It might have taken a little while, but the Bucs finally took a step towards protecting Josh Freeman and giving him some additional weapons. In fact, they did both with one pick.
For the first time this draft, Mark Dominik traded up and took big Tennessee TE Luke Stocker with the 104th overall selection. In return moving up 12 spots, the Bucs gave the Eagles a fourth round pick in 2012.
At 6’5, 253 pounds, Stocker is regarded as one of the top combo tight ends in this draft. Stocker also might be one of the quickest learners in this draft after having to deal with 3 new coaches and schemes in his last 3 seasons at the University of Tennessee. He feels this could help him adapt to the NFL quickly.
“The first transition as a player going from one system to the next is probably the most difficult,” Stocker said. “Because at that point, as a player, as a person, you don’t really know what it takes in your personality to learn best and [to learn] the fastest and most effective. I’ve done this four times now. I’ve learned four different offenses, so I know exactly what I need to do to pick things up fast and learn quickly and effectively. Knowing that, I can put that straight to use and I think I can pick up an offense very quick, and obviously the quicker the better.”
Stocker makes sense as blocking TE opposite Kellen Winslow, Jr. in two tight end sets and should do well as a big target on third downs and in the red zone.
With their fifth round pick the Bucs took S Ahmad Black from Florida, who grew up a Buccaneer fan in Lakeland. Although undersized at 5’9, 184 pounds, Black compensates with terrific ball skills and instincts. He’s also not afraid to get inside and mix it up with ballcarriers.
“I take what I learned in practice and bring it in the game,” Black said. “Honestly, I’m everywhere the ball is. I just like to be out there where the action is. So, you know, if the first couple of times I feel like they’re going to run the ball, I want to be down there. If it’s third or second and long and I feel like they’re going to pass the ball, I want to be back there. I just want to be around the ball. There’s a couple of times I’ll start in the box and end up back deep on a pass play, so I mean it really doesn’t matter.”
In keeping with the trend this draft, Black was a captain for the Gators. That’s now five picks and five team captains for the Bucs this draft. Pretty clear they’re looking to infuse as much good character and strong leadership into this young and developing team as they can.
With the 187th overall pick, the Bucs selected USC RB Allen Bradford.
Bradford is a load at 5’11, 240 pounds. He has the makeup and physicality to handle an every-down, between-the-tackles kind of pounding, although it’s hard to imagine him being more than a compliment to LeGarrette Blount right now. There’s no doubt the Bucs were looking for a back to take some of the pressure off of Blount, and the physical Bradford might be able to do that. I asked Bradford how he thought his style of running compares with his new backfield mate.
“We both run punishing, we both run aggressive, and we both run with a chip on our shoulder,” Bradford said. “And I’m not looking to juke anybody, make [any] moves, take [any] stutter steps. I’m one cut and go. Get the tough yards.”
With the 222nd pick, their first of two in the seventh round, the Bucs selected CB Anthony Gaitor out of Florida International University, a team captain for the Golden Panthers. The 5’10, 178-pound Gaitor was a graduate of football factory Miami Northwestern High and was a fixture on an FIU team that won the Sun Belt championship in 2010. He was named All-Sun Belt Conference first team for three straight seasons (2008-2010).
The Bucs wrapped up their 2011 draft by taking TE Daniel Hardy from Idaho with the 238th overall selection. The 6’4, 242-pound Hardy was a semifinalist for the Mackey Award in 2010 before breaking his arm and missing the final five games of the season. Despite missing time, he still finished with 32 catches for 542 yards and earned 2nd team all-WAC Honors. Hardy has the speed (sub-4.8 40 time) and height to be a potential weapon in the passing game for the Buccaneers.