the secondary.  Claiborne is fantastic in coverage, but might not be as physical as Patrick Peterson was a year ago.

Trent Richardson should not be taken high because he is a running back.  However, one of the most respected draft analysts, Mike Mayock, has said that Richardson is the most talented running back to come out of college since Adrian Peterson, and that he is a sure-fire top 10 selection.

Justin Blackmon lacks ideal size, but makes up for it with his power, speed, long arms, and soft hands.

The Buccaneers don’t need another offensive lineman, but if Kalil was a franchise left tackle for the next 10 years, it would be a hell of an investment.  Jeremy Trueblood’s contract is up after 2012 and Donald Penn continues to have issues with keeping his weight down.

As you can see, there is two sides to every prospect in the NFL draft, but the positive about these four players is that they have way less negatives than the other 200 prospects waiting to be selected in late April.  The Buccaneers should have their choice of at least two of these four players listed, and I find it hard to believe that any of these four choices would be the wrong one.

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