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Tuesday, Sep 02, 2014

Bucs more than ready to rejoin draft fun

Published:   |   Updated: April 26, 2013 at 05:01 PM
TAMPA -

For the first time since he took over as Buccaneers general manager in 2009, Mark Dominik didn’t make a selection in the first round of the NFL draft on Thursday night. He didn’t seem to mind, either.

“It’s a thick draft,” Dominik said.

It better be. The Bucs dealt their first pick in this year’s draft, No.?13 overall, to the New York Jets on Sunday for cornerback Darrelle Revis, but Revis only filled one of what seems to be several areas of need.

The Bucs are still in need of either an upgraded starter or improved depth at tight end, nose tackle, outside linebacker, right tackle and maybe even quarterback.

But with seven picks remaining, including a second-, a third- and two fourth-round selections, the Bucs believe they’re in good position to add those necessities when the draft resumes tonight.

“I really like where we’re situated,” Dominik said of the Bucs, who have the 11th pick (43rd overall) in the second round as well as the 11th selection (73rd overall) in the third round.

“With where we are in the second and third round and with the two fourths, we have a good chance to do some work and get some better talent in here. And of course I really like our first-round pick already.”

That, of course, was a reference to Revis, the four-time Pro Bowler who also cost the Bucs a conditional fourth-round selection in the 2014 draft but was well worth the cost, according to Dominik and Bucs coach Greg Schiano.

Both have referred to the six-year veteran as the best cornerback in the game, and his presence has greatly reduced the Bucs’ need to draft a cornerback. It didn’t erase that need completely, though.

Admittedly short on the commodity prior to the trade, Revis left the Bucs with what they consider to be two starting caliber corners. The other is Eric Wright, who was nothing short of disappointing last year.

After signing a five-year, $37.5 million contract during free agency, Wright struggled with back and Achilles’ tendon injuries and was later suspended for four games for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.

The violation voided the guarantee on Wright’s $7.75 million 2013 contract, but the Bucs re-signed him to a one-year, $1.5 million contract this month, largely out of desperation.

The Bucs’ belief, though, is that at 5-foot-10, 200 pounds, Wright may best be suited to play the slot corner position that Ronde Barber manned for so many years. There remains, then, a need for upgrades at cornerback as well.

This draft should allow the Bucs to fill that need. Dominik said the depth at cornerback this year runs into the fourth round. The talent may run just as deep at another key area of need.

“The defensive tackle position is one of the deepest positions in this draft,’’ Dominik said. “A lot of people feel that way, so you should have a chance to pull a guy there at either 43 or even 73.

“It’s a real good class in that regard, so that is one of the positions that is going to be interesting to watch. But I wouldn’t pigeon-hole myself and say that’s the position we want to go get.’’

Schiano might want to pigeon-hole Dominik. He is a defensive-minded coach, and his defense ranked 29th in the league last year while the offense ranked ninth.

“I can assure you the head coach is definitely in favor of us adding as much defense as possible,’’ Dominik said. “But the reality is, you have to be careful not to go down that road with your team.

“Your greatest strength today could be your greatest weakness tomorrow. We dealt with that at guard last year, thinking we were walking into the season with the two best guards and we didn’t play a game with them.

“So you always just try to stay with the level of the talent of the player, which is why everybody always says we’ll take the best player available for our team. That’s certainly how we have to approach it.’’


rcummings@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7979

Twitter: @RCummingsTBO

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