Buccaneers focus on defense, depth in draft

For the Buccaneers, the NFL Draft was spent focusing on addressing their defense and adding depth.

TAMPA, Fla. – With depth addressed at cornerback and quarterback on Day 2 of the NFL draft, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers spent Saturday afternoon adding talent in other defensive areas. As with Friday’s movement, the Bucs’ new additions were selected without a “must need” in mind, but they could become key presences as coach Greg Schiano and general manager Mark Dominik continue to make a roster in their image.  
In the fourth round, the Bucs traded up with the Oakland Raiders to select Akeem Spence, a 6-foot-1, 307-pound defensive tackle from Illinois, at No. 100. In the process, Tampa Bay moved from No. 112 and gave Oakland its No. 181 pick. Also in the fourth, defensive end William Gholston, a 6-7, 278-pound Michigan State product, was selected at No. 126.
In the fifth, the Bucs went with defensive end Steven Means, a little-known 6-4, 250-pound Buffalo product at No. 147. Finally, the Bucs sent to the New England Patriots one-time starting running back LeGarrette Blount, rumored as a trade possibility for weeks, to secure 5-11, 222-pound running back Mike James, a Miami product, with the 21st pick in the sixth round (No. 189) following a trade with the Minnesota Vikings.
“I believe that we made ourselves better,” Schiano said. “I felt like we let some opportunities get away from us last year. … We’re building it our way. We’re building it with our kind of people. I’m excited. I know we made ourselves better.”
A breakdown of the Bucs’ selections leaves no secret about the strategy used by Schiano and Dominik in their second draft together. This was a defense-concentrated process with the Bucs going, in order: cornerback and quarterback, defensive tackle and defensive end, defensive end and running back. Tampa Bay’s offense, which produced 24.3 points per game last year (No. 13 in the league), is playoff-ready. After Saturday, its defense could be on the way to becoming postseason-caliber as well.  
As part of the building process, this draft showed Dominik’s willingness to be aggressive with his board. Counting the Revis acquisition, the Bucs made four trades that also helped them gain quarterback Mike Glennon, a NC State product, in the third round Friday (No. 73 overall), as well as Spence and James on Saturday.
Revis’ addition will be the lasting legacy of this Bucs draft, of course, but some of the young talent collected could prove to be valuable complementary figures as Tampa Bay works toward ending a five-season playoff drought.
“You’ve got to be open, to keep your mind open, because I think if you just sit still, you’re going to let things come and go, and you’re going to miss out,” Dominik said. “We don’t want to be that organization. We’re always going to be aggressive in that way to make sure we can better the team.”
Because the Bucs were aggressive, they accomplished most of what they set to do early in the offseason. As a result, this draft was largely an appetizer after the signing of free-agent safety Dashon Goldson, a physical presence formerly of the San Francisco 49ers, and the blockbuster trade with the New York Jets for Revis. Suddenly, a once-weak secondary looks like a strength.
Still, Dominik showed he wasn’t satisfied. He displayed a willingness to gamble the past two days, as he did last year by trading up late in the first round to get running back Doug Martin. At times, contenders are made with such foresight, and it will be interesting to see how the Bucs’ bets on Glennon, Spence and James work out in time.
But for now, this Bucs draft will be recalled as the depth draft, the post-Revis draft. Tampa Bay closed the process Saturday after welcoming six players. But the true prize was gained last Sunday, when a jet from New Jersey carrying a former Jet landed about five miles from One Buc Place with reason to anticipate the fall.
Player who should be a star

“Should” is too strong a word for anyone taken by the Bucs in this draft. But cornerback Johnthan Banks, selected No. 43 overall, has the most potential. The Mississippi State product is cerebral, a leader, and he has fared well against Southeastern Conference competition.

With 16 interceptions over a college career as a four-year starter, he has shown an ability to track the ball against strong tests. It's little surprise, but Tampa Bay will need him to be a quick study. He’ll likely be a popular target as quarterbacks work away from Revis in the Bucs’ new-look secondary.

He has a chance to grow while learning from the league’s best corner, so this is a rare opportunity for the young player to be mentored by an elite talent early in his career.
Best value

Gholston has been knocked for his inconsistency, but he could become valuable if he proves that he can find his way into the backfield. His 10 tackles for loss (for 102 yards) at Michigan State show what he can accomplish with his 6-7, 278-pound frame.

He’ll be worked into a rotation that includes Da’Quan Bowers, a former second-round pick, and Adrian Clayborn, a former first-round pick, so Gholston must prove himself among players who were more highly touted out of college.
Biggest reach

Means could become a diamond in the rough in time. But for now, his selection seems like a question mark. He wasn’t invited to the Combine, and he played at Buffalo, which competes in the Mid-American Conference.

He has some traits that could be assets for the Bucs, like the fact that he had 18.5 sacks in his college career. (The Bucs had 27 last year, tied for No. 29 in the league in the category.) But it’s not a stretch to say Tampa Bay could have signed Means as an undrafted free agent. Taking him in the fifth round is odd.

You can follow Andrew Astleford on Twitter @aastleford or email him at aastleford@gmail.com.

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