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Reviewing the Buccaneers' 2011 draft class

1/27/2015

TAMPA, Fla. -- The time is almost here for a final analysis on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 2011 draft class.

It will come in March, when defensive end Adrian Clayborn, defensive end Da'Quan Bowers and middle linebacker Mason Foster are likely to walk out the doors of One Buccaneer Place as free agents.

They're the first three Tampa Bay picks from that draft. Clayborn was a first-round choice. Bowers came in the second round and Foster in the third.

But we can go ahead and do the final analysis now. Unless tight end Luke Stocker, a fourth-round pick is re-signed, the Bucs will have nothing left from the 2011 draft. Safety Ahmad Black, running back Allen Bradford, cornerback Anthony Gaitor and tight end Daniel Hardy already are long gone.

Let's take a look at the careers of Clayborn, Bowers and Foster before giving any grade. Clayborn showed lots of promise, recording 7.5 sacks as a rookie. But he was bothered by injuries through the rest of his time in Tampa Bay.

The Bucs elected not to pick up the fifth-year option (for 2015) on Clayborn's contract. That made 2014 a prove-it year for him. But Clayborn never got the chance to prove anything because he went down with an arm injury in the opener and didn't play again.

The fact the Bucs are willing to let him walk despite having major needs in the pass rush shows you what the current coaching staff and front office think of Clayborn. Their opinion on Bowers is even lower.

At one point, Bowers was mentioned as a guy that could be the first overall pick in the 2011 draft. But questions about his knees caused him to fall into the second round. The knees never seemed to be an issue in the NFL, but Bowers' career never gained traction.

You can blame that on Bowers not taking great care of himself. His body resembled a defensive tackle more than a defensive end. Ironically, the Bucs made him into a backup defensive tackle last season, but Bowers still was unproductive.

Foster was the most productive member of this class. He started all four seasons and had some bright moments. But Foster struggled with injuries last season and it became obvious the coaching staff didn't think he was a great fit in the Tampa 2 scheme, which calls for the middle linebacker to be heavily involved in pass coverage.

So what kind of grade do you give this class? An F would be the easy choice since the Bucs have nothing left to show. But I don't think that's fair. Foster was a solid player through much of his time. Clayborn was the victim of bad luck. Only Bowers truly can be called a bust.

I'll give this class a D.