Originally posted on The Sports Headquarters  |  Last updated 3/5/12

Hey remember when some guy said at the beginning of the season that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were being SEVERLY overrated, and they would be lucky to win 6 games?  Yeah I overrated them as well, 6 wins was way too high.

So we come to our Tampa Bay Buccaneers off season preview wondering now if this team even has the talent to compete in one of, if not the best divisions in the NFL.

As much as I talk down about Matt Ryan and Cam Newton, they both seem to be better quarterbacks than Josh Freeman, and then there is that Drew Brees guy who is pretty ok as well.

First though, let’s take a look at how they got here, to the fifth pick in the draft.

2007 Buccaneers Draft Results

#4 Gaines Adams, DE Clemson
#35 Aaron Sears, G Tennessee
#64 Sabby Piscitelli, S Oregon State
#68 Quincy Black, LB New Mexico
#106 Tanard Jackson, S Syracuse
#141 Greg Peterson, DT North Carolina Central
#182 Adam Hayward, LB Portland State
#214 Chris Denman, T Fresno St
#245 Marcus Hamilton, CB Virginia
#246 Kenneth Darby, RB Alabama

Wow, that’s a large draft class, and a lot of bad to break down.  Let’s get started with the draft class that really set the downfall of this team in motion.

Coming off another 4-12 season the Bucs finally had some cap space to work with after their splurge of spending led them to a SB victory five years earlier.  Wait you weren’t aware that they sent a first round and second round pick in 2002 and a first round pick in 2003 to the Raiders for the rights to Jon Gruden?  It paid off in the end, no Bucs fan, there are Bucs fans right, would give that Super Bowl win back to have three important picks, because well that’s stupid.

Anyways, the Bucs finally had some money to spend and had a plethora of draft picks, and blew it on both ends.  I know, I know they won the NFC South in 2007 and blew a potential 1 seed in 2008, but it really goes deeper than that.

Garcia imploded, and this draft class never developed into anything more than average starters, Tanard Jackson or over hyped starters in Quincy Black.

As for the rest of the picks? Only Adam Hayward remains with the Bucs, and even worse only Sabby Piscitelli remains in the league.

So while Jackson and Black are starters, neither is anything to write home about.

All I will say about the deceased Gaines Adams is he was a disappointment.

Expert Grades:

Mel Kiper: C
Pete Prisco: A
Actual Grade: C

Kiper nailed this one, and with Adams being a huge bust before his untimely passing, and only Black and Jackson making any kind of impact, albeit not a high one in my view, this draft gets a C, leaning towards a C-.

2008 Buccaneers Draft Results:

#20 Aqib Talib, CB Kansas
#58 Dexter Jackson, WR Appalachian State
#83 Jeremy Zutah,  G Rutgers
#115 Dre Moore, DT Maryland
#160 Josh Johnson, QB San Diego
#175 Geno Hayes, LB Florida State
#238 Cory Boyd , RB South Carolina

This is reminiscent of Rams draft in 2008, in the fact that you have a slam dunk choice in Talib in the first round, and come out with three starters out of a draft.  What makes this slightly different is that Talib, while a talent, is a detriment to the team when he isn’t on the field, and his play, while improving, isn’t good enough to overlook the off the field shenanigans.

Jackson was a huge bust, combine that with the Bucs needed a WR and passed on the following to draft the huge question mark that was Jackson:

Earl Bennet
Early Doucet
Mario Manningham
Harry Douglas
Pierre Garcon (5x’s)
Stevie Johnson (5x’s)

Don’t give me the whole “Well all those teams passed on Garcon and Johnson” garbage either.  Jackson was a huge reach and a project WR, to say that he was similar to Garcon and Johnson in that way would be putting it mildly.

Again, Jackson was slated as a round 4 talent, so there was a reach there and obviously it didn’t work out.

Then we get to the good part of the draft, Jeremy Zutah and Geno Hayes.  Zutah is a strong inside blocker on a young an improving offensive line.  He is familiar with new coach Greg Schiano and there is talk he will replace C Jeff Faine in the near future.

