Draft needs: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the final stop in our series of team-by-team draft needs.

  1. Defensive end. This is easily the biggest need for the Bucs, who finished last season with Stylez G. White and Tim Crowder as the usual starters. There was almost no pressure from up front. The Bucs invested a lot in the middle of their line last year by taking defensive tackles Gerald McCoy and Brian Price with their first two picks. Each of those guys showed some promise before having their rookie seasons cut short by injuries. Both should be healthy next season, and the Bucs want to surround them with quality players on the outside.

  2. Safety. Tanard Jackson, who might be the most talented safety in the NFC South, isn’t eligible to apply for reinstatement from his one-year suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy until late September. The Bucs can’t count on him returning, because there is no guarantee he’ll be reinstated. Cody Grimm played well before having his rookie season cut short by injury. Sean Jones is the other starter, and he’s only ordinary. Tampa Bay has really strong cornerbacks, and adding some more talent at safety could make this secondary one of the league’s best.

  3. Running back. LeGarrette Blount wound up taking over as the feature back as a rookie, and Cadillac Williams could return as the third-down back if he doesn’t leave through free agency. But the Bucs need a true backup to Blount because he is such a physical runner and that could expose him to injury. They like Kareem Huggins, who was injured last year, but there’s no guarantee he could step into a feature role if something happens to Blount. Keeping Williams as a third-down back would be a nice coup for the Bucs, but he showed last season that he no longer is a feature back.

  4. Linebacker. This could move up the list a couple of spots if middle linebacker Barrett Ruud departs through free agency. Even if he stays, the Bucs still need to look at this position. Geno Hayes and Quincy Black are decent on the outside, but the Bucs could use some more athleticism at linebacker.

  5. Offensive line. This is very much up in the air with guard Davin Joseph likely to test free agency. The Bucs got some nice play from several young offensive linemen last season, and left tackle Donald Penn has become a force. But, with the Bucs having quarterback Josh Freeman and a wealth of talent at most of the skill positions, they have to make sure the offensive line keeps getting better.