The Tampa Bay Buccaneers filled a gaping hole at safety Thursday with the selection of Alabama's Mark Barron, a fierce hitter in the box with the tackling skills to bolster the NFL's most porous run defense.
The Bucs released Tanard Jackson earlier this month and fellow safety Cody Grimm is coming off knee surgery.
Tampa Bay has one scheduled picktonight (No. 68 overall) as the draft continues with rounds 2-3 and the Bucs are expected to address other pressing needs.
Linebacker is an area with needs as Tampa Bay decides whether to switch middle linebacker Mason Foster to the weak side heading into his second season.
Quincy Black returns on the strong side, but Geno Hayes departed as a free agent and Dekoda Watson was used primarily as a situational pass rusher off the edge as a rookie.
Had they stayed at No. 5, the Bucs would have had an opportunity to select LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne, who ended up going to Dallas with the sixth pick. Upgrading at cornerback is still a priority, given the uncertainty surrounding Aqib Talib and the wear and tear of Ronde Barber's 15 NFL seasons.
Me and Julio
Barron will prepare for his first NFL season knowing he will face a familiar foe at least twice a year within the NFC South.
In the 2011 draft, Atlanta moved up in the first round and selected Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones.
"I used to have to cover Julio in practice, so I'm looking forward to it,'' Barron said. "I'll have to go 100 percent.''
Jones enjoyed a solid rookie year with the Falcons, averaging a team-high 17.8 yards on his 54 catches while tying Roddy White for the club lead with eight touchdown receptions.
Barron was asked who won those spirited Tide practice sessions, when he tried to shut down Jones.
"Sometimes he got me, and sometimes I got him,'' Barron said. "It was kind of a little back and forth.''
Bucs GM Mark Dominik said he held his breath when the Cowboys traded with the Rams and moved up to No. 6, one spot ahead of the Bucs.
Dallas ended up choosing Claiborne and Dominik said he was worried the Cowboys would select Barron before the Bucs could turn in their pick.
New head coach Greg Schiano enjoyed Thursday night's chat with Barron, who became the first safety drafted by the Bucs in the opening round.
"I talked to him on the phone and he was fired up,'' Schiano said. "He said, 'Coach, can you send me a playbook?' I said you're going to be down here tomorrow, Mark, and we'll get you a playbook.
"That's the kind of guy he is. He lives this great game. He loves it, he studies it. I can't wait to coach him.''