Hayes is a solid, if unspectacular OLB in the Bucs 43 defense.  He is the type that makes every play in front of him and doesn’t get himself out of position often, but he isn’t a game changer at the position, where the Bucs desperately need one.

As far as the rest of the class, I won’t talk about Josh Johnson out of respect to one of our usual readers, Dan, has been pleading for JJ to get a shot over Freeman and you can’t really comment on all that potential, while the rest of the class is out of the league.

Expert’s Grades:

Mel Kiper: B
Pete Prisco: C+
Actual Grade: C

Again, this draft probably leans towards a C-, especially with the continued problems of Talib, but you can’t overlook how well they did with Zutah and Hayes, easily the two best picks the Bucs made in this little three year stretch of drafts that have lead to this team being, well not good.

2009 Buccaneers Draft Results:

#17 Josh Freeman, QB Kansas St
#81 Roy Miller, DT Texas
#117 Kyle Moore, DE USC
#155 Xavier Fulton, T Illinois
#217 EJ Biggers, CB Western Michigan
#233 Sammie Stroughter, WR Oregon St

Another 2009 draft that is leaning more towards incomplete than it is a solid grade, simply because we still have to figure out what Josh Freeman is.

I also have to say that I may be biased as I was a fan of the Freeman move, and may hang on longer than normal for this pick to play out.

Miller, Biggers and Stroughter are all still on the Bucs and make up a solid part of the Bucs rotation.  They aren’t good enough to be starters, but they do enough to not only warrant a position on the roster, but playing time.

Moore is in a similar role in Buffalo, which means Fulton was the only whiff in this draft, which is exactly what you want in a draft class.

The problem?  Everything in this class hinges on Freeman.

If he can get back to 2010 Freeman, you know the one that had the 9th best TD/INT ratio in NFL history, and then this draft class is an A without question.

The problem is there is more evidence that Freeman is a 1:1 TD/INT man than the 4:1 he was in 2010.

This will be first class that will have to wait on a grade, because of Freeman, as I feel this is really his last year to prove he is capable of being an NFL quarterback, at least for the Bucs.

Expert Grades:

Mel Kiper: B
Pete Prisco: C-
Actual Grade: Inc

Sorry for the cop out, but it is true at this point.

Where do the Bucs head from here?  Well that is easy they need a lot of help on offense at RB, WR and RT, as well as LB, both outside and inside, as well as free safety and corner on defense.

The nice part, they are one of the teams with the most money to spend in free agency in league at just under $50 million in cap space.  The problem?  Getting players to come to Tampa Bay.

First priority has to be getting a WR and CB.  With news coming out of the Titans using their franchise tag on Michael Griffin and not Cortland Finnegan, the Bucs should be waiting on his doorstep Mar 13 to deliver a strong offer. Other CB options:  Brent Grimes, Brandon Carr, Carlos Rogers and Tim Jennings.

With word coming out of Arizona of Levi Brown and the Cardinals unable to come to an agreement on a restructuring of a contract, it is almost certain Brown will be released.  He was the right tackle for the Cardinals when they went to the Super Bowl in 2008 and could be a huge upgrade. Other OT Options: Anthony Collins, Demetrius Bell, Marcus McNeil

Another player that needs to be targeted is Erin Henderson from Minnesota.  The Vikings OLB is one of the best 43 OLBs against the run in the NFL, and we all saw how porous the Bucs run defense was last year. Other OLB Options: Manny Lawson

The ability to make multiple big moves in FA should also allow them to make a play for a top flight WR, maybe a Vincent Jackson, Dwayne Bowe or Marques Colston.

If the Bucs are able to make moves in FA, it opens up their draft day ability to take best available player, Morris Claiborne, Trent Richardson, over reaching for a need.

It is going to be interesting in Tampa this year, as it is make or break for Josh Freeman with Morris gone and Greg Schiano in.  Can he step up to the plate and salvage a below average run of drafts, or are the Bucs about to start over again, after it seemed like they had finally broken through… again.

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