TUSCALOOSA, AL - NOVEMBER 05: Morris Claiborne #17 of the LSU Tigers makes an interception over Brad Smelley #17 of the Alabama Crimson Tide during the second half of the game at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 5, 2011 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
The fifth pick of the 2012 BTSC Community Mock Draft is in! Thanks go to Nick Donelan, aka FLsteelhead for the insight into the team that usually plays at the site of our most recent Super Bowl title. Next up: St. Louis Rams, and they'll be represented by Hines4theHall. -barnerburner-
So it all came down to this.
The setting is week 6 of the 2011 season, it is 4th and 2 on the Tampa Bay 4 yard line with the Bucs leading 26-20 and 3 minutes left on the clock. Drew Brees, after leading his offense down the field with ease, has one last chance to complete the comeback. Brees drops back, pumps left, rolls right and fires to a crossing John Gilmore in the end zone. Just as the ball reaches Gilmore, it is intercepted by outside linebacker Quincy Black. A first down and a few Josh Freeman kneel downs later, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were 4-2 and in first place of the NFC South.
My O My, how quickly a season can fall apart.
The story of the 2011 Tampa Bay Buccaneers truly begins in the offseason after the 2010 season. The Bucs were coming off a 10-6 season and were the surprise of the NFL. Although they missed the playoffs in a crowded NFC playoff hunt, the future was bright for the young Bucs. They had a franchise quarterback in Josh Freeman who had an outstanding sophomore campaign with 25 touchdowns to only 6 interceptions. They had a running back that topped the 1000 yard mark in his rookie year in LeGarrette Blount, who at times, was impossible to tackle. They also had a rookie wide receiver who finished the season near the century mark with 964 yards and 10 touchdowns in Mike Williams. The pieces were in place for a strong 2011 from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense.
The defense, on the other hand, was not in such good shape. The leading tackler, MLB Barrett Rudd was due to be a free agent after being denied a contract extension and was eventually picked up by the Titans. The best cornerback, Aqib Talib, was arrested, along with his mother, for an incident "in which a gun was fired". Not to mention, the beloved Ronde Barber was getting a little long in the tooth.
One of the more interesting notes of this offseason is that the Bucs entered the offseason with one of the largest amounts of cap space in the league. All of the talking heads on TV predicted the Bucs to be one of the largest players in free agency; they were wrong. In an interview with 620 WDAE, GM Mark Dominik vowed to build through the draft, he cited successful franchises such as the Steelers and Patriots as examples. Although it sounded great at the moment, it probably was not the best path to choose. They passed on linebackers such as Stephen Tulloch and Paul Posluszny in free agency and ended up with 3rd round draft pick Mason Foster as their signal caller.
Fast forward to week 6 of the 2011 season. Josh Freeman has taken the final knee and is watching as the clock on the big screen counts down to 00:00. He turns to the sidelines and sees his fellow teammates and coaches celebrating. Little did he know, he would not see that sight again all year. The Bucs dropped the next 10 games in dramatic fashion and finished the season with a brutal 4-12 record. Freeman struggled, LeGarrette Blount fumbled, Mike Williams took a step back, and the defense was shredded like Swiss cheese. Between the blackouts on TV, and the blowout losses to teams like the Panthers, Jaguars, and Cowboys, the Bucs were pretty much impossible to watch. The decision of drafting Josh Freeman over Matt Stafford in my fantasy draft haunted me worse than the first time I saw "Requiem for a Dream".
With the decision coming down to offense or defense. The choice is simple. When Blaine Gabbert and the Jaguars drop 41 on your defense, something is wrong.
With the 5th pick overall, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers select Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU.
Claiborne can help a defense that finished 30th in yards allowed per game and dead last in points allowed per game. "Mo" is a versatile corner with good size and speed. He has long arms, quick feet, and is dangerous in the open field. At 5'11", 188 lbs, he excels at man coverage and is a strong tackler on the edge. Claiborne has all the tools to be a Pro Bowl corner in his first or second season.