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Martin Fennelly Columns

Bucs are studying up on Claiborne, no wonder

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Published:   |   Updated: March 19, 2013 at 04:02 AM
TAMPA -

Assume the first two statements are true. Is the final one: 

1. True, 2. False, 3. Not certain?

Trent is a top college football running back. Morris is a top college football cornerback. All top college running backs and cornerbacks are good picks at No. 5.

Before we begin, and before it leaks, I want to explain about the time I took the Wonderlic. I got low score in my room. And it was pretty unfair, I think, having to take it with those laboratory animals, who I know, for a fact , were looking at each other's answers. Plus they got treats.

The Bucs will soon be on the NFL draft clock. One of them could be gone, but it might come down to Alabama's Trent Richardson and LSU's Morris Claiborne and the eternal question: Would you rather burn a No. 5 pick on a great runner or a great cornerback?

I lean toward the corner.

Richardson and Claiborne appear Can't Miss.

The Bucs could use a runner. LeGarrette Blount fumbles too much, can't block that well and, for a battering ram, can come up short in short-yardage deals.

The Bucs could use a corner. Ronde Barber is actually aging and who knows what Aqib Talib will be doing six months from now.

So it's back to the original debate: RB or CB?

Some say never take a runner in the first round. They see Adrian Peterson and Barry Sanders and ask: What did they ever win?

Larry Csonka was a first-round pick, as were Franco Harris, John Riggins, Tony Dorsett, Marcus Allen, Jerome Bettis and Marshall Faulk. They won. And no fair saying it was more than them, because it's always more than one guy.

But the game has changed. Football is about spread offenses, receivers everywhere. The top-shelf running back isn't as big in today's NFL. Better to have two or three guys. The top corner, on the other hand, borders a priceless commodity.

Running backs are always going down (see Williams, Carnell). Trent Richardson went down in the national title game two years ago. He missed a few games last season, too. Adrian Peterson missed games last season, as did Houston's Arian Foster. Foster, by the way, went undrafted.

Brandon Jacobs, the leading runner on Giants Super Bowl champions, was a fourth-round pick. Pierre Thomas, the leading rusher for the Saints when they won it all, was undrafted, as was Willie Parker, the leading rusher on two Steelers title teams.

Workhorses are a dying breed, no matter how much new Bucs coach Greg Schiano wants to run it. I'd rather have two good runners than one great one.

Maybe it's nothing, but there were six running backs at the last Pro Bowl, none of them were drafted in the first round. Of the six Pro Bowl cornerbacks, five were first-round picks.

Claiborne's Wonderlic test result – he reportedly scored a 4 out of a possible 50 – has to raise some questions. I mean, why even give the test if a seemingly historically low score isn't that a big deal?

"If you see a lower score, you have to dig deeper into that player to see is that an issue or is it something he can handle," Bucs general manager Mark Dominik said. "I came from Kansas City, where I started my career, and we had a great defensive end there who scored a 3, and he played a long time in this league."

Note: Former great Kansas City defensive ends should direct all enquiries to Mr. Dominik …

But Ron Cooper, Claiborne's position coach at LSU, is now with the Bucs. If anyone knows the real story on Claiborne, it would be Cooper.

Here's an idea: Why not trade down?

I still haven't heard anyone say Claiborne is the shut-down guy, another Darrelle Revis. I've heard more people say Richardson is the next Adrian Peterson. Is South Carolina corner Stephon Gilmore, seen as the second-best corner prospect, that far behind Claiborne?

Might a team want to move up to overreach on a quarterback? Could the Bucs pick up another second-round pick, grab Gilmore, plus fill another need, of which they have oodles?

At 5, even backed into a corner, if it's a great runner against great corner, I'm going corner.

That's my answer and I'm sticking to it. I think.

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