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After focusing on the defensive side for the later draft picks, I believe it is a necessity that the Bucs address their needs on offense with their picks in the first 3 rounds of the draft. After having the 32nd ranked defense in the NFL last season, the Bucs have not done nearly enough to improve this side of the ball.
Here is my 3rd rated need for the Bucs as we count up to the top 5 needs:
The Bucs have done some major revamping along their offensive line this off-season. While left tackle and center were addressed, the future health of Carl Nicks is still clouded and the void at right guard is as big as Nicks’ toe right now. While some might feel guard is a desperate need for the Bucs, I believe it is a need that can be addressed in the middle rounds of this draft, and having veterans like Jamon Meredith and Oniel Cousins gives the coaching staff a little security.
(For Bucs fans, having veteran backups is called “depth.” I’m not sure you’ve seen that on the Bucs roster for quite some time.)
The Bucs additions of Anthony Collins and Evan Dietrich-Smith, who are both skilled in pass protection, tells me the Bucs might be looking for offensive linemen who might be more skilled in that area than being maulers in the run game.
Here are Offensive Guard options the Bucs could consider in this draft:
Greg Robinson – Auburn – Robinson is likely a top 5 pick, but if he slips to the 7th pick, the Bucs will surely consider him. Bill Polian said that his strategy with a top 10 pick in the NFL Draft is to take a player that either scores touchdowns on offense or creates turnovers on defense. Offensive linemen fit neither of those categories, but Robinson is such a physical freak that if he was available, the Bucs could draft him, start him out at guard, then ultimately move him to tackle a few years into his career. PROJECTED: Top 5
Zack Martin – Notre Dame – The former left tackle will likely be shifting inside to guard in the NFL where his potential is through the roof. Martin would likely be a trade back target for the Bucs because the 7th overall pick is far too high for a player limited to guard. PROJECTED: Mid 1st Round
Xavier Su’a-Filo – UCLA – Su’a-Filo is the top pure guard in this draft. He finishes off his blocks, plays with a mean streak, and is athletic. Su’a-Filo has perennial pro bowl potential. PROJECTED: 1st round
Cyrus Kouandjio – Alabama – Kouandjio is a former left tackle, but might be able to shift to guard in the NFL. Kouandjio is a physical football player who could continue to get better with experience, but right now I’m not thrilled with him as a pass blocker at tackle. If shifted inside to guard, Kouandjio’s struggles against the speed rush can be masked. PROJECTED: 2nd round
Joel Bitonio – Nevada – Bitonio is a former tackle at Nevada, but his size and arm length will force him either to right tackle or guard in the NFL. Bitonio is a physical player with very good athleticism. PROJECTED: 2nd round
Gabe Jackson – Mississippi State – Jackson is a mauling run blocker of a guard. If the Bucs are looking for linemen who excel in pass protection, they’ll probably bypass Jackson. PROJECTED: 2nd/3rd round
David Yankey – Stanford – Once upon a time, I thought Yankey would be a nice pick for the Bucs, but if they’re looking for a pass blocker, the physical Yankey might not be the answer. PROJECTED: 3rd round
Trai Turner – LSU – Turner might have been better off returning to LSU for another year, but he is a talented linemen who the Bucs have been in contact with this off-season. I believe Turner could be a target for the Bucs in the 3rd round. PROJECTED: 3rd round
Marcus Martin – USC – The former USC center has just one year of starting experience, but the size to excel at center or guard right away. His strength and athleticism allows him to step right in and start from day 1 in the NFL. The Bucs new brass has said they like versatility, so Martin fits the mold. PROJECTED: 3rd round
Billy Turner – North Dakota State – This Turner has been a popular name to link to the Bucs. Turner is an athletic player who played tackle at North Dakota State, but will likely move inside to guard in the NFL. PROJECTED: 3rd/4th round
Dakota Dozier – Furman – If the Bucs are looking for a guard to step in and start immediately, drafting a linemen from a small school might not be the wise approach. Dozier is an athletic, thick-framed guard who seems to possess all of the natural talent one would want in a guard. He will need to fine tune his technique and get used to better competition in the NFL. PROJECTED: 3rd/4th round
Brandon Thomas – Clemson – Thomas was projected as a high 2nd round pick before he tore his ACL in a workout with the Saints for the draft. He will not play in 2014, but his payoff could be through the roof if he comes back healthy from the injury. Thomas is a nasty former tackle who projected as a possible perennial pro bowl guard. If the Bucs feel confident with Jamon Meredith for a year, Thomas might be a fantastic steal in the 5th round. PROJECTED: 5th/6th round
Jon Halapio – Florida – The physical Halapio is known more as a run blocker than as a pass blocker, but he might still attract the Bucs late in this draft. PROJECTED: 6th round.
The Commish’s Best Fit for the Bucs: Marcus Martin – USC (3rd Round)
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