The 40-yard dash is always one of the most watched events at the NFL scouting combine, and you can be sure the Tampa Bay Buccaneers brass will watch closely when the cornerbacks run.
The speeds posted by Dee Milliner (Alabama), Johnthan Banks (Mississippi State) and Desmond Trufant (Washington) could determine whether the Bucs spend the 13th overall pick in April’s draft on a cornerback.
“The Bucs could look at an inside linebacker there, as well, but if they’re thinking cornerback and Milliner is gone, then Banks or Trufant are two possibilities for them,’’ NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said during a recent conference call.
“That might be a little earlier than you like (for Banks or Trufant), but if either can run that 4.42- or 4.44-second range, both could be a potential at No.?13.’’
More than 300 draft hopefuls will gather in Indianapolis for the combine, the series of physical tests, mental tests and interviews that takes place at Lucas Oil Stadium through this weekend.
Injuries, suspensions and the trade of Aqib Talib to the Patriots greatly depleted Tampa Bay’s veteran depth at cornerback in 2012. It is arguably the biggest area of need this offseason.
The Bucs are expected to look for at least one potential starter to replace Talib and maybe another to replace Eric Wright, who could be released as a result of his four-game suspension for what he said was Adderall use.
The Bucs might try to land one of those starters during the free-agency signing period that begins March 12. They also might opt to add one during the draft, where Milliner is considered tops among cornerback prospects.
Whether Milliner is a top-10 prospect is up for debate, though. While draft analysts such as Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN rate Milliner as a top-10 selection, Mayock sees him differently.
“A lot of people love him; I don’t,” Mayock said. “I feel he’s more of a top-20 pick. Now, if Milliner runs a sub-4.5-second 40, then he can become a top-10 guy. But I don’t see him that way right now.”
Mayock, a former NFL player and scout who also serves as an NBC analyst for Notre Dame football broadcasts, doesn’t consider Banks or Trufant to be first-round-worthy at this point.
He admits, though, his mind can be changed. Banks, in particular, has a good chance to elevate his stock and turn into a mid-first-round talent with a speedy 40 time.
“People like his (height),’’ Mayock said of the 6-foot-2, 185-pound Banks, who also returned punts for the Bulldogs. “He’s got range and he’s got some press ability. He’s the one guy that, if he runs well, he could be worthy of that 13th pick.”
So could middle linebackers Alec Ogletree of Georgia and Manti Te’o of Notre Dame. Both are players the Bucs could focus on this week, Mayock said.
Both, however, come carrying some baggage. Ogletree was suspended twice during his college career for off-field violations and was cited on Sunday for driving under the influence while in Arizona. Te’o is trying to defend his character after it was learned he was the victim of an online hoax.
“Ogletree would be a possibility, depending on what their inside security tells them about the kid,” Mayock said. “As for Te’o, (13th) may be a little high for him. People don’t love him the way they did before.”