Alan Dell

Commentary | Tampa Bay Bucs can't afford to whiff on the No. 5 pick

Mark Dominik sounded like a man on death row.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager admitted he and his draft choices are running out of time when he addressed the media last week.

The draft on Thursday will be the fourth under his wing. "We don't have much more time, nor do the players," he said. "If you don't learn from your mistakes you are a bound to create them again. So you really try to look at it and say what was it about that that I missed on, that as an organization we didn't make the right selection."

The Bucs choose fifth, but they really have the No. 3 pick because they are not in need of a signal-caller and the first two picks are going to be used on quarterbacks.

This is a deep draft, particularly at some key positions for the Bucs, such as cornerback, linebacker and running back.

Injuries can always bail out draftniks, and the Bucs' 2010 draft class was hit hard, but there is a feeling the team did pick some talented players and misused them. That's not to ignore that they chose some

bad ones.

The Bucs have enormous needs, but defense wins in the NFL and that has to be their priority, no matter how much new coach Greg Schiano wants a running back.

The Bucs defense last year was simply awful.

Things are particularly bad in the back seven and even worse in the back four. And when you play in a division where you are going to see Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Cam Newton twice a season, you need to get that fixed.

If the Bucs don't trade up or down, they must select LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne.

With his trial coming up for aggravated assault, Aqib Talib could be sitting in a jail cell or face suspension by the NFL if he makes a plea deal. Ronde Barber is about 100 years old in NFL years, and newly signed free agent Eric Wright is still dressed in question marks.

There is nothing else to talk about unless E.J. Biggers and third round pick (2010) Myron Lewis excite you, and if that is the case please get a prescription for valium.

Minnesota picks third and could take Claiborne, though it looks as if the Vikings have their eye on USC offensive tackle Matt Kalil.

Cleveland is next, and the Browns seem set on Alabama's Trent Richardson, whom many are calling the best running back to enter the draft in five years.

Claiborne has his critics, including those who note his embarrassingly low score on the Wonderlic test the NFL administers to prospects and those who say he is not a shutdown corner.

The general feeling, though, is the number of true "shutdown corners" decreases every year in the NFL, and you wonder about the importance of the Wonderlic score.

If Claiborne is not available, there are other cornerbacks who should be on the board in the second round, but most come with question marks. The most talented could be former Florida Gator Janoris Jenkins, who played for North Alabama last season. His baggage requires a U-Haul truck. You can't imagine the Bucs would want Jenkins and Talib in the same secondary. You would need to hire a psychiatrist and a team of anger management consultants.

Jenkins was kicked out of Florida for two failed drug tests and recently admitted that he has fathered four children with three different women. It worries teams because of potential paternity suits and child support payments, which take a toll on a player and an organization

A safer pick would be University of Central Florida's Josh Robinson, who opened a lot of eyes by running the fastest 40-yard time (4.33 seconds) at the NFL Combine and is a bigger version of former Bayshore High star Fabian Washington.

Tanard Jackson, who led all NFL safeties in missed tackles last season, is gone along with Sean Jones, and neither will be missed.

The Bucs might move Barber over to safety, and Cody Grimm, recovering from a torn MCL, is a projected starter, which is not going to boost anyone's confidence. Otherwise the cupboard is bare at this position.

The best of the available safeties who should still be on the board in the second round are Notre Dame's Harrison Smith, Antonio Allen from South Carolina and LSU's Brandon Taylor.

The only sure thing at linebacker for the Bucs is second-year pro Mason Foster. Quincy Black's $29 million contract is an embarrassment to Dominik, and Geno Hayes is gone.

It would be tempting for the Bucs to take Richardson if he is available given Schiano's desire to run the ball and his apparent unhappiness with LeGarrette Blount's tendency to fumble and inability to pick up pass blocking schemes.

The Bucs have the fourth pick in the second round, and there will be a plethora of quality running backs available. But defense still has to be the priority.

Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7080, ext. 2112.