Heading into the 2011 NFL Draft, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have solidified their offensive nucleus for the future: NFC Offensive Player of the Week Josh Freeman, LeGarrette Blount, Mike Williams and Kellen Winslow. We can all hope that their late season success was less due to their opponents and more due to the dynamic play-making ability. It’s unfortunate Freeman wasn’t able to get into the playoffs. He is now one of the most dangerous quarterbacks against the blitz. I expect to see a different Matt Ryan in a few weeks as his protection won’t be able to consistently hold up now that it’s playoff defenses each week. I want to see what Freeman could do.
They have many complimentary weapons, as well. Arrelious Benn looks like a Boldin clone and Dezmon Briscoe might be the third guy. I’ll need to do more evaluating of the offensive line to determine how early they should draft them and for what spots.
On the other side of the ball, it’s clear they must use one of their first two picks to get an elite pass rusher. Stylez White led the Bucs with 4.5 sacks. They had 26 sacks overall, tied for 30th in the NFL. Bucs fans have a high standard. They had 43 sacks in the Super Bowl year of 2002.
I’ll get deeper into the hunt for a defensive end, but here are few to watch for in the bowl games: Texas A&M DE/OLB Von Miller, Pittsburgh DEs Jabaal Sheard and Greg Romeus, Nevada DE/OLB Dontay Moch, Boston College OLB Mark Herzlich, Oregon DL Brandon Bair.